Whether your career-to-date is in ed-tech, sports, policy, government, non-profit, schools, or the private sector, at WorkMonger, we believe you can use your expertise and influence to impact a child’s education positively.
In this blog, we highlight 12 innovative, inspirational leaders in education who work tirelessly to provide the support, resources, and valuable lessons needed to better the education sector.
1. Bill Gates
Founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft
“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
No one likes to fail. Especially children. As little kids, our first reaction to failure is to sulk and whine and pout. But failure can be an invaluable teacher. As education champions, one of the most important things we can do is give our students a safe place to fail well, and when they do, teach them how to learn from that failure.
Examples of Gates’ Thought Leadership
- Our Education Efforts Are Evolving
- A Powerful Conversation on Schools, Poverty, and Race
- A Humanist Approach to Teaching Kids
2. Kaya Henderson
Former Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools
“A few years ago, nobody expected anything out of D.C. public schools. Nobody demanded that we move faster, nobody — because they didn’t think that we could do it. So, in fact, I take the calls for more to be an indication of progress — it means that people think that we can actually achieve these goals, and they wanna get there faster.”
Expectations are a powerful thing. If you have low expectations of your students, consciously or subconsciously, there’s not much of a reason for them to prove you wrong. On the other hand, if you expect more from them, they’re more likely to rise to the occasion.
Examples of Henderson’s Thought Leadership
- Leaders & Lessons: A Conversation with District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson
- Helping Kids Learn and Lead: An Interview with Kaya Henderson; Former Chancellor, DC Schools
3. Sal Khan
Founder of Khan Academy and Khan Lab School
“The ideal direction is using something like Khan Academy for every student to work at their own pace, to master concepts before moving on, and then the teacher using Khan Academy as a tool so that you can have a room of 20 or 30 kids all working on different things, but you can still kind of administrate that chaos.”
No two students are the same. And as most teachers know, if you put thirty students in the same room and give them the exact same lesson, they will learn at radically different paces. Khan is a pioneer of the “upside-down classroom” approach. Instead of the teacher giving every student the same lesson, the students are given autonomy to learn at their own pace while the teacher helps facilitate their learning.
Examples of Khan’s Thought Leadership
- The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart
- Sal Khan: The Man Who Tutored His Cousin – And Started a Revolution
4. Linda Darling-Hammond
Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, President and CEO of Learning Policy Institute
“A democratic education means that we educate people in a way that ensures they can think independently, that they can use information, knowledge, and technology, among other things, to draw their own conclusions.”
It’s one thing to teach a student how to recall facts and formulas. It’s quite another to teach them how to use that knowledge to draw their own conclusions. As education advocates, we should aim to teach our students how to think instead of just how to memorize.
Examples of Darling-Hammond’s Thought Leadership
- ‘Teaching is the profession on which all other professions depend’: Linda Darling-Hammond on transforming education
- Teacher Quality And Student Achievement
5. Geoffrey Canada
President of Harlem Children’s Zone
“When you see a great teacher, you are seeing a work of art.”
For all of its methodologies and practicums, education is anything but straightforward.
Making pages full of educational standards come alive to your students in a way that impacts their life requires as much creativity as an artistic masterpiece. Perhaps even more.
Examples of Canada’s Thought Leadership
- Let’s Say ‘Enough Is Enough’ To Lousy Schools
- Generational Theft Needs to Be Arrested
- America’s Promise To A New Generation
6. Wendy Kopp
Founder of Teach For America, CEO and Co-Founder of Teach For All,
“We aspire to be equal opportunity, but all across the country where a student is born, their race, their class affect where they end up.”
Every student deserves the same access to a high-quality education that prepares them for a successful life. But that’s not the reality. Depending on the community in which they live and the wealth of their parents, a child’s opportunities may vary greatly. As education professionals, we need to do as much as we can to serve our most under-resourced students to give them the boost they need. We must break the link between zip code and destiny.
Examples of Kopp’s Thought Leadership
- For our schools to serve our communities: Let’s launch 25-year-old projects everywhere
- What it will really take to achieve quality learning for all
7. Anant Agarwal
CEO of edX
“A large number of students around the world don’t really have access to high-quality education. So, launching EdX allows students all over the world to have much better access to a high-quality education from a university such as Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and others as we add more universities.”
Having been born in Mangalore, India, Anant Agarwal knows how much a child’s living situation can affect the education they receive. Agarwal has made it his mission to remove those economic barriers so that every child can achieve the same success, no matter where they were born.
