Growing Up With TNTP

I was 24 when I got hired at TNTP fourteen years ago. My only prior experience was my Teach for America placement in Baltimore. I came here because I loved that TNTP was a tiny, fearless upstart—a little collection of scrappers. Most of us were recent classroom transplants. We put everything we had into ensuring students received a better education and that the lights stayed on, despite some fairly long odds. 

At the point of our last leadership transition in 2007—the one that included Ariela Rozman taking over as CEO and me as President—we had grown from those humble beginnings into a staff of about 100. Over three-quarters of them had started at TNTP while still in their 20s. Almost half, like me, had been 25 or younger. It’s sort of crazy to think about it now. 

One of the first things Ari and I realized was that we couldn’t remain a start-up forever. Sooner or later, TNTP had to grow up. Otherwise, we had no hope of retaining the incredible team we were building, and the quality of our work—which was our calling card—would fall apart.

At the time, every staff member could have gotten a substantial raise by going just about anywhere else, including Blockbuster Video (they still existed then). We’d recently started a retirement savings program but couldn’t afford to contribute a match to supplement what employees put aside. We’d developed a culture that assumed everyone worked almost constantly. It’s how we scratched out a niche. But it was dizzying for single people and downright untenable for those who had families and wanted to be more than phantoms to them.

We knew it was unsustainable. Over time, we’ve had to figure out how to make TNTP a place you could stay for the long term, not just your roaring twenties. 

Today, our staff of 100 has become nearly 400. We live in 41 states. Where once we had a grand total of four staff members who were 40 or older, today we have 61. Three-quarters of our staff members are 30 or older. We haven’t entirely shaken our work-life balance challenges—who has, really?—but we’ve made enough progress that many folks have stayed here, even while raising a family. Last year close to 50 members of staff took a parental leave. That’s a lot of beautiful babies in the extended TNTP family! 

Now that Ari and I are getting ready to leave later this month, and preparing to hand over the reins to two fantastic leaders who will take over in our place, there’s probably nothing that makes me prouder than the way we all grew up together, and the way we’ve grown up as an organization. I know that TNTP’s future is bright because more than ever, this is a place where tremendous people can build careers. 

We’re out of the survival stage. We’ve progressed through the growing pains of adolescence. Now, TNTP will show how a collection of driven practitioners can deliver results for students by ensuring they spend their days in classrooms full of the good stuff. I can’t wait to see what our adulthood looks like. Nor could I be more confident in our team.

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Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

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About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP