Wendy Kopp is CEO and Co-founder of Teach For All, a global network of independent organizations that are developing collective leadership to ensure all children have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Wendy founded Teach For America in 1989 to marshal the energy of her generation against educational inequity in the United States. Today, more than 6,000 Teach For America corps members—outstanding recent college graduates and professionals of all academic disciplines—are in the midst of two-year teaching commitments in over 50 urban and rural regions, and Teach For America has proven to be an unparalleled source of long-term leadership for expanding opportunity for children. Wendy has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards for public service. She is the author of A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All (2011) and One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way (2000).
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The Learning Leader Show
- Jim Collins called Wendy “my entrepreneur for this decade.” He continued, “Her organization is truly an entrepreneurial creation that is out to utterly transform education. It’s taking an entrepreneurial, let’s-do-something approach to tackling a massive social problem.”
- Goal setting: It’s all about setting a goal that’s at the right intersection of ambitious and feasible.
- The #1 responsibility of a leader is to catalyze a clear and shared vision for the company and secure commitment to and vigorous pursuit of that vision.
- The differentiator is the “first WHO” principle. It’s what she’s learned. What is it that drives system change in education? “Jim thinks it’s the answer in corporate America, I think it is the difference in social change.”
- Wendy grew up in a bubble in Texas. She didn’t realize the inequity and disadvantages to children born in different situations.
- At the end of her college years at Princeton, she wrote a 100+ page thesis. She narrowed down to 30 pages… And created a four page plan.
- She mailed her thesis to 30 executives in an effort to spread awareness and raise money
- Everywhere she went, people said, “This is a great idea but college kids won’t do this.” Wendy was steadfast in her belief that they would…
- After the first year, Wendy found herself on stage speaking to 500 “Teach For America” teachers…
- The benefit of naivete:
- “The world needs you before you become jaded by your experience.”
- “We need leaders to channel their energy in marginalized communities.”
- What was the key to the first year growth? “It helped writing a plan. I sent 100 letters to potential donors and got rejected or ignored by 98 of them.”
- You have to persevere and have conviction for the idea.
- Leadership – An idea that magnetizes people. People were drawn to Wendy’s mission and purpose.
- Strategic Framework – What is your core purpose? The core values are what brings people together.
- Create a sense of mission – “You need to enable a diverse group of people. Articulate it and make it possible for others to engage.”
- Recruit people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Diversity is very important.
- Why did Wendy do this instead of take a job that would pay well?
- “I knew myself well. I knew that whatever I did, I would throw myself at it 24/7. I wanted to have a bigger impact on the world.”
- “What keeps me at it? I started gaining the sense of responsibility for so many others.”
- How Teach For America helped Washington D.C.
- “I met with so many civic leaders who said, ‘We’ve tried everything and it won’t work.’ DC was 2 years behind Harlem from an educational perspective with their public schools.” Washington DC was completely transformed by Teach For America and now has one of the better public school districts in America.
- How is she so humble?
- “I realize we’re going to get so much wrong.”
- Must learn from what goes wrong and improve moving forward
- What are some “must-have” leadership qualities?
- Look at what people have accomplished
- How have you managed through challenges?
- People who are passionate about the purpose
- People who live into the values
- Commitment to diversity and inclusiveness
- What’s currently exciting?
- Seeing the leadership effects in others from Pakistan to Peru
- The power of locally rooted leadership
- Commonalities of leader who sustain excellence:
- Put impact first… Ahead of career ambitions
- Solve problems
- Humility – Constantly learning
- Act on conviction
- What does Wendy do for fun?
- Life advice:
- “Solve as early as possible.”
- “Do not put off your passion until after you’ve had a job for a few years.”
- “Don’t think you have to start something new.” Look for others who are doing it and join them…
- Apply to be part of my Leadership Circle
- Read: WELCOME TO MANAGEMENT
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- Read more about Teach For All
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- To Follow Me on Twitter: @RyanHawk12
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