Phyllis Coletta, J.D.

The greatest joy in life for me is uplifting and inspiring others to see their greatness. I’ve been coaching and mentoring young people since I was the young mom of three boys. But there’s a difference between parenting and academic coaching, especially in these stressful, extraordinary times. I’d love not only to coach kids but relieve parents of this burden as they navigate the pandemic.

My high energy and altruistic nature drew me to Rutgers law school, where I had visions of “helping others” and defending Constitutional rights. As the single mom of three young kids in South Jersey, though, I ended up making the world safe for major insurance companies. While I didn’t like the practice of law (I was a litigator) I loved the research, writing, and arguing part of it all. You think teenagers like to argue? I was the kind of lawyer that could wear you down, so I love it when teens test their mettle with me. I love and encourage critical thinking.

After 15 years as an attorney, I returned to the classroom (I had taught 7th Grade Language Arts for two years right after college). Frankly, a room full of teenagers was refreshing after a decade plus of lawyers. They are funny, passionate, annoying, wild and loving humans, but the system eroded my spirit. Over a hundred and twenty kids a day, in and out, in and out; standards, admin, parents, tests, tests, tests… Were kids learning anything or just receiving a rote download of facts? That was the early 2000s, and I took a decade off to pursue other dreams – I quit everything, sold my house and – five days after my youngest graduated high school – I moved to Colorado to become a cowgirl. Not a good one, but enthusiastic to a fault. I also became an EMT and Zen Buddhist chaplain in that decade. I was a career wanderer way before it was popular.

From 2016 to 2018, I taught in an alternative high school in Seattle. In my small program there was a math teacher and ELA teacher onsite and I ran the computer lab where the kids did all their science, social studies and electives online. I coached them through it, changing assignments and curriculum to meet their needs. I rarely had over 13 kids in my room and I remember thinking, “This is what education should look like.”

Many teachers love being the Sage on the Stage. I want to be the Guide on the Side – teaching kids how to think things through, access good resources, solve problems, and love learning. Frankly, from my first foray into the classroom in 1978, nothing much has changed in education. We are still dumping facts into young heads to raise good little factory workers.

We are absolutely committed to ensuring that our business model does not devolve into white privilege widening the education gap. We will allocate profit to serving kids on the margin while we get our 501(c)3 exemption status. Kara and I are both also committed to changing the world, and we do this one-kid-at-a-time. We are turning a pandemic disaster into a new model for education, reaching every kid everywhere.