Highroad Professional Development

On a Quest for Professional Excellence

About HPD

Highroad Professional Development organizes and provides learning experiences that promote excellence.

Our approach is based on the notion that peers learn best from one another because the most influential person to any professional is another professional. Although effective professional learning activities can occur practically anywhere, the ideal is to hold events in locations that inspire deep thought and self reflection. We have coordinated retreats at hotel and conference facilities near such natural wonders as Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Zion Canyon, Canyonlands, and Arches National Park.

Our consulting services are available nationally and internationally. We have collaborated with various institutions and organizations to offer professional development workshops, retreats, and seminars in their selected locations across the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and China.

Event Leaders' Credentials & Experience

Event Director and Lead Facilitator: Gary Parnell has a PhD in Education from the University of Utah with an emphasis on Educational Foundations. When he retired from full-time teaching (2014), he was Associate Professor of Education for Utah State University and Director of the USU Ephraim Education Center for 5 years. He was previously Professor of Humanities and Education for 30 years at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, where he also served as the Faculty Development Director for 17 years and as the Education Department Chair for 5 years. He is Professor Emeritus of Education at both Snow College and Utah State University; and he continues to offer his valuable consulting services to Highroad Professional Development as the director/lead facilitator of various workshops, retreats, and seminars. Since 1990, Dr. Parnell has been directing events that are based on the seminar model of the Great Teachers Movement (GTM). He is an excellent facilitator, using his sense of humor to "break the ice" in a group, getting people to engage in useful "shoptalk," and effectively drawing all participants into a productive exchange of ideas.

Event Coordinator, Executive Director, and Facilitator: Tom Cunningham has a PhD in Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from Utah State University. In 2001, he established Highroad Professional Development, LLC, to provide consulting services for educational institutions and other organizations. His work as a university professor began in 1994 at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, where he served in a variety of roles in addition to teaching, such as SUU Faculty Development Director for 8 years and later as Director of Graduate Studies in Education for 2 years. Then he worked as an instructional designer and faculty coach in an administrative faculty role for 4 years in the Online Education Office at Great Basin College, a pioneer in distance education with five campuses, numerous learning centers, a service area of 86,500 square miles in rural Nevada, and 70% of its students enrolled online from all around the USA. When Dr. Cunningham attended his first "Great Teaching" event, which was directed by Dr. Gary Parnell in Park City, Utah, he was skeptical but soon recognized that "properly facilitated shoptalk" is indeed one of the highest forms of professional learning and development. Since 1998, he has coordinated and directed numerous events based on the GTM seminar model. In the process, he has discovered this very flexible model can be successfully applied to ANY group of professionals (not just teachers) and have very practical, powerful, positive results.

Advancing the Great Teachers Movement

In 1997, Dr. Cunningham invited Dr. Parnell to help offer a great teaching retreat in southern Utah; and since that time, they have continued to collaborate, offering workshops, retreats, and seminars for higher education faculty, public school teachers, faculty/staff developers, librarians, administrators, staff supervisors, and cross-sections of employees from different departments within single institutions (e.g., custodial, secretarial, administrative, faculty, etc.) for Great College/University events.

In 2001, Parnell and Cunningham both participated in a National Great Teachers Leadership Colloquium (held in Texas) that was directed by David Gottshall, who founded the National Great Teachers Movement in 1969. In 2005 and 2014, Cunningham attended leadership development events (both held in North Carolina) that were guided by Gottshall, who had retired from full-time teaching but continued to personally direct seminars both nationally and internationally until 2017.

In 2016, Highroad Professional Development became even more involved in advancing what has become the International Great Teachers Movement. Parnell and Cunningham collaborated with Steve Smith to host the International Great Teachers Leadership Summit (IGTLS), June 6-10, 2016, at Ruby's Inn & Conference Center, Bryce Canyon, Utah. Smith had been coordinating and directing events based on the GTM model in North Carolina since 1998 and had previously hosted the 2014 Summit in Asheville, North Carolina. At the 2016 IGTLS, Cunningham served as the coordinator, Smith was the director/process guide, Parnell assisted with various activities, and GTM Founder David Gottshall attended and shared his wit and wisdom.

The 2017 IGTLS was held in the conference center of George Williams College of Aurora University at Lake Geneva (Williams Bay), Wisconsin, Monday-Friday, June 5-9, 2017. This particular Summit had unique and special purposes: (1) celebrating the work and legacy of David Gottshall in his retirement from personally leading seminars, (2) returning to the roots of the very first National Great Teachers Seminar, which was held at Lake Geneva in the same facilities, (3) engaging the next generation of educators to CARRY the movement forward, (4) continuing to SHARE its power to innovate, and (5) collaborating to ENVISION the next iteration of the GTM. Cunningham coordinated and Smith directed this wonderful opportunity to honor David Gottshall.

In 2019, we celebrated the 50th birthday of the Great Teachers Movement where it was born. In 1969, David Gottshall was teaching at the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, when he started the Illinois Great Teachers Seminar. For ten years, this annual event was held at the lodge and conference center in Pere Marquette State Park, near the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Illinois River, close to St. Louis, Missouri. In 1980, due to growing interest around the country in Great Teachers Seminars, the Illinois event was replaced by the National Great Teachers Seminar and moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

As a Golden Jubilee commemoration of the founding of the Great Teachers Movement, the 2019 IGTLS was held at Pere Marquette Lodge, Grafton, Illinois, Tuesday-Friday, May 28-31, 2019. Movement founder David Gottshall was enthusiastically planning to participate; and GTM practitioners from around the world were eager to have one more opportunity to enjoy his delightful sense of humor and benefit from his remarkable knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Sadly, David passed away in April of 2019.