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Laura Lee Summers, PhD

Associate Clinical Professor for Professional Learning, Executive Coaching and Mentoring |
Senior Consultant for Learning Forward

Keynote and workshop facilitator on Wholeness, Wellness, and Resilience 
Professional Learning Community of Practices Architect 

Researcher, Curator & Storycatcher of Lived Experiences

...Reimagining education along the way...

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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 professional contributions focus on cultivating wellbeing and resilance, transformative professional learning communities of practice for equity, online and hybrid learner-centered pedagogy, competency-based professional learning, and coaching (executive, instructional, and inspirational).

I earned my PhD with the quest to better understand the connected learning that could occur in virtual spaces. I was inspired by the work of Jennifer James, a cultural anthropologist, who wrote, Thinking in Future Tense (1995) and sociologists who wrote about the human side of technological advances; how when used consciously, technology could connect us to more cultures and different perspectives. I have never identified as a "techie" and have always strived to keep the humanistic side within the field of instructional design as a digital curator, architect, and facilitator of professional learning. Along the way I discovered the importance in sharing the lived experiences of others and also earned a doctoral 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.

Yet, I missed teaching so 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 now completed dissertation, I was still drawn to bringing well-designed online professional learning to my colleagues, so I became an online learning specialist and instructional coach in my local school district with a 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 to a position as an assistant professor of the library media program 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 Learning Design & Technology (LDT) graduate program. I was reappointed in 2011 as a tenure-track professor with the message that I needed to spend less time “working with practitioners” and more time researching as a "top tier scholar." I didn’t know what to do with that advice at the time; the provost at the university meant well but my heart was happiest when collaborating with practitioners.


So, I transitioned back to P-12 public education. I completed my principal licensure and executive leadership program at CU-Denver thinking maybe I would pursue a principalship or superintendency someday. Meanwhile, I loved my district role as a professional learning and coaching administrator while also continuing to teach part-time for CU-Denver in the areas of coaching, mentoring, and professional learning. These leadership skills were honed through my district director level work in two large urban school districts. Then in 2019, I was given the opportunity to return "home" full-time to CU Denver as a full-time clinical professor which has been a fullfilling role for me for the past four years as I continue to present, publish, and facilitate as a teaching scholar. 

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 & Hybrid Pedagogy 

- 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 Essential Strategies for Sustained Educator Wellness, Coaches Academy, Mentor Academy - Year 2, Student-Centered Pedagogy, and Competency-Based Professional Learning 

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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