By Eric Garneau
Dimity Kirwan has been a passionate education advocate for a long time. While studying at Tulane University in New Orleans, she spent time abroad putting her skills to use in Costa Rican and Peruvian schools. She then earned a Masters of Teaching in Childhood Education from Pace University in New York City, where she's been working in the public school system for the last four years. It's that experience, and the lack of funds that came with it, that encouraged her to start Beyond Teaching. Education Insider caught up with Ms. Kirwan in August to ask her about her organization, which aims to provide a serious supplement to how teachers make money.
Study.com: What inspired you to create Beyond Teaching, and when did it start?
Dimity Kirwan: It essentially started in January 2011. I'm a teacher and I've been working in New York City for four years. It's a very rewarding job in many ways, but not financially. Throughout my time here, I was constantly looking for extra work like tutoring or child care jobs, and I just wasn't able to find anything that didn't involve a network of parents in New York. I'm not a mom, I don't know other moms and New York's not where I grew up. It was just challenging to find that work. After three years, I got kind of frustrated and decided to create a place for teachers to connect with parents.
Study.com When you first pitched your idea to parents or other prospective clients, how did they react?
DK: They loved the idea, which was the other driving force behind it - they said they had so much trouble finding quality tutors and quality caregivers that they would hire a teacher in a heartbeat.
Study.com What about educators? Did any have concerns that maybe there's no time for that kind of work, or are they just happy to have another paying opportunity?
DK: It depends on the educator's situation. I have about 400 teachers signed up on my site, and they're all people who're looking for extra work. But teachers who're in their first or second year probably don't have time for extra work, teachers who have families of their own don't have time for extra work. It's hitting a certain market of teachers, most of whom are probably in their early 20s to late 30s and don't have other obligations outside of their teaching jobs.
Study.com Have you made a lot of connections through the site in the eight months it's been operating?
DK: It's been going great on the teacher side of things, and I didn't open it up for parents until probably four months ago, but getting parents signed up has been very challenging. I think that's due to a whole bunch of things: not knowing about it, knowing about it but not being willing to test it out before they knew someone else who'd gone on there and found someone. It's pretty hard to connect with the right people - it's summer vacation, and we didn't launch until right before. It's been hard to connect with schools and parent organizations, with the type of parents that would hire tutors and caregivers.
Study.com So if I'm a parent using the site, how quickly, on average, can I expect to find a match? One would imagine it to be pretty swift since there seems to be more supply than demand right now.
DK: Yeah, I think so. There are definitely plenty of teachers on there looking and waiting for jobs. We're at a point where when a parent signs up I'm able to put out a job alert for that parent to all the teachers in the area. Next weekend in New York we're hosting a speed networking event that connects teachers and parents in person, so the parents can get an idea of what kind of teachers are signed up on our site. That should jump-start the connection process.
Study.com If I were an educator, what's the process like for me to get on your site and make some extra money?
DK: It's really easy. You go create a pretty detailed profile, which includes things like your resume, references and class and education experience. You can search for jobs based on pay, care type or how far it is from your zip code. As of now, it's still free. It will continue to be free to teachers, but we're hoping to add an accelerated membership where paying members will be the first ones to come up in a search or get job notifications before other teachers.
Study.com Beyond the job board aspect of your site, there's also a blog there. What can readers expect from that?
DK: A little bit of everything. We're still trying to figure out what our niche is. Right now we have things for parents, like things to do in the city, organizations we like, reading tips and healthy food - all things that cater to what parents can do with kids. We also have articles geared for teachers, like curriculum planning or current events going on with education and politics.
Study.com The site's pretty young, but do you have any particular success stories that stick out in your mind?
DK: In general just the growth of our teacher community. It's great to sign on every day and see that number keep going up - it inspires confidence that we have a community of teachers that believe in this and want to be a part of it, and that's exciting. I just wish we could get that going on the parents' side a little more quickly.
Study.com Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Beyond Teaching?
DK: This is a business that's really targeted at empowering teachers to use their skills outside the classroom, as well as helping parents make that connection with qualified people to work with their children. We're going national, setting up ambassadors around the country - people who have networks of teachers in different locations. We're looking for more ambassadors if people want to join up and help spread the word.
Study.com What cities come next?
DK: We've started in Detroit and have a pretty strong community there. We're expanding to Austin and Las Vegas, and we're currently working on finding ambassadors in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.
How much does U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan think teachers should make?