Becoming an Integral part of The Pilates Center with Kelli Burkhalter-Hutchins

Kelli Burkhalter-Hutchins performing High Bridge on the Reformer by the lake
How did you get started in Pilates?
I grew up around fitness and had tried many different types of exercise over the years, i.e. Tae Bo, Aerobics, Walking, etc. I was drawn to Pilates because of the lean muscle and the celebrities that were doing it were thin 🙂

What lead you to The Pilates Center for your program?
I googled Pilates and The Pilates Center was the first listed. I only lived 15 minutes away from Boulder so I began my Pilates practice at TPC.

It’s a very prestigious honor to be asked to be a teacher at The Pilates Center. What was that like?It was a little nerve racking to begin my Pilates career teaching at The Pilates Center. Rachel Taylor Alpers told me during a lesson when I was still in the training program,that I was going to be a great teacher. I remember thinking, how do you know that?
The comment Rachel said gave me the confidence to begin teaching at The Pilates Center but I was still nervous. The first class or lesson I taught was possibly going to be observed by a student or other teachers at the studio; there was also the possibility that another much more experienced teacher would attend one of my classes. I was on my game every hour I taught.

A few years into teaching, Amy signed up to take one of my classes. At first, I felt stress, but over time having both Amy and Rachel in my classes it allowed me to mentor with them in a very different way. And sometimes I would hear Amy using some of my ideas in her own words in her lessons. It really increased my confidence to trust my instincts as a young teacher. This is one of the things I miss the most from no longer living in Colorado. The growth that I was able to receive by just teaching my mentors was incredible.

How did your role as a teacher at TPC evolve into the Director of Education?
Four months after graduating from the Advanced Program, I began to work at the front desk. I was quickly brought into management within a month. I began to add ideas and classes to the schedule to better assist students with their growth through the training program. When the Teacher Training Coordinator decided to “retire”, I was asked if I was interested in taking over that position. I, of course, agreed and was excited to begin to make a difference for the future students. I began adding better support the students through the program with additional requirements, as well as explanations of how to complete the program successfully. I also designed and created a few new programs to meet the market demands in Pilates Teacher Training.

Very quickly my job became bigger than just Teacher Training Coordinator and my position evolved into the Director of Education. I now manage all the teacher training programs (7 total), Enthusiast Program, Master’s Program, Host Advisors, Licensed Teacher Trainers, Licensed Studios, scheduling workshops local and traveling, online management system we refer to as iTPC, and speak with and support interested students as well as enrolled students. The other piece to my job is maintaining our state licensure with DPOS (Division of Private Occupational Schools) in Colorado, as well as the PSAP, PMA School Approval Program.

When you took on the role of Director of Education what changes and additions did you make to the existing programs and why?
Teaching Skills classes to the studio. These classes give students the opportunity to work together in a class setting, understanding the skills we need to learn for our examinations.
Observed Teachings were also added. The OT’s help prepare the students for their teaching exams.
Support documents to better explain to the student what is expected of them every week so that they could organize their Pilates schedules with their personal lives.
I convinced Amy and Rachel into creating what we call “Workbooks”. The workbooks are not manuals. They give key information about each exercise and the transitions. The students still need to create their own books from their point of view.Filming the Lecture Series.Eventually, I asked them to film themselves teaching our Formal Lecture Series so that all of our trainees will see the same information. It really codifies the program and gives them a dictionary about each exercise. Once we filmed the lecture series, we began to use an online management system that hosts all of our programs information, as well as the Formal Lecture Series. Students can now simultaneously watch the Formal Lecture Series while they complete internship hours in the studio setting. They are able to refer to the online videos if they are confused as to why an exercise has been modified, have a resource while they are going through the program, andcan focus on learning how to teach clients and address each client in font of themin the studio setting.

What was the reason to take the lectures online to iTPC? Many think the program is online, which isn’t true. It’s just the lectures and where you submit your hours.
The reason I felt it was important to film the lectures was to ensure every student was receiving the same information. I realized after I was teaching the lectures a few different times that it ended up being a game of telephone. We all put our own understanding into the work, but Amy and Rachel are really clear what they learned from Romana; and sometimes they disagreed. I felt strongly that it was important for all students to learn the information from the women who had founded The Pilates Center.

All of our students must attend the online lectures once, but are encouraged to attend them live while they are enrolled in the program. The students are quizzed on the information that they view enforcing what we want them to learn. This enhances their ability to learn the exercises well. They can pause and write notes, then when they see the lectures live they will get more out of it without feeling that they didn’t get all of the information. It frees the students up to enjoy their time at the lectures.

I realize that many people are against the idea of online, this is not a program that is just online. The majority of the hours are in the studio, the online portion is only 10 – 12 % of the programs. The online system, iTPC reinforces to the student what they are learning in the studio. When a student completes a “contact hour” in the studio, for example, Observed Teaching, that student must then go into iTPC and complete an assignment asking the student 5 questions about their experience. This again reinforces what they learned from their OT with their teacher. iTPC is also where we track documents that we have to keep for our state licensing.

