“We must have the courage to speak out and provide leadership for changes needed as we transition from a World of Schooling to a World of Learning.” – Kathy Hurley, USA

After over 40 years in the education arena, Kathy Hurley has experienced – and driven – monumental change.  Whether through her work as a special education teacher, her vast expertise in the publishing and technology world, or her dedication and commitment to “leading the charge” for 21st century skills with the Pearson Foundation, Hurley has spent her life advancing literacy and education for all. The many awards she has won, including the prestigious SIIA Ed Tech Impact Award in 2011, show just how widely respected she is.

I was honored to speak with Hurley about not only her experience, but about her passion for service learning, what she sees as promising trends today, and exciting trends that we can expect to see in the future.

“Education for all. That’s the promise,” says Hurley. “Technology – especially mobile technology – is the promise that we have been looking for.  Kids are going to be able to learn wherever they live. They will value learning throughout their lives. There won’t be a stopping and starting to learning – it will be life-long.”

I hope you enjoy my interview with Kathy Hurley as much as I did.

What is your proudest achievement?

It has been a privilege that my whole career has been in education. Working in an industry and knowing its importance to the betterment of everyone is awe-inspiring.  I feel I have been able to influence change in the organizations and associations that I have worked with over the years. There have been many milestones along the path over my 40 years in the industry with a wide variety of companies, but the ones that stand out the most are  recognition by industry leaders of a job well done.  To be inducted into the Association of Educational Publishers Hall of Fame and receive the Software & Information Industry Association Education Impact Award were outstanding, but to receive the very first IBM Team Player Award was a very special moment. To be recognized by one’s peers for hard work and dedication to innovative ways to enhance the education of every person, whether through the printed word or technology, makes me very proud. When my compassion for education has left a mark on the students, people and organizations that I have had the privilege of working, with that is my proudest achievement!

Can you describe the teacher who most influenced you?

I was most influenced by the teachers who set high standards for me and believed in my ability to learn, but at the same time were fair and demanding.
I recall that my high school English teacher, Mr. Lehr, taught me not to write like I talk rather to write, review, cut; re-write, review, cut – in other words to be more concise in my writing… and I have been faithful to that. Tweeting limits you to only 128 characters so that lesson has come in handy.  My teachers encouraged me to pursue success in all that I did and they expressed caring and support for my hard work and achievement.  I learned compassion from working at summer camps for special needs children, which also steered me in the direction of special education as a college major.  In the corporate world, one of the best teachers I have had for developing leadership skills has been Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s CEO.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education today?

The revolution that is occurring in the digital and mobile world has presented us with an opportunity that will open up learning in ways that can personalize, in a dynamic  way, the offerings that the industry provides both in products and services. How people learn and teach is undergoing transformation and the use of technology will greatly enhance results for all. Technology will also strengthen the communication link between parents and teachers, which will help ensure a student’s success. The classroom will not be the only place that students learn and quality resources will need to be available at scale. For example, the Pearson Foundation’s global innovation takes learning not only into schools, but museums, libraries and homes to name a few. Actually, learning can take place anywhere in today’s mobile environment and should.  Another opportunity would be transforming leaders at all levels.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make a difference in education?

Every American should make supporting education their civic responsibility in this rapidly changing global economy. Learn as much as you can and then give back what you have learned to your community —  whether that is family, organizations, or individuals.  It is important to learn from everyone. 

We must always keep the focus on the goal – what is truly important is providing all students with a quality education in a world that is rapidly changing.  We realize that public/private partnerships supporting education are more important than ever, and that through collaboration we can attain this goal. My advice would be that people of all ages should get involved in service learning programs.

We must have the courage to speak out and provide leadership for changes needed as we transition from a World of Schooling to a World of Learning.

What is your greatest hope for the future of education?

That someday – no matter where they are – all students and adults will have access to quality resources to ensure that learning is life-long. That people will value learning throughout their lives and be open to the changes that are needed to ensure opportunities for all.  There should be an emphasis on 21st century skills including creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration to produce more well-rounded learners.  Core subjects, as well as arts and music, should be tied into real life experiences giving children the ability to compete in the global economy.

About Kathy Hurley

Kathy Hurley, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, for Pearson Education and the Pearson Foundation, is a 40-year veteran of the education industry. Throughout her career in the education industry Hurley has also served in top executive positions in both publishing and technology companies.

She currently serves on several key industry and education advisory boards,  has been at the forefront in leading the charge for 21st century skills and is Chairman of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). She was elected to the Technology Transforming Education Compact (TTEC/DC) Board for 2010. Hurley is the former Chairman of the National School Boards Foundation (NSBF) board. She also sits on the boards of three top education associations dedicated to the use of technology in education, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN); the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA); and National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET). She is also past president of the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and is actively involved in the AEP Government Relations Committee.

Her work with the philanthropic arm of Pearson, the Foundation, has taken Hurley around the world and into various countries where Pearson has a strong presence renewing her commitment to the need for new and innovative ways to help children learn. The global commitment of the Foundation brings a wealth of knowledge to Pearson to help them develop new approaches to education.

In addition, Hurley has received various awards for her service in the industry.
In 2001, Hurley was named to receive the CoSN’s first ever Outstanding Private Sector Achievement Award and in 2003, she was inducted into the Association of Educational Publishers Hall of Fame for her achievements and service to the education publishing industry.

Hurley began her career in education working with learning disabled students, after receiving her Masters degree at Jersey City State College. To this day, she continues to support her undergraduate institution, the University of Dayton, by serving on their Advisory Board for the School of Education. Kathy is married to Charles Blaschke, President of EducationTURNKEY, an education information-focused group that provides market research, market projections, information on funding, and market strategy development.

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