At ISTE, Teachers Are Reminded of the Value They Bring to Ed-Tech Companies

Staff Writer

New Orleans — Education companies are scrambling to hire teachers in a variety of roles, particularly in positions where they can provide ground-level insights on design and innovation.  

The recognition of teachers’ value has grown during the pandemic as companies have sought to align product development to the tools and support that educators actually want in classrooms. 

Those were some of the takeaways during a panel discussion held here at the ISTE conference Monday titled, “So You Want to Work for an Ed-Tech Company.” The session offered advice for educators who are thinking of moving into ed-tech organizations, and insights from those who know the business world on the strengths that teachers bring and what they can expect if they make the career shift. 

 “If you’re building ed-tech products, you need to be talking to the people who actually use it,” said Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Ventures and co-founder of the ASU+GSV Summit. “If you don’t have practitioners in the room, you’re really missing the point,” she said. 

Teachers could work in many different roles advising product development, even serving as chief product officers, said Quazzo. 

The ISTE conference, being held in person this summer after the pandemic nixed many large-scale events for the better part of two years, draws many thousands of educators each year, as well as vendors touting their products on the sprawling showroom floor, in hallways, and in side conversations. 

The conference is playing out amid signs of serious job dissatisfaction among teachers. A recent, nationally representative survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center and commissioned by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College found that a little more than half of teachers are satisfied with their jobs. More than half said they likely wouldn’t advise their younger self to pursue a career in teaching. 

If you’re building ed-tech products, you need to be talking to the people who actually use it.Deborah Quazzo, Managing Partner, GSV Ventures

While some in the audience voiced concern about submitting a resume that contained only teaching experience, ed-tech leaders said companies are increasingly realizing that skills learned in the classroom are highly transferrable and extremely valued. 

Those skills include the ability to multitask and to interact with a wide range of personality types, said Anthony Salcito, who recently served as vice president of worldwide education for Microsoft. When hiring, Salcito said he looks for people who can be leaders and who have the passion to drive their work, no matter what industry they’re in. 

“If you’re bringing things you’re passionate about, that can translate into any third-party corporate entity,” said Salcito, who is now chief institutional business officer at Varsity Tutors. “If you’re intentional and mindful about why you’re leaving the classroom, and it’s because you want the opportunity to have a bigger voice, you’ll be successful.” 

The Ability to Tell Companies ‘What’s Doable’

Another panelist, Jennie Magiera, Google’s global head of education impact, formerly worked as a 4th grade teacher in the Chicago area. But she simultaneously ran her own education blog and posted tutorials to her YouTube account, both of which evolved into her being invited to help write national ed-tech policy. 

“It’s all about continuing to put yourself out there and finding opportunities to grow,” Magiera said. “You can always do more in the space you’re sitting in, and [companies] want teachers to tell them what’s doable. They want our voice.”  

Magiera advised teachers who are interested in moving into the private sector to rework their resumes to highlight their skills, rather than just describing their past positions. They should put an emphasis on any experience they have in areas such as project management, budgeting, and fundraising.  

Ed-tech companies are also working with human resources departments and outside recruiters to shift the mindset when they’re considering job applicants, so that they are trained to look for these skills that educators would bring to companies, which aren’t necessarily tied to having an extensive tech background, Salcito said.  

 “This is a moment where your skills are in great demand, whether you’re taking another job in the classroom or in ed-tech,” Quazzo said. “We’re facing extraordinary challenges, but that opens doors to extraordinary opportunities.” 

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Photo Credit: International Society for Technology in Education

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