At EdNET 2018 in San Francisco, I was fortunate to start chatting with Amanda von Moos with Substantial Classrooms. We bonded over our shared passion for designing a career and life that is fulfilling and meaningful, personally and professionally. There is nothing more I love than hearing the stories behind amazing K-12 nonprofits and organizations as well as the people behind them. I asked Amanda to share her story with us – enjoy!
Interview with Amanda von Moos, Director of Innovation at Substantial Classrooms
1. Share with us a little about your role, your organization, and what you love about it
I work for Substantial Classrooms, a startup nonprofit working to improve student learning when teachers are absent. Students spend on average 10% of their time with substitute teachers – a full year by the time they graduate – but as a sector we spend very little time thinking about this function, how it impacts students and how to make it work better. That’s rare in education and makes this a fascinating problem to work on.
Working at a startup means that my work changes week to week, depending on what we need to get done. In general, I focus on helping education leaders to see the challenge, believe that they can make it work better and then take action. That means I design PD, coaching and tools for principals and HR leaders. I also work half-time and have since my kids were born. I am grateful to have found a way to do such interesting and impactful work and have flexibility while my kids are young.
2. What is your vision for your organization (or your position)? What fun projects are you working on now, and planning for next year?
It’s a super exciting time for us! We are building a tech tool to make it dramatically easier for teachers and schools to prepare for and support substitute teachers. Last spring we got accepted to the AT&T Aspire Accelerator and it has definitely accelerated our progress! Being part of the accelerator has been an amazing learning experience and it’s so cool to see the tool coming into reality. We are currently in beta testing and will be ready to share the tool with more schools and districts in the spring of 2019.
3. What is your biggest challenge your organization faces today?
We have a major learning curve around bringing a digital tool to market. While it’s fun to learn new stuff, it’s also daunting!
4. What keeps you up at night?
It’s hard to articulate, but there is a lot of pessimism about if it is actually possible to make substitute teaching work better. It’s difficult to get leaders to prioritize it because they don’t feel confidence that it could work better and know how much we under-invest in substitute teachers. What keeps me up at night is that we won’t find a way to break through this sense of resignation.
5. What career advice do you have for others who want to design a career and life they love?
Ooh, I love this question! For me, it is power to think about the spectrum of different ways you can work. I am a huge fan of Daniel Pink and there are two of his books that I reach for over and over when I am feeling at a crossroads professionally: Drive, which is about what motivates us at work and Free Agent Nation, which is about the shift to project-based work. Free Agent Nation is ten years old and not all his predictions about how this shift in the economy would play out turned out to be true, but it’s a powerful pitch for considering the freelance or solopreneur path. That lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but seeing the range of possibilities can also help you think about how to craft your job with a traditional employer.
About Substantial Classrooms:
At Substantial, we are helping schools and districts redesign the substitute teaching experience. Substitute teaching is a major pathway into teaching and impacts the lives of thousands of students every day. There is so much opportunity to make it more awesome. Does this pique your interest? Reach out! Learn more here: Substantial Classrooms.
Did you like this interview? Then check out this one with Jill Nyhus on K-12 Digital Marketing success with Jill Nyhus