Instead of controlling the ways people learn, the education system should accommodate for diversity of learning styles. There are several types of tests which decipher how you most effectively learn. If students were grouped into classes based on their learning styles rather than random selection — and those teachers focused primarily on that group’s most prominent learning style — logically, those kids would retain more information than the current methods used to group kids by age or grade level.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Thessalonika Embry.
Dr. Thessalonika Embry is the CEO of Learnday and OneTwentyEdu. At 14, she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology; at 16, she received a Masters degree in Business, and at 19, she earned her Ph.D. in Business Psychology. She designed Learnday, formerly known as Jump the Education Barrier, to help students of all ages shorten the education journey to college.
She has written several bestselling books concerning education, business, and investing. Her book, Jump the Education Barrier, has helped many middle and high school students, as well as working professionals, finish accredited college degrees in any major at the college of their choice at an accelerated pace.
Dr. Thessalonika has earned a distinct reputation as a catalyst of change with her books, which have sold over a million copies combined.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
You’re welcome! Thanks for this interview.
My mom homeschooled me until I was 11-years old. She homeschooled my brother and I while she was going to college. We were study partners, and very quickly, she realized that we had the ability to understand college material. At the age of 9, my mother decided it would be in our best interest to enroll me in college as soon as possible.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I cannot say there was one single experience that pushed me into developing this program, but rather several experiences.
It is widely known that University programs serve the public as institutions and themselves by being businesses and making money. As a 9- year old, after taking the college entrance exam, I had to demonstrate college readiness to the university administrative boards through interviews, assessments, and exams. I enrolled at College of Lake County at age 11. The most interesting experience was noticing the myriad of roadblocks that were prevalent in the education system regarding admission, tuition, enrollment, professors, grades, and graduation. I learned to find useful ways to circumvent certain unnecessary roadblocks that delay reaching academic goals. I realize that everyone should have the opportunity to expedite their education.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, OneTwentyEdu, Learnday, and Alleluia online courses are the three major projects we are working on right now. OneTwentyEdu is an accelerated college degree program that assists students in completing their Bachelor’s degree in only 4 months. Learnday is an opportunity for middle school and high school students to complete foundational concepts of homeschool within 2 months and then begin college. Alleluia is an illustrated Bible study curriculum designed to help people learn and understand the portions of the Bible that often seem complicated (such as Revelation, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and more). All three programs are more than just studying and taking tests. The courses are faith-based and designed to enrich the learning experience and better prepare people for their careers and interpersonal relationships.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are authority in the education field?
An expert is a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area. My team and I have taken the time and effort to learn everything regarding the education system so we are better equipped to best serve students and parents by providing quality academic solutions for a complex industry.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
The US education system varies from county to county and state to state.
Granted each state has an individual domain over their education system, however, the principles are the same, including but not limited to: curriculum, structure, social cultivation, etc. Most college graduates would say that the majority of what they use in their post-collegiate job is from what they have learned on the job. This is due to the fact that the education process in the US is very repetitive, lengthy, and costly. The repetition and lengthiness of the education system does not reflect thoroughness, and does not guarantee a quality curriculum. In fact, both are problems because people need to be able to service and focus on maintaining other areas of their lives, including health, family, and career.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?
- There is a recognition of the importance of online schooling, which allows people the opportunity to take charge of their own education. Previously, the general societal opinions regarding online schooling were often negative.
- Education is available for any person at any age. This is a good opportunity that many people fail take advantage of.
- Technology has vastly improved the ability for people to learn more efficiently and effectively. In fact, if it weren’t for the technological advancements, it would have been very difficult for the country to maintain consistent education throughout the 2020 school closures. Jump the Education Barrier programs implement the latest technology in order to ensure efficient success for our students.
- Teachers are finally beginning to adapt to alternative teaching methods. It has been proven in numerous studies that people learn in different ways. The fact that we are just starting to implement kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learning simultaneously is baffling but exciting.
- The most impressive thing about the development in the US school systems is that we as a population are finally starting to appreciate and value students and graduates based on competency rather than how much money they have or some standardized test that has little validity. For those of you who disagree with this point, simply ask yourself this question: If you cannot categorize people based on the stars in the sky, why should you be able to categorize people based on a test where they don’t give you enough time to finish?
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?
- Instead of controlling the ways people learn, the education system should accommodate for diversity of learning styles. There are several types of tests which decipher how you most effectively learn. If students were grouped into classes based on their learning styles rather than random selection — and those teachers focused primarily on that group’s most prominent learning style — logically, those kids would retain more information than the current methods used to group kids by age or grade level. Age is not necessarily coordinated with intelligence and cognition. Jump the Education Barrier briefly assesses how our students learn best and tailor each student’s program to accommodate their optimal learning needs.
- Teachers should be vetted more intensely to determine their capabilities and temperance/motivation to teach. Many current teachers are dissatisfied with their careers and salaries, and that tends to affect how they teach and how the students learn. It takes patience, love, and commitment to truly be an effective teacher.
