Highroad Professional Development

On a Quest for Professional Excellence

About HPD

Our mission is to organize and provide professional learning experiences that promote excellence

To accomplish our mission, we apply the professional learning model of the "grassroots" Great Teachers Movement (GTM), which was founded in 1969 by David B. Gottshall. The powerfully simple, highly effective GTM model has continued to be used for over 50 years... because it works! 

One of its fundamental principles is that peers learn best from one another. In essence, the most influential people to "frontline" professionals are other "frontline" professionals, actively engaged in their work. And because the GTM model was purposefully designed to be flexible, it can be (and has been) successfully applied to ANY group of professionals (not just teachers) with very practical, powerful, positive results. 

Although productive professional learning activities can occur just about anywhere, the ideal is to hold events in locations that inspire deep thought and self-reflection. We have coordinated and conducted workshops, retreats, seminars, and summits at hotel and conference facilities near such natural wonders as Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Zion Canyon, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks. 

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

Event Leaders' Credentials and Professional Experience

Dr. Tom Cunningham is the Event Coordinator, the Executive Director, and a Lead Facilitator. He has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology (Utah State University), and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language as well as a dual-major B.A. in Linguistics and Spanish (Brigham Young University). He was an ESL instructor for 7 years at several institutions, and his work as a professor began in 1994 at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, where he taught a wide variety of courses in-person, online, and via interactive video conferencing. In addition to teaching instructional technology, business education, information systems, and ESL teacher training, he also served in many other roles, such as SUU Faculty Development Director for 8 years and as Director of Graduate Studies in Education for 2 years. In 2001, he established Highroad Professional Development, LLC, to provide consulting services for educational institutions and other organizations. In 2017, he accepted an administrative faculty position as the only instructional designer and as a faculty coach 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. Regarding his experience with the Great Teachers Movement, Dr. Cunningham attended his first GTM event in 1997, which was directed by Dr. Gary Parnell. They immediately began collaborating; and since then, Dr. Cunningham has coordinated, directed, and facilitated numerous events based on the GTM seminar model

Dr. Gary Parnell is an Event Director and a Lead Facilitator. He has a Ph.D. in Education (University of Utah) with an emphasis on Educational Foundations, and he has an M.A. in English (San Jose State University) and a B.A. in History (Brigham Young University). In 2014, at the time of his retirement from full-time teaching, he had been serving for 5 years as an Associate Professor of Education at Utah State University and as the Director of the USU Ephraim Education Center. Before that, he had been a Professor of Humanities and Education for 30 years at Snow College, Ephraim, Utah, where he had also served as the Faculty Development Director for 17 years and as the Education Department Chair for 5 years. He is a 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. Dr. Parnell's first experience with the Great Teachers Movement was participating at the 1989 National Great Teachers Seminar, led by GTM founder David Gottshall at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Since 1990, Dr. Parnell has been directing events that are based on the GTM seminar model. 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. 

Dr. Larry Smith is an Event Director and a Lead Facilitator. He has a Ph.D. in Science Education and an M.A. in Physics and Math (The University of Texas at Austin), and a B.S. with honors in Physics and Math (Brigham Young University). Since 1991, Dr. Smith has been a Professor of Physics and Math at Snow College, Ephraim, Utah, where he has taught most of the Physics and Math courses they offer, utilizing various modes of instruction (in-person, online, and via interactive video conferencing). He has also taught a Computer Science course, two Philosophy courses, and clarinet lessons. He is a member of the Snow College Honors Program faculty. During his tenure at Snow College, he has served as Chair of the Physics Department twice for a total of 8 years, as Dean of the Natural Science and Mathematics Division for 8 years, and as Faculty Development Director for 13 years. Dr. Smith has been involved with the Great Teachers Movement for many years. He has attended eight of the annual Red Rock Great Teaching Retreats since 2003, serving five times as a small-group facilitator and twice as a lead facilitator. He also participated in leadership training provided by movement founder David B. Gottshall and other movement leaders in 2017 at the International Great Teachers Leadership Summit (Lake Geneva, WI). 

Advancing the Great Teachers Movement 

In the fall of 1996, Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Parnell were both serving as Faculty Development Directors at their respective institutions. They had become acquainted previously at meetings of the Utah Faculty Developers Consortium. Parnell invited Cunningham to attend the annual Intermountain Great Teachers Summit that he was directing, hosted by Utah Valley University at their conference facilities and at the Chateau Apres Lodge in Park City, Utah. Although Cunningham wasn't able to attend that year, he sent a colleague to check it out. Both Cunningham and his SUU colleague were skeptical about the usefulness of the event, but the colleague later reported it was "the best, most practical and relevant teachers' conference" he had ever attended. 

Then in the fall of 1997, Cunningham personally attended the seminar and took five faculty members with him, representing five colleges within SUU. Afterward, they all agreed that SUU faculty should continue participating annually in the fall, and they suggested that a spring-semester seminar should be offered so even more faculty could have opportunities to attend. Thus, Dr. Cunningham invited Dr. Parnell to help provide the Southern Utah Great Teaching Summit in February of 1998. Thereafter, Parnell continued directing the fall seminar in northern Utah and the spring seminar in southern Utah. 

