37 Emerging & Inspirational Black Leaders in Edtech (Updated)

To celebrate this Black History Month, we’re updating and resurfacing LearnLaunch’s list of some of the most influential black leaders in the educational innovation field. Many of these professionals have powerful stories and unique solutions to improve education for all learners. From startup CEOs to angel investors, these innovative leaders are transforming the education industry and are continuing to inspire others each and every day. #BlackHistoryMonth #BHM #edtech #edinnovation #transforminglearning


Kaya Henderson

Twitter

Washington, DC

Kaya Henderson leads the Global Learning Lab for Community Impact at Teach For All. There, she seeks to grow the impact of locally rooted, globally informed leaders, all over the world, who are catalyzing community and system-level change to provide children with the education, support, and opportunity to shape a better future. She is perhaps best known for serving as Chancellor of DC Public Schools from 2010-2016. Her tenure was marked by consecutive years of enrollment growth, an increase in graduation rates, improvements in student satisfaction and teacher retention, increases in AP participation and pass rates, and the greatest growth of any urban district on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) over multiple years.


Gregory Fowler

Twitter | LinkedIn

Manchester, NH

As President of SNHU’s Global Campus, Dr. Fowler has oversight for academic functions in support of the university’s learning experiences and modalities—online, competency-based and hybrid—meeting the rapidly changing demands of the workforce and global communities.

A two-time Fulbright Senior Scholar (Germany and Belgium) with 25+ years of experience in higher education management, Dr. Fowler has published and presented at events throughout the world, including Germany, where he also taught at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universitat-Berlin. He has held senior level academic and administrative positions at numerous institutions including Western Governors University, Penn State University and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


David Hardy

Twitter | LinkedIn

Cleveland, OH

David has led the state turnaround efforts of the second lowest-performing district in Ohio since 2017. In his capacity as Chief Executive Officer for Lorain City Schools, his combined responsibilities of the Superintendent and the school board has led Lorain City Schools to its highest performance marks in nearly a quarter-century, moving the district from an F grade to a B grade in the Achievement Gap Closing, and is touted as being in the top ten percent of the fastest improving school districts of the state of Ohio’s 646 school districts. Previously, David was the Deputy Superintendent of Academics for St. Louis Public Schools. Under his leadership St. Louis Public Schools receiving full accreditation for the first time since 2000.


Tonika Cheek Clayton

Twitter | LinkedIn

Dallas/Fort Worth Area, Texas

Tonika leads NewSchools’ Ed Tech team who invests in promising for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs developing digital tools and services that support teaching and learning in PreK-12 schools. Prior to joining NewSchools, Tonika spent eight years at Amplify and Wireless Generation where she led teams to develop, sell and deliver digital products and services to the K-12 education market. Before Amplify, Tonika worked as a researcher on Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) where she consulted the first cohort of urban public school district leaders and co-authored several case studies seeking to identify more effective ways to drive student achievement by strengthening school district management and leadership. Tonika graduated from Harvard College and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.


Malika Ali

Twitter | LinkedIn

Providence, Rhode Island

As the Director of Pedagogy at Highlander Institute, Malika is inspired by community-driven change management to improve experiences and outcomes for all learners. Her work involves partnering with school communities to develop context-specific approaches to personalization challenges, supporting school communities to identify and utilize culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogical practices, and supporting Highlander Institute’s internal team to build local capacity to sustain change across district partnerships.

As a daughter of hard-working and resilient Eritrean refugees, Malika has spent her life critiquing the systems that perpetuate educational inequity, and she is proud to be a part of the struggle to ensure that all children have access to, and can take advantage of, an inspiring and empowering education.


