Kassia Gandhi (née Kukurudza) is the Academic Affairs Director at D2L. Gandhi will be sharing perspectives, research and insights into different issues K-12 education faces today via D2L’s Teaching and Learning Studio blog.
This may be one of the least likely ways to kick off an education-focused blog series, but I never wanted to become a teacher.
My parents were teachers. My grandparents were teachers. I saw the late nights, the weekends full of grading, the “summers off” spent teaching summer school. I also saw the love and excitement my parents had for their profession. Nevertheless, I rebelled against it. I decided to study genetics and biological anthropology for my undergraduate degree, convinced I would one day be a forensic scientist, or a genetics counselor, or maybe even a primatologist.
But somehow, I always came back to education. My summer jobs were tutoring, counseling at academic summer camps or volunteering in local elementary schools. When I would visit my parents on the weekends, I would get drawn into debates about Bloom’s taxonomy or the merits of standardized testing, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. In my fourth year of university, I started filling my timetable with anthropology classes related to childhood and development. When the time came to apply to graduate schools, I chose instead to enroll in teacher’s college.
My first few years of teaching middle school, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I got to spend every day doing something I loved, and I got paid, too. Sure, there was the occasional grumpy parent or behavioral issue—and I’ll never forget that prep coverage class with over half of the students on individual education plans (so much planning!)—but I was making a difference.
Burnout can sneak up on you, especially as a teacher. You are constantly giving more of yourself to your students, your colleagues, your administration—sometimes it can feel like you’ll never catch up. I first realized I was burning out when I signed up for an additional qualification course in math. I had done other additional qualification courses during my after-school hours and enjoyed them, but suddenly, I was feeling overwhelmed. Creating authentic lessons wasn’t fun anymore, coaching the basketball team at recess was stressful and trying to embrace new teaching modalities like technology just felt formidable. I needed a break from it all.
So, I did something that, years later, as I run seminars for teacher candidates or mentor classroom educators, always garners a surprised reaction: I left the classroom. But I knew that I’d need to find another role in the education space. As luck would have it, I found D2L. I’d heard of the company before—we used its learning management system in the district where I worked—but it was still a scary leap over to the private sector. I worried that I would become disconnected from teaching and learning. I wondered if I was making a mistake giving up my pension and job security. Most alarming of all, I thought I would lose my purpose. Instead, I embraced a shift in focus, from “I’m going to help my students succeed” to “I’m going to help other people’s students succeed.” In the end, it was an easy transition to make.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky to work with K-12 organizations around the world, consulting and supporting in the areas of technology-enabled learning, system and school adoption of new practices, and professional learning. I’ve had the opportunity to consult for education systems across numerous states and countries, and to engage in reciprocal learning with educators from all backgrounds. I’ve been privileged to work with organizations like the Educator and Leadership Institute, doing research on education in Haitian schools; Education Research Development & Innovation, as a member of their advisory board; and the Education Onward Council, exploring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 education. My master’s research on teacher perceptions of technology in Haiti gave me new insights into ways that teachers embrace innovation to overcome challenges and reminded me why I became an educator in the first place.
Throughout this blog, I’ll share my perspectives, research, and insights into different issues we face in K-12 education today. I’m blessed to have a robust network of educators, leaders and partners who regularly share with me what’s going on in their worlds, and I hope to pass along their stories. I’ll have a focus on educational technology and systemic change, but this won’t be a Brightspace- or D2L-focused blog. It’ll be a place to get real about K-12 education and all that it encompasses. I hope we’ll learn from each other along the way.
Kassia Gandhi (née Kukurudza) is currently the Academic Affairs Director at D2L. She has worked in education for over a decade, beginning as an elementary teacher. Specializing in technology-enabled learning and teaching, Gandhi helps education organizations around the globe create effective learning ecosystems that put teachers and students at the center. Gandhi has a Master of Education with a research focus in Haitian school systems and the role of education in fragile contexts. In her free time, she acts as a mentor for Faculties of Education and volunteers with Family and Child Services, working with foster children.