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Back to School: Teacher Appreciation in an Evolving Vertical

While air temperatures around the world don’t quite seem to be signifying the end of summer, the incoming supply lists and ensuing shopping trips to pick out new backpacks, shoes, and lunchboxes certainly indicate it’s that time of year: back to school. Over the past two and a half years, we have collectively grown a newfound, heartfelt appreciation for our educators at all levels as they adopt new teaching techniques to adapt to new learning styles. We first want to thank our educators and then dive into how education technology trends are shaping future generations.

Photo by Gustavo Fring

First up: Teacher appreciation

We can’t discuss the education vertical without first recognizing the amazing instructors shaping the next generation of leaders. Our educators may have more obstacles, challenges and adaptations to make than any other profession. A pandemic-stricken school year(s), in particular, has sharpened our sense of showing appreciation amidst sweeping changes to education around the world.

Think of how impactful your favorite teacher was in your life. Whether it was a kindergarten teacher helping you read for the first time or a high school teacher assisting you on your college application essays, there’s a good chance that someone immediately popped up in your mind. What made them so special? What is it about their teaching style that has stuck with you, all these years later?

For me, personally, there were two. First, it was my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Wiramihardja (better known by Ms. W. by a bunch of ten-year-olds trying to pronounce it) at Lesslie Elementary School in Rock Hill, S.C. Ms. W. was patient, kind and encouraged creativity from her students. Her enthusiasm for my daily writing assignments is one of the reasons I love to write today. She allowed students of all levels to learn and grow at their own pace, something I’ve especially grown to appreciate as I recognize how peers around me all absorb information in very different formats.

I also think of Mr. Connors, my eighth-grade English teacher and basketball coach at O’Brien Middle School in Reno, Nev. Mr. Connors, effortlessly, could gain the attention and respect of an entire room. When he spoke, everyone listened; it wasn’t out of intimidation, it was out of captivation. Mr. Connors would make traditionally boring subjects fun again by introducing games and creative ways to stretch the status quo of other classrooms. I greatly appreciate the life skills of hard work, determination and respect that he taught both in the classroom and on the court.

I asked a few of our TD SYNNEX executives if they had their version of Ms. W. or Mr. Connors and here is what they said:

Reyna Thompson — Sr. Vice President, North America Product Management

Teacher: Ms. Sullivan, middle school English teacher

“Ms. Sullivan provided me with a complete love of English literature. She chose great pieces to study and was very passionate, expressive and deep thinking. I remembered her focusing on words and phrases that made some readings sound like poetry. To this day, I remain an avid reader and continue with a passion for classic English literature.

The classics can be so relevant to what we are experiencing in the modern world. For example, Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte) is one of my favorites. Jane seeks independence, something essentially unheard of at that time. She works to become financially independent in a time when that wasn’t typical. Jane demands self-respect and did not settle. I enjoy referring to that book when speaking to young women.

When I was young, I was speechless when I heard her review the passages…. soaking up every last word and feeling. Today, I would spend time having real conversations, discussions, even disagreements about the literature.

It’s all in the approach and impression you leave on your audience. If your passion comes through, it will gain attention and appreciation for what you are talking about.

Simon Leung — Chief Business Officer

Teacher: Ms. Priddis, eighth-grade English teacher, McChesney Junior High School

“By way of background, I grew up in Oakland, CA in the 70s and 80s and attended inner city, public schools. At the time, most of the students were minorities and came from lower-income families. It was a rough school. One day during eighth grade, a fight broke out in the middle of my English class. The kids, including myself, scattered away from the fight but stayed close enough to watch. At one point, one of those combination chair-desks (where you had to raise the desk to slide into the seat) was thrown and hit the English teacher, Nancy Priddis. At that age, I had never seen an adult break down in person, but she did.

