Buzzword Breakdown: What’s a ‘Teacherpreneur’?

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As a buzzword, “teacherpreneur” is fairly new — and plenty provocative.

A portmanteau of “teacher” and “entrepreneur,” it’s used to define an educator who breaks from a traditional classroom role in a hands-on effort to develop solutions and technologies that improve learning as well as teaching. This reform-minded hybrid has loads of great ideas — see Minnesota teacher Eric Nelson‘s Fantasy Football-inspired interactive “Fantasy Geopolitics” game — and not to mention the ground-level, real-world experience that many flashier (and better-funded) edupreneurs without teacher backgrounds lack. (Check out the recently published guidebook Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave by Barnett Barry, Ann Byrd and Alan Wieder; the authors encourage teachers to take a big-picture view and think beyond their districts.)

“Educators — those who come from the classroom and not from a technical, corporate or finance background — are paving the way for this new crop of leaders who wish to effect real change in education,” Adam Bellow writes in EdTech Magazine. “Those who have worked with students and staff, those who have struggled to find solutions to real problems, often make great teacherpreneurs. They see the product as a means to an end and not as the pathway to greatness and glory. They work hard for the audience, rather than to gain one.”

But these entrepreneurial teachers also face an uphill battle in getting their voices heard amid the boom in investment of educational technology. This is where your standard Silicon Valley technologist-edupreneur has the edge — the VC connections, the tech savvy, the Stanford degree — to turn a concept into reality, and get a leg up in making a mark in the EdTech movement. Meanwhile, he or she is often taken more seriously by those who dismiss teachers as unqualified to lead and execute upon innovations for the classroom. (Take remarks from Vivienne Ming and Norma Ming at last week’s SXSWedu conference where the co-founders of the EdTech outfit Socos drew criticism for maintaining that it’s not the job of teachers to figure out how to implement technology in schools.)

There are a number of ambitious teacherpreneurs who aim to prove the critics wrong. And it’s widely thought that entrepreneurship can be learned, especially when fueled by a strong vision and a passion to succeed.

How can teacherpreneurs shrug off stigma and grab much-needed resources, recognition and financial support for themselves?

That remains to be seen. More importantly: What do you think? How do you define teacherpreneur? Should teachers be expected to innovate? Sound off in the comments below.

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