Making the Connection Between Educators and Edmentum: Meet Our Services Program Manager
Making the Connection Between Educators and Edmentum: Meet Our Services Program Manager
Have you ever noticed the headline on the Edmentum website? (Props if you have!) It calls out three things: adaptive curriculum, research-based assessments, and educational services. Those first two seem natural right? We’re an edtech company, and those functionalities—adaptive curriculum and research-based assessments—are the backbone of our online programs. Educational services sounds a little more ambiguous. But, it just might be the most important thing Edmentum has to offer.
Edmentum’s Services organization is a huge part of our company, and the individuals within it have a lot of education expertise. Their day-to-day jobs are to go out, work side-by-side with our partner districts, schools, and educators, and share that expertise. Edmentum Services professionals are former teachers, curriculum directors, principals, special education interventionists, ELL instructors, instructional coaches — the list goes on. They’ve moved out of the classroom, but they’re still educators love being able to work with other educators every day. Their first-hand knowledge, experience, and dedication to understanding each Edmentum partners’ unique needs is absolutely critical to why our online programs really do support successful student outcomes.
Here’s where it gets tricky—not everyone within Edmentum has that boots-on-the-ground educator experience on their resume. We all believe in the mission of being educators' most trusted partner in creating successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs, but not all of us have lived the reality of being an educator. So, how do we share the incredibly valuable educator perspectives our Services professionals have to offer (both their own and those of the partners they work with) throughout Edmentum and keep those insights top of mind in everything we do? Step one: create a position dedicated to it!
Read on to hear from Sarika Simpson, former social studies teacher and secondary-level principal who has recently been named Edmentum’s Services Program Manager, to learn more about what she’s doing to keep us honest on our #EducatorFirst commitment.
Share a little about your background as an educator.
I started as a social studies teacher at an alternative school for adjudicated youth. Most of the students were ages 16–21, single parents, and barely had enough credits to earn Freshman status. I was only a few years older than my students and had no idea what I was doing. Each day was an adventure of various failures and successes, as I learned to connect with teenage adults (if that is a thing) who viewed me as a peer.
College had given me a good foundation in the “science” of education, but this was the start of my on-the-job training in the “art” of education. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I knew then that education would forever be a part of my journey. A few years later, I transitioned to the traditional brick-and-mortar school setting and enjoyed teaching Special Education, Social Studies, US History, and Sociology across grades 6-12.
Eventually, I recognized my own leadership potential and returned to graduate school to earn an MS in Educational Leadership. During these years, I also created a new school dance team, facilitated fundraising events, filled in for members of my administrative team when needed, and served as the History Department Chair. I was encouraged to make a career out of leadership and ended up serving as a principal in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas.
Why did you decide to make the switch to industry and work at Edmentum?
What I loved most about being a Principal was building life-long relationships, coaching educators, growing leaders, analyzing data, implementing strategies, developing and facilitating professional learning; all to impact learning for students. I knew I was impacting learning for students in the schools where I worked, but I wanted to do work that reached more students. Making the switch to Edmentum, with its nation-wide presence, allowed me to do that.
What was your original role when you joined Edmentum?
While pursuing the possibility of starting my own Leadership Coaching business, I ran across an opportunity to support Edmentum in a temporary role. Within two weeks I was hired on permanently on the Edmentum Services team to be a Virtual Implementation Consultant (VIC), as we were called then. As the company continued to grow and the need to support our customers evolved, so did my role. I transitioned to the Education Consultant (EC) role and was able to spend more time onsite with customers. As an EC, I could work more strategically with our customer and focus on meeting their instructional goals. EC are no longer trainers, but trusted partners who provide high quality consulting services.
How did you move into this new position of Services Program Manager?
There was some natural attrition in the company and an opportunity presented itself. After receiving the Services Innovator Award at the Sales and Service Conference in 2018, I was asked by Edmentum executives to lead the Services Advisory Council. Such an honor! Shortly after, the Services Program Manager role was posted and yes, I applied. I interviewed with the Vice President of Professional Services and was offered the role. I am still excited!
The Services Program Manager role was created because as Edmentum evolves alongside education trends and policy around the country and world, so must our practices. Company-wide, we’ve adjusted our focus to be ‘Educator First’—prioritizing educator feedback to become a true partner instead of a vendor. The Services organization works more closely with educators than probably any other group at Edmentum. But, because Edmentum has also been growing rapidly, that’s led to some disconnect between departments. The role of the Services Program Manger would serve as the liaison between services and the rest of the company. In this role, I’m working closely with the Vice President of Professional Services to be the voice of the Services organization, offer input, and help guide the decisions that impact the work the consultants do with educators. One of my primary goals is to help make the interactions with our customers and other Edmentum departments a bit more seamless.
How have you grown as a professional in the process of transitioning to Services Program Manager role, and what have you learned about the broader education industry?
Although I’ve always known theoretically that no two districts or schools are the same, stepping into the Services Program Manager role has helped me to truly understand that every Edmentum partner is an individual. It is imperative for Edmentum to do proper research and ask the right questions of the right people to effectively meet the needs of our customers. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in education.
Of course, there are trends and best practices that can be utilized across implementations to standardize our approach, but each Edmentum partner has their own set of priorities, strategies, challenges, needs, and wants. It’s our duty as an education technology provider and a Services organization to be proactive and gain a deep understanding of the priorities, strategies, challenges, needs, and wants of every school and district we work with so that we can respond appropriately. Just like teaching, there is a “science” and an “art” to being a trusted advisor and adding value for our customers, exactly where they need it.
How do you see your role as Services Program Manager growing? How will you be able to impact educators?
In my prior role as an Education Consultant, I was in my “bubble” working with the specific partner schools and districts I was assigned to. Now, that I am amid the broader-scale work of the Services Program Manager role, I’m not sure how we were able to function without it. Education is always evolving and Edmentum is committed to evolving alongside it. I see this role expanding to ensure that the services we provide to our customers is evolving as well. That could include a more direct connection to our Educator Network to gather feedback from those who are closest to the work in the schools, as well as facilitating collaborative sessions with our internal partners continue to proactively develop strategies that impact our education partners.
What is the best thing about the Services Program Manager role now, and where do you see the biggest challenges? What is the plan to address to challenges?
The best thing about my new role is the opportunity to interact with other Edmentum departments and learn more about how they impact our direct work with educators in the Services organization. This is eye opening and allows me to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. It also gives me the ability to take our piece of the puzzle and make suggestions around how we can improve our consulting practices and processes to better support educators and students. My “why” is to always leave people better after having interacted with me than they were before. So, it’s huge for me to be in a role that has the reach to positively impact and influence Edmentum as a whole.
The biggest challenge of my role now is determining what to prioritize. When there are so many competing factors, it seems like everything is a priority. But when everything is a priority, nothing is. I believe that over time, as the role becomes more defined and I begin to “find my way”, I can more effectively set priorities for myself and impact priorities in other areas—especially as they relate to our partner schools and districts.
Professional Development is changing in terms of what it looks like in the field. How do you see this new role supporting and adding to this change?
Edmentum’s professional learning offerings are aligned to the professional learning standards from Learning Forward. We communicate with our customers to know what is happening in the field and we consistently adjust our practices. Edmentum Education Consultants are required to earn certifications around our products and the consulting framework we adhere to. As the Services Program Manager, I’m working closely with other leaders in the Edmentum Services organization to make sure all our consultants have access to professional learning boot camps, professional learning tune-ups, and opportunities to learn from one another so they can best serve our school and district partners.
Want to peek further behind the scenes of Edmentum’s Services organization? Check out what a day-in-the-life looks like for one of our Education Consultants!