On December 2, 2010, AEP will induct Marilyn Burns, Math Solutions; Diane Trister Dodge, Teaching Strategies, Inc.; and Rachelle Cracchiolo, Teacher Created Materials into the Educational Publishing Hall of Fame. Here in her first installment, Diane Trister Dodge, Founder and President, Teaching Strategies Inc., discusses the person who had the greatest influence on her and the advice she would give to those choosing educational publishing as a career.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why?
Many wonderful people have influenced my career, so it is impossible for me to pick just one. During my first year of teaching, I co-taught with Sylvia Lewis at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Sylvia (mother of Anthony Lewis of The New York Times) had been teaching for many years. She set a standard for me for talking with children respectfully, taking genuine interest in their ideas and theories, and basing curriculum on their interests.
In 1966, the Office of Economic Opportunity sent Allie Mitchell, a professor from Texas Southern University, to Holly Springs, Mississippi. Allie was charged with helping Rust College set up a new Head Start program that would serve 900 children and employ community members as teachers. She interviewed me for a teaching position and convinced me that I was the most qualified person to create the educational program and train the teachers. Allie persuaded me to accept the role of the Education Coordinator for the program. While I felt totally unprepared and overwhelmed by this challenge, taking it on changed my life. Since that time, I have devoted my professional career to supporting teachers by translating the latest research and theory on child development and learning into practical curriculum and assessment systems to improve the quality of early childhood programs, especially those serving our most vulnerable children. I have also been inspired in my career by Helen Taylor, who hired me in 1972 to train teachers in a Model Cities program in Washington, D.C. and who later became the Associate Commissioner for Head Start in the Clinton Administration. Lilian Katz, Barbara Bowman, and Jim Greenman taught me much about good early childhood practices and how to present information in an organized way.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in educational publishing?
My advice would be to stay close to your customers, listen to what their concerns and struggles are, develop materials that are practical and responsive to what customers need, and continue to involve them in evaluating the usefulness of what you produce. One of the greatest strengths of Teaching Strategies is that our authors, editors, and professional development specialists are from the field. We have been in the shoes of our customers, so we can share our own experiences and use them to develop materials that we often wish we had when we started teaching. The staffs of our marketing and customer service departments talk with our customers and hold focus-group meetings to learn more about how they use our materials. Our customers also help us identify emerging needs. It is worth spending the time to develop a clear mission and vision for a company, to ensure that everyone understands and sees how they can contribute to accomplishing both, and that the values of the company are also shared.
Diane Trister Dodge founded Teaching Strategies, Inc. in 1988 with a clear mission: to make a positive difference in early childhood education. Starting as the sole employee in her basement, she has expanded the company to a staff of 80 and a network of more than 50 professional development specialists. Teaching Strategies is dedicated to providing the most effective resources in four essential areas: curriculum, assessment, professional development, and family connections.