The security guards came in, broke up the flight, and removed the fighting students from the room. Ms. Priddis then had us realign all the desks, sit quietly and read until the end of the period. Throughout this time, Ms. Priddis stayed to herself and tried to recover her composure. After the period bell rang, we all got up and I caught Ms. Priddis’s eye. She looked at me and smiled, not a forced smile, but a hopeful one. That moment has always stayed with me as a moment of tenderness, kindness and perseverance.

Steve Jow — Executive Vice President, Sales

Teacher: Mr. Koenig, fifth and sixth grade

“I wasn’t getting very good grades in school and standardized testing was just coming of age. I had tested in the upper percentile, and they had implemented a new program called the mentally gifted minor (MGM) program.

This program was meant to expose students to more progressive teaching methodologies and advanced classes/topics. They felt that I wasn’t doing well academically because I was bored with the standard curriculum or didn’t learn in a traditional manner. The program was meant to address that.

Mr. Koenig was my first teacher in the MGM program for two years and I remember our class being exposed to more subjects, taking more field trips, and working on very different projects than the other fifth and sixth graders. At first, I remember thinking how odd it was to learn about topics such as architecture and that we would take field trips and have to produce sketches/examples of architecture. At first, I remember thinking how odd it was when he divided the class and we were asked to each create a different district within a pseudo city, each with a set of required infrastructure. I remember thinking how much work it was to produce a book report every week and an associated project to present. Didn’t matter what the book was about, just that you had to do one.

However, over time and especially now I can see how his different approach helped me. I developed an appreciation for different topics because of how we taught the topic, not just by reading about it. I think how he would drive us to collaborate on projects helped me learn how to work with others and manage a project. I believe his openness to letting you read or learn about any topic as long as you maintained the discipline of a deadline helped me explore topics of my interest but also gave me a sense of the deadline. And even how he let you present the book report helped me in my presentation skills.

The advice I learned: Spark that curiosity so that you are always seeking knowledge. Find out how you learn so that you are always motivated to learn. Identify how to coach/teach people by finding out what motivates them. To listen and try to expose people to things that spark their interest and motivation.”

EdTech: A vertical market in a critical era

Education Technology, or edtech, has been particularly disrupted in an age of digital transformation. Edtech is defined as introducing technologies and tools to facilitate better learning for students. Even pre-pandemic, classrooms were moving away from 20th century standards and incorporating more use of technology as part of everyday coursework. Nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 150 countries had their education disrupted by COVID-19, leading to an accelerated rise in technology adaption in the classroom and at home, at all levels.

The current edtech industry is forecast to be worth $127 billion by the end of 2022, but exponential growth which is expected to rise to $377 billion by 2028. Incorporating edtech in the classroom has many benefits like its impact on learning, its cost-effectiveness in the long run and the flexibility it offers to let students learn at their own pace and in their preferred environment.

Ongoing and upcoming trends for the edtech market in 2022:

  1. Digital Learning Experiences — Jobs that are most relevant today may not have existed 10 years ago and may be obsolete 10 years from now. The implementation of digital learning experiences allows for an ongoing educational platform that goes far beyond primary school, high school and college.
  2. Using AI and Data — Edtech devices, tools and programs present tremendous amounts of data, growing at 30% per year, that can be used to power AI-powered solutions. Since each student is learning separately and behaving in different ways, AI engines can identify trends and provide a more optimized user experience.
  3. XR, VR and AR — Extended reality (XR), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are finding immersive ways to mix the physical world with the real world. Using these technologies allows educators to provide mental stimulation in new, creative ways and presents a new opportunity for self-paced and tailored experiences.
  4. Gamification — Adding gamification to the edtech experience is a new way to transform the education experience, providing immersive and competitive ways to encourage learning. Gamification can excite learners in new ways while allowing for the integration of familiar devices with unfamiliar educational content.



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Mike Fitch

Mike Fitch

Content marketer and communicator through and through. ASU grad with more than 10 years of B2B tech marketing/communications experience.