How do you take a fabulous STEM curriculum and turn it into a successful education company? You take a multitude of talented edupreneurs, each with different experiences and practices, and you inspire them with a dream of bringing STEM education to the forefront with unprecedented accessibility and attainability.
That is what Accelerate Learning has striven to do, and although at times the road is rocky—as with any business—the team's drive reminds them why they work so hard.
It also takes great leadership and vision. CEO Vernon Johnson is not only the company's chief cheerleader, but he also sets the vision and direction to accomplish the goal of being the preeminent STEM program in America.
"When I was approached by the Provost of Rice University to look into this project and advise, I was really impressed... I knew that this was not only a great edtech STEM curriculum but also a great business opportunity," Vernon says.
Vernon has had a long and successful history in both education and business. With over 30 years in education, 20 of them as an education businessman, he brings to the table a dual capacity to see both the educational and business benefits of the STEMscopes program.
HIs career journey began in Indiana at Ball State University where he obtained his bachelor's and masters degree in Speech Pathology with a minor in Psychology, followed by his doctorate degree from Indiana University in School Leadership and Policy Studies and Special Education.
His education career began in speech pathology, where he rose through the ranks to become the Director of Special Education in Washington Township, an urban area in Indianapolis. He eventually took a position as the Deputy Superintendent for Indianapolis Public Schools before exiting Indiana altogether to become a Superintendent in Minnesota. Trying to escape the cold climate and follow his dream of eventually making it south, Vernon took a position as Superintendent in Richardson, a suburban area of Dallas, Texas.
It was here that he eventually had his first taste of business when he was approached by an individual who believed that Vernon would be the right person to help lead a startup education company focused on solving the illiteracy problem. Vernon took the leap and successfully built that company to $100 million in sales before selling it in 2006. From there, he joined Best Associates as a partner and as a member of a small team, creating five startups in the higher education space.
"I went from working in education to running an education business...so I have really always been able to use my educator skills in my two careers, "says Vernon.
Best Associates successfully spearheaded the development and launch of several education companies, including Academic Partnerships, a company that helps more than 45 state universities across the United States take their degrees online and then help grow their enrollments in their programs.
One of the other companies that Best Associates started is American College of Education (ACE). ACE is now the fifth largest graduate school of education in America.
ACE has now become a key partner of the Accelerate Learning's professional development future. Our company will launch the NISE (National Institute for STEM Education), which will allow educators to become STEM certified and schools/districts to receive STEM accreditation of Excellence. The certificates will lead to ACE advanced degrees for many teachers nationally.
So what else does the CEO see in the future of Accelerate Learning?
"First and foremost we need to get STEMscopes in every classroom in the United States and we will become the dominant science education provider, for PreK-12. Second, we will become the nationally recognized thought leader in STEM education and the place to go for teacher development, STEM research, and quality STEM curriculum," he says.
Besides his leadership role with Accelerate Learning, Vernon lives a life outside of business that is full of family, travel, golf, cabin time, and friends.
Here at Accelerate Learning, we cannot wait to see what else is in store for us and where in the education and business world Vernon Johnson will direct the team next.