Posted on June 29, 2021 by Christopher Reichert

The Academy for Teacher Excellence (ATE) is hosting its 18 th Summer Bridging Institute, held virtually from July 13-15, from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. As the name suggests, the Summer Bridging Institute (SBI) was originally intended for teacher candidates set to begin their first year of teaching and helped bridge the gap between student-teacher and teacher. Over time, the SBI has expanded, now serving as a full professional development institute for teachers of all experience levels.

As ATE Research Center coordinator Emily Young explains, “we saw value in blending the professional development for those practicing teachers with the teacher candidates, having that opportunity to learn alongside what they’re going to become – teachers.”

Some sessions are specifically for teacher candidates, focusing on topics such as certification exams and classroom management, while others are intended to be useful for teachers with varied experience. The institute even invites school administrators to come, either to support teachers who may be presenting, or to learn for themselves what their teachers will be covering during the conference. Traditionally, the SBI has also featured sessions for parents, but due to the virtual format implemented this year and last year, the focus will be limited to teachers.

However, despite some drawbacks of hosting the institute virtually, the move has had unexpected results, particularly in terms of attendance.

“We have teachers participating from all over the nation, since we’re virtual,” Young said. In fact, last year’s SBI was attended by roughly 400 teachers, nearly four times as many as the Institute typically sees.

“We’re not anticipating that jump this year,” Young said, “just because a lot of people are going back to in-person trainings again already. But we are planning for a larger number this year than what we get in person, because we do have that capability to serve people from outside the San Antonio area.”

While Young hopes next year’s Summer Bridging Institute will be in person, coordinators are already exploring how to combine live and virtual elements to achieve the best of both worlds.

This year’s institute will feature three keynote speakers: ATE founder Belinda Bustos Flores, UTSA professor Kristen Lindahl, and STEM Coordinator for the Texas Education Agency, Michelle Sedberry. Additional presenters include a mix of UTSA faculty, area schoolteachers and district staff.

Young said, “we like to have the combination of both the faculty, who address the theory and the research and then the teachers, who address the practice and what they’re actually doing.”

Topics at this year’s Bridging Institute will include dyslexia in bilingual students, Mexican American studies, and special education. While some topics, like culturally efficacious teaching, are frequently discussed, others are selected based on current events.

“We’re also going to have sessions on socioemotional learning,” Young said, “which is an area – especially in the past year – that we’ve seen a need for teachers to understand in themselves but then also helping their students develop those skills as well.”

Similarly, while last year’s Institute featured sessions on teaching in a virtual setting, this year’s aims to help teachers transition back into the classroom.

“It really is a great event,” Young said. “We encourage people, even if they’re not thinking about it, to take a chance with it, because there will be great value in it.”

For more information, check out ATE’s Facebook page at . To register for the 2021 Summer Bridging Institute, visit .

- Christopher Reichert

— Christopher Reichert