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Chris Ashley: Empowering Leaders To Transform Education

Chris Ashley: Empowering Leaders To Transform Education


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Chris Ashley, senior associate real estate, purchasing and operations (RPO) at Teach for America. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Welcome Chris. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me what challenge Tech for America is addressing?

Chris: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! Teach For America finds, develops, and supports equity-oriented leaders—individually and in teams—so they can transform education and expand opportunities with children, starting in the classroom. We operate in partnership with 50 regions. Our headquarters are in New York City, and in addition to using our office space for Teach For America’s work, we also partner with 22 mission-aligned nonprofits to give them access to dedicated workspaces.

Spiffy: That is amazing! What motivates you to tackle this challenge?

Chris: When people ask me why I work for a non-profit organization, I always reply that it is much easier to go to work when you know you’re working for a good cause. I believe in Teach For America’s vision that all children should have access to an excellent education, and that motivates me.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?  

Chris: Being able to share our office space is so special. We’re able to host mission-aligned organizations that provide a wide range of opportunities for students who may not otherwise have access to them. We have organizations that teach coding, train debaters, provide experiential learning, and help students get organized to engage with policy advocacy. To be able to host these activities in a community setting is a privilege.

Spiffy: That’s indeed a multi-dimensional impact!  Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Chris: Teach For America recently launched TFA Ignite, a national high-impact virtual tutoring program designed to accelerate learning and foster belonging with students. The program has been really successful and has grown quickly: it doubled in size from 728 tutors partnering with 2,300 students to 1,650 tutors partnering with 5,000 students in just one year. It’s exciting to be able to offer additional avenues for people to support educational equity for students. 

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Chris—it’s been an honor!

Chris Ashley served with Teach For America for the last 15 years. Previously, he worked with Operation Smile and the US Army in Germany as a civilian. He has a Bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of Dayton. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 29, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.