10 Things You Didn’t Know about Wendy Kopp

CEO Wendy Kopp

51-year-old Wendy Kopp is best known as the CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, a multinational operation with the aim of eradicating educational inequalities and giving all children the opportunity to achieve their potential. Since its inception, the company has expanded exponentially, with its reach now extending to 50 countries and six continents. While Koop transitioned out of the CEO position in 2013, she remains an advocate for the organization and an active member of Teach For America’s board. To find out more about the successful entrepreneur, keep reading.

1. She developed the idea for Teach For America as a student

Koop’s idea for Teach For America can be traced to her student days at Princeton University. Under the guide of educational pioneer Marvin Bressler, Koop developed the first seeds of her idea in her 1989 senior thesis, “An Argument and Plan for the Creation of the Teacher Corps”. A year later, the idea had flourished into reality; along with investor Whitney Tilson, U.S. Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Douglas Shulman, and President and CEO of Knowledge Is Power Program Richard Barth, Kopp established Teach For America’s first corps. Almost 30 years after its creation, the organization’s founding aim to “enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence” is still as integral to its mission as ever.

2. She’s chronicled her experiences in two books

Those interested in discovering more about Koop’s personal insights and experiences can do so via the two books she’s published; One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way (2003) and A Chance To Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education For All (2011).

3. She expanded globally in 2007

Prior to 2007, Koop had concentrated her efforts in effecting change in educational inequality to America. In 2007, concerned about the standards of education on a global scale, Koop began to scale up operations to extend the organization’s reach abroad. The result was the expansion of Teach For America into Teach for All, a global network that has grown to include 50 independent partner organizations with a presence on every continent.

4. She’s been recognized as one of Time’s Most Influential People

Over the last 30 years, Koop’s work has been recognized by numerous publications. In 1994, Time Magazine named her one of its most 40 most promising leaders under 40. In 2006, she was named one of America’s best leaders by U.S News & World Report, and in 2008, she won her 2nd mention in Time Magazine, this time as one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders

5. She’s received multiple honorary degrees

In 1995, just 5 years after Koop launched Teach For America, she received her first honorary degree. On that first occasion, the honor was bestowed by Dean University. Since then, Koop has been awarded 13 further honorary doctorates in total, including those from Connecticut University in 1995, her alma mater, Princeton University, in 2000, Smith College in 2001, Mercy College in 2004, Pace University in 2004, Rhodes College in 2007, Mount Holyoke College in 2007, Georgetown University in 2008, Washington University of St. Louis in 2009, Marquette University in 2010, Harvard University in 2012, Boston University in 2013, and University of Oklahoma in 2014.

6. She’s married to the president of KIPP

Koop currently resides in Manhattan with her husband, Richard Barth, and their four children, Benjamin, Francis, Haddon, and Georgina. Koop and Barth are an educational “power couple”; not only was Barth one of Teach For America’s earliest investors, he currently serves as the President and CEO of the KIPP Foundation, a nationwide program of open-enrollment college-prep schools offering education in some of the most economically deprived areas of the US.

7. She’s a keen runner

Outside of her activities with Teach For All, Koop is a keen traveler and an even keener runner, starting most mornings by pounding the pavements around her Manhattan home. As she noted during a Forbes interview, she’s also a devout worshipper, and regularly attends services at her local Catholic Church.

8. She stepped down as CEO in 2013

After over 2 decades at the helm, Koop stepped down from the position of CEO of Teach For America in 2013. Her replacement is Elisa Villanueva Beard, a former Corps member whose history with the organization dates back to 1998 when she taught first and second bilingual education. Koop continues to serve as a member of the foundation’s board of directors, as well as serving as CEO for Teach For All.

9. She’s a gold medal winner

In 2006, Koop won the honor of an Academy of Achievement gold medal from the American Academy of Achievement at the 2006 International Achievement Summit in Los Angeles, California. The nonprofit foundation aims to unite the leaders of tomorrow with the preeminent leaders and innovators of today, holding regular gatherings as a means of sharing knowledge and passing on inspiration from one generation to the next. Koop was awarded the gold medal, along with the Golden Plate Award, in recognition of her excellence in her field. Her list of accolades doesn’t stop there. She’s also received the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award (2004), the Clinton Center Award for Leadership and National Service (2003), Aetna’s Voice of Conscience Award (1994), and a Jefferson Award for Public Service (1991).

10. She holds multiple board memberships

In addition to her activities with Teach for All, Koop is an active member of several boards, including the board of directors of The New Teacher Project. She also serves on the advisory boards of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, and the National Council on Teacher Quality.


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