Hi, I’m Karen Vaites (rhymes with dates*).
I’m a passionate K–12 education entrepreneur and an unapologetic evangelist for the truly excellent practices and products that have shown an ability to improve student outcomes.
I’ve built 6 startups, grown three pioneering nonprofits, visited 36 countries, raised one amazing second grader, and kept up with zero Kardashians.
I dork out about education research and how we can bring it into practice, and my mind thinks in memes. If loving memes about curriculum is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
My main obsession is on-ramps: how do we help educators discover the research? Join important discussions like our current national conversation about reading instruction? What helps someone take those first few steps? These questions keep me up at night.
Most of what I know about education, I know from my amazing Mom, a stellar principal-turned-curriculum-director, and the rest I know from teachers, coaches, CAOs, superintendents, and math and literacy experts kind enough to school me.
I enjoyed a front row seat for the recent “curriculum renaissance” while serving as an early leader at Open Up Resources, the nonprofit provider of top-rated, high-quality, openly-licensed curricula. Often I was the first person to see the excited teacher tweets and stories about these new materials: accounts of engaged students, powerful student work, and eventually outcome gains. The best part: similar positive stories were coming out of districts using most of the “all-green-on-Edreports” curricula, not just Open Up’s materials. In the end, teachers made me an evangelist for excellent curriculum, one tweet and blog at a time.
Today, I spend my time advocating for research-aligned literacy and math practices, in partnership with some of the country’s most impactful nonprofits.
‘If there is a book you want to read, and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’
– Toni Morrison
* Ask me about my paternal great-grandfather, whose traditional Lithuanian name – Vaišvįlas – received a hatchet job on his way through Ellis Island. They dropped a few consonants, added a T, and left one too many vowels, rendering my name unpronounceable for all of my teachers growing up, and pretty much everyone else. #AmericanStories