A 40-year veteran of educational publishing talks about what matters most.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
As do so many companies, Learning A-Z started as an idea. Bob Holl (pictured) and Francis Morgan, two entrepreneurs and veterans of the education arena, believed that every child deserved to have developmentally appropriate books and activities both at school and at home. With the support of a handful of staff, many of whom still hold key positions today, they started LearningPage, a free website providing teachers with printable activities, and Reading A-Z, a subscription-based website offering teachers effective, differentiated reading resources and instructional tools. Today, their company, Learning A-Z, provides a number of dynamic websites that deliver hundreds of thousands of resources to students and teachers across the world. A preK-6 online curriculum provider, Learning A-Z is now used in over half the school districts in the
We constantly look for ways we can further support teachers and we pay particularly close attention to the role that technology can play in supporting their instructional goals.
U.S. and Canada, and in more than 165 countries worldwide. Bob, their innovative leader, brings his passion for the learning process to the thousands of high-quality resources he’s developed and authored during his 40+ year career in education — from his years as a classroom teacher to executive leadership roles at the Wright Group, Scott Foresman, Addison Wesley and others. During his publishing career, Bob has authored more than 200 fiction and nonfiction children’s books, and more than 1,000 other educational resources. A tireless supporter of learning and literacy, here Bob talks about teachers, technology and what he’s grateful for.
What motivated you to create Learning A-Z? Any formative experience or anecdote you could share that really exemplifies your original purpose?
Bob: As a classroom teacher, I was always looking for resources or creating my own resources to improve my instruction. When I left teaching and entered publishing it was my goal, from the beginning, to create resources that would make a teacher’s job easier as well as meet the needs of all students in a classroom. To this day, I continue to look for ways to help teachers meet the needs of all their students.
Bob: Our mission is fairly simple – to help teachers do more for all students by providing easy and affordable access to quality, research-based resources.
How has the company been successful in pursuing this mission to date?
Bob: Our success can be measured by our consistent growth for 12 years. And we have performed well during some very challenging economic times for education. This growth is supported by the thousands of positive comments and testimonials we have received from teachers who use our resources. While I have been in publishing for nearly 40 years, I have never received any close measure of the positive feedback we get for the resources we deliver at Learning A-Z. The fact that so much of our success has been the result of word-of-mouth support we have received from our subscribers is further testament that we are doing something right.
What do educators have to say about the results they see with your products?
Bob: We constantly hear from our subscribers that our products are improving their student’s performance. I can’t tell you how gratifying that is to someone like me who cares as much as I do about helping teachers make a difference in classroom learning. The feedback we get drives me to want to do even more to support teachers in the difficult and extremely important work they do.
What’s on the horizon for the company in 2016?
Bob: We keep our radar up, constantly listening to teachers and monitoring trends so that we can provide continuous support to teachers in the classroom. The recent shift in instruction to achieve more rigor and better prepare kids for careers and college is something we remain focused on, along with developing resources that utilize technology to help promote learning. We constantly look for ways we can further support teachers and we pay particularly close attention to the role that technology can play in supporting their instructional goals.
What are your thoughts on education in general these days?
Bob: There is nothing more important to the future of our country and the entire world. All of us at Learning A-Z are dedicated to doing all we can do to promote worldwide literacy and prepare children for a productive and happy life. We alone cannot achieve this goal, but we intend to contribute in any way we can to support those who are charged with the responsibility of educating our children. We also recognize that while technology has a role to play in the future of education, that the teacher remains at the center of instruction and we will continue to do what we can to support them.
While I recognize the contributions that technology makes and can make, I never lose sight of the fact that teachers are the difference makers.
What are your thoughts on technology in education?
Bob: Technology offers many opportunities to support teachers in the work they do. And while I recognize the contributions that technology makes and can make, I never lose sight of the fact that teachers are the difference makers. It is why I believe that we must always stay focused on doing what we can to support teachers and provide technology-enabled products that help teachers achieve their instructional goals.
Anything else you care to add or emphasize?
Bob: Nothing more than to say how fortunate I am to do something I love doing — helping teachers prepare students for productive, happy lives. I know that sounds Pollyannaish, but I really mean it.
Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: [email protected]