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Introducing Jill Hedrick: A Q&A with the New CEO of Vernier Science Education

Vernier Science Education is proud to introduce our new CEO, Jill Hedrick! Jill is a passionate leader focused on the intersection of technology and social impact. Joining Vernier shortly after our transition to a Perpetual Purpose Trust, Jill’s wealth of leadership experience and knowledge will help anchor the company in our core mission and values. 

She has previously held executive positions at NWEA, Turnitin, Schoology, and Edmentum/APEX Learning, among other education technology companies, and has deep experience serving both domestic and international markets. Outside of work, you can find Jill enjoying time with her family, hiking the Northwest trails with her dog Scout, skiing, and engaging in the community.

As a leader in education technology for more than a decade, what initially drew you to this field and how did you get started?

I first came into the EdTech world when I joined NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association), the developers of MAP (Measures of Academic Progress). That company, much like Vernier, was founded by educators and researchers and had a long history of working to give teachers reliable assessment data about their students so that they could support their learning journey.

Transitioning to EdTech felt very natural, and the mission orientation of many Edtech companies aligned with my own values. My dad was a teacher, a principal, and an administrator—and then he later taught at the university level, so I grew up deeply understanding the importance and value of education. I feel very connected to the work we do every day, striving toward tangible impacts in education. Collaborating closely with teachers to create stronger, more effective learning environments is productive and personally meaningful for me. Since that first experience working with educators, I’ve never looked back. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges or opportunities facing EdTech companies in science education today?

One of the biggest challenges, and opportunities, is that the educator community is changing. There has been, and continues to be, a transition in educator demographics. Many seasoned teachers are leaving the profession, and there aren’t enough teachers to fill those vacancies. This also means there is a new generation of teachers coming into the profession with different educational and classroom experiences, familiarity with technology, and expectations about hands-on learning. They also have classrooms with a generation of students who have gone through the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning at critical education periods and are now transitioning back to a different set of expectations at school.

It’s part of our mission to serve our newer teachers and to enable their success as they develop in their roles. We need to be consistently engaged with our science educator community, asking, “What can we do differently to support this new generation of science educators?” so that we can be centering teachers in all of our work. That’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity that we’re already planning for—we have a lot of steps in place to learn more about this evolving community so that we can be a better partner to those educators.

There is also an opportunity to look more deeply at connecting science education to what happens beyond the K–12 experience. For example, how does taking a chemistry class connect to a student’s trajectory after graduation, whether that’s pursuing higher education or starting an apprenticeship or vocational program? Helping students understand what STEM classes could open up for them in terms of professional choices is really important. We want students to really be able to connect the value of STEM literacy with the real world, and I think that’s something very close to the heart of Vernier.

What resonates with you about Vernier’s culture and mission? And how does the shift to the Perpetual Purpose Trust reflect that mission?

From the very first meeting I had with Dave and Christine Vernier and John Wheeler, I was so impressed with the culture that’s been built here. You can see it from the minute you walk in the door—the energy is positive and welcoming, and I was impressed with everything I saw. It had a true personality.

One of the biggest things that resonated with me was the transition from a partnership model LLC to a Perpetual Purpose Trust. That is a very concrete indication that the organization is committed to a mission. At Vernier, we’re actually ensuring that we will continue to give charitably to the science community, support our employees, be there for our educators, and work to create a STEM-literate society. That aligned so well with the things that are important to me—being a part of a healthy, dynamic organization that has a mission, that is having an impact, and that creates something that’s much bigger than itself. 

At Vernier, we’re actually ensuring that we will continue to give charitably to the science community, support our employees, be there for our educators, and work to create a STEM-literate society.

There is an explicit understanding in the organization that we are here for our educators and committed to creating meaningful classroom experiences in the sciences. Our purpose is to help science educators be successful teaching their students. And of course we want to be around for a long time; we have to be stewards of the business. But overall, my philosophy has been that if you put your users at the heart of things, and you’re anticipating and meeting their needs, then you’re creating strong relationships, and you’re continuing to evolve as your customers evolve. This enables us to continue to grow and deliver on our mission.

Find out more about our transition to a Perpetual Purpose Trust.

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