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Pizza, Projects, People: Create a Startup Culture in Your Classroom

Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 13

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Wednesday, June 27, 8:00–10:00 am
Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 13

Emily Carle Hafer   Becky Shiring  
Your school building may be stuck in the past, but your school culture doesn’t have to be. Tech startups have redefined the traditional workplace and carved pathways to innovation. Learn how startups boost creativity, enhance communication and create collaborative environments. Use these culture-enhancing tactics to develop future-ready students.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Twitter
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Communication and collaboration
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.
For Administrators:
Digital Age Learning Culture
  • Provide learner-centered environments equipped with technology and learning resources to meet the individual, diverse needs of all learners.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Your physical school structure may be stuck in the past, but your culture doesn’t have to be. For 150 years, schools have followed a factory-model education system defined by hierarchical procedures, fixed mindsets and closed doors. Teachers are expected to create opportunities for future-ready learning, but that expectation is unreasonable if they don’t have support for innovation themselves. Creative and adaptive mindsets don’t happen by chance. School leaders must be intentional about the environment and culture they cultivate.

Startup culture has made a terrific impact on the world of business. This session will take a look at what makes startup culture so effective at fostering innovation and why organizational culture matters in education. The foundation of a successful company and a successful school comes down to one thing: the people. Learn tactics that startups use to enhance strengths of employees, open lines of communication and create a collaborative environment.

The session will take a look at the following areas affecting culture: communication, professional/personal development, workday structure, collaborative practices, and making space for fun. Participants will have time to look at specific practices and tools in each area and determine how they can be applied in a variety of different school scenarios. Finally, presenter and participants will discuss the impacts a positive workplace can have on teacher retention and student learning. Walk away with culture-enhancing tools that prepare teachers and students for the future.


This session will provide a look at the research that supports workplace culture and productivity. A video will be included from the "Smart Culture Awards" that showcases the award winning culture at tech startup, Squirrels. Additionally, specific practices that Squirrels has used to foster this culture will be highlighted through the use of photographs. This will lay the groundwork for looking at three areas that help define culture: Pizza (fun and safe environment), Projects (collaborative practices), People (focus on relationships and communication). We will share ways that schools and teachers have focused on these areas to create a great classroom culture. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to spin the "Pizza Wheel" which will allow them the opportunity to participate in one of several collaborative, culture building activities.

Supporting research

Richard Ingersoll, Professor of Education and Sociology, UPenn,
Dr. Ingersoll's research is concerned with the character of elementary and secondary schools as workplaces, teachers as employees and teaching as a job

The True Cost of Teacher Turnover:

More [+]


Emily Carle Hafer, Squirrels
Becky Shiring, Squirrels, LLC

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