May 7, 2024

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week: How Teachers Inspire Our Leadership

Earlier this week, we recognized the direct role that teachers play in shaping our business, and heard from three former teachers on their experiences, and how their career as an educator shapes their impact at Cengage Group, learn more here.

Outside of the teachers that now help power our business directly, educators have played a significant role in inspiring employees across our organization. Teachers possess the remarkable ability to touch lives and make a profound impact on an individual's trajectory. We spoke to some of our executive team to learn more about how educators have impacted their lives and shaped the work they do leading Cengage Group.


Dawn Ehlers, General Counsel, Jeri Herman, Chief People Officer and Jim Chilton, Chief Technology Officer, have all personally experienced the lasting impressions that exceptional teachers can leave.

Dawn recalled, “One of the teachers who had a significant impact on my life was Mrs. Ann Palm, my daughters' kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Palm went above and beyond to support my oldest daughter, who is profoundly deaf, by accommodating her disabilities while challenging her academically. Additionally, when my second daughter arrived for kindergarten in a full body cast, after spending six weeks in traction at the hospital due to a severe femur fracture, Mrs. Palm once again demonstrated her creativity. Despite the limitations, she found innovative ways to ensure that a five-year-old who could only sit on a bean bag still received the most out of her educational experience.” She added, “As evidenced by Mrs. Palm, I think teachers contribute significantly to development of students. They go beyond simply teaching the subject or course and focus on teaching the student, regardless of any challenges or unique qualities they may have.”


Jeri shared, “I have really fond memories of a high school math teacher, Mr. Tom McGowan. He was the type of teacher who was so enthusiastic about the subject that students had no choice but to also get excited. He gave everyone, in particular the girls in the class, the belief that they could excel in math. At a time when many girls were led to believe they would never be as good as their male peers, this was so important. Though I only had him for one year, he continued to check in with many of us through the rest of our high school careers, pushing us to remain engaged and enthused as we toiled away at differential equations. I credit his influence for my decision to minor in mathematics in college; had it not been for him I probably never would have even considered it.”

Additionally, Jeri shared a similar sentiment to Dawn, agreeing that teachers contribute the overall well-being and development of students by going beyond just teaching the curriculum. “I had two children in college and one in high school during COVID - a completely disruptive and challenging time for all. I believe that the teachers who really excelled during this time were the ones that were able to find the right balance between holding the kids accountable and giving them the space to work through the stress and anxiety that plagued them as their worlds were turned upside down. While many teachers were criticized during this time for not pivoting fast enough, my children had quite a few who not only pivoted but embraced the new reality and put learning first.”


Jim reflected and shared, “there have been numerous teachers and coaches who have made a significant impact on my life. However, my full appreciation didn't come until much later when I realized the sacrifices these individuals make in the spirit of improving others’ lives; it’s a true testament of their character. One teacher who stands out is Mr. Fox, the head of the English and Literature Department where I attended high school. His teachings extended far beyond the subject matter in the classroom, focusing on the practical applications to life that we would come to understand as we grew older. Many years later, as my children entered high school, I was thrilled to learn that Mr. Fox would also be their teacher. He is a remarkable individual who dedicated 50 years to the same school, positively impacting the lives of thousands of students. Additionally, I’d like to recognize Coach Kokulais, who taught me invaluable lessons about interdependency, leadership and pushing beyond my perceived limits. He, too, has helped and inspired thousands of children throughout his journey, which is why I found it fitting to highlight him during Teacher Appreciation Week.”



Learn More:

To learn more about how Cengage Group supports educators, check out last year’s Teacher Appreciation Week blog featuring business leaders, Rya Conrad-Bradshaw, Bob Batten, Paul Gazzolo, Jim Chilton, Edwin Robles and Sandra Bruce, who share how they support teachers and students with education technology.