Education is a mainstay in Jessie Woolley-Wilson’s life.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson (English ’85) has always looked for — and found — new ways of connecting people.
Take, for example, MyRoad.com, a professional advising tool for middle- and high-school students, which she helped establish several years and a Harvard M.B.A. degree later, intending to help students “make the connection between what they study and what they want to be professionally.”
These days, it is LeapFrog, a California-based educational technology company founded in 1995. Woolley-Wilson is president of LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the company’s classroom division, which connects everyday classrooms with innovative high-tech products.
Regardless of her locale, Woolley-Wilson’s mission — to serve her community through committed leadership in causes she holds dear — remains the same. And the list of her successful ideas and leadership continues to lengthen.
“You can have the master plan of a century, as I tend to do — and then there’s life,” she reflects. “You have to be nimble and ready, and you have to listen to your heart.”
Applying this advice to her own career, Woolley-Wilson realized education was a mainstay in her life, regardless of her full-time profession.
“All the while I was always volunteering in education. It was always a part of what interested me, what I thought I needed to do to pay back. When I got into LeapFrog it was an opportunity to blend my professional interests with my community ones,” she says.
Working to make learning friendlier for kids ranging from pre-K to eighth grade, LeapFrog SchoolHouse has developed a diverse toolbox of products. Its learning toys include the FLY™ Pentop Computer — a hefty pen that houses a computer chip, speaker and camera and performs calculations and corrections with almost magical accuracy. Another popular LeapFrog item is the LeapPad® personal learning tool, which animates words on a page for youngsters through a colorful touch-and-talk interface.
Ironically, the more technologically complex LeapFrog’s products become, the more fun and accessible they often seem to young students.
“At some point we took the fun out of learning as a society, and I’m not quite sure why. What LeapFrog has been able to do quite successfully is reintegrate engaging learning experiences which are effective but at the same time fun,” says Woolley-Wilson.
As a LeapFrog ambassador, Woolley-Wilson has traveled and spoken widely to share the company’s mission. Her efforts range from visiting LeapFrog SchoolHouse consumers — the students and teachers themselves — in classrooms nationwide, to serving on numerous educational boards, including the boards of directors of the National Education Association Foundation and Reading Is Fundamental.
LeapFrog products reach students in more than 100,000 classrooms nationwide, classrooms found in low- and high-income communities alike. Dedicated to expanding the ranks of excited and engaged students, regardless of what neighborhood they come from, Woolley-Wilson is confident of LeapFrog’s social impact.
“One of the things that attracted me to this company is that I believe it’s going to bridge a gap in education. If we can get students to love learning early and be lifelong learners early it will be better for everyone,” Woolley-Wilson says. “I really believe that at the end of the day we’ll be judged by how we take care of the needs of the least well-served. These are kids that society cannot give up on.”