Meet the Curriculum Team

Back-to-school is fast approaching, and we’re kicking things off with a new blog series: Write with Us Wednesdays. Classrooms all over the world use Turnitin’s offerings to improve writing, prevent plagiarism, and support academic integrity. Every Wednesday, the blog posts are for the practitioners. Check back each week for product updates, creative use cases, and tales from the field.

For our inaugural Write with Us Wednesdays post, we want to introduce you to the educators and practitioners that reside within Turnitin’s walls. Like most technology companies, we have Product and Engineering teams. Their core aim is to build high-quality tools that solve teachers’ problems, but they can’t do it alone. How do we ensure that the solutions we create can be easily and practically implemented by teachers? Meet the Curriculum Team.

The Curriculum Team is responsible for the educational content within Turnitin’s products as well as the external instructional supports. For example, in Revision Assistant, they touch (read: write from scratch) every comment and rubric that students see, and they are regularly working on adding additional prompts and assignment types. Other examples of the Curriculum Team’s work include Revision Assistant Exemplars and associated lesson activities, and the Revision Assistant Crosswalk Rubrics, which highlight the similarities between our genre rubrics and some of the most popular writing rubrics in the country.

Patti West-Smith leads our Curriculum Team. Before coming to Turnitin, Patti spent 19 years working in every capacity in school districts from teacher to Supervisor of Instructional Programs. Her career trajectory was heading towards the superintendency, but the potential to impact exponentially more students with Turnitin has set her on an unexpected path.

While working in the central office, Patti built teacher capacity to deliver high-quality writing instruction and feedback. Although her manual methods improved writing outcomes, she recognized that they required significant teacher-time and were neither scalable nor sustainable. Then, along came Revision Assistant, a tool that delivered targeted, actionable feedback akin to the type her teachers would give. It was a killer concept that needed an expert educator’s touch to expand the prompt library, feedback, and curricular supports for teachers. Elijah Mayfield, VP of New Technologies and Stephanie Butler, Director of New Product Development, thought that Patti was just the person for the job. In the last year, Patti has begun accomplishing that work and building her team along the way.

In staffing the Curriculum Team, Patti is committed to hiring former educators who infuse their work with the teacher perspective. Jill Crivelli, Senior Curriculum Specialist, has been teaching ELA for 15 years and was a Curriculum Leader when she encountered Revision Assistant. Her school was one of the first to partner with LightSide Labs and pilot Revision Assistant in its earliest form. She saw first hand the power of the product to support students and inform instructional decisions. When offered the opportunity to join the team, she jumped at the chance to enhance further a product that she not only believed in but used.

Like Jill, Content Specialist Katie Wike came to the Curriculum Team straight from the classroom.  She taught ELA to 7th through 10th graders for eight years and personally encountered the challenges of effectively teaching middle and high school students how to write. It was a problem that she was passionate about tackling, and she worked long hours to arm herself and her colleagues with the best instructional practices and strategies. Although leaving the classroom was a difficult decision, she ultimately came to Turnitin because she was interested in providing a solution to the challenge of writing instruction on a larger scale.

While the team works on both Revision Assistant and Feedback Studio, Kristin Van Gompel is the resident Feedback Studio expert. Starting out as a—wait for it—teacher, she has been working in educational technology for the past six years where she has worn many hats, from instructional designer to curriculum director. Before joining Turnitin’s Curriculum Team, she managed the company’s training and professional development program. She brings an intimate awareness of how teachers interact with Turnitin’s products and a passion for curriculum development to the team.

Audrey Nelson, Content Producer, is a current teacher (anyone sensing a theme!?) who joins the Turnitin Team each summer. She’s taught everything from Pre-kindergarten to 6th grade and presently teaches 2nd grade in the Bay Area. Audrey specializes in building foundational reading and writing skills. Thanks to her work with elementary students as well as English Language Learners in Costa Rica, she’s an expert at presenting the English language in a simplified and structured manner. As an active practitioner, she adds breadth and depth to an already deep bench.

Last, but certainly not least, is Partnerships Specialist Andrew Latterner. The only non-educator of the bunch, Andrew was employee number three at Lightside Labs. He started as an intern and has served as a Research Engineer and Product Owner before taking on his current role. Think, for a moment, of Revision Assistant as the marriage between a robust machine learning engine and exceptional curricular content. The Curriculum Team is responsible for that content, but they need the machine learning perspective for the product to be successful. Enter Andrew. He’s the team’s project manager and supplements the tremendous teaching experience on the team with his expertise in machine learning.

In conversation with the Curriculum Team, the passion they have for the products and the respect they have for one another is palpable. This group of people not only sees the importance of what they do but love it. They are working on products that, when they were teachers and students, would have changed their lives. We can’t wait to see what they will come up with next.