Explo staff and student alumna Maren (Jinnett) Adler has been quite busy and productive since her time at Explo. She recently earned a master's degree in education from Stanford University and is teaching full time at Summit Preparatory School in Redwood, California. On her path to teaching, Maren also worked as a staff writer and assistant to the Editor at Wired Magazine and as the communications director for Gateway Public Schools. Last summer, Maren married Explo alum Dave Adler (they met on campus in 1999) on a beautiful ranch in Carmel, California. We were thrilled to catch up with Maren about her life and the role Explo has played in it.
How has Explo influenced your life and the choices you’ve made?
Explo has had a huge impact. I hardly know where to start! Of course I met Dave there, but I also made of bunch of other great friends at Explo. There is a group of us that I consider lifelong friends from Explo.
More than that, though, summer at Explo was a pristine, sacrosanct time for me where no one expected me to “make anything” out of what I was doing. I got to do the things I loved truly for learning’s sake. Kids so rarely get that kind of opportunity. I went to a small, traditional all-girls school in New York City where so much was about grades and getting into college, so every summer at Explo was a gift. I even had a “100 days ‘til Explo” countdown. There was just this creative vibe there that was so joyful and playful. It was a safe place both intellectually and emotionally where the instructors would gently challenge your assumptions and inspire you.
Do you have any specific memories about Explo that you look back on and think influenced your career choices?
Yes, but maybe not in the most direct way. I remember taking a Mock Trial class, and at the end of it the instructor came up to me and said, “I look forward to seeing you on the Supreme Court.” I felt so honored that someone saw this quality in me that I couldn’t showcase anywhere else. I was pretty young and I hadn’t thought about being a lawyer, but the fact that he saw that and was celebrating it really stuck with me. I felt like I had been let in on a secret of possibility.
Now, as an educator, I come back to that feeling and I appreciate how powerful it is to bring real issues to students at an early age. I remember how important it made me feel to be treated in a serious way.
You were an instructor at Explo too. What was that like, after being a student?
That was when I discovered I loved teaching. I had applied for a general staff position and got accepted as one of the youngest instructors. Again, I felt recognized and encouraged to do something that I loved. I continued teaching with a tutoring job while I was in college. Even while I was pursuing other career paths, I was always teaching. Explo set the bar for me.
What other career paths did you explore?
I started as an editorial fellow and was hired at Wired magazine. I was very interested in business, journalism, and technology, so it was a great opportunity. I was writing online content and editing too. I also did a stint as the editor’s assistant, so I became well versed in the business side of the industry. I really enjoyed it it, but the funny thing was, even when I no longer needed the extra money and I was so busy, I kept on tutoring students. It was where my heart was.
I was still looking to combine business with my interest in education, so I took a job at Revolution Prep, a national tutoring and test prep company. I managed the Bay Area office, training and monitoring over 100 instructors. Again, from my perspective, I was the youngest and least qualified person there, but I was motivated! At the end of my first year I was named the #1 Manager of Instruction and I was promoted. But my heart was still more on the education side.
So what did you do?
I got a job as the communications director at Gateway Public Schools, a network of charter schools with a diverse student population. Almost half of the students lived below the poverty line, and a third of them were diagnosed with learning differences. The job was attractive to me because I used my technology and teaching backgrounds to work in education for a cause I loved.
It seemed perfect, but finally I realized that I still wanted to teach, so why was I fighting it? I applied to Stanford to get a degree in education and I started student teaching at the Summit Preparatory School in Redwood and I’ll move on to being a full time teacher there. It all seems to make sense now, but who knows what else will happen? Dave and I talk about this a lot. You can’t predict how things are going to connect; you just have to keep trying to do what you love.