What was the decision to have licensed teacher trainers and Host Advisors?
Originally we started allowing a few of our graduates we felt could offer our teacher training programs through what we called Licensed Studios. We started off with 4 Licensed Studios at the end of 2007. What this meant was that Licensed Studios taught our Formal Lecture Series and the students paid them the tuition. It also gave these graduates a territory, which eventually was an issue between local graduates in their area. As this started to cause issues we looked at a different more inclusive program for all of our graduates.

In 2011 we came up with the idea of creating Host Studios, Host Advisors, and Licensed Teacher Trainers to assist us with teacher training our students. These are available only to graduates of our Advanced 950 hour Program and Bridge 500 hour program.

When we first designed this model, we traveled to different locations and taught the lectures to the students of the Host Advisors. This proved to not be financially viable for TPC. Once the lectures were filmed in 2013, we added it to an online management system that allowed students to do our programs from anywhere using a Host Advisor and/or Licensed Teacher Trainer to assist them. We have since been training our Host Advisors and Licensed Teacher Trainers how to assist our students through the program.
Because of this new model, many of the Licensed Studios decided to participate as individual Licensed Teacher Trainers rather than paying a large licensing fee every year. This way they still get to teacher train without the risk of not enrolling enough students.

Licensed Teacher Trainers: can test students in and out of the program, which means they can do all pieces of the program. They must be a graduate of the 950 hour Advanced Program, completed the TPC Masters Program, teaching workshops, minimum of 5 years teaching experience, and PMA Certified

Host Advisor:will advise the students in the program, oversee case studies, part of the Observed Teachings, and assist with part of the examinations (minimally).

Both the LTT and HA have to attend a meeting that is designated to them.

What changed in the industry to have TPC become state licensed?
Amy and Rachel had no choice but to become licensed in Colorado as a vocational school. In 2001, they received a letter from the Colorado Department of Higher Education Division of Private Occupational Schools. After completing all of the paperwork they were approved in November 2003. I didn’t start working for them until 2005. I wasn’t there initially but have carried out the requirements since I took over the education position. The truth is that ALL states require that a business that is teaching a vocation are approved by their state. There are a few states that reject Pilates as a vocation. The state looks at this as consumer protection; they want to ensure that if a business is taking money to train someone for a vocation that it is a viable business that will not close the doors and keep the consumers money. The states require that businesses have a Refund Policy, Enrollment Agreement, and an insurance bond or other way to keep the funds paid to the business available to the student if the business closes their doors.We support that all Pilates schools should be licensed through their states. In order to become accredited in the future, schools will be required to be state licensed first to even go through this process.

What role have you taken within TPC and the industry to make Pilates a profession and to keep all studios and teachers protected?
We feel strongly that all Pilates schools should be licensed in their state. If their state exempts them then they should follow the Refund Policy of that state’s vocational licensing anyway. It protects the students and business and makes our industry more reputable. It allows for the student to know exactly what they are paying for, which is outlined in the Enrollment Agreement and Refund Policy. At this time, I volunteer my time to be on the PSAP (PMA School Approval Program) Committee through the PMA.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?
The Pilates industry is very similar to the Massage industry. All Massage schools are state licensed and in most states Massage Therapists are required to be individually licensed. As doctors continue to encourage their patients to go to Pilates to strengthen themselves at some point, we may have to be licensed individually as well. We want to make sure that we have completed a recognized teacher training program if this occurs. Yoga was able to get themselves exempt in the State of Colorado. They said that they are not teaching a vocation but a practice in their teacher training programs. I would like for our Pilates careers to be more respected than this.

Kelli Burkhalter-Hutchins has been teaching Pilates since 2005. She became interested in classical Pilates in 2001 and found The Pilates Center of Boulder to begin her Pilates tutelage. As a child, Kelli was a competitive swimmer and participated in the Jr. Olympics. She has been exposed to fitness all of her life, as her mother has been deeply involved with fitness. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kelli began as a client but by 2004 decided that she would enter into The Pilates Center’s Advanced Teacher Training Program. Upon graduation in 2005 she was hired as a teacher for The Pilates Center. In 2008, Kelli become the Teacher Training Coordinator for TPC and continued to grow the education programs at The Pilates Center. Currently Kelli is the Director of Education and handles all of The Pilates Center’s and works remotely from Austin, Texas.

Since graduating from TPC, Kelli has mentored closely with Amy Taylor Segel and Rachel Taylor Segel. While teaching at The Pilates Center, she had the privilege of teaching Amy and Rachel weekly. Kelli is PMA Certified and a PMA Provider, as well as a Master’s Program Presenter and Licensed Teacher Trainer for TPC. She has traveled around the world teaching Master’s Program Workshops for TPC and has taught at Pilates Anytime. Kelli has earned a noteworthy reputation for her “killer” chair classes and expertise in working with the upper body. She has worked with all levels and different ages of clients. Because she began her Pilates teaching career at TPC, where she taught for 9 years, she has been working with students of Pilates since 2004.

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