Summa Teacher Training Program

I learned about NLR [Natural Learning Relationships] child development, about how age and circumstance and the child interact dynamically throughout development, about the organizing principles that tend to govern this development, and about my role as part of the environment for others, and how that environment also shapes me. […] The overarching structure of the course was excellent.

David Ley, Educator

What is the Summa Training Program?


Summa Institute is a center for creative change in teacher training. We help professionals in education to develop and transform lives through the power of learning.

The Summa Teacher Training program brings forth excellence in educators whether you are already an educator or aspiring to become one. The Summa program can give you an added career advantage and offers opportunities for networking.

This course addresses compelling contemporary issues for today’s educators with skills and training that will meaningfully enhance and add significant value to any educator’s knowledge base. Summa Teacher Training increases effectiveness and reduces stress with applications of development to curriculum for student success and well–being. Summa Institute is thoroughly committed to your success.

The Summa Teacher Training has impacted me in both personal and professional ways. The experience has been validating, powerful, perhaps career altering. Having attended this course adds quiet strength and deeper voice to my work with children and families.

M. Michael, PhD, School Psychologist

Independent Analysis

As part of our efforts to continue to grow, we spend time collecting data on our programs. An independent analysis of the program revealed that participants made strides in many areas including:

  1. Increased understanding of Natural Learning Relationships
  2. Improved collegial relationsihps
  3. Better communication with colleagues
  4. Confidence using of child development in the classroom
  5. Mutual development between teacher and student
  6. Improved school culture creation

About the Study

This pilot research project was conducted on the Teacher Training Program at Summa Institute that was conducted in spring, 2013 to learn about learning experience and the effect on their professional practice and on adult development. Teachers voluntarily enrolled in the training program, attending classes three times each month for four months–approximately 50 hours of class time followed by a practicum project.

The study involved a pre-program survey and a post-program survey. Eighteen individuals completed the opening and closing survey. Clearly the Summa Teacher Training program has benefited the participating teachers in qualitatively significant ways including greater self-awareness and increased knowledge of child development principles for practice.

Results at a Glance

  1. Increased understanding and classroom use of Natural Learning Relationships whole-child development
  2. Greater confidence in communication with colleagues
  3. Competence in self-reflection and professional growth
  4. Greater ability to meet students’ developmental needs
  5. Increased sense of connection in the school community.

Teachers also benefited from having a clear and common language to utilize when describing their learning and when they interact with students and parents in the larger school community. This common language is essential to these interactions, as well as navigating the modern contradictions in educational professional practices. Language and the ability to communicate are an important resource for teachers because it can help teachers achieve recognition and understanding, which is essential both in the school culture and in the parent community.

Natural Learning Relationships

What is NRL exaclty?

Natural Learning Relationships whole–child development describes our essential qualities or inherent capacities (natural), which move us through life to gain knowledge, appreciation or mastery (learning), nurtured by mutual respect in which inspiration and wisdom emerge (relationships).

At its core, Natural Learning Relationships maps the development of the innate capacities throughout childhood and offers guidelines to creating relationships that lead to optimal well-being for both the child and the educator.

The Natural Learning Relationship concept has pedagogical usefulness and practical applications that enhance the life of all those who are in relationship with children (teachers, parents, and other professionals such as counselors).

Natural Learning Relationships in the study

After the training program, participants reported a significant increase in their understanding of Natural Learning Relationships. This understanding proved to have immediate benefits in their relationships with students, communication with colleagues, and improved classroom environments that benefit student’s learning.

From Our Study: Rate your understanding of child development.

(Scale is equal to points assigned to survey responses to demonstrate an increase of 35% in the averaged set.)

Learning about the stages of child development, the organizing principles, and nourishments, have been very meaningful. It has reorganized the way that I view how children see the world and express themselves.

Pam L., Graduate Student

Why is Natural Learning Relationships so important?

