TEP's teacher sabbatical program differs from most standard sabbatical programs in several ways:
First, teachers are encouraged, not discouraged, from taking sabbaticals. Beyond the obvious – that frequent sabbaticals combat the very real phenomenon of teacher burn-out – sabbaticals provide teachers with an opportunity to explore a part of themselves outside of teaching.
TEP teacher sabbaticals may occur after five years of teaching at TEP. Teachers may use their sabbatical year for employment (e.g. a position at a think tank), education (e.g. a one-year art-history masters program), or travel (e.g. a travel fellowship). TEP provides teachers with full benefits (medical, dental, etc.) but teachers are not paid by TEP during their sabbatical year; however, TEP attempts to assist teachers in securing funding for their sabbatical-year project.
Finally, teachers are encouraged to take sabbaticals outside the field of education. In contrast to most educational institutions that grant sabbaticals, TEP deliberately does not require any sort of rationale connecting the teacher’s sabbatical-year experience with teaching.
Upon returning to TEP following their sabbatical, teachers share their experiences with other TEP teachers and staff at the Summer Institute. Each returning teacher prepares a “learning forum” designed to share insights gained from that teacher’s sabbatical-year experience. There is no required format - each teacher may use his or her own creativity (presentations, discussions, activities) to share the experience. The goal of each learning forum is not to determine how the teacher plans to directly apply the experience to the classroom, since TEP does not view the sabbatical experience primarily as a means of improving teaching practice. Instead, the goal of the forum is to allow the teacher to investigate and analyze his or her own personal growth as a learner during the sabbatical year and to provide insight and ideas for fellow teachers as they consider their own sabbatical plans.