Mary Coleman

Twitter

Boston, MA

Mary D. Coleman is Economic Mobility Pathways’ (EMPath) Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. At EMPath, Coleman leads the departments of housing and programs, research and evaluation, and human resources and capacity building. Her research projects focus on economic mobility pathways toward emerging adulthood and an examination of intergenerational exits from rural poverty. Mary has spent decades teaching, researching, and developing curricula and academic centers to transform the trajectories of historically disadvantaged students. Her multi-year work sites have included colleges and primary schools in Jackson, Mississippi, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bucharest, Romania, Luanda, Angola, the West Bank, Harare, Zimbabwe, and Havana and Santiago, de Cuba. Her work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, and the Department of State.


Wayne Lewis

Twitter | LinkedIn

Kentucky

Wayne D. Lewis, Jr, PhD was appointed Dean and Professor of Education at Belmont University on January 1, 2020. Dr. Lewis most recently led the Kentucky Department of Education as the state’s chief state school officer from April 2018 until December 2019. His resume includes experience as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, postsecondary faculty member and program administrator at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and as an executive administrator in state government. His published research and writing over the last decade has been in the areas of education policy and politics, school-family-community engagement, and school choice, in American and international contexts.


Randy Duke

Twitter | LinkedIn

Boston, MA

Randy is an Experience Strategist at Cantina who helps plan and lead qualitative & quantitative research efforts for clients to better understand people and their environments. He has worked on clients across industries such as finance, consumer electronics, retail, and software. He has also been an experience designer and an educational technologist for a university where he conducted accessibility device trainings and worked on technology solutions for the university’s student support staff. Randy has an M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction with a focus on accessible smart devices.


Kevin Clark

Twitter | LinkedIn

Washington D.C. Metro Area

Kevin Clark is a Professor of Learning Technologies and Founding Director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University. Kevin Clark’s research focuses on issues of diversity in children’s media and technology. Dr. Clark’s recent scholarship includes a national study examining the Digital Lives of African American Tweens, Teens, and Parents, and a publication focused on racial diversity in children’s media.

Kevin has received numerous awards and honors which include: being selected as a Fellow for the 26th Annual Television Academy (Emmy) Foundation Faculty Seminar; being recognized by former President Barak Obama as a White House Champion of Change for his work in supporting and accelerating STEM opportunities for diverse students, schools, and communities; and serving as an advisory board member to the National Park Service, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), and Fred Rogers Productions.


Christopher Gray

Twitter | LinkedIn

Greater Philadelphia Area

After winning $1.3 million in scholarships himself, Christopher Gray founded Scholly, a mobile and web app that helps students find scholarships for college. Growing up in poverty, Gray saw college as a “necessity priced like a luxury good”, and his experience applying for scholarships sparked his interest in creating Scholly. Christopher is also a U.S. Embassy Speaker for the U.S. State Department, speaking at U.S. Embassies across the world about social entrepreneurship, tech, and diversity.

 


Laura Weidman Powers

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Laura Weidman PowersPowers is the Co-Founder and former CEO of Code2040, an organization that helps underrepresented minorities achieve success in the tech and innovation industries. Prior to Code2040, she started two organizations in the education space: one nonprofit arts education organization in West Philadelphia that is approaching its tenth year of operation, and one for-profit tutoring company with offices in New York and Los Angele. She is also a recipient of the 2013 Stanford Social Innovation Fellowship, and was named one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs in 2013 by Goldman Sachs.

 


Chris Bennett

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Chris BennettBennett is the Co-Founder and CEO of Wonderschool, an online childcare search platform that helps connect parents with childcare education programs. Bennett got the idea for Wonderschool while watching his friend and Co-Founder, Arrel Gray, struggle with finding quality childcare for his own child. Bennett’s hope is that Wonderschool will help parents living in urban areas find affordable quality childcare, while also empowering and creating jobs for caregivers.

 


Will Lucas

Twitter | LinkedIn

Toledo, Ohio Area

Will LucasLucas is the CEO & Founder of Classana, an online learning platform built for individuals and companies to organize, share, and discover educational resources for their people (students, staff, and followers) to facilitate personal and professional development. His goal for Classana is to “help people find the best resources they can based on their particular and unique profile, to help them achieve their career dreams”. Lucas is also the curator of TEDxToledo, a community-based TED talk program, and hosts his own podcast, OF10podcast, which highlights prominent minorities in technology startups.

