Future of School Leader Discusses Vision for Online Education

Amy Valentine, CEO and Education Evangelist for Future of School, was interviewed by Adam Torres on Mission Matters Business Podcast.

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In this episode of the Mission Matters Business Podcast, former teacher, longtime online learning pioneer, nonprofit leader and societal changemaker Amy Valentine, CEO and Education Evangelist for Future of School, discusses the current landscape of online and blended learning―including the proven benefits of education innovation, the critical need for students and families to have options for their learning, and the campaign to ensure no child ever again has to say “I hate school.”

What mission matters to you? 

Valentine asserts that an outdated, one-size-fits-all model of education isn’t up to the task of educating 21st century students (if it ever was). She describes Future of School’s mission to promote access and opportunity for every student, no matter where their learning takes place, so they can reach their unbounded potential. To achieve this aim, Valentine and her organization focus on engaging stakeholders at all levels―business leaders, corporate and nonprofit partners, district decision-makers, educators, parents and students―in becoming active creators of meaningful change. 

Online and blended learning are two options that have provided countless students with opportunities they otherwise would have missed, altering their trajectories and outcomes in the process. In fact, though many Americans have only recently been introduced to online learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, these options have supported learners for more than two decades.

“Through authentic, student-centered blended and online schools and courses, we can create a platform where every child can access a high-quality education, no matter their strengths, interests, zip code, or their previous experiences in school,” she says. 

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How did you get started on this path?

Valentine’s professional background is rooted in teaching and education technology (edtech), including online teaching. Prior to her current role, she managed a portfolio of Colorado schools where she led academic and operational turnaround strategy and served as executive director for a network of California schools.

Her passion for teaching and technology has informed the entirety of her career, and she says she couldn’t resist being “all in” when the opportunity arose to pursue the expansion of online learning, due to its tremendous potential to close opportunity gaps and provide all students with the choices they deserve. 

Tell us more about Future of School.

As the name suggests, she says the organization―a national public charity dedicated to mobilizing change in American K-12 education―pays close attention to the interests of schools, parents, and teachers as well as students themselves. Future of School is always there to amplify stakeholder voices and empower dynamic conversations that incorporate feedback and address the challenges that arise across the field of education. 

Just a few examples of the organization’s work to advance, document, forecast and broadcast the evolution of education include: student scholarships that increase access to higher education and related storytelling projects; direct support of teachers including the Innovative Educator Prize; the Resilient Districts Prize honoring and funding educators and schools whose innovation supported student success despite challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic; and Future of School: The Podcast, hosted by Valentine, in which all stakeholder voices in education can be heard. 

The organization’s new “No More I Hate School” campaign, Valentine explains, elevates the voices of students, parents, and teachers, giving them resources to transform the way education is imagined from kindergarten through high school. There’s also a grant program to help teachers and schools manage their expenses while broadening the array of education options offered to students. 

How is online learning different?

Learning is at the core of the human spirit, says Valentine, and every child deserves two things—a personalized education that is aligned with how they learn best and access to schools and/or programs where this is possible. 

What happened during the pandemic, in many cases, wasn’t truly online education but in fact “crisis schooling,” in which schools and stakeholders hadn’t built the infrastructure and effective practices to deliver consistent, high-quality learning. True online learning has been around for more than 25 years, is organized, intentional and has teachers who are trained in this learning environment. 

“Crisis learning implemented quickly and without a comprehensive strategy was designed in a moment of urgency to keep the students connected by scheduling meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classroom―but this is the opposite of online and blended learning,” she says. “The biggest differences are in the intentionality, training, and volitionally signing up to learn this way.”

What’s next for Future of School?

The efforts to transform education are designed to approach students’ needs from each angle, and toward fulfillment of every goal that parents, families, and stakeholders in the workforce have for students: the opportunity to learn more comfortably, conveniently, confidently and comprehensively; to have access to content and learning environments that match up with personalized needs and preferences; and to develop the critical skills to thrive in a fast-changing, exciting future of work. 

This is a critical juncture at which to listen to teachers as they discuss their experiences over the recent academic years, says Valentine, to discover educators’ perspectives on how best to support all families and students in modern classrooms. Further, Future of School will keep working to spread awareness about the need for broad, thoughtful education options that help students learn, grow, and reach their unbounded potential. 

Future of School is a public charity, run by the people, for the people, and every contribution matters. Please consider donating today to support programs that create opportunities for students and educators.
To learn more, visit futureof.school.