The Personal Touch: Meet the Professional Learning Dream Team Redefining Teacher Support

The Personal Touch: Meet the Professional Learning Dream Team Redefining Teacher Support

Professional Learning Team Leaders

Quick Take: Recent research reveals challenges educators face with professional learning today. Activate Learning's Professional Learning Team pioneers a personalized approach that empowers science educators to confidently implement 3-dimensional curricula and create inclusive, engaging classrooms. The team focuses on using high-quality curricula, facilitating collaboration, sharing expertise, and building lasting partnerships with school district leaders to drive student achievement.🚀

Moving Beyond One-Size-Fits-All Professional Learning Support

Education is always changing. But one thing stays constant: the vital role of teachers in shaping the minds and futures of our students. Empowering educators with the tools, skills, and support they need to excel in the classroom is critical for student success.

Activate Learning’s mission is to provide personalized professional learning that caters to the unique needs of districts, schools, and individual educators. The goal is to ensure that every teacher feels confident and equipped to inspire a love for science learning in all students.

Recent research by RAND Corporation highlights challenges with current professional learning practices, revealing a disconnect between the support teachers need and the training they receive. The study, conducted during the 2021-22 school year, surveyed approximately 8,000 math, science, and English/language arts teachers across grades K-12. The findings underscore the importance of effective professional learning that addresses the specific needs of teachers at a time when the demand to adequately prepare students for STEM careers has never been greater.

Professional Learning is the fuel that drives educators’ confidence in guiding students through rigorous science investigations. However, one-size-fits-all professional learning rarely meets the diverse needs of today’s educators. And while organizations increasingly rely on emerging technologies for employee training, Activate Learning recognizes that human-to-human interaction is still unmatched when learning challenging new systems and pedagogies.

That's why we've assembled a talented team of experienced professionals dedicated to providing personalized support to teachers throughout their curriculum implementation journey. Our Professional Learning Team is at the forefront of redefining teacher support. 

Our team works closely with districts and schools to design and implement personalized professional learning plans that empower science educators to confidently transition to 3-Dimensional, investigation-centered science curricula (from piloting to multi-year implementation plans). These solutions empower teachers to create engaging, inclusive classrooms where all students can thrive.

Second to None: Meet Our Professional Learning Team Leaders 

At the heart of Activate Learning's approach to professional learning is a dedicated team of more than 15 specialists, each bringing a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to empowering science educators.

Let's meet the core members of the Professional Learning Team:


Tracy Marmolejo​​​​, Activate Learning Professional Learning Manager

Tracy Marmolejo, National Professional Learning Manager

"It’s exciting to see districts and schools move to ongoing professional learning support for their teachers. Being able to work with teachers throughout the life of an adoption is very powerful and can play a big part in student achievement."

With a deep-seated love for science education, Tracy Marmolejo has dedicated her career to nurturing young minds and empowering educators. Her journey from the classroom to coordinating science programs and educational publishing has culminated in her current role as the National Professional Learning Manager at Activate Learning. 

Tracy leads the team with a clear vision: to provide ongoing, personalized support that meets educators where they are in their professional journey. As the Professional Learning Manager, Tracy ensures that every professional learning experience is tailored to the specific needs of the district, school, or teacher. Her approach is centered on building long-term partnerships with educators, offering them the tools and confidence they need to navigate the complexities of modern teaching and learning. 

One of the most potent examples of this personalized approach is the successful implementation of the OpenSciEd middle-school curriculum in Delaware’s Colonial School District. Tracy played a vital role in this transformation. By working closely with district leaders to identify teachers’ specific needs, Tracy and her team designed a customized professional learning plan that provided unwavering, flexible support throughout the implementation process. This teacher-centered, personalized training proved to be a winning formula for Colonial School District.

 Jen Gutierrez, Customer Success Specialist

"I have always loved being a teacher. As a teacher and professional learning provider I continue to find that all roads in science and STEM education lead back to the classroom teacher."

With over 35 years of experience in education, including serving on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) writing team, Jen Gutierrez brings a deep understanding of what teachers need to feel empowered and successful to her role as a Customer Success Specialist and professional learning facilitator. "I get to help with implementation and continued support for the life of the curriculum adoption," she explains, "and I also help with researching, developing, and delivering our professional learning courses, workshops, and webinars."

Jen's journey as a K-4 teacher, district science specialist, and K-12 STEM education specialist has reinforced her belief that the key to effective science and STEM education is supporting teachers -- something she clearly enjoys doing, "It's exciting and very rewarding to be able to support teachers in their own learning journey!"  Connect with Jen on X: @jengutierrez18

Brian Klaft, Customer Success Specialist

"The best part of my position is working one-on-one with teachers as they navigate a 3-dimensional platform. Change is difficult in education, and my position allows me to help teachers navigate their personal transformation to becoming a 3D educator."

Brian Klaft, Activate Learning Customer Success SpecialistBrian Klaft’s background in 3-dimensional teaching and learning brings a unique perspective to the team. Having spent over three decades in the classroom and leading professional development initiatives, Brian understands the challenges and opportunities of implementing new pedagogical approaches. His extensive classroom experience (including teaching IQWST for eight years) and leadership roles within schools and with NSTA have prepared him to effectively guide educators through the challenges of implementing innovative science programs like IQWST and OpenSciEd.

