Summit Learning Teachers: “I Will Never Teach Another Way”

Nicole Mulcrone was ready to leave teaching last year. “I hit a wall. I didn’t find the passion in it anymore,” says the 8th grade science teacher in Chicago.

It’s a familiar feeling for many educators — an estimated 8 percent of whom leave the profession every year.

Yet instead of calling it quits, Mulcrone forged forward with a new approach to her practice with the Summit Learning Program. The seismic shift to personalized learning, she says, brought the passion back to teaching.

Catherine Birch, a middle school history teacher in Pasadena, Texas, similarly felt “disillusioned” in the traditional classroom prior to implementing Summit Learning.

“I would see students on all different levels, in the same classroom, expected to do the same activity all the time,” Birch says. “It just wasn’t working. Summit is what really saved it for me.”

Reaching Every Single Student

For most Summit Learning teachers, the shift from a traditional classroom setup to a personalized learning environment is not easy.

“The changes are huge. It’s like being a first year teacher again,” says Karen Hickman, Deputy Superintendent at Pasadena Independent School District, where Birch teaches.

Despite the struggle, Birch says she wouldn’t backtrack to her old teaching methods. Why? Through self-directed learning and 1:1 mentoring, she can now confidently say that she is reaching every student in her class.

During the 2015-16 school year, three schools from the large district in the suburbs of Houston, Texas joined the Summit Learning Program. Last year, they added seven more schools and found Summit Learning students outperformed non-Summit students across the district. This fall, Pasadena is implementing Summit on at least 14 campuses.

“I Don’t Ever Want To Go Back To A Traditional Classroom”

Improved student performance is just the cherry on top of job satisfaction for veteran teachers like Kathleen Bourret. Bourret works alongside Mulcrone at Lee Elementary, in Southwest of Chicago. The K-8 campus implemented Summit Learning for their 8th graders in the 2016-17 school year. Bourret says it brought new life to her decades-old practice. 

Summit Learning Teachers
Kathleen Bourret mentors 8th grader Jacqueline Castro. “Students aren’t used to knowing their teachers in this way,” Bourret says.

“I had been teaching for 26 years before Summit Learning was introduced to our community,” Bourret says. “I don’t ever want to go back to a traditional classroom of the past.”

Listen to more seasoned educators speak about how Summit Learning brought the passion back to their profession in this video on our YouTube channel.

About the author

Katie McNeil
Katie is a storyteller at Summit Public Schools, shining a spotlight on inspirational stories from the Summit Learning community. She started her career in journalism, covering K-12 education in the Bronx. Katie won a feature writing award from the Education Writers Association for her higher ed coverage in Utah. Before arriving at Summit, she earned a master's degree in educational technology from Teachers College, Columbia University and a New York State teaching certification.