7 Ways to Take Back to School Professional Development to the Next Level

Let’s face it, teachers are already dreading back-to-school professional development, and, if you’re honest, you aren’t really thrilled with planning for it while you’re busy prepping for state assessments and all the other things ending a school year involves. Your brain is on overload! Here are some great ideas for making next year’s back-to-school meetings and professional development the best yet.

1. Give your team a voice

Ask the staff what topics they would like to have covered during back-to-school professional development. You can do this via a formal survey or by asking them to write down their thoughts during an upcoming staff meeting.

Give them something to look forward to because, let’s face it, they’re already mostly dreading back-to-school meetings. If you’ve already identified topics, let them rate the ones most important to them.

2. Let your stars shine

Give teachers opportunities to design and present. Look at the subject matter experts on your campus and let them share what they’re doing in their classroom to inspire their students. 

3. Think outside the box for “must cover topics”

Every year there are things that must be covered, and let’s face it, nearly everyone is zoned out thinking about how they “already know all this and really need to be in their classrooms.” The Employee Handbook is one thing that comes to mind.

Role play is a great way to highlight some of the key points. We all know that there’s always a teacher or two that push the boundaries on jeans day or other free dress days, so a teacher dressed appropriately and a teacher dressed “way out there” is a great way to get a laugh or two and get the point across pretty clearly about what is expected. 

4. Mix it up

Hours and days of sitting in the school cafeteria “sitting and getting” isn’t a good way to kick off a school year. Teachers are lifelong learners, and just like their students, they benefit from engaging, relevant experiences that excite them and help them in their classrooms. Here are some ideas

  • Choice board – have several topics for teachers to select from and rotate between sessions. Sessions are based on topics that teachers asked for when you surveyed them at the end of the school year.
  • Hands-on – Provide opportunities for teachers to work together as grade-level or mixed level teams to create lessons or materials for their students. Divide into teams and do a STEAM/STEM challenge.
  • Digital Scavenger Hunt – Get everyone up, moving, interacting, and HAVING FUN with a digital scavenger hunt using a platform like Goosechase (the free version allows 5 teams of 25 players each).

5. Provide opportunities to collaborate, explore and practice

Make time each day to allow teachers to discuss ways to incorporate what they have learned into their classrooms. Allow time for questions and “I wonder’s” after introducing new things.

6. Bring in relevant experts

Bring in an inspirational speaker or expert who can kick off the year on a high note. If you’re going to hire someone to present an educational topic or provide training and tips for teachers, make sure they’ve recently been in the classroom.

While there are plenty of great speakers out there, make sure the information they have to share is relevant for your teachers NOW!


Kick off the year with a celebration! End professional development week with something fun that celebrates everything that’s been accomplished during your time together and the great things that are going to happen on the campus in the new year ahead. Include food and fun onsite or off depending on your budget. 

Make your back to school PD the best it’s ever been! Share your ideas with us for unique and engaging professional development in the comments.

Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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