As a Customer Support Specialist, Brian is dedicated to helping teachers navigate these changes by providing professional learning training during pilots and offering guidance and support as they transform their classrooms into dynamic, inclusive environments. Building relationships with teachers enables him to empower science educators to construct a new understanding of their skill set for teaching science. “The best part of my position is working one-on-one with teachers as they navigate a 3-dimensional platform,” explains Brian, “I offer pedagogical changes in teaching and help teachers realize how they can make their classroom open to all students!” Connect with Brian on X: @BK3DSci and on Instagram: @BK3Dsci  @iqwsteducators and @oseeducators. 

Professional Learning Challenges: Activate Learning Solutions to Empower Science Educators

Professional Learning Workshop

Tracy Marmolejo leading a professional learning workshop.

The RAND survey revealed several challenges teachers expressed facing with professional learning, including a lack of access to expertise, insufficient support for diverse student populations, and the need for ongoing, high-quality training. These challenges can derail even the best-laid curriculum implementation plans.

When asked what advice they would give district leaders and educators on transforming and modernizing their professional learning program, the Professional Learning Team shared a few key insights:

Successful professional learning starts with a high-quality curriculum that facilitates equitable learning. The successful implementation of a new science curriculum begins with a high-quality, NGSS-aligned program that promotes equitable learning opportunities for all students. The importance of starting with a strong curriculum is exemplified by the success story of Ascension Parish Schools in Louisiana. In the midst of a global pandemic, the district faced the challenge of addressing learning loss and declining student engagement in STEM subjects. 

By partnering with Activate Learning to implement a personalized solution combining IQWST and OpenSciEd curricula, both named Tier 1 programs in Louisiana, Ascension transformed their science classrooms into interactive and engaging environments where all students actively participated in discussions, investigations and collaborative projects.

The module-based approach of Activate Learning's curricula provided the flexibility to align with grade level pairings and satisfy Louisiana state requirements without burdening teachers with administrative concerns. The high-quality curricula and the Professional Learning Team's training and support were essential to the Ascension’s success. 

In a case study outlining their road to success, Erin Babin, Ed.D., curriculum specialist at Ascension, noted the positive impact of the curricula: "When you walk in a classroom, the models that kids are making now, and the fact that they're thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and making decisions, are really high quality. We never saw that before we started implementing IQWST and OpenSciEd."

The strategic rollout of IQWST with OpenSciEd empowered Ascension’s teachers with the freedom and flexibility to address individual student needs while sticking to a set curriculum vision encompassing the district as a whole. 

By starting with an exceptional, equity-focused curriculum, districts can create a solid base for professional learning that empowers teachers to effectively support diverse learners and create inclusive science classrooms. 

Facilitate collaborative, teacher-centered experiences. Our team addresses the challenge of providing teachers with access to shared knowledge and expertise strategically and creatively. At the heart of our unique approach to professional learning is breaking down silos and facilitating meaningful collaboration among teachers across specialties. For example, Tracy and her team supported Delaware's adoption of OpenSciEd at the district level by providing professional learning to Department of Education trainers from various districts. This innovative "Train the Trainer" model promotes long-term sustainability. Colonial School District joined the initiative, sending teachers to work with Activate Learning trainers and become OpenSciEd workshop facilitators. As a result, Colonial now has teachers who can assist with other OpenSciEd facilitator sessions across the district.

Our professional learning experiences foster cross-departmental collaboration by bringing educators together to share knowledge, strategies, and best practices. This helps teachers develop a more holistic understanding of their own and their students' needs, empowering them with tools and support to actively participate in the innovation process and create engaging learning experiences for their students. 

The days of one-and-done professional learning are over. The success of any curriculum often hinges on the support provided to teachers. As Tracy notes, "The biggest challenge is when school systems implement a new science program without giving the requisite time for proper teacher training." 

According to the Rand study, the one-and-done strategy, where teachers typically receive a single professional learning session during curriculum implementation, is all too common today but teachers want and need more training and support. The study also noted that more frequent participation in professional learning was linked with stronger instruction—teachers who said they participated more regularly were also more likely to say that they used standards-aligned practices in the classroom. Professional learning is a journey, not a destination. Embrace transitioning from one-and-done professional learning to ongoing training and personalized support. 

Jen suggests using the Standards for Professional Learning framework as a guide. "Research has been telling us that the one-and-done method of teacher training/support isn’t considered best practices for helping teachers in their professional growth," she explains, "But now there are professional learning standards that outline the characteristics of ongoing professional learning that help lead to effective teaching practices, supportive leadership, and improved student results."

Together, Tracy, Jen, and Brian embody the values and mission of Activate Learning's Professional Learning Team. Their collective expertise and commitment to personalized, ongoing support make them invaluable partners for educators seeking to enhance their teaching and positively impact student learning.

Transforming Professional Learning, One Partnership at a Time

Professional learning is undergoing a rapid transformation, with educators increasingly seeking support that's personalized, relevant, and impactful. Activate Learning's Professional Learning Team stands at the forefront of this shift, offering an approach that addresses the shortcomings highlighted in recent research.

For district leaders and teachers looking to embark on transformational professional learning, Activate Learning is ready to be your partner. By working with us, you can access the expertise, resources, and support you need to navigate the ever-evolving education landscape and create engaging, inclusive learning environments for all students.

When you're ready to take the first step, reach out to us, and we'll be there to support you every step of the way. As Brian Klaft, Customer Support Specialist, wisely advises, "Don't fear change. Embrace it and let that change help you see that there are always new ways to make our classrooms a shared learning space for all students!"


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