An Open Letter to the K-12 Community and a Love Letter for Education Elements
Dear K-12 Education Community,
With just a few days left working at Education Elements, I am penning my last blog post (my 45th to be exact!) and this one is both an open letter to the education community and a love letter to my team. To be honest, I couldn’t choose between the two and decided this could serve as both.
For the better part of the last decade, I have had the absolute honor and privilege of getting to work at Education Elements. And so, as I sit here in my last week, I feel mixed emotions. I am both a bit heartbroken to be leaving behind an organization and a group of people for whom I care so deeply, as well as incredibly hopeful about the impact that Education Elements will continue to have in the future - made even stronger through the introduction of new leadership and fresh perspectives. We are only going to get better as a result.
Looking back, a lot has happened over the last eight years to get us to where we are today...
Our early start was with single schools and when I started in 2012, we were working successfully with several...and as I leave, our focus is on school districts, and we work with several hundred. The shift was both intentional and gradual, in line with our evolving belief that while individual schools are an important unit of change, sustainable innovations happen when you change entire school systems.
In 2012, we helped schools think about the meaningful integration of technology and instruction, and sent two consultants to each school - one to focus on the tech and one to focus on the instruction. It didn’t take long for us to change our approach as well as our philosophy, and within just a few years we were focused on systemic change, on technology as a lever, and on personalization as a driver to support each student meeting their potential. Our commitment to providing high-quality support through our consultants only grew stronger during this time and the bonds we formed became stronger as well.
Fast forward a few more years, and we have continued to grow in the ways that we support school districts, likely because of our focus on being a learning organization and planning for change rather than perfection. While we continue to support many districts big and small - those with over 300K students to those with under 500 - with the design and implementation of personalized learning, we now also help districts with leadership development, strategic planning, coaching and capacity building, equity and inclusion, teams and culture, and curriculum adoption, among other areas. We develop strong relationships and partnerships with our districts and seek to help them solve their biggest challenges and accomplish their biggest goals. We believe together we can do anything.
And that’s not all that has changed. In 2015, we held our first Summit in the San Jose Tech Museum with 150 people from districts we were working with at the time. Now we hold an annual event with 750 people from all over the world. In addition to the Summit, we also host National Leadership Institutes, regional events and lunch-and-learns, and beyond. We focus on taking what we have learned and sharing it with others. We want to grow knowledge across the field. We are mission-driven and always looking for ways to build capacity within districts. We bring people together to have shared and incredible experiences. We create networks and we create friendships.
As I reflect back I can see that we used to be a start-up full of great individuals, and now we are an organization that is both a team and a family. Not content to only help others, we constantly think about how we can become better ourselves. In the past several years we have put systems in place to support professional development and learning, we have shifted our organization design to be responsive, and we have empowered everyone to be sensors and changemakers. We have started the journey to be much more intentional around diversity, equity and inclusion and to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging. We have put into place policies and practices that we hope attract and retain the absolute best in the field. And it works - Education Elements is a place where individuals can thrive and teams can succeed, and where the result is unparalleled support for districts.
And truly, our team continues to amaze me. Have you met them? If not, you should. Every one of them is passionate. Every one of them is thoughtful, intentional and committed. Every one of them is willing to take risks and to learn from their successes and their failures. Every one of them cares deeply about schools and systems and students and teachers and leaders, sees the potential to have a tremendous impact, and holds the belief that it is not just our job to do this work, but a moral imperative. I worry I may not have told them this frequently enough - but I am constantly learning from our team and inspired by them. So here it is in this letter - a thank you for making me, and everyone you meet, better.
I know that some people rail against for-profit companies. I know that some people think that most companies are in it only for the money and maybe that is true for some companies. But not the one I have worked for the past 8 years; not Education Elements. Our team is made up of people who want to work right alongside districts; people who want to help districts achieve their goals and want to challenge them to be even better than they imagined. Our team focuses with intensity on having an impact, while still bringing joy and levity and friendship to work every day.
The districts I have had the opportunity to work with in my time here are incredible ones, full of people with the right balance of passion and practicality, optimism and reality. These are the districts that are leading the way in doing things differently, in taking risks, and in working so hard to get it right. And in each of these districts, I have lost count of all the people I see trying every day to have an impact on students and on outcomes. The districts I have been able to work closely with, and all the ones we support, are filled with leaders and teachers and coaches I wish everyone else would have the chance to meet. You all know who you are - I hope you also know that you have profoundly changed me.
You can see why I struggled with writing this letter and why it could not be just an open letter or a love letter. I want my familEE to know I care for you and that I am proud of you, and that I will always be rooting for you. I also want to use this letter to encourage everyone who has not yet worked with Education Elements to consider doing so. I can tell you that as an individual you will be changed, that the system you work in will be changed and I know that when we change our school systems, we can actually change the world. So I urge you, take a chance on Education Elements, and Education Elements will give you all we’ve got in order to help you reach your goals.
With love and gratitude,
About Amy Jenkins
Amy Jenkins is the chief operating officer of Education Elements. Following a meandering path of teaching in Oakland, running an after-school program, working at NewSchools Venture Fund and being a strategy consultant she is thrilled to now focus on supporting districts to in their efforts to become more dynamic, responsive and outcomes-oriented. Amy splits her time at work between coaching district leaders and ensuring the health and happiness of everyone at Education Elements through creating an environment where everyone can thrive and grow. On the weekends she can be found chasing her kids around.