Educational reforms have created tremendous stress for teachers in many parts of the world. This paper discusses the inadequacies of policy-makers treating teachers as having 'deficits' that require 'fixes', rather than addressing bigger system issues that cause their stress. Drawing from the case of a Hong Kong professional teacher development course, this paper argues for the use of 'personal growth' as the main concept for professional development of teachers in the midst of educational reforms. The course addressed the changing roles and identities of teachers amid educational reforms and societal changes, and enhanced teachers' competence in dealing with increasingly diverse student populations. Quantitative and qualitative post-programme data showed that participants gained competence in self-understanding, caring for students as unique individuals, thinking within a systems framework and building a learning community. Implications for teacher education are discussed. Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business.