Talking leadership with Joanne Weiss, Arne Duncan’s chief of staff at the Department of Education

July 13, 2012

Joanne Weiss is chief of staff to Secretary Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education. She joined the department in 2009 as senior adviser to the secretary and director of the Race to the Top program, designed to encourage and reward states making system-wide, comprehensive education reforms. Previously, she was partner and chief operating officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy firm working to transform public education. She spoke with Tom Fox, who writes the Washington Post’s Federal Coach blog and is the director of the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Government Leadership.

What led you to pursue a career path in education?

I took a slightly crooked path into education. My original path was science. I was a biochemistry major. But after working as a researcher then almost heading to medical school, I decided that career wasn’t for me. What I really wanted to do was get into education.

I was lucky enough to get offered a job in education technology. I was very young, and the field of education technology was very young, so we grew up together. No one was any more expert than anyone else, so it was a fascinating time to get into the field. What hooked me was learning about the way kids do mathematics, learn to read, take symbols and turn them into words with meaning, and learn the concepts behind science.  I loved learning how people learn.

[Read the entire interview at The Washington Post]