How I Became A Teacher Intrapeneur. 4 Ideas to Inspire #TEWeek Followers.

If you work in a school system you take on a job that you've seen implemented as a student. You teach a common (or even less common subject). You are a principal or administrator. You work to make sure principals or teachers are effective. We all saw those people observing in the back of the room or the unknown school visitors with clipboards.

But, lately, there is a new role available in the field of education. That is the role of an intrapreneur. Intrapreneurs work within an existing organization to take direct responsibility for turning an idea into a successful outcome often through assertive risk-taking and innovation.

Put another way, intrapreneurs often see a need or something that is wrong but rather than complain, they do something to make it right. This is something I've done throughout my career.

Here's how.

  • The problem: There was no place for students to discover and develop their passions and interests.
  • The solution: I took an outdated, dusty library and created a learning center in a school. I connected with a law firm to get thousands of dollars worth of books donated. I connected with a marketing firm to get computers and educational videos donated. I worked with the local community to bring in programs like Junior Achievement. I worked with a program called Power Lunch to connect students with mentors who would talk, read, and write with them during lunch time. Prior to my coming to the school, the library stood dusty and unstaffed. I laid out an exciting vision that the principal could connect with and want to bring to her school.

2) Help Coaches Harness The Power of Technology

  • The problem: My district hired literacy and math coaches for every school. These coaches were carrying around huge binders of materials that also needed to be distributed to teachers, flip charts that needed to be shown and duplicated, and had a hard time meeting the demand for demonstrating best practices in delivering lessons and techniques such as conferring. The need was figuring out a way to get materials to teachers and for coaches to meet the demand of providing demonstration lessons.
  • The solution: Technology would solve this issue for coaches. I was hired to gather all the materials coaches need and digitize them. Gone were all the binders and papers. It was now neatly on every coaches laptop. Rather than having coaches run around demonstrating lessons and techniques, we taped the best educators doing those lessons and made those available to coaches to share with teachers. I saw the need. Shared the idea with Central staff at a coaching session and not long after, I was hired for the job.

3) Embrace Student Voice and Social Media

  • The problem: If we want students to engage responsibly online, educators must be in their worlds interacting and model appropriate behavior, but in some districts they were limiting online interactions or banning it altogether.
  • The solution: I spoke out about the issue by commenting on a newspaper story on the issue. That became it's own headline story which led me to explain the importance of educators interacting with young people using the tools of their world. After the story came out I met with senior leadership at Central and explained that guidelines and policies around social media needed to include the voices of students and teachers and we needed to provide professional development and lessons that supported teachers in helping our students engage online in ways that would lead to academic and career success. The department hired me as the Director of Digital Literacy and Citizenship to do just that.

4) Digital Engagement + Partnering with Companies for Learning

  • The problem: Teachers around the city were using the same resources but they weren't connecting with each nor were they connected to those providing the resources.
  • The solution: I worked with companies like Google, Microsoft, and PBS to create online and face-to-face programs for educators across the district to connect. For the first time teachers who were wild about various resources and programs could meet each other then stay connected in online communities. They were also trained so that they could support others in using the programs and products. This was a big need for companies and for our district. This has been my work for the past year as the Director of Digital Engagement and Professional Learning. You can see more about the program in the video below. Click here to watch video.

These are some of the ways I've achieved success as an intrapreneur in my career. What are some problems in your school or district? What type of work could you do to address them?

I'll be discussing how the process worked for me from 6-9 pm EST tonight (August 24th) withSteve Hargadonas part of his Teacher Entrepreneurship series. You can tune in to listen to my interview from 8:45 - 9:00 p.m.

Public schedule and viewer links are at:

The main event site is at

The attendee registration link (free) is at:

Tweet or follow the hashtag at#TEWeek.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.