As the role of educators continues to be publicly challenged by numerous external pressures, the need for community support has become imperative. Recently, the conversation about teacher burnout leading to a national teacher shortage has gained traction. However, this issue has been present in education for a long time. Bradley Conrad, Ph.D., associate professor, Education, along with his friend Christine McConnell, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Teacher Education, University of Northern Colorado, created a nonprofit to combat the negative narrative and foster a community of support.
“Our idea focused around the thought that someone has to advocate for teachers. At the same time, thinking about how we can help teachers not only not quit, but thrive. Teachers so incredibly disempowered,” said Conrad. “We wanted to space where they can find their passion again.”
Through workshops and retreats, The Center for Teacher Growth and Renewal creates spaces for teachers to engage in authentic conversation, inspired exploration, and sustained action toward meaningful educational experiences for themselves, their students, and their communities.
“The Center is for teachers by teachers. Both Christy and I are huge teacher advocates. Having been K-12 educators ourselves, we were on the frontlines,” said Conrad. “It’s now in the public consciousness that we have a shortage of teachers, and the reason we have shortages is burnout. Teachers are really good about giving an oxygen mask to everyone else but themselves. If you don’t address why they’re leaving, you’re just putting a Band-Aid on a gash. The Center can act as the stitches.”
While The Center is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Conrad plans to expand the nonprofit in the Midwest and open a chapter in Columbus, Ohio.
“If teachers go to one of our retreats, they can earn continuing education credits, which they have to do for this license. Most PES [professional education services] are useful, but they focus on how to write a lesson plan or how to integrate literacy into your content. While those sessions are helpful, our retreats focus more on the individual,” said Conrad.
“We’ve done five or six retreats with overwhelmingly positive feedback. It’s a holistic approach to professional development. It’s about how do I sustain myself, where is my passion from, what frustrates me, and how do I grapple with my frustrations and navigate it in a way that’s healthy for me.”
Recent retreat topics include “Leading from Within for Educational Leaders and Administrators” and “The Teacher's Journey.” Participants can expect to be in a session with 20 to 25 people.
“The Center is a place to get fresh air, a place to find your passion again or stoke the passion that is there. I hope teachers can walk away feeling valued and taken care of. We work hard to build a community, and I hope they feel a sense of that community at the end of a retreat.”
For more information about Education at Capital, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/education/.