NewSchools Awards Entrepreneurs for Their Contributions to Public Education

May 10, 2013

NewSchools Venture Fund announces 2013 honorees for its Annual Awards

Oakland, CA – May 10, 2013 – NewSchools Venture Fund (, a venture philanthropy that supports education entrepreneurs to transform public education, announces the recipients of its 2013 Awards that recognize and celebrate the achievements of social innovators in its portfolio, working to improve K-12 public education in the United States. Since 2002, NewSchools has given more than 70 awards to outstanding entrepreneurs and organizations, most of whom are part of the organization’s portfolio.

“NewSchools’ awards are given to those who are not only making a real positive impact in the lives of students in underserved communities across the country, but also changing the national conversation about what is possible in public education,” said Ted Mitchell, CEO of NewSchools.  

Ten entrepreneurs, social innovators and organizations were given awards in these categories: Entrepreneur of the Year, Organization of the Year, Change Agent of the Year, Innovator of the Year, Unsung Hero, and Entrepreneur to Watch.

Entrepreneur of the Year

The Entrepreneur of the Year award recognizes talented leaders who exhibit creativity and flexibility in pursuing their goal of closing the achievement gap. This year, the award goes to Alix Guerrier and Eric Westendorf, founders of LearnZillion, the first professional development and digital curriculum platform built on the Common Core State Standards. Created by and for teachers, the company offers a practical solution to teachers, schools and districts implementing the new Common Core State Standards. So far, more than 130,000 teachers have signed up to use LearnZillion, and it’s consistently growing, with hundreds of new users signing up each day.

“It is an honor to win this award from NewSchools, which has been an incredible partner at every step – starting when they planted the seed of education entrepreneurship in my mind,” said Westendorf. “Our dream at LearnZillion is to build an equally active and energized community of teachers dedicated to making high quality instruction available to everyone.”

Organization of the Year

The Organization of the Year award is given to both the New Teacher Center (NTC) and Unlocking Potential. This award recognizes an entrepreneurial organization that has reached dramatic, measurable results over the past year, in closing the achievement gap.

NTC, which is led by CEO Ellen Moir, has provided critical induction support to more than 85,000 first and second year teachers. Unlocking Potential, a nonprofit school management organization founded by CEO Scott Given, operated one of the highest-performing schools in Massachusetts and, in 2013, will open two new schools, serving more than 1,500 students, in the greater Boston area.

Change Agent of the Year

Jonathan Klein, founder of Great Oakland Public Schools and Neerav Kingsland, CEO, New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) receive the Change Agent of the Year award. The award recognizes the work of leaders in education that demonstrate exceptional urgency and vision, and made systematic changes in the past year in public education. This year, the awards focused on leaders making exceptional strides in education reform in their cities, which have the ability to spread to other areas. Under Klein’s leadership, GO Public Schools demonstrated that a community coalition can use grassroots organizing and advocacy to change the political context surrounding the quality of public schools. As the CEO of NSNO, Kingsland has been successful in attracting talented educators and entrepreneurs to the city, and helped build new charter schools that are closing the achievement gap. 

Innovator of the Year

Innovator of the Year award goes to both Dr. Louise Waters, CEO and superintendent of Leadership Public Schools, and Jason Singer, co-founder and CEO of Gobstopper. This award recognizes organizations that have demonstrated a unique and innovative approach to solving a problem in K-12 education.  Four years ago, Dr. Waters started an internal, teacher-led R&D lab focused on developing solutions that meet critical issues in urban secondary education, resulting in FlexMath, an interactive textbook, and most recently ExitTicket, a tool that provides teachers and teachers real time feedback and performance metrics. Singer, who was as an Entrepreneur in Residence with NewSchools in 2012, created Gobstopper, an innovative e-reader, designed especially for teachers, which embeds reading text with questions, prompts, videos, and definitions.

Unsung Hero

The Unsung Hero award celebrates entrepreneurs who quietly tackle critical issues in education reform that are pivotal to improving public schools. Since founding Charter Board Partners in 2011, award winners Carrie C. Irvin, president and Simmons Lettre, executive director, have partnered with more than 20 school boards – impacting almost 8,000 students in Washington, D.C. – and trained more than 200 community members to prepare them for board service.  

“As entrepreneurs dedicated to helping ensure that every student has access to a great education, this award is a validation of our hard work and the dedication of the hundreds of board members we assist,” said Irvin. “NewSchools’s continuing support of our mission drives us to be better at what we do and deepens our sense of urgency to expand our model in D.C. and to other cities.” 

Entrepreneur to Watch

The Entrepreneurs to Watch award goes to Kate Mehok and Julie Lause, founders of Crescent City Schools, and Nearpod Founders Guido Kovalsky and Felipe Sommers. These up-and-coming entrepreneurs have demonstrated both promising early results and a drive for continued growth. Since starting Crescent City Schools in 2011, long-time school leaders Mehok and Lause, are currently operating two schools in New Orleans with goals to open more. Kovalsky and Sommers launched Nearpod, an all-in-one solution for the use of mobile devices in education, less than a year ago and it is considered one of the best teacher collaboration tools.

About NewSchools

NewSchools Venture Fund is a not-for-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs in creating innovative ways to improve K-12 public education. We blend the best of philanthropy and capital markets to ensure an excellent education is available to every child. We actively share what we’ve learned through our investments, bring together educational leaders from across the country, and advocate for smart policies at the federal level. Learn more at

Media Contact:

Clay A. Willis
NewSchools Venture Fund
[email protected]