 


Jason Green

Twitter | LinkedIn

Washington D.C. Metro Area

Jason GreenGreen is the Co-Founder of Learning Innovation Catalyst (LINC). LINC assists school educators through consultancy, professional development, and blended learning implementation. Formerly, Jason served on the leadership team of Redbird Advanced Learning (now part of McGraw Hill Education), partnering with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education to design the Redbird Professional Learning Platform, one of the first social, collaborative and gamified PD platforms. Jason is also a co-author of the bestselling book, Blending Learning in Action.


Brit Fitzpatrick

Twitter | LinkedIn

Cincinnati, Ohio Area

Brit FitzpatrickFitzpatrick sparked her initial interest in programming by creating websites for hair salons and churches as a college student. Today she is the Founder and CEO of MentorME, an organization that makes mentoring easier, less time consuming, and more productive. Passionate about the community, Fitzpatrick leads efforts to grow the number of underrepresented founders launching and building companies in the Southeast and serves as a millennial ambassador and special events volunteer for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

 


Thom Jackson

Twitter | LinkedIn

Greater New York City Area

Thom JacksonJackson is the President and CEO of Edison Learning Inc, a company that provides blended, virtual, and project-based learning environments to at-risk and underserved students. Before joining EdisonLearning, Thom held various key leadership positions at  GAB Robins Group of Companies, Prudential, and MetLife. Thom received his undergraduate degree in Political Science at DePauw University and his JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

 


Alex Bernadotte

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Alex BernadotteBernadotte is the founder and chief executive officer of Beyond 12, a nonprofit that integrates personalized coaching with intelligent technology to increase the number of traditionally under-served students who earn a college degree. Bernadotte drew inspiration to create the organization from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Alex grew up in inner city Boston. Like many first-generation college students, Alex struggled with the transition to college.The challenges Alex faced during her college years planted a seed for what she wanted to do: start an organization to ensure other first-generation college students wouldn’t struggle as she had.


Jason Young

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Jason YoungYoung is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindblown Labs, an educational games company based out of Oakland, CA. The technology company makes the financial education gaming app Thrive ‘n’ Shine, which is targeted at high school students. The game’s goal is to help establish good financial behaviors early to enable a lifetime of financial success.

 

 


Kimberly Bryant

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Kimberly BryantBryant is the Founder and CEO of Black Girls Code, an organization whose mission is to teach girls of color computer coding and programming languages. Bryant’s inspiration primarily comes from her college experience as an Electrical Engineering major, where she felt culturally isolated as one of the few African American women in STEM. Her ultimate hope is that Black Girls Code will be able to “introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures”.

 


Stacie Whisonant

Twitter | LinkedIn

Washington D.C. Metro Area

Stacie WhisonantWhisonant is the Founder & CEO of PYT Funds Inc, an innovative platform that connects student’s families with banks and utilizes crowdfunding to reduce the burden of student loan debt. PYT Funds is considered a disruptor to the finance industry and is an innovative solution to the country’s student loan crisis.Stacie has more than 13 years of experience in finance and technology industries, and has worked for companies such as Stone Street Capital and HSBC.

 

 


Malik Ducard

Twitter | LinkedIn

Los Angeles, California Area

Malik DucardMalik Ducard is the Global Head of Family and Learning at YouTube, driving business development efforts for the platform’s family entertainment and educational partnerships and programming. Ducard launched both the YouTube Kids app and YouTube Learning, an effort designed to expand and enhance education on the platform. Prior to joining YouTube, he served as senior vice president of digital distribution for the Americas at Paramount Pictures and oversaw distribution of content to digital platforms. He is also currently the Board President of LA Makerspace, a non-profit organization that brings STEAM education to youth throughout LA.


