Peg Maddocks, Ph.D. of NapaLearns, wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Recognized for leading NapaLearns response to COVID-19
Professional background: Public school teacher and administrator for 10 years, then 40 years in industry, leading innovative technical training programs and focusing on online learning since 1984.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in elementary and special education, Rhode Island College; Masters in Education, Administration, Rhode Island College; Ph.D., educational psychology, Michigan State University
Describe your organization
NapaLearns was founded in 2010 to transform education through technology and teaching to prepare students for the 21st century world of work.
Since then we have invested over $12 million in programs that provided seed-funding for technology for all public schools in Napa County, professional development for all K-12 teachers to transition teaching to a student-centered project-based learning environment, and launched a career readiness initiative to help all students become aware of careers in the digital workplace.
We have two full time staff members and two contractors to help us plan, market, and implement our programs. Our board of directors has included school district leaders and community members with a passion for technology-enabled education, including several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
Our two signature programs going forward are the NapaLearns Fellows master’s program, with 170 graduates, and the NapaLearns Virtual Career Academy to provide learners in high school and above entry-level career certification courses and exams to help them be successful in college and further their careers for high paying jobs in the digital workplace.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I began my career as a kindergarten teacher and then served as director of a program for gifted and talented students in K-12 public schools.
During my Ph.D. program at Michigan State University, I discovered the world of corporate training and landed a job at General Motors, helping skilled trades experts design and teach courses.
Subsequently, I started my own consulting firm, then I spent 14 years at Cisco Systems, where my teams created the first large scale e-learning programs for partners, customers, and employees.
My entire career focused on designing and launching innovative learning solutions in the corporate world, and I was fortunate to have access to the most advanced instructional technology tools, as they emerged, to lead a world-recognized training program, the Cisco Career Certifications.
After taking an early retirement from Cisco in 2009, I was hired by NapaLearns, which took me back to my roots in public education, where we transform public school classrooms by investing in technology, teacher professional development, and career readiness.
I have a 31 year old daughter who works for a video game company and lives in Irvine, California, who is the most important person in my life!
What is your role in the organization?
As executive director I’m responsible for creating a strategic vision and plan with our board, then executing and measuring the impact of our programs. I’m also responsible for fundraising and stewarding our loyal, large donors as well as securing grants.
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We work very closely with the schools in Napa County to support programs we invest in, such as teacher training. When the shutdown occurred on March 13, our work with teachers was suspended.
We were also in the middle of implementing an industry certification program for high school students and planning a countywide career readiness program for middle school students. All of this work paused as district leaders dealt with the crisis to create a remote learning environment.
What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?
We are a small, but action-oriented team of innovators who experienced the opposite effect than other nonprofits, decreased demand, so we pivoted. We asked ourselves, “How can we focus on our strategic initiative for career readiness for students without impacting school operations?”
Within a week we started planning what would become the NapaLearns Virtual Career Academy (NLVCA), offering free industry certification courses and exams to high school students outside of the school day.
With a tremendous amount of research, networking with partners, and designing the program, we launched information sessions in June and courses began in August.
In addition to high school students, we had interest from dozens of older people who wanted to upskill and jump start careers, so we opened it up to anyone living or working in Napa County.
We have 90 learners ranging from 14 years old to 66 enrolled in six programs focused on in-demand digital skills and careers, and we are planning to fundraise and continue the program beyond next year.
What achievement are you most proud of?
In addition to launching the NLVCA, we sought ways to continue to support teachers with their shift to distance learning. We have given scholarships to 170 teachers over the past ten years to get a master’s degree in innovative learning and teaching from Touro University.
As experts in online learning with technology, district leaders tapped into their expertise, forming teams to help their fellow teachers be successful in the new learning environment.
Because of our infusion of classroom technology and teacher development over the past ten years, all of the schools in Napa county were prepared to face distance learning head on, not only surviving, but thriving during this challenging time.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Our biggest challenge right now is fundraising. We have found that donors are being cautious about investing in programs in the schools as the staff cope with so many changes and demands.
