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Getting Smart Podcast

Jul 26, 2019

Today the Getting Smart team is speaking with Elisa Villanueva Beard, Teach for America’s CEO since 2015.


Imagine following one of the most recognizable CEOs in the world and taking on an organization that was shrinking and was facing financial and political pressure. Elisa did just that in 2013, following Wendy Kopp as CEO of Teach for America. She cut 40% from the central budget and rejuvenated the organization, ensuring that all 51 TFA programs are connected to their local community. Today, more than 7,000 members reach more than 400,000 students in 2500 schools across America. Of the 53,000 alumni, 85% work in education or careers serving low-income communities — that includes over 1200 school leaders, 400 school system leaders, 500 policy and advocacy leaders, and 200 social entrepreneurs! TFA has an amazing legacy of leadership. And for Elisa, it all started by responding to the opportunity to teach in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1998.


Tune in to hear all about Elisa’s unique journey; what she has learned over the years working at TFA in her roles as Chief Operating Director, Co-CEO, and CEO; some of the early challenges she faced with the organization and how she has overcome them; what she has learned about organizational leadership; and what she believes are the key elements for effective teacher preparation and development today.


Key Takeaways:

[:14] About today’s episode with Elisa Villanueva Beard.

[1:25] Tom welcomes Elisa to the podcast!

[1:33] How did Elisa make her way to Bethune Elementary School in 1998?

[2:15] Why did Elisa decide to stick with Teach for America and take on a leadership role?

[4:39] What does Teach for America offer to college students today?

[6:53] Elisa explains what Teach for America’s mission is all about.

[9:43] During Elisa’s years as the Chief Operating Officer from 2001-2013, what were some of the big challenges?

[13:30] Around 2013, Elisa took over as Co-CEO for Wendy Kopp. What does she remember from that time and her transition into the role as CEO?

[15:28] Elisa speaks about some of the early challenges she faced as a new CEO to the organization.

[19:52] How does Elisa think about TFA’s movement today?

[20:54] Having been in the education space for almost 20 years, how does Elisa think about effective teacher preparation and development today? What does she believe are the key elements?

[23:35] What has Elisa learned over the last decade about organizational leadership?

[27:34] What kinds of talents and dispositions does Elisa look for in regional leaders?

[29:52] What’s next for TFA?

[31:51] Where to learn more about TFA!


Mentioned in This Episode:

Elisa Villanueva Beard (LinkedIn)

Teach for America


For More on Teacher Preparation, Listen to:

Episode 191 with leaders from Northeastern University and Episode 188 with James Tracey from Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning at MIT.


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