- Technology is on my list of both good and bad things. Too much of any good thing can be considered glutinous and end up affecting other parts of one’s life. At Jump the Education Barrier, we have a very positive balance between human interaction and technological studying. We have a variety of team members the students communicate with to engage them socially and academically. Students who join our program are excited and amazed at the new ways of learning.
- Sometimes structure is required. It all depends on the student you are teaching, however, too much structure seems to push students toward having animosity toward education. Jump the Education Barrier has made an effort to almost eliminate structure entirely and allow for free-flowing learning. This gives the student an amount of control in their own life and creates an active decision-making response that they are interested in being engaged with.
- The last point is an extension off of point 4, but is important enough to be on its own. Students need to be able to work at their own pace. If you have a student who is incredibly intelligent and they have skipped three grades, but they are still required to learn at the same pace as the rest of the class, then skipping three grades only got them to another roadblock. Instead we should be giving children and adults the opportunity to take control of their own education and exercise their brains at the rate they feel comfortable. Of course, there should be checks and balances; however, alternative methods seem to be working well.
Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?
The US is doing a fine job at engaging students in STEM by spending money on advertising and getting celebrity sponsorships to guide young children toward specific careers. Our STEM professions need to take the time to engage students by going to their classrooms and presenting both advantages and disadvantages of the careers, but allow students to decide what is best for their own careers.
How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?
The ways that are being implemented to encourage girls and women are very diverse because different people have different experiences and interest levels. I think three ways to increase STEM engagement is to 1) speak with younger girls about careers, 2) establish positive role models in various careers so girls and women can be inspired, and 3) increase benefits and pay for women (including maternity benefits and inclusive health policies).
As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?
The differentiation between STEM and STEAM is quite interesting. People always try claiming that one is more important than the other, but that’s not true as they are both equally important. A thriving country, governing body, community, business, family or individual always has balance in their life. Instead of looking at which is better, we should be looking at who has a talent and passion for a certain career path. I am not talking about gender or race; I am talking about people. If a little girl grows up and is a gifted artist, why try and force her to study chemistry? We should instead push her to exacerbate and experiment with her talents so one day she may add value to her community by providing life and cultural representation through her art. It is the same if that same girl was gifted in sciences. This is not to say that one cannot be gifted in both the sciences and arts, but rather that instead of focusing on the career paths, we should be focusing on people and their passions.
If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Jump the Education Barrier is an example of how school systems could change for the betterment of not only children but for society as a whole.
We have incorporated psychology bases into the curriculum with these timeless concepts:
1.) Self-actualization — includes morality, creativity, problem solving, etc.
Esteem — includes confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect, etc.
Belongingness — includes love, friendship, intimacy, family, etc.
Safety — includes security of environment, employment, resources, health, property, etc.
Physiological — includes air, food, water, sex, sleep, other factors towards homeostasis, etc.
This provides our students the opportunity not only to grow through external knowledge but it allows for intrinsic growth as well. When our students move on to the next portion of their life, we want them to have an educational homeostasis in the various areas of their lives. We introduce this through simple things like laughter, philosophical discussions and plain kindness throughout the learning process. This helps add variety to the learning process which has supported our students’ learning capabilities.
2.) Our unique teaching style is tailored to the students’ learning style. It usually takes a few hours to identify a student’s learning style, but once that is accomplished, we begin devising plans on how to most effectively teach the students different subjects.
3.) Healthy body, healthy mind. Just as it is important to keep your mind healthy, it is important to keep your body healthy. During the introduction phase we provide our students with a list of healthy brain foods and promote a strong diet and regular physical exercise, and we offer students stipends for their favorite meals/restaurants.
4.) Laughter provides a sense of gratitude from the student to the information. When laughing, dopamine is released in the brain, and when your brain begins attributing that laughter with learning, we find that our students become more receptive to the information and are excited and more capable for longer study sessions.
5.) Many students who graduate high school don’t have any clues on how to navigate college. I am not talking about parties and socialization. I am talking about the administration and program completion. As I mentioned before, the structure of the current education is very complex, arduous, and challenging due to the roadblocks and barriers within the education system. The college prep classes provided in high school prepare students for positive study habits, but don’t actually teach them how to navigate these complicated hierarchies in order to accomplish their goals efficiently. We have student managers that provide assistance with these complicated facets of college. This gives the students the opportunity to relieve stress through positive ways.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Proverbs 2:3–4 is my favorite Life Lesson Quote because it encourages me to continue to trust in the Lord at all times and to demonstrate love and faithfulness with everyone I encounter (because God is faithful).
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
It is good to have goals and dreams of meeting with specific people, however, my family and I have found that working with the intention of letting God guide us to the right place and to the right people is one of the most powerful things we can do. This Scripture is important to me -Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
I would like to continue having conversations with God through prayer and communion, and if someone notices this article and finds a passion through the Jump the Education Barrier directive and appreciates what we stand for and how we operate, I have no doubt that God will guide them to meet us.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!