How did Ian Cohen, a 31-year-old educator-turned-entrepreneur establish an EdTech startup with an innovative approach for managing and developing teachers?
The Teach For America alum said, “I experienced firsthand how new teachers were faced with challenges to find creative ways to effectively engage students.” To solve that problem last year, he launched TARA Education Technologies.
“I have always gravitated to purposeful work and leadership responsibilities, … wanting to do work that I felt was bigger than myself,” said Cohen, who graduated from Emory University, where he received a bachelor’s in philosophy. His first job after college was teaching for TFA at Benjamin Banneker High School in College Park.
Growing up in a predominantly Jewish suburb of Philadelphia, Cohen credits his parents for teaching him how important education was to anyone’s upbringing. “My parents instilled a tremendous work ethic and sense of personal responsibility in me, so teaching ended up being a tremendous fit, even though it was extremely challenging.”
After teaching for TFA, where he had been named Freshman Teacher of the Year, Cohen worked with two friends to launch an education nonprofit organization called Next Generation Men & Women.
He told the AJT he was inspired to pursue his latest startup after participating in the leadership development experience in Israel, REALITY, run through the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. It was Cohen’s second trip to Israel. After leading that organization from 2014 to 2017, he said, “I wanted to reimagine teaching and learning in a much bigger way.” Two years later, Cohen officially started TARA Teacher Administrative & Resource Assistant, otherwise known as TARA Education Technologies.
Given the global lockdowns and impact of COVID-19 on low-income communities, TARA recently formed a national partnership with TFA, providing their 3,000 new teachers around the country with TARA’s platform for their summer virtual training. The partnership also offers TFA teachers additional teacher resources and support throughout the school year.
The main reason schools implement TARA is because it equips principals with the ability to manage and support their teachers, while allowing their teachers to maintain a significant degree of creative autonomy, Cohen said. He added that TARA “is unique in that it nudges teachers towards best practices with its guides, but still gives them the freedom to come up with ways to engage students that fit their personality and community context.” TARA provides teachers with data on their individual instructional style and offers a bank of strategies to drag and drop into their lessons and how to implement them.
The company is working locally with KIPP WAYS Academy and Teach For America Metro Atlanta, along with other schools around the country. When asked about reaching metro Atlanta’s Jewish school community, Cohen said, “We are actually not currently working with any Jewish day schools, although we would love to!”
While designing the platform, Cohen met with more than 100 teachers, coaches, and school leaders, mostly in Atlanta. “Most teachers and schools are forced to use endless amounts of Word/Google docs as a way to plan and hold each other accountable, but those tools are not at all tailored towards a teacher’s needs.” Instead, he said TARA was designed to be simple, intuitive and adaptable to any K-12 school environment.
Upon using TARA for the first time, he said a veteran educator in Atlanta asked, “Where was this 23 years ago?!”
Cohen and the TARA team are working on version 2.0 while raising money for their next funding round to help scale the company. “It seems like this is just the beginning,” he said.
“Learning is both what makes us human and what makes us unique individuals. I believe we can significantly improve the way we cultivate learning in our communities.”
To learn more about TARA, visit www.taraedtech.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Flora Rosefsky
- Ian Cohen
- Teach for America
- TARA Education Technologies
- Emory University
- Benjamin Banneker High School
- Next Generation Men & Women
- Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
- KIPP WAYS Academy
- Teach for America Metro Atlanta
- Jewish Day Schools
- College Park