Leadership in Education

The Tointon Institute for Educational Change at UNC impacts classrooms and school districts across Colorado

As an educator with 33 years of experience, Terry Deniston has participated in her share of professional development opportunities so she knows a good one when she sees it. “The Tointon Institute (for Educational Change) has been one of the most inspiring and impactful experiences in my career,” says the teacher leader, who attended a residential academy through the institute.

Deniston is one of nearly 4,000 educators across Colorado who has been involved with UNC’s Tointon Institute since its founding 23 years ago. During that time, the institute has provided what’s considered by many educators to be the state’s premiere professional development and leadership programming for Colorado educators.

At the heart of the institute are three-day residential academies that emphasize instructional leadership to improve student learning. Participants work with practicing educators and professional learning experts.

“Our academies focus on what it means to be a leader,” said director Janet Alcorn, Ed.D., who has served as the institute’s director for 17 years. “They are about understanding people and relationships, and how leaders guide others to common goals. We’re unique in our emphasis on the individual as a leader, which resonates with school leaders who don’t always have time to think about who they are as a leader.”

Academies are followed up with individualized mentoring for participants in the years following their attendance.

“What we know from those who attend is that Tointon Academies are rejuvenating experiences that keep people in the profession,” Alcorn said. “They get excited again, and they build networks. That kind of connection is unusual and provides support for people in rural areas as well as in larger districts.”

The Tointon Institute has worked with more than 1,200 principals in Colorado and 320 school teams with more than 2,440 teacher leaders, creating positive change for Colorado education. In June, 40 additional principals and more than 200 teacher leaders will attend academies.

“The Tointon Institute’s Principal Leadership Academy is by far the most transformational leadership training I have ever been to. Period,” says Josh Miller, principal of Cherokee Trail Elementary School in Douglas County.

And it’s a transformation that has a ripple effect that impacts teachers and students.

“If you touch one principal, you can touch 40 staff members and 600 kids in a school. Sometimes many more,” Alcorn says. “Each one of these educators has an impact on those with whom he/she works, how they collaborate, how they learn, and that’s the power; it’s huge.”

The Tointon Institute was created through a gift to UNC from Bob and Betty Tointon of Greeley. Well-known at UNC and throughout Northern Colorado, Bob is a past chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from UNC. The couple’s continued philanthropy and involvement helps fund the program and drastically reduces the cost for participants to attend.

“We could not offer this level of professional development or this type of residential learning experience without it,” Alcorn says.