Since that time, Parnell and Cunningham have continued to collaborate and innovate, 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/Great University events, and more. 

In 2001, Parnell and Cunningham participated in a National Great Teachers Leadership Colloquium (held at a guest ranch in West, TX), which was directed by GTM founder David Gottshall. They learned a lot from Gottshall and other GTM practitioners from around the United States and Canada

In 2002, when Cunningham accepted an offer to teach in the SUU School of Business, he stepped down as Faculty Development Director, which was part of the SUU Library at that time. When no one was immediately hired to replace him, he decided to continue coordinating and co-directing the Southern Utah event as a private consultant with Parnell's help. In 2003, they changed the name to the Red Rock Great Teaching Retreat, which continues to meet annually at Red Cliffs Lodge, near Moab, Utah. 

Later, in 2005 and 2014, Cunningham attended two GTM leadership development events (both held in North Carolina) that were guided by Gottshall, who had retired from full-time employment at College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, but continued directing GTM seminars nationally and internationally. 

Tom Cunningham & David Gottshall, 2001, West, TX

David Gottshall, 2016, Bryce Canyon, UT

In 2016, Highroad Professional Development became even more involved in advancing what had increasingly become an international 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 at Camp Kanuga, Hendersonville, North Carolina. At the 2016 IGTLS, Tom Cunningham served as the coordinator, Steve Smith was the director/process guide, Gary Parnell assisted with various activities, and GTM Founder David Gottshall presided, sharing his experience, 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 Leadership Summit had several unique and special purposes: (1) celebrating the work and legacy of David Gottshall in recognition of his retirement from personally leading GTM 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 GTM forward, (4) continuing to SHARE its power to innovate, and (5) collaborating to ENVISION the next iteration of the GTM. Tom Cunningham organized and coordinated the Summit, and Steve Smith directed this wonderful opportunity to honor Gottshall. 

NOTE: The same GTM seminar principles used for teachers and other professionals have always been applied to the learning and development of GTM practitioners. We practice what we preach! 

Following is a brief video (Duration: 48 seconds) of David Gottshall at the 2016 IGTLS, describing how the National Great Teachers Movement began. Please note at the end of the video, the web address (ngtm.org) is incorrect. The correct address to the NGTM website is ngtm.net

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 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. We honored him at the Summit by building upon what he started, applying the simple yet powerful principles he taught and exemplified, and helping new practitioners who had joined our ranks to coordinate and conduct their own effective professional learning events. 

Today, as practitioners and proponents of the Great Teachers Movement, we are grateful to David B. Gottshall for "starting the fire" in 1969, which quickly grew and spread into an effort he referred to as "A Continuing Adventure in Staff Development." We honor and celebrate his contributions to effective professional learning by engaging a new generation of educators to carry the movement forward, continuing to share its power to innovate, and collaborating to envision its future. For example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all GTM events had been held in person. However, in 2020 and 2021, as academic conferences were being canceled, college and university faculty were being required to teach completely online (many for the very first time), so we adapted the GTM model to help support their professional learning needs by offering the Great Online Teaching Seminar (GOTS), using video conferencing software with screen-sharing capabilities, a main room for entire-group discussions, and breakout rooms for small-group discussions. Seminar staff endeavored to make the experience as close as possible to meeting in person. It worked! 

Our aim is to help the GTM continue innovating and growing for another 50 years and beyond! 


Additional Videos

We want to share the following videos with people who are genuinely interested in the Great Teachers Movement, but we still want to maintain a certain level of privacy. Thus, they are "Unlisted" and not "Public" on YouTube to prevent them from appearing in YouTube search results, subscriber feeds, and random video suggestions. If you see "Video Unavailable" in a window below, click the "Watch on YouTube" link under that message to view the video

1. Interview with David B. Gottshall, 2017 International Great Teachers Leadership Summit, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin  (June 8, 2017)

Watch this video (Duration: 58 minutes) to learn about the Great Teachers Movement in the words and voice of its founder... and experience some of his delightful wit and wisdom. After the interview, the video includes a musical celebration in Gottshall's honor and a short slideshow of the 2017 IGTLS location, activities, and participants. 

2. "Final Exam" Presentation, 2014 National Great Leaders Summit, Hendersonville, North Carolina

Following is a video recording (Duration: 6 minutes) of a humorous skit presented at the 2014 National Great Leaders Summit, held at Camp Kanuga, Hendersonville, North Carolina, June 8-11, 2014. As a "Final Exam" for the event, each team prepared and shared a short, creative presentation to explain, describe, or illustrate in some way the characteristics of a great leader. This particular team named themselves "Team-nacity" (acknowledging the value and importance of "tenacity" in team efforts to solve problems). The title of their presentation was "A Case of Pup-tent-teepee-osis." At the end, there is a short slideshow of the 2014 Summit location, activities, and participants.  

David Gottshall loved to laugh and tell a good joke. You don't see him in this video, but he was in the audience, thoroughly enjoying the experience of participating in a funny wrap-up presentation about some of the important things we had learned from each other during the Summit.