Ben’s education journey truly started in the 4th grade, when his life was forever changed by an amazing educator: Sandy Kirts at Parkside Elementary School in Columbus, Indiana. Mrs. Kirts helped Ben discover a passion for reading and writing, an identity as a leader, and a voice as a learner. Even more than this, her classroom became a sanctuary as Ben navigated significant change and challenges on the home front. As Ben progressed through high school to an undergraduate degree at Harvard, he never forgot the lessons and impact of Mrs. Kirts. She had played a critical role in unlocking his true potential.
Ben began his career in education upon graduating from college in 2002, when he spent a year teaching sixth grade at the Island School in the Bahamas. Through a project-based curriculum that combined literacy, Spanish, and health, he empowered students at the Island School to build authentic connections between their own learning and their local community. He then served as a Teach for America corps member at a middle school in East San Jose, where he taught for many years. Through his TFA experience, he made two important observations. First, he saw that systemic inequities were preventing students from realizing their full potential. Second, he recognized that powerful teaching and learning was certainly happening in some classrooms – the question remained of how to best scale those practices and make them accessible to all learners.
Motivated to drive systemic transformation in the education sector, Ben earned both a Master’s in Education and an M.B.A. from Stanford University. He thought about education in his business classes and business in his education classes, seizing every opportunity to draw productive comparisons across disciplines. Over the next several years, he continued to hone his skills in business operations, management, and strategy at DaVita HealthCare Partners, a Fortune 500 healthcare company with strong parallels to education. In 2013, Ben returned to the education sector and joined Envision, a charter management organization with a unique scaling strategy: instead of focusing on replication, Envision works with partner school districts to adapt and implement the Envision Portfolio Defense System. Ben served as Envision's Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of Envision Learning Partners. Together, his team spread Envision Schools’ Performance Assessment system to over 70 partner schools and 35,000 students across the country.
Ben leveraged his experience scaling practices and products across the education system when he joined the AltSchool team in 2017 as VP of Growth. By building relationships with schools and districts, he made AltSchool’s learner-centered, technology-enabled approach accessible to a vast community of students and educators. Now, as President and CEO of Altitude Learning, he continues to partner with schools and districts to amplify the practices of all the “Mrs. Kirtses” out there. With the help of a mission-driven community of educators, developers, and engineers, he works to catalyze the adaptive and technical changes necessary to support schools in shifting to a learner-centered future.
The Dr. Will Show Podcast
How AltSchool is Meeting the Needs of the Modern Learner
Arcadia Unified School District’s Digital Education Station
Digital Education Station: Personalized Learning 7
The Roots of Our Growing Learner-Centered Movement
Altitude Learning President and CEO, Ben Kornell, announces the launch of Altitude Learning at Partner Forum 2019