Why I Do What I Do

Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.
Monday, November 26, 2012

It’s been exactly one year since I dropped out of my UCLA Urban Schooling Doctoral Program to pursue my passion to build an edtech company that I hoped would both empower educators to showcase their unique skills and talents, as well as enable schools to find the best educators possible for their students.

I firmly believed that every single child deserves to have a great teacher, that every great teacher deserves the chance to exercise their passion of educating students, and that my team and I had the desire, talent, and drive to create the tool that would turn these beliefs into reality.

As my team and I have expanded our platform to include connectivity, knowledge-sharing, and discovery, I’ve often times received questions as to “Why?” Mandela, why are you doing this? Why are you going in this direction? Is this the right thing to do?

Head shot of a young woman with long straight blonde hair smiling in front of a house, with the word Tioki.

Photo courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

As anyone who’s ever tried to build a company from scratch knows, you can never quite find the right words to fully express the passion and commitment you have for seeing your idea to fruition. Entrepreneurship is hardlike really really freakin’ hardand for me to leave a “secure” Ph.D. program to build something in one of the toughest, most bureaucratic, and slow-moving industries out there, was quite an ambitious task to undertake. But I was young, adventurous, and absolutely set on doing something that would empower and strengthen teachers. Ultimately, I believed that if I was ever going to do this, I had better do it nowand so I held tight to my faith and took the leap!

Now a year later, after interacting with thousands of teachers, school administrators, education organizations, and edtech companies, as well as witnessing firsthand the impact Tioki teachers are having on the lives of their students, there is no doubt in my mind that what we are building is something special; something that has the potential to connect many important pieces of the “education puzzle” for the first time ever!

So to all of those who’ve asked and to all of those who’ve wondered, here are the reasons WHY I have made it my goal to create the best online professional network for the education community:

1. Teachers Are Stronger When They Are Connected

I believe that teaching can be very isolating and that teachers need an easier way to learn from and share best practices with one another. Every connection made on Tioki gives teachers access to the knowledge, resources, and advice of other great educatorswhether they’re across the hall or across the country. Teachers shouldn’t feel like they’re stuck on their island of a school. Teachers should have access to the talent and resources of other islands.

2. Teachers Should Be Leaders in the Education Movement

I do not believe that teachers have to be “victims” of the education system. I believe that teachers can and should be leaders in the education system. Budgets are cut, policies are passed, tests are mandated, technology is adopted, articles are written, but where are the teachers? Why are the people directly affected by these things left out of the conversation? Why is that the opinions of the people devoted to and experienced in educating children are not involved in the decision-making process? I want to connect educators with school administrators, policy-makers, education organizations, and tech companies, so that educators can speak up, get involved, and influence the future of education in this country.

3. Teachers Deserve Positive Recognition

I believe that as more teachers connect and collaborate with one another, and become more vocal and involved, the teaching profession as a whole will be elevated, resulting in an increase of value and respect bestowed upon those choosing to educate the people of this world. I believe that teachers are tremendously dedicated, inspiring, and transformative individuals who should be recognized for the incredible work they do.

4. Teachers Have the Ability to Change the World

Teachers are people that made the choice to spend their time educating, inspiring, and motivating the current and future generations of the world. Great teachers are gifted with the unique talent to develop a desire in other human beings to be better, go farther, and contribute greatly to society. Great teachers connected to other great teachers exponentially increases the incredible impact they can make in this world.

I hope this message resonated with you. And I hope that you will do something to help us at Tioki make our vision a reality. Join us, invite friends, tell a teacher you know…Whatever you do, just know that it matters. Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge is the Co-Founder & COO of Tioki, the professional online network for educators. Mandela has had the unique experience of seeing the education industry from a variety of vantage points - as a teacher in both the district and charter school systems of Los Angeles, as an education researcher in the UCLA Urban Schooling Doctoral Program, and as a co-founder of her education startup. When Mandela's not working on Tioki, she's usually working out at her capoeira and zumba classes, or running around Lake Merritt.


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