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Meet the educators at Turnitin: Why educators are important in edtech

Karen L. Smith
Karen L. Smith
Senior Teaching and Learning Specialist
Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Senior Marketing Writer / Adjunct Professor of Writing

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Educators at Turnitin contribute to the workplace in myriad ways. As an edtech company, employees with education backgrounds make sure that our tools never forget their pedagogical footing, are relevant to our educator customer base, and offer the support customers need to get the most value out of our software. Our educators on staff enrich our work environment as we pursue our mission to ensure the integrity of global education and meaningfully improve learning outcomes.

For instance, I (Christine) have taught English/Language Arts (ELA) in secondary schools and writing in higher education from undergraduate to graduate level programs in the United States. My background in the classroom is critical to the way in which I understand our products and in turn, how I write about pedagogical content. Whether whitepapers or blog posts, my firsthand experience hopefully gives me deeper insights and empathy for fellow educators.

And I (Karen) have taught English/Language Arts (ELA) in secondary schools, as well as serving as an instructional coach for ELA and Social Studies teachers. Creating pedagogically sound instructional materials has always been a significant portion of my work, and this is still true. While education has changed significantly in recent years, the need to support teachers and students has not. Whether working on instructional or professional learning materials, writing blogs, or presenting at conferences or to colleagues, my work remains grounded in supporting students as they learn how to do their best, original work.

So we thought we’d take a little moment to introduce you to some of the educators who work at Turnitin and how their pedagogical backgrounds inform our products and services as well as the way we talk about our software. This is by no means a complete list of our employee base with education backgrounds, but a sampling of voices that inform our products and services.

Educators at Turnitin ensure our products are pedagogically sound

Our products are meant to support academic leaders, teachers, and students in the learning journey. From academic integrity to assessment, our tools are guided by pedagogical principles. And our educators are an added bonus to ensuring that our products align to these best practices as they take feedback from educators and as they develop and design tools.

“I taught high school math and computer science for six years in Baltimore City before starting the PhD program at Carnegie Mellon's Language Technologies Institute. Most of my research dealt with applications of machine learning and language analysis to educational and social science. My teaching background, as much as this research, laid the foundation for the automated scoring and feedback in Turnitin's Revision Assistant, which was designed from its first post-it note as a student-focused tool. Honoring the needs and voices of students and teachers while developing AI-powered educational technology is what keeps me going!” –David Adamson, Principle Machine Learning Scientist

“I was recruited to Turnitin specifically to speak for and to educators and students. At the heart of every role I've held here has been the core task of making sure that our products, processes, messaging, and services are pedagogically sound and make the lives of teachers and students better. When we build something new, my team of veteran educators and I are involved in early concept testing, all the way up to Q&A when something is on the verge of being released to our users.” –Patti West-Smith, Senior Director Customer Engagement

“Having a background in pedagogy (especially one tied to technology and pedagogy), has been the perfect background for my current work. I'm able to talk to faculty about what they ‘want’ to do in their classes (talking about best pedagogical practices). The best technology follows good pedagogy (rather than the alternative), and being able to talk teaching and assessment first before bringing Gradescope into the conversation has been critical to my experience.” –Howard Fooksman, Senior Solutions Engineer

“Being an educator in an edtech company makes a big difference. It is all about empathy for the challenges that both educators and students face, which gives me a true feel of the educator-student dynamic. I’ve faced—and still do—their joys, their struggles and their journey. My practical experience as an educator, and even further, as a user of our own tools, allows me to voice teacher’s concerns and expectations and enables me to act as a liaison between the insights of educators and our solutions. And with empathy comes profound respect and understanding, which naturally extend to integrity: a cornerstone of education. I‘ve witnessed how vital it is to uphold academic integrity and this commitment is a compass that guides me in my own journey at Turnitin.” –Catalina Londoño, Senior Manager Customer Onboarding LATAM & EMEA

Learn more about Gradescope

Educators at Turnitin help us understand and anticipate customer needs

Our products address real customer needs. And our educator team members provide resources, insights, and thought leadership that make sure educators get the most value out of Turnitin products.

“So much of my previous experience, especially my work as an instructional coach, has informed the work that I do today, from using best practices in change management efforts to discussing how customers will use the data available via our ExamSoft product. But my previous experience has provided me with the most important quality: empathy. I can truly relate to the successes and challenges our customers face every day as I’ve been where they are and walked in their shoes. I love that relationships are at the heart of what I do—both as a former educator and now as a Turnitin cheerleader.” -Jessica Carrier, Client Engagement Manager

“I have first-hand experience using Gradescope in my own teaching, as well as navigating university processes for implementing a new technology and growing adoption across campus (I was instrumental, along with several of my math colleagues, in convincing Oregon State University leaders to invest in a Gradescope license). This helps with sales conversations because I can share my genuine enthusiasm for Gradescope and how it was a real game changer for me, my colleagues, and my students. I also bring a strong understanding of the challenges university faculty and administrators face with implementing new technology and growing adoption, and am able to speak on their terms and in their parlance on these topics.” –Lyn Riverstone, Senior Solutions Engineer

