Founders

Founders

Mark Nieker

Mark is TeachingPartners’ Chief Executive Officer. He oversees the TeachingPartners’ executive team and all aspects of the organization’s operations, strategy, and growth.

Before founding TeachingPartners, Mark held a number of executive positions at Pearson, the world’s largest education company.

During an 18-year career 
at Pearson, Mark founded and served as Chief Executive Officer of the Pearson Charitable Foundation, the independent 501c3 that designed, developed, and managed education-focused public-private partnerships around the globe. During that time, he developed and helped support numerous public-private partnerships devoted to serving classroom teachers and improving outcomes for their students.

He served as the organization’s Global Director of Innovation and Investment, helping to develop the organization’s U.S’ first all-digital US-K12 curriculum program. He led Pearson’s first internet-based education initiative for teachers, students, and parents, serving as President of the Learning Network. As CEO of Pearson’s early cross-business digital-publishing effort, he also helped establish early digital strategies and developed digital consumer programs for Penguin Books, Pearson Television, The Financial Times, and for a number of Pearson’s then-independent education businesses.

Before joining Pearson, Mark worked at Microsoft in Seattle, at an early digital startup in San Francisco, and taught while pursuing advanced degrees at the University of Washington and the University of Illinois.

Mark has served as a board member of Jumpstart; and in 2009 was named an Ambassador by the National Education Association Foundation.

He and his family live in Northern California where he is currently completing his last—and 11th consecutive—year as a little league baseball coach.


Gary Syman

Gary is the Chairman of the TeachingPartners Board of Directors.

He is a retired partner of Goldman Sachs & Co., having spent over 30 years with the firm. Before founding TeachingPartners, Gary spent substantial time since his retirement in the nonprofit sector, helping education- and reform-focused organizations achieve greater scale and impact.

A nationally recognized and sought-after strategic advisor and board member, Gary has served on numerous boards, including Jumpstart (early childhood education), SeaChange Capital Partners (nonprofit merchant bank), the New Teacher Center (professional development focused on teacher induction), Peer Health Exchange (provides health curriculum to low income high school students) and the Pearson Charitable Foundation. Gary received his BS and MBA from the University of Southern California.

He lives in Northern California with his wife, Azita Raji, and has five daughters.


Vicki Phillips

Vicki Phillips currently serves as a Senior Advisor/Education Strategist for national and international organizations and ed-tech companies devoted to the engagement and professional learning of teachers and the design of enabling conditions and systems in which teaching and learning can thrive.

Dr. Phillips has long been a champion of teachers and holds a strong record of reform at all levels of education – from neighborhood schools to the federal government. She has served as a teacher, leader of a nonprofit education foundation, superintendent of schools, state chief of basic and higher education and for nearly a decade as the director of K-12 education for the world’s largest foundation.

Phillips most recently served as Director of Education, College Ready, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she led the work to ensure students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college, career and community and to improve the effectiveness and support of teachers. Phillips and her team sought to advance education innovations, including new school designs focused on personalized learning for students, new models of personalized learning for teachers, high quality tech-enabled curriculum and instructional tools, and elevating teacher voice.

Prior to joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she was superintendent of Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. Earlier, Phillips served as Pennsylvania’s State Secretary of Education and as superintendent in the School District of Lancaster, PA. She previously served at the state level in her home state of Kentucky, helping to implement the sweeping changes demanded by the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

Born in Kentucky and raised on a small farm, Phillips was the first in her family to go to college. She holds degrees in elementary and special education and a doctorate in international leadership and management from the University of Lincoln in England.