Meet the Entrepreneur: Jenna Shaw Aiding Teachers Through Wellness Programming
At 35 percent, Baltimore’s teacher turnover rate doubles the national average, and Jenna Shaw wasn’t immune to this. A Baltimore educator with nearly a decade of experience, Shaw found it became harder and harder to have the energy she needed to be a really good teacher. Instead of accepting or even perpetuating this reality, the Baltimore resident founded The Whole Teacher.
The Whole Teacher is designed to address teacher wellness, thereby increasing the retention rates of educators in city schools. This includes listening to educators’ unmet needs, providing on-site health and wellness programming, guiding schools to rethink how they can create healthier environments and conducting exit interviews with teachers to better understand why they are leaving.
A member of the Social Innovation Lab’s 2016-2017 cohort, The Whole Teacher launched its pilot program in fall 2016, and is currently building its School Health Platform that connects teacher health data with programming to streamline health solutions within schools.
Below, Shaw answers questions about The Whole Teacher, her goals and the benefits of Baltimore.
In 5 words, what does your company do?
We help keep teachers healthy.
What are your goals, and how will you get there?
The Whole Teacher looks to expand our scope and impact over the next year by offering programming that reaches teachers in Maryland, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
By building school wellness programs that help both predict and prevent teacher burn-out, as well as tend to current teacher health needs, we will move to work with districts across the East Coast to bring in solutions to teacher satisfaction and development that move the needle on changing how the teaching profession feels and treats our educators.
Why have you chosen Baltimore as your startup’s home?
Baltimore is the home of everything I love. I grew up here and my life is here. I couldn’t imagine starting anything meaningful anywhere else.
What opportunities make it a good place for growing a business?
Baltimore is leading the nation in opportunities for edtech and health startups. Baltimore is at a pivotal point both in a social content, but also in education reform.
The issue of teacher retention is huge for our city and we believe we can have an enormous impact on students, schools and community by building the foundation of our company here in Baltimore.
In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?
Baltimore offers a diversity and social energy that I believe sets it apart from other startup centers around the country.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?
Start sooner. I wish I would have started a company 10 years ago while I was in college.
What book are you currently reading?
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
What innovator do you look up to? Why?
I am a huge fan of the arts. I think that Banksy is one of the most innovative artists of our time. The way he is able to spread social messages and comment on society is worth paying attention to and fascinating.
It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?
What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?
I love art. I spend a lot of time watching, listening and participating in art in all forms. Our theaters are amazing and I often walk over the Baltimore Museum of Art from my house to unwind.