Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Rethinking “Professional Development”

Rethinking “Professional Development”

The Teacher Down the Hall | By Andrea Hutlock, ATPE Engagement & Learning Specialist

We’re excited to introduce this ATPE News column in which the association’s new engagement and learning specialist, Andrea Hutlock, will explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of the “professional development” offered to today’s educators from the perspective of an educator herself. Hutlock joined the ATPE team in January after serving Round Rock ISD for several years as a teacher and instructional coach. Please share your ideas with her at

During the 2024 SXSW EDU conference in Austin, I found myself attending a session hosted by Education Week on the publication’s recent survey and findings on “The State of Teaching.” At the onset, the findings weren’t surprising: Teacher morale suffers, and administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions differ. But the next finding caught me off guard as the presenters touted several times where teachers indicated they want less professional development.

As an educator myself, I know that most teachers strive to best meet the needs of their students, and many value themselves as lifelong learners. So why the disconnect?

As I reflected, the session came to a close, and the panel offered some time for Q&A.

Curious, I asked the panel, “Did you provide a definition for professional development within the survey?” The answer became glaringly obvious as others erupted with affirming nods, snaps, or applause. The problem lies in what campuses, districts, and leaders cloak within the term “professional development.” Professional development is so often a meeting, mandate, or the newest curriculum implementation. In our state specifically, we have been inundated with new standardized testing methods, the Reading Academies for K-3 educators, new standards for learning, and initiatives changing at such a feverish pace that we are left dizzy and exhausted.

As educators, we are tasked with incorporating all the components of effective teaching and learning: considering prior knowledge, differentiating to meet the needs of every learner, and prioritizing student voice, choice, and autonomy. Yet so often in adult education and learning, we neglect what we know in favor of a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.

As the new engagement and learning specialist at ATPE, it is my mission to assist the educational community in rethinking professional development. Through this series, I hope to highlight the ways in which districts, campuses, leaders, and educators are putting the “professional” back in professional learning and highlight solutions to the many challenges within education. 

I want to ensure that the association offers equitable access to quality professional learning and resources. This year, we are removing barriers during our annual ATPE Summit by allowing any ATPE member or nonmember to register themselves for the event.

Previously, only members could attend our professional learning sessions, and they had to be registered by a local unit or region president. By splitting event registration and member delegate certification for our annual House of Delegates meeting, we are both expanding access to professional learning and preserving the integrity of ATPE’s governance structure. In other changes, ATPE has created a member programming committee for the summit, which is working to ensure our breakout sessions are timely and relevant.

Although I hope to meet many of you at the event, given the current economic climate, I am mindful of all the members who will be absent.

Early in my career, I had the valuable opportunity to meet with a wonderful mentor, who was conveniently located right down the hall from me. She offered not only support and mentorship but also a chance to observe teaching methods firsthand. However, I recognize that not everyone has access to such a “teacher down the hall.” This realization inspires my development of this column, the new ATPE professional learning portal, and our upcoming online community. These platforms are designed to serve as your virtual “teacher down the hall,” providing guidance, support, and insight wherever you are. It is my sincere hope that we may be able to create a safe space here in the ATPE digital realm where the educational community across Texas can reclaim our profession and personal development.

I invite you to join me in this journey; please reach out and share stories of how you are reclaiming the profession, offer feedback for professional development opportunities, or simply let me know what is on your mind.