It's my job to represent how teachers think, what will bring them the most value, and how a feature or product will fit into their workflows. My team also builds supplemental resources that will help our users not only understand how to use our tools, but get the most out of them instructionally. I am also charged with leading our onboarding teams for our integrity products so I am also charged with understanding andragogy—how adults learn—not only pedagogy. In this respect, our end goal is to make sure our users get the most value from our products, as quickly as possible. We tailor our approaches to the goals of the institutions and users to help realize that objective. My teams also help to support our thought leadership efforts, working on the front lines of new and emerging trends, such as when we have worked with research partners around the world.” —Patti West-Smith, Senior Director Customer Engagement

Learn more about Turnitin Feedback Studio

Educators at Turnitin support teachers with educational resources informed by firsthand experience

The resources (e.g., blogs, customer programs, instructional materials, webinars, and whitepapers) that Turnitin creates for educators are informed by firsthand experience. This ensures that what we say is backed by pedagogy and accompanied with deep empathy for teachers and academic leaders. Our materials address real-world scenarios that can make a difference.

“When my team is focused on creating content for educators (whether it’s product-related or not), we’re able to situate ourselves in their shoes and consider what will actually help educators (and in turn, their students), because in the end that’s our primary goal. This perspective extends beyond content development and shows up in conversations with the product team, blogs, customer programs, webinars, and even training.” –Kristin Van Gompel, Manager Customer Engagement

Check out Turnitin's academic integrity resources

Educators at Turnitin connect pedagogy to customer onboarding

We recognize that customer onboarding and continuing education about Turnitin products should be connected to pedagogical principles. To that end, our team enacts what they’ve learned as educators to help customers learn and gain the most value from our tools. We are, in effect, still teaching, each and every day on the job.

“I have eleven years of experience as a primary school teacher in the Australian public school system where I was especially interested in the teaching of reading and writing. I now guide my team in the use of story-telling techniques to help our users connect to Turnitin's product offerings and recognise the value these products can bring to their students and to their own grading and feedback workflows. Like any good book, our training sessions should hook you in within the first few minutes. We want our sessions to inform, excite and leave users feeling inspired to incorporate their Turnitin product into their lessons and assessments right away.” –Michael Ryan, Senior Manager of Customer Onboarding, APAC

“My background as an educator has helped me so much in my two and a half years here! When I first started on the Gradescope team, I spent a lot of time working directly with instructors to support new user experience and onboarding. I drew on my experience giving feedback to students and the time it took me to grade to connect with other instructors. Then, I moved into a role where I spoke with users and administrators, who each interact with our tools differently. Having been a teacher really gave me a better understanding of the challenges educators face in the classroom and how to tailor each conversation to the needs of the educators I'm speaking with. Not only do I understand our solutions, but I really understand the pain they experience. By drawing on my own experiences, I have been able to customize my approach, addressing the needs of our diverse customers so they can make the most of our products in their classroom.” –Sam Bonk, Sales Enablement Manager

“My experience as an educator has significantly influenced my role at Turnitin to deliver training sessions to educators, coordinators, and school principals in Latin America, with a strong emphasis on promoting academic integrity. Drawing from my varied background, I am able to guide educators in effectively incorporating technology into their teaching methodologies. My familiarity with different educational levels uniquely position me to comprehend the distinct requirements of educational institutions and tailor technology-driven solutions accordingly. In essence, my pedagogical background equips me with a well-rounded educational perspective. This enables me to bridge the gap between traditional teaching methods and innovative technological approaches, ultimately enhancing the overall educational experience within the realm of tech-education.” –Tánit Arzate, Professional and Educational Service Consultant

Learn more about ExamSoft

Educators at Turnitin bolster our corporate culture, which centers a passion for learning

Turnitin’s culture is imbued with a passion for learning, which is furthered by the very fact that many of us are former instructors.

“I approach my work at Turnitin with this in mind: we are all lifelong learners and should be making mistakes. I try to be gentle with myself when something doesn't turn out the way I expected it to because—having worked with the youngest students—I understand that this means I am trying something new and giving it my best. Luckily, I work with an incredible global team that feels similarly (many of whom are former teachers themselves!); we all do our best to learn side-by-side and try again tomorrow.” –Audrey Campbell, Senior Marketing Writer

I’ve worked at Turnitin for ten years, but ‘once an educator, always an educator’ and I think my colleagues see that clearly!” –Kristin Van Gompel, Manager of Customer Engagement

Conclusion: Why educators are important at Turnitin

Any software product ought to understand customer needs and address them in specific and effective ways. When a product is focused on learning, as all educational technology products are, then it is important to have educators on staff to ensure products are pedagogically sound, and that the process of learning about our software is relevant and empathetic.

While our employees all prioritize education, educators at Turnitin bring firsthand experience and nuance so our customers get the best possible results for both themselves and for students. In short, educators at Turnitin and in edtech are a vital part of our ecosystem.

Pedagogical biographies of Turnitin educators highlighted in this blog: