New York City public school teachers are the kind of people who aren’t afraid of a problem. Case in point: Natasha and Adam McCabe — a husband and wife pair of teachers — recently founded edPeople, a site geared toward helping teachers network and build their professional communities.
On the surface, the site allows teachers to create profiles, upload their portfolios and make professional groups that can link teachers across the city. Principals can also post jobs, free of cost — different from other networking sites like LinkedIn. More important than that, they say, is improving the quality of education by allowing teachers to find the kinds of schools they most want to work in.
“Teacher quality really matters at a school, but paradoxically, teachers don’t have the same professional networks as people do in other fields,” says Natasha, who struggled to find information about teaching jobs when switching careers from fundraising. “It can be an isolating field. Your ability to find jobs that suit you and to network is fairly limited.”
Adam, who has taught high school math in the Bronx for seven years, said he faced a similar challenge when searching for the right teachers to hire at his school. “I took part in some interview processes, and it was hard to find the best candidates for certain positions.”
It is possible for teachers to find jobs through the Department of Education, teachers unions and other online resources, but the McCabes hope that edPeople will help get those in their field to take initiative. “Teachers are active, goal-oriented, assertive people. We want them to have the ability to make choices for themselves and not be passive in their careers,” Natasha said.
Another problem the website seeks to address is the high rate of teacher attrition, which is climbing according to 2013 data from the United Federation of Teachers. Nearly 10 percent of new teachers in New York City quit before their first year was finished in the 2011-2012 school year, and nearly one-third of teachers hired in 2008 are no longer in the city’s schools.
“Teacher turnover is a huge problem,” Adam said. “I’ve witnessed teachers who may have been happy at one school, but because of what seems like a lack of options they either leave NYC schools or leave teaching all together.”
EdPeople is a labor of love for the pair, and also one of hope. The site was recently launched in beta, but their ultimate mission is to have more of their colleagues end up as they are — happily teaching in schools where they feel supported and in step with their schools' teaching philosophy and administration.
“If we could create a thriving, supportive professional community among city teachers, it’s a great thing for everyone — especially students,” said Natasha.