Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Co-CEOs at Teach for America

Big news from Wendy Kopp:

Dear Members of the Teach For America Community,

I write today to share some exciting news. Yesterday the Teach For America Board of Directors appointed President Matt Kramer and Chief Operating Officer Elisa Villanueva Beard co-CEOs of Teach For America, effective March 1. I will continue to contribute actively to the organization as chair of the board, succeeding Walter Isaacson, who will become chair emeritus after his seven superb years of service. I will also continue serving as CEO of Teach For All. These changes strengthen Teach For America by elevating two exceptional, proven leaders while enabling me to spend my time where I can add the most unique value.  

We are undertaking these changes to ensure that we have the leadership capacity necessary to tackle our rapidly growing needs and opportunities. Over the last five years, Teach For America has doubled in size, from 5,000 corps members to more than 10,000, from 26 communities to 46. Today we are investing more than ever in growing in scale and diversity, increasing the impact of corps members, and fostering the leadership of alumni. Meanwhile, in the six years since I co-founded Teach For All, it has expanded into a global network of 26 independent organizations that, like Teach For America, are enlisting their nations’ most promising future leaders to become lifelong advocates for educational excellence and equity.

For the past five years as I’ve led the development of the global network, I’ve relied significantly on Elisa and Matt, who have my deepest trust and respect. Along with the rest of the leadership team, they have been instrumental in shaping our direction and fostering our strong culture. Their conviction in this work, immense capabilities, character, and deep commitment to social justice will allow Teach For America to achieve even greater gains in the coming years.

Elisa grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and developed a passion for our mission as a student at DePauw University, where she was one of few Mexican-American students. She excelled as a 1998 corps member in Phoenix and then as the executive director of our program in the Rio Grande Valley. As chief operating officer for the last eight years, she has led Teach For America’s dramatic growth in our regions, where our program plays out and where we raise 80 percent of our funding.  

A proud Minnesotan, Matt studied economics at Harvard and was a partner at McKinsey & Company. His wife’s experience as a corps member, which prompted Matt to start tutoring students in upper Manhattan, changed his life and his outlook. He began as Teach For America’s chief program officer in 2005, and as president for the last five years he has managed our leadership team and day-to-day operations.

Matt and Elisa have worked closely and successfully together for many years and are eager to work together as a team. Elisa will continue to lead the work of the regions and will play a significant role in building public understanding and support for Teach For America. Matt will lead our central teams and drive our planning. Both will focus on building the strong organization we need to realize our mission.

As board chair, I will continue to contribute to Teach For America by cultivating champions for our cause, informing our strategic direction, providing advice and counsel, and deepening understanding of our values and theory of change. I’m looking forward to working closely with Elisa and Matt as well as Dick Parsons, who will assume the new role of lead independent director of the board.

I’m also excited to continue leading the development of Teach For All’s global network. There are remarkable similarities in the nature of educational inequality around the world—which means that innovative solutions pioneered in one country can be shared and adapted across borders. I’m confident that in coming years we will see thriving movements for educational opportunity all over the world that are advancing more quickly because they are learning from each other.

The board, Matt, Elisa, and I share great aspirations for the role Teach For America will play in the years ahead as the movement to ensure equal opportunity for all children gains unprecedented momentum. We have learned so much in the last twenty years about what is possible for all children and about what it will take to scale success. We now have a tremendous opportunity to build on this foundation – and to access learning and innovation from the global network – to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children, families and communities. 

I’m immensely proud of what Teach For America has already accomplished, and I’m even more optimistic about our future under Elisa and Matt’s leadership. Please join me in wishing them a warm welcome as they begin their new roles!  I look forward to continuing to work with them and all of you towards the day when all children in our nation have the opportunity to fulfill their true potential. 


Wendy Kopp

PS—here’s a great article about Elisa.

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