We are changing our business model to directly serve teachers and learners with programs we design and implement, without depending on school leaders.
We are building a campaign to attract new donors, grants, and sponsors to invest in our NapaLearns Virtual Career Academy to help people of all ages succeed in the digital workplace.
What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?
Midway through our first term of the NLVCA, we are hearing from our learners and instructors that the program is very successful.
So we will go full speed ahead to build and expand the program to reach more students. We believe that this unique program will impact hundreds of high school students, college grads, and people who are looking to improve their skills and wages, impacting the entire Napa community and economy.
What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?
We have hired a consultant to develop a fundraising campaign for our new initiative. We are looking forward to expanding our use of Salesforce to manage the development plan and contacts.
And of course, like the rest of the world, what would we do without Zoom?
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
We define our profession as supporting programs that prepare youth and adults to be successful in college, career, and community. With the evolution of the digital workplace, everyone is going to need to be proficient in digital tools and new ways of working.
We will be providing teacher professional development about blending distance learning and classroom instruction. Students will be working more self-sufficiently, with instructors as ‘guides on the side,’ and college will not be the only path to career success.
“It used to be that programmers had to go through universities to reach employers, and go through employers to reach users. Now both are optional. You don’t need a degree to get hired, and you also don’t need to get hired: you can go directly to users. It’s a great time to be alive!” Thomas Friedman, NYT opinion, October 20, 2020
Describe a fond memory you have about working with a staff member or client of your organization?
I have many memories of supporting our teachers on transforming their teaching and learning by leveraging technology. Many of our teachers in the master’s program said they were ready to retire and the program re-energized them.
A teacher in Calistoga who worked with underserved children was a favorite of mine because she had lost her passion for teaching but our program renewed her.
“After 15 years in the classroom struggling under the old habits of No Child Left Behind, it was almost as if NapaLearns became a soul mate who inspired me to push my own boundaries, follow my heart, and ride my passion into new ways of teaching.”
What other community involvement would you like people to know about?
I’m on the board of Leadership Napa Valley and If Given A Chance, supporting college bound ‘at risk’ youth. I volunteer often and participate in many community events.
What motivates you to volunteer your time and talent?
I believe in the mission of the organization first and foremost, but I also like to help where I can bring my own professional experience and leadership traits to make the work more effective. I also need to truly like the people who run the organization and their board members
How do you think the role of the board member will change in the next five years?
Boards will become smaller and members will be more actively involved in continuously improving the way the work is done and clients are served. I hope boards, including my own, will include more diversity, representing our community, and more young people.
What are the lasting impacts on people volunteering or serving on boards as the result of the COVID-19 crisis?
Winston Churchill said, “Never waste a good crisis” when encouraging his countrymen during WWII. I believe this moment has given all of us an opportunity to take risks, to break rules, and to innovate….to cause ‘good trouble.’
Most admired business person outside your organization: Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Current reading: “Rage”, by Bob Woodward; “Covenant” by James Michener, NYT
Most want to meet: Barbara Streisand
Stress relievers: Walking & hiking, pilates, golf, binge watching culinary shows and documentaries
Favorite hobbies: Golf, golf, golf
Social media you most use: Our organization uses Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Personally, I’m more of a ‘lurker’.
Buzz word from your industry that you dislike the most: 21st century skills — we’re two decades in already!
Typical day at the office: Well, first off, my home is now my office most of the time! I found that with the shutdown I still needed a daily routine, so it hasn’t changed much, except I work in a t-shirt and shorts.
Sometimes it is ‘business on the top and casual on the bottom.’ Answering lots of emails, instant messaging all day long, Zoom meetings. Now though, I’m able to ‘go to’ more workshops and conferences because I don’t have to take time driving to them – so that’s a good thing!
Best place to work outside of the office: My house where I’ve been working for the past 8 months!
Words that best describe you: Energetic, decisive, big idea generator, upbeat
Anything you want to add? After working since I was 17, I’m finally thinking about retiring. I’m so glad to end my career where I began — helping public education and students of all ages follow their dreams!