1- Hello Cassandra, Can you please introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Cassandra Williams, I’m a professor at Indiana University and owner of Educational Innovation 360, an eCoaching service for teachers. I founded this company because I have a passion for innovating within the education system and creating better access to professional development. Though I’m an educator, I consider myself a lifelong learner and love to support others in the field.
2- What are your focus areas and why?
On a macro level, we focus on school districts struggling with teacher retention. Within those schools, we work directly with teachers in reading and language arts. Our service is heavily focused on individual teachers because their performance influences student achievement more than anything else. Our program is based on a model of 1:1 support between a teacher and their coach, involving collaboration both in person and through our online coaching platform.
The education system as it exists now isolates teachers. Typically, their professional development and check-ins are distilled to three annual administrative evaluations. This method lacks guidance and makes it difficult for teachers to be successful. My mission is to end this isolation and provide embedded support for teachers throughout the year.
3- How do you describe “Educational Innovation 360” in a few words?
EI360 is accessible, customizable, and flexible. We are a video-based eLearning platform that teachers can access anywhere at any time. Our whole process is centred around evaluating the specific needs of the teachers we serve, and creating a customized plan just for them. Because we’re online-based, our clients can work with us at school or home, on hours and off hours.
4- Where do you think, the company is making an impact?
Our impact is measurable within student achievement. One thing teachers consistently want is constructive feedback informed by their actual classroom data. But most schools can’t provide this type of support. Some have tried the ‘one coach per school’ method, but it’s really not enough to meet the unique needs of every teacher. Conducting three evaluations per year doesn’t allow for productive conversation as day-to-day struggles arise.
Our company also aims to impact the local community by increasing teacher retention. When employees of any company feel valued and worth investing in, they are more likely to stay. Recently, there’s been an alarming 35% decrease in college students earning teaching degrees. Trends like this signify a need to build up the teachers we already have, and work to create a supportive, encouraging community for new teachers.
5- And what does the word “Education” really means to you?
Education to me means growth, access, and global support. Our current world is so interconnected that we can find answers to almost any problem from anywhere in the world. I feel that it’s time for education to make better use of these resources. Literacy is my passion and I’ve chosen to make it my purpose in life. Just imagine, if full access to growth in literacy was available across cultural, class, and community lines. The kind of conversations we could have, and the change that could spark from it would deeply impact our world.
6- How do you see the future of “Educational Innovation 360” in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, I’d like to take EI360 global. With an online platform like ours, we’re able to support teachers anywhere in the world. And we’re already getting started. I’m currently in talks with a colleague in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We’re thinking of opening a primary center there, after embedding our current program in a school in fall of 2020. Hopefully, this collaboration will set the tone for further global integration.
Online access throughout the world is growing, and with collaboration through the internet becoming more and more seamless, I have a good feeling about using EI360 to help any school that needs it, regardless of borders.
7- If you could turn the time, what would you love to change in regards to your career?
Nothing. I believe everywhere I’ve been, and all the experiences I’ve had were for a reason. Everything I’ve learned up until today has prepared me to have this conversation and be where I am professional. My career path has taken me through all types of environments, and has pushed me to challenge myself and break boundaries. I love being an educator, and everything I’ve experienced has brought me to a great place, so there’s nothing I’d change.
8- What is the “one-word” advice you will give to our readers when it comes to succeeding in business?
Reading! I learn something new every day by reading. It helps me grow in my business and of course, you can’t improve the present if you don’t know or understand the past. I like to stay updated about what’s happening in the world and in education through articles, books, blogs. It’s also a wonderful source of inspiration and motivation that I can pull from daily.
9- What are you most excited about at the moment?
I’m incredibly excited to be talking to you about this passion project of mine! I’ve been working on Educational Innovation 360 for a year now without any substantial profits. But I understand it’s necessary to put in the foundational work first, studying and researching educational trends, reading articles, and developing the framework of the program. I love sharing what I’ve learned and what I’m passionate about with like-minded people.
10- The last word or final thoughts?
I hope to inspire the next leader, doer, innovator, and entrepreneur! The beginning of my EI360 journey was rife with naysayers telling me that it couldn’t be done. I had to work through constant feelings of discouragement, because a lot of these comments came from people in positions of power.
But looking at how far I’ve come, I realize that these people lacked the vision and grit that it took to make this dream a reality. My product is piloted, fully developed, and heavily influenced by long years of research; all I need now is one school to give me a shot!