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Why I Joined Course Hero: Alex Witkowski, Educator Community

As an Educator Community Manager, Alex finds fulfillment in sharing ideas, experiences, and inspiration with great minds in higher education.

There was nothing easy about leaving teaching. How many people can say that they get to empower and educate young people for a living? In many ways it was my dream job. I had space to be creative, met remarkable and inspiring individuals, and went to work every day understanding that I was investing my time in cultivating a better future for all of us. It was all so fulfilling.

Maybe that is why I felt so lost when it came time to change.

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I can trace my decision to leave the classroom back to a single phrase. On the surface it’s innocuous enough, but I came to realize it was the catalyst for every innovation I abandoned, every idea I discarded, every burst of inspiration I extinguished. I never had an answer to it. I can still hear it:

“But we’ve always done it this way.”

It took me a while to understand why the way things could be would often get cast aside in favor of the way things are. With time, though, I recognized how few opportunities we had to see things done in any way other than our own.

I taught high school English for 6 years, and every day, from the moment I entered the building to the moment I left, I was busy with something—teaching, grading, meetings. The work was energizing but at times overwhelming. I never quite figured out how to manage it all and leave space for the parts I loved most—like collaboration.

With everything I had on my plate, I hardly had the chance to connect with colleagues in my department, let alone others in the building. I knew I shared hallways with some local legends (the history teacher who brought in local officials to take questions from students, the chemistry teacher who used cooking to teach concepts), but my knowledge of their methods never made it beyond an overheard snippet from students buzzing in the hallway after a particularly great lesson. And I could only imagine what might be happening in other towns and states.

How much better a teacher would I have been if I could have picked these people’s brains? How much could I have improved student outcomes with a stronger sense of what around me was working? When I proposed a new innovation that was met with questions I was not equipped to answer, could my pitch have been better supported with evidence that similar things were successful elsewhere? At the time, I did not know how to solve these problems, and I decided I had a lot of learning left to do elsewhere.

At first I was just running away, but Course Hero ultimately became the destination I wanted to run toward.

I discovered Course Hero a few years after leaving the classroom, but I quickly found that the community of educators I was convinced never existed was closer than I realized. The collaboration I could never make time for during the school day was actually happening at all times online. Resources were being exchanged, experiences were being shared, best practices were being surfaced. I became enamored with the thought that I could help to cultivate a place where innovative educators could access and share ideas, no matter where they were or what their schedules were like. I loved the notion that great minds I never would have been exposed to otherwise were sharing their perspectives across subject areas, contexts, and levels of experience. It reminded me that we all had a singular goal: to help students grow.

The Course Hero community feels entirely uncompetitive—not hoarding the best ideas to earn personal accolades but willing to help others get better so that all students can benefit from the best pedagogical approaches. Perhaps most interesting to me is that all of this is happening alongside students, rather than walled off from them. As educators share the materials that make them better teachers, students share the materials that make them better learners. Course Hero, to me, is more than a website; it is an ecosystem. Here I’ve found a digital campus—wide open and collaborative—where everyone can build off of and grow from the insights and experiences of others before them. Every member is equal parts student and teacher. Everyone has something to offer.

If you had told me 5 years ago that I would one day get to work with the country’s top educators to help illuminate the approaches that make them great, I never would have believed that job existed. Most days I’m still not convinced this is real. But I stopped questioning it and decided to simply to enjoy it. Every day I connect with great minds in education—those that don’t just look back to what’s been done but also look ahead to what’s next. Every day I learn something new. Isn’t that what education should be?

What Is Course Hero?

Course Hero is an online learning platform where you can access course-specific study resources contributed by a community of students and educators.