The Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF), a Vanderbilt University-based schooling-policy nonprofit, this week announced the creation of its first 12-member “Teacherpreneur cohort” to consider solutions to what the organization sees as major challenges in education.

NPEF—which aligns itself with progressive causes like “culturally relevant curricula,” higher teacher pay and increased public-school funding—is creating its new program with financial support from the ubiquitous online merchant Amazon, which also owns the information-technology-platform company Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

The Teacherpreneur group, made up of teachers from Metro Nashville Public Schools, will be tasked with developing solutions to what NPEF deems “systemic” concerns including “access to parent involvement initiatives, access to quality teaching and access to gifted and talented programs for underrepresented students.”

The dozen educators selected will commence a series of meetings next year to design concepts for addressing schooling challenges. Cohort members will ultimately pitch their prototypes to a panel of experts; highly rated proposals will garner their designers’ cash prizes and seed money totaling more than $25,000. NPEF will provide updates on the project online at and via its Facebook page.

“The inaugural Teacherpreneur cohort represents an incredible group of teachers who have proposed some innovative and strategic ideas that could lead to some game-changing solutions for students,” Katie Cour, NPEF’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to begin their journey of taking their solutions from the concept phase to prototypes in a way that showcases the creativity, expertise and compassion these educators possess.”

Teachers to participate in the Teacherpreneur initiative are Quanita Adams of Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, Addison Barrack of Margaret Allen Middle School, Nikki Hendricks-Bolling of Shwab Elementary, Alyssa Janco of Eagle View Elementary, Justin Montenegro of Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School, David Myers of J.T. Moore Middle School, Daven Oglesby of Lakeview Elementary Design Center, Dyetra Olige of LEAD Southeast High School, Paula Pendergrass of Robertson Academy, Chriseni Pulse of Cumberland Elementary School, LaKesha Rayford of Glencliff STEAM Magnet Elementary School, and Nita Smith of I.T. Creswell Middle School of the Arts. 

“We are thrilled to invest in these amazing educators as they explore solutions to some of our toughest challenges in school,” Courtney Ross, Amazon’s senior manager of external affairs in Nashville, stated Wednesday. “Amazon is excited for Teacherpreneur to harness educator talent and innovation and provide funding to help effect positive change in our public schools.”

Amazon, the world’s largest web retailer that initially made its name selling books and music, has spurred controversy regarding its approach to education. It was reported this summer, for instance, that the company donated hundreds of copies of books by left-wing racialist Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You to Arlington, Virginia public-school students. The study guide for that text, also distributed to the students, dismissed what it called the “myths” that “America is a meritocracy” and that “truth and justice (or law and order) should be valued.”

Amazon has also drawn scrutiny for taking cues from the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to block participation by those engaging in what the organization considers “hate speech.” The SPLC frequently labels public figures and institutions with politically center-right or religiously orthodox orientations as “hate groups” or extremists. Advice from the nonprofit led to Amazon preventing the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization supporting free association for religious communities, from participating in the retailer’s Smile program, which lets customers pick charities to receive part of the proceeds from Amazon purchases.

And concern about Amazon’s involvement in education hasn’t just come from the right. The leftist organization OurFuture has lamented that AWS Educate, Amazon’s program to develop schooling resources, has urged school districts in Virginia near a new Amazon headquarters to focus on technological curricula that would particularly benefit the company’s future workforce.

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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Students in Class With Teacher Reading” by Ilmicrofono Oggiono. CC BY 2.0.