Summer + Boot Camp = Thriving Teachers

« Back  |  

Summer is quickly on its way and you may have vacation on your mind. We don’t blame you. But let’s be honest, even while you’re sipping lemonade poolside or escaping the heat inside your local bookstore, you’ll still be thinking about improving your craft. You’ll spot a new book on the shelf and think, “That would make a great read aloud” and then you’re spending hours on the internet searching tie-in activities from science experiments and art projects to multimedia presentations. 

How do we muster that level of excitement for more formal professional development? Here are five tips for making the most of your next professional learning experience.  

  • Find a topic that interests you. Don’t think of professional development as only a box that needs to be checked off your to-do list. Sure, you’ll earn the PD credits, but peruse the catalog for offerings that you’ll enjoy and learn from, whether it’s incorporating more technology, improving project-based assignments, or engaging your students in the classroom.  Ellie Reich, Professional Development Product Manager at ASU Prep Digital reminds us, “Time flies when you are interested and excited to engage.”
  • Set aside dedicated PD time on your calendar. It’s easy to postpone professional development because of busy schedules, so go ahead and mark it on your calendar, making it a priority. Be sure not to double book with other appointments or responsibilities, like child care. Ms. Reich prefers scheduling professional development early in the summer while the positives and negatives of the school year are still fresh on her mind. Her approach is to apply new learnings to class content for the fall so she can then “focus on family and relaxation the rest of summer.”
  • Get comfortable and be present. Determine where you focus and learn best. This could be a coffee shop with your favorite drink or your home office while in pajamas. Relax, tune out distractions, and prepare to be involved. Alison Hernandez, Director of Professional Development & Learning Initiatives at ASU Prep Digital encourages participants to be present by being “proactive and engaged by asking questions, sharing insights, and engaging in discussions during the sessions.”
  • Find a friend. Invite a peer to register for the same course so that you can exchange ideas, enhancing the learning experience. Ms. Hernandez encourages participants to
    “take advantage of the time to connect with other educators and to build meaningful relationships.” Ms. Reich wholeheartedly agrees, adding that working from a coffee shop with a colleague and bouncing off ideas is a winning combination. 
  • Be sure to reflect. After the training has ended, spend some time reflecting while the concepts are fresh in your mind and you’re feeling inspired to implement new ideas. Jot down some notes or text a colleague to keep the momentum, learning, and collaboration going. “Professional development is an ongoing process,” says Ms. Hernandez, “Stay curious and be proactive about seeking new learning opportunities.”

Ready to seek out your next great professional development opportunity? Browse ASU Prep Digital’s Training Calendar for Summer Bootcamp sessions and register today! 


Supporting Struggling Readers Through the Science of Reading

« Back  |  

Reading is one of the most fundamental ingredients to life. It provides a window to the world and opens doors. Reading gets your mind working across different areas—stimulates imagination, recounts memories, and uses analytical abilities. Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Yet there are many people who struggle to become proficient readers.  

Literacy Facts 

One in five U.S. adults (21 percent) are illiterate. This translates into 43 million U.S. adults who possess low literacy skills, meaning they do not possess the skills necessary to complete tasks that require comparing and contrasting, paraphrasing, or making low-level inferences.    

In 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 34 percent of 4th-grade students read below the Average National Assessment of Educational Progress basic reading level.

Have you ever wondered why some children have difficulty learning to read and question why they struggle?  

The Science Behind Reading 

The term “science of reading” refers to the research cognitive scientists and reading experts have conducted for more than 20 years on how we learn to read. This new understanding has helped debunk older methods of reading instruction that were based on tradition and observation, not evidence.

Developed by Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute, the “Science of Reading: Supporting Struggling Readers” is a series that teaches participants how the brain learns to read and what instructional steps are needed to build a “reading” brain.

“One question we get over and over again is, what do I do with students who are reading five levels below the grade level I’m teaching at?” said Heide Morton, Lead Training Specialist at ASU Prep Digital. “Reading is embedded in all aspects of content—whether teaching math or science—we’re all reading teachers.”

In this teacher training series, participants will first be immersed in how the brain works and how it learns to read. There are seven Science of Reading principles, and the first principle is: Reading is not natural; it must be taught. Scarborough’s Reading Rope, which includes word recognition and language comprehension, will also be covered. This professional development session is free for Arizona teachers.

Morton, an educator for 17 years, said this series is especially beneficial for 3rd-8th grade educators, but can be for higher grades as well. “This age in particular is where we see a noticeable gap between proficient and struggling readers.”

Participants will discover why some children have difficulties learning to read and the training then moves into diagnostics and assessments. The last portion of the series is resources and proven strategies to help struggling readers before, during and after reading.

“Science-based reading instruction reduces the need for intervention and allows children to move forward as capable and confident learners,” said Morton. “We have a shared responsibility to help students build their reading skills. It’s all hands on deck. We need to work together.”


National Center for Education Statistics
Adult Literacy in the United States

If you’re interested in bringing ASU Prep Digital Science of Reading: Supporting Struggling Readers teacher training to your school or district, please visit