Laura Lee Summers, PhD

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Associate Professor, CTT for Learning Design & Technology |
Executive Coach for Equity | Grant Writing Ethusiast 
Digital Professional Learning Architect/Thought Partner | Keynote Presenter  Qualitative Interviewer, Researcher & Storycatcher 

Lived Experiences

"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect."  ~ Brene Brown


Today, and for the last thirty years, my work has been with and for learners. My career services have focused on transformative professional learning, critical digital literacy, online and hybrid pedagogy, and coaching (executive, instructional, and inspirational). 

I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in first grade. I loved learning and early on I would observe my teachers for examples (and non-examples) of pedagogy.  After college, I started teaching English and drama at a junior high, then joined my mentor to co-teach at the University Lab High School.  Next I joined a new middle school where we, as an interdisciplinary team of four, progressed with our students for three years. I wanted to get my master's - something I didn't think I was smart enough to do, and as the first graduate in my immediate family, I had no idea how much I would love the deeper learning. I started my PhD with the quest to better understand the connectedness that could occur in virtual learning spaces. I was inspired by the work of Jennifer James, a cultural anthropologist, who wrote, Thinking in Future Tense (1995) and sociologists that wrote about the human side of technological advances. I have never identified as a "techie" and have always strived to find keep the humanistic side within the field of instructional technology and digital literacies as a digital curator, digital architect, and hybrid facilitator of learning communities. My learning quest continued as I worked full-time and attended a doctoral program full-time to earn my PhD in instructional design with an emphasis in hybrid pedagogy. Along the way I discovered the power behind sharing the lived experiences of others and also earned my minor in applied qualitative research. 


In 1998, I decided to practice my skills as an instructional designer of a medium-size web-based training company. I became manager of the instructional designers within three months, and eighteen months later started a new adventure as a managing partner of instructional design. I entered the business of eLearning with a focus on learner-centered teaching and learning; which doesn't always fit the business model of ROI. My return on investment was to design and facilitate training that was learner-center in the process of becoming conscious, and allowed participants to develop a sense of their own agency in their pursuit of life-long learning.

My learner-centered, open-hearted and entrepreneurial spirit led me back to public education to coach students who were twice-exceptional and on the verge of dropping out of high school in an alternative high school program. After a couple of years and a completed dissertation, I was still drawn to bringing transformative and well-designed online professional learning to my colleagues, so I accepted an Online Learning Specialist/Instructional Coach position in a school district/BOCES partnership. This partnership allowed me to create some of the first online professional learning in the state of Colorado. 


After a few years I was recruited into a position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Colorado in 2004 before coming to University of Colorado Denver in 2006 for a tenure-track position as the program leader of the school library program; a concentration area within our Instructional Learning & Technology program. Our ILT program, now Learning Design & Technology (LDT) was the first graduate program to offer a completely online program in 2007.

After being reappointed, I decided to step back into public education after being given the message that my research was practitioner-based. I decided to spend more time with practitioners and develop new skills. During this self-directed sabbatical from CU Denver, I earned my superintendent's license as part of an Executive Leadership program; and my K-12 principal endorsement as part of the Educational Leadership graduate program. These leadership skills were honed through my district level work in two large urban school districts. I remained a part-time instructor for the University of Colorado Denver to be that bridge between P-12 and higher education; as a liaison I felt like I kept the focus on learner-centered pedagogy. In 2019, I returned to a full-time Assistant Professor position on the Clinical Teaching track which has been a fullfilling role for me as I continue to present, publish, and facilitate as a scholar of teaching and learning. 

Link to my Curriculum Vitae

Select Career Experiences

June 2019 - present:

April 2019 - present: full-time
2015 - 2019: part-time
2015 - 2015: full-time


July 2016 - May 2019


2012 - 2014

2006 - 2012

2004 - 2006

2002 - 2006

1998 - 2001

1989 - 1998

University of Colorado Denver

Associate Professor, CTT, & Program Leader

- Executive Coaching & Professional Learning

- Social, Emotional & Cultural Professional Learning 

- Digital Literacies & Pedagogies 

- Leadership in P-12 Libraries

- Leadership for Educational Equity EdD – Professional Learning Concentration|  - Professional Learning Workshops in Continuing Professional Education

Previous Roles: Designer and Instructor (2014 - 2019); Director of Professional Learning & Educator Effectiveness for Continuing Professional Education/EDU; a professional learning center for public educators (2014 - 2015) 

Learning Forward 

Senior Consultant

Designer and faciiltator of 8 Dimensions of Educator Wellness 

Director of Professional Learning, Denver Public Schools

  • Directed a team of 18 central office professionals whose responsibilities included event planning, professional learning coordination, online production and online course development, professional learning measurement of impact, facilitation & coaching on best practices in adult learning; and district-wide support for culturally responsive education and data-driven instruction through peer-to-peer learning, communities of practice, and learning labs.

  • Managed a 2-million-dollar budget for events, professional learning services, and FTE.

  • Led 2017-19 strategic planning, designing, & implementing of professional learning for district’s instructional priority: Culturally Responsive Education.

[More information available on my LinkedIn profile.]

Director of Educator Effectiveness, Aurora Public Schools

  • Directed Teacher Leadership scaling efforts across the district.

  • Led calibration efforts around pedagogy.

  • Developed partnerships with universities for teacher and leadership development (pipeline) in order to develop and retain quality educators.

  • Designed and implemented professional learning for school leaders and schools to build capacity in teachers and foster best practices in standards-based teaching and learning. 

[More information available on my LinkedIn profile.]

Administrator of Instructional Coaches & Professional Developer,

Poudre School District, Fort Colllins, CO

  • Coach of 28 instructional (literacy, math, MTSS and ELA) coaches.

Assistant Professor (tenure-track), University of Colorado Denver

  • Managed Teacher-Libarian graduate program

  • Designed and facilitated research, library, and instructional technology courses.

Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley

  • Managed Teacher-Libarian graduate program.

  • Designed and facilitated research, library, and instructional technology courses.

Induction Coach and Online Learning Specialist

St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, CO/CBOCES

  • Launched and managed national online professional development projects (e.g. storyboarded content; wrote audio scripts; established video schedule; edited digital video clips) titled: ESL Strategies for the Regular Classroom Teacher and Differentiated Instruction Designed and coordinated state-wide online professional development in Data-driven Instruction & Assessment, Alternative Teacher Licensing Program/Standards-based instruction, and Colorado Department of Education Reading First. Designed and managed district-wide online professional development in Instructional Mentoring; Six Traits Writing; and Math Applets. Certified in Advanced Cognitive Coaching (2004).

Managing Partner of Instructional Design

Alva Learning Systems/Digital Creators 

  • Founder of eLearning business for call centers, financial services, manufacturing, and consulting firms.

  • Specialized in front-end client relations (front end analysis; gap analysis; design documentation), Conducted formative assessments to determine the most cost efficient and effective online training solutions.

  • Remained a business partner until company was sold and dissolved in 2005. 

Public 6th -12th grade Educator

St. Vrain Valley School District/University Lab School

  • English and drama 

  • Teacher Librarian

  • Professional Learning Facilitator

  • Mentor Teacher 

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