Examples of Agarwal’s Thought Leadership
- MOOCs Are Taking Higher Education to Brand New Heights
- The No. 1 Way to Future-Proof Your Career in the Face of Emerging Technology
- Three Skillsets Every Employee Needs in 2019’s Digital Economy
8. Clara Hemphill
Founder of InsideSchools.org
“Let a thousand flowers bloom and we’ll see what flourishes.”
Every child is unique, with their own thoughts and passions and abilities. Yet in many schools, children are forced to fit into the same box. Since every student has different needs, Hemphill started InsideSchools.org, a website that reviews individual schools, from the library to the faculty to the playground equipment. Because of her work, many parents have been able to find the right school for their children’s unique needs.
Examples of Hemphill’s Thought Leadership
- Segregated Schools in Integrated Neighborhoods: The city’s schools are even more divided than our housing
- Let Rich and Poor Learn Together
9. Kevin Johnson
Former NBA Player, 55th Mayor of Sacramento
“It is so important to be able to put our kids first, to make sure you have quality teachers in the classroom, but parents have to have choices and it’s not an either-or. In this world, parents have to have choices, you cannot be trapped in failing schools and that is what choice is all about and the African American community going back 40, 50, 60 years ago we were for choice, we were for options.”
In most places, a child’s residence determines the level of education they get. One student might be stuck in a failing school because they live on the wrong side of the dividing line while another student a mere few blocks away might have access to a high-performing school down the street. But in many places, this is beginning to change. Charter schools are in almost every state. Many places have implemented a School Choice policy, allowing parents to enroll their students in a school even if they don’t live in that district or zone. And for many students, that choice makes all the difference.
Examples of Johnson’s Thought Leadership
- Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Weighs In On Education Reform: “Parents Have To Have Choices”
- Mayor Kevin Johnson on the State of Public Education: C-SPAN Town Hall
10. Cami Anderson
Former Superintendent of Newark Public Schools, Founder of the Discipline Revolution Project
“I have seen the kind of teachers and teaching that calls students to higher performance. I saw it today, in this amazing school. And the young people were very clear: “We perform here because our teachers expect us to, and because our peers expect us to.” When you hear that and see it and know it can happen in a few places, there is no excuse for it not to happen everywhere.”
Teachers come in contact with students of every skill level imaginable. But the level of their achievement depends heavily on the level of the perceptions of their talents and capabilities. If we don’t help them develop a mindset to pursue excellence, even bright students underperform. But we if expect the best of our students, they’ll give it to us.
Examples of Anderson’s Thought Leadership
- Disparate School Discipline, the ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter, and Civil Rights — 5 Key Points That Get Lost in All the Noise
- It’s Time for a Discipline Revolution in Our Schools
11. Sir Kenneth Robinson
Author, Former Director of the Arts in Schools Project, International Advisor on Education in the Arts
“Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. And it’s the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves.”
NASA once performed a study that found that 98% of four- and five-year-olds operate at genius levels of creativity. Ten years later, only twelve percent of the same students operated at the same level. We don’t want to rush to blame the educational system in America, but it’s no secret that it tends to err on the side of cookie-cutter, rote memorization rather than fostering creative intelligence.
As education supporters, our best success will come when we ignite that creativity in our students.
Examples of Robinson’s Thought Leadership
- Kids Don’t Fail, Schools Fail Kids: Sir Ken Robinson on the ‘Learning Revolution’
- Ken Robinson: ‘You don’t want a caste system for creativity’
12. E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
Founder and Chairman of Core Knowledge Foundation, Founder of Common Core
“The distance between one historical period and another is a very small step in comparison to the huge metaphysical gap we must leap to understand the perspective of another person in any time or place.”
As education professionals, you’ll come in contact with students from every walk of life. Students have different family experiences, religious values, and cultural identity. We must bridge these gaps for every student so that they can all have the same chance for success. It’s not easy work, but it is one of the most important things we must do.
Examples of Hirsch’s Thought Leadership
- The Educational Theory of E.D. Hirsch
- Instruction, culture, and curriculum in E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s “Why Knowledge Matters”
- The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children
How Will You Carry the Torch as a Leader In Education?
These leaders in education help set the tone for modern education. You can help them carry the torch. You don’t need to be in the classroom to positively influence a child’s education experience.
At WorkMonger, we’re adamant about making the world a better place by ensuring every child has access to an excellent education. Every job at WorkMonger is at a mission-driven education organization that either directly or indirectly ensures children receive a better education and a brighter future.