We have an amazing organizing team filled with former teachers, entrepreneurs, startup weekend graduates, and people 100% dedicated to finding solutions to education’s most persistent challenges.
Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) San Francisco Team
- Jessica Falkenthal is an edtech startup aficionado and marketing guru.
- Kristina Lawyer is a former elementary school teacher in Hawaii and Quantitative Research Analyst at Stanford University.
- Evan Samek is an education entrepreneur and Founder of ImagiLabs
- David Shackelford is a former classroom teacher in San Francisco and Teach for America Corps Member, and currently is a Product Manager at Education Elements.
- Maggie Croushore is a former middle school English teacher in DC and Teach for America Corps Member, and currently is the Founder of KidFit Academy.
A Life-Changing Experience
Early on in our planning conversations, my Co-Organizers and I knew that we wanted to do a special workshop just for teachers leading up to our SWEDU San Francisco on Nov 22nd. Three out of five of us are former classroom teachers, so it made sense for us to hold an event specifically for educators to prepare them for the weekend. And for me, in particular, this idea hit close to home.
I remember when I attended my first SWEDU as a teacher last year. I was incredibly nervous, as I had never before been exposed to entrepreneurship and had no idea what to expect. However, as I drove to the event, I gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone in a room full of complete strangers and pitch an idea that had been ruminating in my mind for some time. And I am so glad I did! I ended up creating KidFit Academy, and I can honestly say that SWEDU changed my career path. I would not be where I am today without it. And so my Co-Organizers and I wanted to make sure other teachers get the same opportunity to play a leadership role in creating great solutions to their own problems in the classroom.
From the beginning, we knew that we not only wanted to recruit some amazing teachers for our event, but we also wanted to connect teachers to the growing education technology sector in a real and meaningful way. After some conversation, we decided on the following overarching goals for the workshop.
- Introduce educators to the concepts and skills needed for startup weekend
- Begin cultivating a community of educators dedicated to entrepreneurship
- Empower educators to use entrepreneurial skills to problem solve pressing educational issues
- Provide a safe and supportive learning space for educators to brainstorm and practice pitching business ideas for upcoming SWEDU
A Big Success
Through our event, we were able to accomplish several of our key goals. First, we were able to recruit some amazing teachers for our event. After participating in our dynamic workshop, these teachers will be even more prepared for an amazing SWEDU experience. Also, by exposing teachers to the power of their voice in the education innovation movement, we were able to open the dialogue for future conversations bringing together education startups and teachers.
It is important to communicate to teachers that SWEDU is not just for those that might be thinking of joining or founding a startup. Classroom teachers do not have to leave the setting of a school, in order to make an impact in the edtech world. I know that as a teacher, I was intimidated by these type of events; however, throughout the weekend, I quickly realized that I not only had a lot to add to the conversation, but I also was an asset to my team. Only us teachers have the experience of seeing many problems up front, on a daily basis, and that experience is a value-add to anyone interested in solving those problems.
At the end of our workshop, it was inspiring to see some attendees share their problems and proposed solutions. Just imagine! If they can come up with such great ideas in less than hour, what could they come up with over the course of a 54-hour weekend?
Replicating the Model
After a while, those of us in the startup scene sometimes forget that not everyone speaks the language of entrepreneurship and that can be incredibly intimidating. Having a teacher-centric event not only shows teachers how important they are, it acts as preparation for the weekend. By hearing from former educators-turned-entrepreneurs and participating in a startup weekend mini-simulation, teachers walked away from the event with a better understanding of entrepreneurship, as well as a strong pitch for the weekend or beyond. Teachers already engage in the thinking behind entrepreneurship; they just might not realize it, because they call it something different—good teaching.
I would absolutely recommend that future SWEDU Organizers implement this type of workshop prior to their event. Teachers need to be in the dialogue when it comes to education products and startups, as they always think of their students and have the ability to see things that others may not. Teachers are an essential part of the SWEDU puzzle, and the better you prepare them for the weekend ahead, the more empowered they will be to contribute their experience and skill-set to the development of solutions to some of education’s biggest problems.
Join us this weekend at SWEDU San Francisco, Nov 22-24