Education Technology Consultant, Director of Education Programs - The Satya & Rao Remala Foundation

How did your interest in education begin?

As a product of immigrant parents, I was always taught that education was a ticket to opportunity. My father came from a small village in south India and it was through education that he was able to come to the USA for the pursuit of opportunity for him and his family.

But it was a single day in the fall of 2008, where I saw firsthand the inequities in the U.S. education system even in our backyard. As a participant in the regional Leadership Tomorrow program, our education challenge day had us spend the morning at Bellevue’s Newport High School talking to the principal, educators and students. Our box lunch was waiting for us 5 miles west at South Seattle’s Franklin High School, where we spoke to principal about a recent shooting and talked to the teachers about how they had to ration paper printing for the month.

The challenge day opened my eyes to fact that the quality of education you receive totally depends on the ZIP code that you live in. Since that challenge day I have dedicated much of my energy and skills to improving the quality of education for the kids and families that need it the most. I truly believe that it is through quality education that we can help families break out of multi-generation cycles of poverty and give them opportunity to flourish in the 21st century economy.

How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?

Shortly, after the Leadership Tomorrow challenge day experience, I joined the Board of Directors of Powerful Schools, a great community organization focused on closed the achievement and opportunity gap in South Seattle elementary schools through reading, writing and after school enrichment. It was an honor to serve on the board, but I knew I had more to give. In 2010, I left my technology management consulting job to focus on education issues full time. Since then I have been part of core leadership teams of regional non-profits such as the Community Center for Education Results and Washington STEM. I am passionate about using data and technology to radically transform education. For the last couple years I have been focused on designing, building and deploying technology products to improve educator effectiveness and professional learning.

What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?

Research tells us that the biggest contributing factor to a student’s growth and success is the teacher in the classroom. But teachers these days are under-resourced and asked to do more than just teach academics. We need to ensure that teachers have tools at their fingertips to allow them to personalize their instruction to their unique sets of students. In addition, we need to treat educators as the professionals that they are and give them tools to continue to grow and deepen their skills.

In today’s 21st century economy, many jobs require a foundation in science, technology, engineering and math skills (STEM). My father came to this country with a higher education in computer science and engineering and as a result he encouraged my sisters and I to pursue our interests in math and science so that we could support ourselves with STEM careers. We need to ensure that girls and kids of color have strong foundational skills in math and science but also have mentors who look like them and show them that they can pursue a career in technology and engineering.

Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.

Without a doubt, I want to take a moment to recognize my high school science teacher, Mr. Fenoli. He made science fun and engaging every day of class. The thing that I remember the most, is that he would start class by hiking up his pants and encouraging us to embrace our inner “geek.” I went to an all-girls high school and Mr. Fenoli encouraged each of us to ask lots of questions and pose real-world problems that we could solve through science and inquiry. Mr. Fenoli was formative in developing my love for science and as a result I went on to pursue a degree in human computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.

Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.

I have a love for hiking and the mountains. Almost 10 years ago, I participated in Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO) and raised money for low-caste schools in Nepal. I got the amazing opportunity to visit schools we raised money for and then headed out on a 10-day trek up to Everest Base camp. The trek was an amazing experience, I hope to do something similar someday with my husband (Viren Kamdar), and my two boys, Kailash and Kahaan.