Asha Owens

LinkedIn

Greater New York City Area

Asha OwensAsha is the CEO and Co-Founder of Best-Fit – a company that uses machine learning and video-based narratives to engage diverse students in the college search process. The idea for Best-Fit emerged when Owens and her business partner, Rebecca Kwee, agreed to work together on a project addressing the phenomenon known as “summer melt,” when as many as one-third of students accepted into college don’t enroll. Owens has a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Brown University and a master’s degree in instructional technology and media from Columbia University.

 


Daquan Oliver

Twitter | LinkedIn

Greater New York Area

Daquan OliverOliver is the Founder and CEO of WeThrive, an EdTech company for K-12 entrepreneurial education for youth of under-resourced communities to create a business venture where they earn real revenues, as they acquire their own advisors/mentors and learn future-ready skills along the way. Growing up in a single-mother, low-income household, Daquan made a promise at age fourteen to assist future children in a similar socioeconomic position to become successful, leading him to found WeThrive at age twenty-one. Prior to WeThrive, he founded Jossle, a youth marketing company which worked with large brands like Zipcar, Uber, and KarmaLoop, and amassed a nationwide student network of more than 100,000 students.


Shauntel Garvey

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Shauntel GarveyGarvey is the Co-Founder and General Partner at Reach CapitalShauntel currently serves on the boards of Schoolzilla, Holberton School, and Abl. Prior to Reach, Shauntel was a Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund and invested in over 40 early stage K12 edtech companies through the NewSchools Seed Fund.Shauntel was previously a Senior Engineer at Procter and Gamble. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering from MIT and her MBA and MA in Education from Stanford University.

 


Matthew Mugo Fields

Twitter | LinkedIn

Greater Boston Area

Matthew Mugo FieldsFields is the General Manager of Supplemental and Intervention Solutions at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Prior to HMH, Matthew worked at McGraw-Hill Education, overseeing strategy and product development for a suite of adaptive learning programs. Matthew also founded education startups – Redbird Advanced Learning, a personalized learning company that developed next generation math and language arts adaptive digital curricula; and Rocket Group, the United States’ largest provider of in-school tutoring. Fields is an honors graduate of Morehouse College and earned master’s degrees in business and education from Harvard Business School and Harvard University.


Charles Hudson

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Charles Hudson

Hudson is the Managing Partner at Precursor Ventures, a classic seed stage investment firm that focuses on multiple themes of connected hard and soft-ware, including edtech. Prior to launching Precursor, Charles Hudson was a Partner with SoftTech VC, one of the most active seed stage investors in Internet and mobile startups. A few of the companies Hudson has invested in include CampusWire, ClassDojo, Clever, Homeroom, Knack, Panorama Education, and Top Hat.

 


Helen Adeosun

Twitter | LinkedIn

Greater Boston Area

Helen AdeosunIn 2013, Adeosun founded Care Academy, an online platform that develops evidence-based online classes to help both professional and family caregivers provide excellent care and improve the lives at home. She has worked with Teach for America, Boston Public Schools, and Pearson Education as well as a number of companies focused on caregiving issues. Care Academy was born out of her own first hand knowledge and experience as a caregiver and she hopes that Care Academy is a place to continuously learn and share.

 


Nicole Armstrong

LinkedIn

Greater New York Area

Nicole ArmstrongArmstrong is currently the Head of Customer Success & Services at Renaissance Learning, a learning analytics company that makes cloud-based pre-K–12 educational software. Prior to Renaissance Learning, she was the Co-Founder and CEO of ProcureK12 by Noodle Markets, an online platform that simplifies the educator procurement process. She was also formerly president of CORE Education Consulting & Solutions, and senior vice president of major accounts and state services at Pearson. Armstrong holds a bachelor’s in computer engineering from Binghamton University and an MBA from the University of Maryland.

 


Paul Lott

LinkedIn

Washington D.C. Metro Area

Paul LottLott is the CEO of SchoolBoogy, a Classroom Learning Management System complete with state standard compliant curricula that enables teachers to be more effective. Lott received his bachelor’s in Computer & Engineering Science from Harvard University.