The only constant in life is change. Change is a law of life. We can initiate successful changes in our professional practice or we can resist change which can lead to undue stress. Lasting fundamental change (e.g. changes in our teaching practices) requires greater understanding and, often, altering our underlying beliefs and attitudes. Our willingness to make intentional effort is pivotal to our growth.

At Summa, we make the pathways to professional growth easier to navigate. Embracing change by entering new learning creates an opportunity for the emergence of self-knowledge, increased confidence, and positive growth in ourselves and our practice.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

Personal & Self Growth

Self Reflection

One key thing that separates us from other animals is the ability to know ourselves for who we truly are. As humans we spend time in reflection, in introspection, in self–inquiry, or in contemplation about the motives of our actions. Other animals do not question why they do what they do.

Moreover, reflection is an invaluable tool for gaining insight into our lives and acquiring greater self-knowledge. With reflection we gain conscious knowledge of our unconscious. Reflection is pivotal in adult development to live a more authentic, whole, and integrated life.

From our Study

My personal development is always reflected in my teaching practice. I learned that it is important for me to reflect so I can be aware of my development.

Alux Sutenin, Participant

Professional Communication

We create our social world in communication with others. Effective communication depends on mutual respect for one another’s views. The turning point is the moment when trust is present – but trust must be consciously cultivated and mutual for all parties concerned.

Collegial communication among educators that includes a relationship between trust and collaboration creates better school culture. Trust and collaboration are mutually reinforcing.

Where trust and cooperation among educators are strong, students feel safe, sense that teachers care, and experience greater support to learn and succeed. Our teacher training improves professional communication along with the connection, consistency, and trust that make working together a source of enjoyment and inspiration.

From Our Study:

How would you rate the overall communication with your colleagues?

(Scale is equal to points assigned to survey responses to demonstrate an increase of 11% in the averaged set.)

Putting Students First

In Our Words

At Summa, we help educators put students first. Education is not about performance, it’s about relationship. The fundamental and primary obligation of every teacher is to the student and the student’s development in well–being. Creating relationships that match the developmental capacities and imperatives of children optimize each child’s learning experience. At Summa, we know each child and family individually. Together we create education to inspire learning in the following ways:

  1. Relationship Based Education – the right information, at the right time, in the right way.
  2. Personal Learning Plan for each student – building from strengths
  3. Configuring the class to a student’s strengths
  4. Developmental sensitivity to each student’s developmental moment in growth
  5. Combining academic excellence with Emotional Intelligence
  6. Creating a bridge between home and school with respect for family
  7. Project Based Learning for every student-hands on applications
  8. Respect for diversity

In Our Training Partcipants’ Words

In this teacher training program, I learned that it is highly important for a teacher to grow with the children.

Natalie Pepper

I have learned about teaching, what it is and isn't, what it requires and doesn't, and how to employ those lessons learned about myself and about child development to maximize my effectiveness not just as a teacher, but as a mentor, and friend.

David Ley

Articulating Learning

It Matters

We all have our own ways of thinking and our own meanings for words that we use to communicate. Knowledge alone is not useful unless we can make connections to articulate our knowledge to our colleagues and our students. This communication of knowledge requires a greater working vocabulary with which to formulate and then express our ideas.

Teachers benefit from having a clear and common language to utilize when they describe their learning and when they interact with students in the larger school community. Common language is essential to these interactions, as well as navigating the modern contradictions in educational professional practices.

The Summa teacher training course provides a greater working vocabulary with which to express ideas about education and children’s learning and development. Being able to make connections between our ideas and our resident knowledge can help us to think more creatively and produce higher quality work. We are most creative when we are able to connect our ideas and experiences to synthesize them into more complex understanding.


I have learned about child development, about how age and circumstance and the child interact dynamically through development, about the organizing principles that tend to govern this development, and about my role as part of the environment for others, and how that environment shapes me.

Having attended this course adds quiet strength and deeper voice to my work with children and families. I took in a lot of goodness here.

Mary Michael

Study Methodology

This study was designed to explore the effect of the Teacher Training Program on the participants to learn about their adult development and professional growth. It is intended to be hypothesis–generating, not hypothesis–testing.

