Charlene Gaynor

Charlene Gaynor

Former CEO, Association of Educational Publishers


Change is not the enemy.

This is a time of dizzying change not only for schools, but also for the publishers who serve them. How curriculum gets designed, created and delivered in the future is up for grabs. My first instinct when tossing on a sea of turmoil is to hold on for dear life. Yet, nothing relieves anxiety faster than action. The first step—opening myself up to change—is often the hardest. When taking on water, a good question to ask is, “Should I expend my energy patching leaks or changing vessels?”


The medium is not the message.

Even as the technology of education has changed, the role of publishers has not. With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, content is not curriculum. Curriculum is not a natural byproduct of medium or technology. Content becomes curriculum through a thoughtful, artful, painful process. Well-crafted curriculum yields consistency, organization, order, and outcomes. This is the value proposition of educational publishing and it holds true in any medium.


Settling is not saving.

Students deserve teachers that are capable, knowledgeable, and committed. Teachers deserve workplaces that are safe and school systems that are supportive. No matter what the source or cost, learning materials should be held to quality standards: The pedagogy should be sound; the objectives clear; the subject matter suitable; the skill and language levels grade-appropriate; and the content engaging, accurate, reliable, and adaptable. In this great country, teachers and students should not have to settle.


None of us is as smart as all of us.

A group of individuals working as a team (and team is the operative word) will produce better results than individuals working alone. What’s more, the quality of the result will increase with the diversity of the group. I’ve seen this play out over and over again. In fact, the power of aggregated wisdom is immutable on the list of things I’ve learned. Team building takes patience, particularly in cyberspace where separating the experts from the egotists can be challenging. Fortunately, most educational publishers are good listeners and great aggregators. They know the best way to achieve wisdom is by engaging their customers in continuous conversation.


Thinking is not optional.

With 24/7 access to all kinds of communication, we need to take control of our information diet. Hype is not a measure of merit. Important decisions require commensurate dissection, discussion, and deliberation. The move from print to digital, for example, can’t (shouldn’t) happen overnight. Great digital learning resources are an artful blend of instructional design and engaging features that maximize the power of interactive media. Invention requires thinking and there’s no substitute for it. Success is not about getting it first. It’s about getting it right.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Charlene is CEO of the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP), the leading non-profit organization for K-12 instructional resource creators and providers. AEP provides information, professional development, and thought leadership to the educational publishing community. AEP upholds the importance of high quality educational resources as the primary means by which teachers facilitate learning.

Charlene is a Chicago native and a Marquette University graduate. She came to The Association of Educational Publishers from Learning, a national magazine for elementary teachers where she was publisher.

She is an alumna of the Stanford Professional Publishing Course and the Center for Creative Leadership. She has served on the advisory boards of the Bicentennial Commission of the United States, the Learning Center of Philadelphia, and the Rowan University School of Communications.

Charlene has over 20 years of business experience in startups and turnarounds. She developed and led the innovation skunk works at Meredith Corporation, a Fortune-500 publishing company, and led the transformation of the 120-year-old Educational Press Association, now The Association of Educational Publishers.