Wendy Kopp receives the GSV Lifetime Achievement Award

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“As educators we need to recognize that we ourselves have perhaps the greatest role to play in reshaping the world. The kids in our classrooms today have the chance to become the leaders we need to create the peaceful, just, sustainable world that we all aspire to.”

- Wendy Kopp, CEO & Co-founder, Teach For All 

We’re honored to announce that Teach For All’s CEO and Co-founder, Wendy Kopp, was awarded the 2023 GSV Lifetime Achievement Award at the ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego, USA, this week. Wendy received the honor for “her tireless determination—grounded in partnership, responding to community needs, and a promise to students and communities.”

Established in 2013 by Global Silicon Valley (GSV), the Lifetime Achievement Award honors remarkable individuals whose lives have profoundly impacted the world for good. “At GSV we envision a world where all people get equal access to the future, and the tremendous educator that we are [honoring] tonight has done so much in dedicating her life to that cause,” said Adam Freed, Managing Partner at GSV Ventures, in his introduction at the award ceremony. 

“This is a tribute to the whole Teach For All community,” Wendy shared. “To the thousands of people who have committed two years to teach, who have never left the work, and whose energy and leadership has led to the impact that I’m being recognized for tonight.” (Watch the complete remarks)

In her address during the event’s closing ceremony, Wendy reflected on what she has learned through developing and leading Teach For America and Teach For All about what is needed to build equitable systems that enable all children to fulfill their potential. “Thirty-four years ago when I came up with this idea as a college student, I never could have envisioned the leadership it would generate—the incredible hearts minds and souls all around the world who would be drawn to it, the transformative impact of those two years on them, the fact that they would end up working at every level…to ultimately challenge the unjust systems that we exist to address,” she said. “I also had no idea that really that’s the key to changing systems.”

Developing this collective leadership, Wendy urged, is necessary to truly reshape and transform the systems impacting children. “I think there’s a notion in the world that system change is policy change. And yet, what I think we all know who have been at this work is that when outcomes change for kids in communities, it is about policy change, but it’s also about change in practice, change in culture, and that means that the key is collective leadership,” she explained. “People who share purpose, vision, and values working around the whole ecosystem around kids. Diverse leadership, led by the people who themselves have experienced the inequities and, so importantly, their allies who have a lot more privilege, all working together, learning together, and collaborating…to ensure that ultimately all kids thrive.

Wendy also discussed the effort the Teach For All network has made in recent years to reorient its work towards ensuring that students in our classrooms are developing as leaders who can shape a better world for themselves and all of us. This reorientation led to a realization that “everything was going to need to change,” she shared, “because this is not only about growing academic skills, it’s about developing students’ agency, their awareness of themselves in the world, their sense of empathy, their wellbeing, and their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.” The evolution has also required a lot of “unlearning” by adults, Wendy noted, “So that we’re seeing our students as whole people who can lead [and] we’re seeing ourselves as learners.”

Also at the ASU+GSV Summit, Wendy was interviewed in a main stage fireside chat by Teach For America alumna, former Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, and Founder and CEO of Reconstruction, Kaya Henderson. The pair discussed Wendy’s leadership journey over the past 34 years, from her founding of Teach For America in 1989 to her work leading Teach For All today. “It turns out it’s not just that we’re enlisting people who might not have put their energy into this arena, it’s that those two years [teaching] change the way they see things,” Wendy shared when asked what she has learned about the effectiveness of Teach For All’s approach over the course of that journey. “They lead them to believe more in their students…they lead them to believe more in their own potential to make a difference…they lead them to move from believing the solution is one thing to thinking this is a massively complex, systemic, challenge that’s going to need a lot of adaptive change.” 

Earlier, Teach For All hosted the panel Integrating Online and Offline Learning: EdTech Entrepreneurs from Teach For All’s Global Network. Moderated by Aimée Eubanks-Davis, Teach For America alumna and Founder and CEO of Braven, the panel featured a conversation between Richard Wilson, Teach For Australia alumnus and Co-founder and Chief Visionary at Maths Pathway; Erin Fitzgerald, Teach For America alumna and CEO & Co-founder at Yiya Solutions; and Seemant Dadwal, Teach For India alumnus and Founder, Meraki Foundation. During the discussion, panelists reflected on what they have learned about how to ensure that edtech products are designed with the needs of learners in marginalized communities at their center. Among many other insights, the group shared how important their foundational experiences teaching in marginalized communities had been for shaping their approach to their work.

To learn more about Wendy Kopp’s journey, watch this profile produced by GSV.