The design of this study relied on comparative analysis of both pre-program survey and a post-program survey results as well as descriptive analysis of qualitative responses. The interplay of qualitative and quantitative approaches is a deliberate combination intended to build an integrated and comprehensive view of whether teachers develop after the Summa Teacher Training program. Searching for themes in the coded data helped to establish narratives and descriptive phenomena.

In this process, good research ethics, and the intended meaning of the participants were always foremost in mind. Gradually a conceptual schema began to emerge of the main themes that represented the actual experiences of the participants as represented above. Moreover, the survey construction, and data collection were conducted by Dr. Luvmour while the analysis was conducted by an unbiased outside party, Andrew Lawrence, MA.

Participants Demographics

Number of Participatns (N) 18
Average Age of Participants: 38
Female:75 %
Male 25 %
Participatns with a current teaching license: 69 %
With a graduate degree: 56 %
With an undergraduate degree: 31 %
With some college: 13 %
Average years of teaching experience: 4
Longest teaching career: 26
Shortest: 0
Participatns with previous training: 75 %
Participants who attended a talk at Summa prior to training: 50 %

Further Research

Given the small number of participants in this research project on the efficacy of the Summa Teacher Training Program, further research is needed to study the effects or benefits of the Summa Teacher Training program on the general population.

This exploratory research study provided data on supporting teachers professional development with information about practical applications of Natural Learning Relationships in the classroom, creating collaborative school culture, communication with colleagues and with students and their families. More research is needed to determine the benefit of the Summa Teacher Training Program after attendance in the program and into future years. Moreover, research with diverse populations will be useful.

About Us

Josette Luvmour, PhD is an educator in human development and a developmental consultant specializing in child and adult development, adult transformational learning, and sustainable family relationships. She serves in the non-profit sector as Director of the BRIDGE program for parents at Summa Academy and Director of Professional Development and the Research Core at Summa Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides Natural Learning Relationships™ programs to students, families, and professionals.

In addition to her 28-year consulting practice at Luvmour Consulting, LLC, her writing has been published in ENCOUNTER: Education for meaning and social justice, Paths of Learning, Journal of Adult Development, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Parenting Matters, Family Post, Holistic Education Review, Mothering Magazine, Naturopathic Doctor News, and she is also the author of five books that focus on building positive relationships with children.


During the course of this research project, we were privileged to be given a window into the professional practice of the participants. We are appreciative of the open willingness of the participants to invite me in to see a small view of their teaching practice and relationships with their colleagues and students. It is with gratitude that we found inspiration from these teachers’ efforts and the consequent shifts that they made in their professional practice.

Next Steps

Preview our Training Program

While each four week course stands alone, the most comprehensive results will be gained by taking them all.

Josette Luvmour, PhD, Director of the Summa Research Core
Part I: Creating School Culture Four 1.5 hour classes
(6 hrs total)
Part II: Human Development and Natural Learning Relationships Four 1.5 hour classes
(6 hrs total)
Part III: Teacher/Parent Relationships, Family Systems and Student Success (4 hrs total)
Part IV: Application of Theory to Practie Four 1.5 hour classes
(6 hrs total)

Interested in signing up for teacher training like this one?

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A special Thank You to our Intern Research Assistant Andrew F. Lawrence.

We would like to express our immense respect for and gratitude to Andrew Lawrence for his steadfast perseverance moving this research project forward, his wonderful disposition, and his skillful presentation of the data.

Andrew Lawrence has taken the Summa Teacher Training Research project from data organization that was collected in pre-program and post-program surveys, to coding, analysis, summary report, and then telling the story of the research in this website display. Throughout, he was a pleasure to work with.

Andrew holds an MA in Educational Leadership & Policy with Graduate Certificates in Teaching Adult Learners and Service Learning. He works at Portland State University in the Office of Academic Innovation in Portland, OR.

Josette Luvmour, PhD, Director of the Summa Research Core

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