Impact Ventures: Meet Education PowerED, an Online Marketplace of Culturally Responsive Teaching

Education PowerED is behind a fast-growing educational movement designed to energize educators, empower students, and eradicate educational inequity.

Education PowerED is on a mission to shift the culture of education. 

Since teachers often struggle to find lesson plans and activities that are both responsive and engaging—and don’t have the resources to develop their own materials—the team at Education PowerED knew a movement was necessary.

Launched last year, the startup promotes culturally responsive teaching practices by way of professional development trainings, classroom lessons, tools, and resources. The intent is to energize educators, empower students, and eradicate educational inequity.

Soon-to-launch this summer is a curriculum marketplace equipped with opportunities for educators and school leaders. Education PowerED will then be able to increase access to culturally responsive curriculum for educators, develop culturally responsive educators and school leaders, and support educators of color through programming and events.

“Our marketplace gives educators access to quality lesson plans and materials produced by other educators across the nation,” CEO David McDonald told Dallas Innovates. “This marketplace will also connect educators to the much needed support from expert educators on their lesson planning and classroom instruction.”

From there, McDonald would define success as obtaining 100,000 users and increasing Education PowerED’s brand recognition across the country. And though it was founded a little over a year ago, the startup is already revenue generating.

“We have generated almost $20K in revenue since we launched our business February 2019. If this is what we were able to produce in a short amount of time and with limited resources, I can only imagine what is on the horizon for our company the rest of this year and beyond,” McDonald says.

“We want Education PowerED to be the first name to come to mind when educators think about anything related to culturally responsive teaching or empower classrooms for students of color.”

David McDonald, CEO

The marketplace is a timely launch, especially given the recent protests across the U.S. in response to social injustice. There’s an opportunity to impact millions—of the 3.2M public and charter school teachers and half a million private school teachers, each spends $500-1,000 on classroom resources and materials.

“As our nation grapples with its problematic racial history, there is energy around what we can do to make sure that our schools are safe, anti racist, anti bias spaces for our students,” Andre Ross, chief curriculum officer, says. “We anticipate that this energy will highlight the need for our products and services.”

You can hear more about the plans the founding team—McDonald, Ross, and Danielle Smith, chief programs officer—has in our Q&A. The installment is part of a new Dallas Innovates series in which we highlight some of Impact Ventures’ Spring 2020 Fellows. You can read about Exgratias here.

“Being accepted to the Impact Venture cohort helped our team gain more exposure in the startup landscape. We were able to learn more about the possibility of investors taking interest in our business,” Ross says. “At the conclusion of the program, Impact Ventures hosted a ‘Demo Day’ where the startups in the program were able to pitch their businesses. We are happy to announce that we were voted the Most Innovative Startup and the Favorite Startup.”

Meet Education PowerED

Why did you start Education PowerED?

We all taught at the same school during the 2016-2017 school year. That year we encountered so many challenges while trying to provide the best educational experience for our students that we could. You could almost guarantee that we would still be in the school building at 9:00 p.m. on a weekday still planning lessons for the next day.

We tossed around a lot of ideas of what a solution could be for this knowing that we aren’t the only educators who experience this problem of not being able to find culturally responsive resources for our students and even training to support our efforts to create an empowering environment for our students.

The moment that propelled us forward on those dreams was traveling to see the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. That experience completely opened up a new world of possibilities in our mind for what education should be like and we knew we couldn’t wait any longer to start this movement.

All students across this country deserve an experience like that and we aim to bring that energy to every campus across the country. —McDonald

What are you most proud of in terms of your startup?

The proudest moment we have had as a business so far was participating in our first pitch competition at The Dallas Entrepreneurship Center in Dallas. The pitch competition marked our first time sharing our business plan externally.

We were selected to receive the Audience Choice Award at the competition and $1,000 from Comerica Bank. It gave us much comfort to know that our idea is something that community members and families will support.

Our motto is “not powered by battery, powered by community” so we recognize the huge role that they will play in our success. —Smith

[Photo: Courtesy Education PowerED]

What do you wish people knew about your startup?

We wish people knew how multi-faceted our business is, and the experiences that our staff has that pushes them to do this work today. It is our collective experiences and our passion for dismantling an inequitable education system that fuels our business. 

How many employees do you have? Any plans to hire?

We currently have five part-time employees who are working flexible schedules to continue building our company.

We are in the recruitment process right now for a few key positions on our team that will be instrumental in catapulting our company’s growth. We hope to transition to full-time employees by the start of 2021. —McDonald

Where did the name Education PowerED come from?

Our name is a direct reflection of what our hopes are for the impact of our company: to give Power to educators who can create transformational learning experiences for students, to give Power to students who will become the leaders and change makers in our communities, and finally to give power to communities to deepen the relationships with their neighborhood schools.

Education should be fully PowerED! —McDonald

What mentors, partnerships, or deals have been pivotal to your initial traction?

As former classroom teachers, the partnerships that have been most pivotal thus far have come from the connections we’ve cultivated with school leaders.

Because of these existing relationships, we’ve been able to secure contracts with schools and districts to deliver training to very early on in business. —Ross

What sector trends are you most excited about?

We are excited about the challenge that the virtual education landscape will bring. This year, K-12 education will see many large adjustments to incorporate elements of in-person and online learning.

These unique trends and challenges will speed up our business innovation and ultimately meet new needs presented to students and families. —Ross

Has Education PowerED done any significant research and development?

This summer 2020, we will be releasing our Report on Culturally Responsive Teaching. Our team has been completing extensive research on culturally responsive teaching by reviewing the works of scholars and education practitioners.

We have synthesized these findings into a report that will outline a new set of standards for educators to use to support their classroom instruction and approach to teaching as a whole.

We hope that this report will be able to give educators a much clearer understanding of what it means to be a culturally responsive teacher and also to spark more conversations about how we approach teaching. —McDonald

Has the pandemic and social environment shifted your plans this year?

The pandemic and social distancing has shifted everything in education. Education is a field that is social in nature and the tradition has been that most things are done in person and through lots of collaboration.

We are seeing now that there is so much innovation needed in education to help transition to digital spaces and creating virtual learning opportunities for students. This means that all of the curriculum that currently exists would need to be adapted for students and there are less than two months to make it happen. —Smith

Tell us how Education PowerED might be able to help businesses or people right now, in the current, fast-changing environment?

Our company is leading coaching sessions with educators and training to schools on how to maintain culturally responsive teaching even virtually.

Educators were already facing challenges with culturally responsive teaching in the traditional classroom environment and now disparities are being magnified with remote learning. It is critical that learning still be exciting, engaging, and responsive to students’ needs. —Smith

Have you made any changes due to the economy or COVID-19?

The primary changes that we’ve had to make with our company is to the programs and interactions with educators. Our team is made up of people who live in different parts of the nation and we were already operating virtually prior to COVID, but we had to shift our in-person programs to virtual platforms.

The drawback is that there is nothing like community building and creating an experience for participants in person, but the benefit is that we can now make programs and training available to anyone regardless of their location. —Smith

Read next

Meet Exgratias, a Financial Platform for Entertainment Gig Workers
Dallas Innovates is highlighting startups in Impact Ventures’ spring cohort, which aims to assist the underrepresented startup community. First up is Exgratias, a first-of-its-kind financial platform for the entertainment industry that helps contractual workers get paid quickly and effortlessly.

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