 

 


Darla Edwards

Twitter | LinkedIn

Williamsburg, Virginia Area

Darla EdwardsEdwards is the President and CEO of Successful Innovations, a company that provides online resources and professional development to support collaborative family and school partnerships.Edwards has over 15 years of experience in education as a teacher and principal. She is also the co-author of several publications which provide best practices to educators on meaningful tips to promote school improvement and family and school partnerships.

 


Beverly Ross Denny

Twitter | LinkedIn

Greater Boston Area

Beverly Ross DennyDenny is the COO of Research for Better Teaching, a professional development organization dedicated to improving classroom teaching and school leadership. Denny previously held leadership positions at Boston Public Schools and Microsoft. She earned her bachelor’s of science from University of Pennsylvania and her MBA from Harvard Business School.

 

 


Jonathan Johnson

Twitter | LinkedIn

New Orleans

J JohnosonJohnson is the CEO of Rooted School, an organization that improves college-readiness for students in New Orleans while addressing critical workforce demand by offering industry-focused project-based learning, personalized learning paths, and mentorship. He was recognized by the Fishman Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and listed as among the top one percent of emerging social innovators by Echoing Green. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s The Giving Pledge campaign recently recognized Jonathan as one of the most innovative school builders in the country.

 


Kalimah Priforce

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

K PriforcePriforce is the CEO of Qeyno Labs, an education think tank that harness web- and mobile-based technology to transform the interests of under-represented youth into STEM career pathways using game-like rewards and mentorship from real-life professionals. He is committed to empowering the minority-led startup community throughout the country and is also educator-in-residence for the Oakland-based “Hidden Genius Project”, a program that trains black male youth in entrepreneurial thinking, software development, and user experience design.

 


Cedric Brown

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Cedric BrownBrown is the Chief of Community Engagement at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, an organization focused on advocating for tech entrepreneurship to promote social impact. He was previously the CEO of the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and Director of Education Programs at the Level Playing Field Institute. Brown earned his bachelor’s from UNC at Chapel Hill and his master’s in Education Administration and Policy Analysis at Stanford University.

 


Tracy “Ty” Moore II

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Tracy "Ty" Moore IIMoore is one of the Co-Founders of Mindblown Labs, an educational games company based out of Oakland, CA. He was previously the Founding Executive Director of Leadership Scholars, an Ohio-based program that developed leadership skills for inner-city elementary students and high school student mentors. Moore earned his bachelor’s in Classics from Harvard University.

 


Mercedes Bent

Twitter | LinkedIn

San Francisco Bay Area

Mercedes BentIn 2017, Bent founded BenToppin, a consulting and training firm focused on the VR/AR edtech market and helping clients launch VR/AR programs. She formerly held executive and senior leadership roles at UploadVR and General Assembly. Mercedes graduated from Harvard College with degrees in Economics and East Asian studies.

 

 


Angel Rich

Twitter | LinkedIn

Washington, D.C. Metro Area

Angel Rich CEO of the Wealth Factory Rich founded The Wealth Factory with a mission to provide equal access to financial literacy across the world. Today her company designs WealthyLife financial literacy education technology games, gaining world-class recognition for their first product, CreditStacker. It has been coined the best financial literacy product in the country by The White House, Department of Education, and JP Morgan Chase. Google named it one of the Top 10 Apps in the world of 2017.

 

 


Michele Courton Brown

LinkedIn

Greater Boston Area

Michele Courton Brown leads strategic growth and development of Quality Interactions, and guides daily operations within the company. Michele has over 25 years of experience in leading, managing, and providing strategic direction to corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, Michele served as Chief Operating Officer of the Efficacy Institute, a national education reform organization, where she oversaw operations and was engaged in program expansion, client relations, staff development, marketing, and the formation of strategic partnerships. 

 

 

Jamal Merritt is an intern at LearnLaunch.

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