Model & Strategy

Teaching Lab is a nonprofit organization with a mission to fundamentally shift the paradigm of teacher professional learning for educational equity. Teaching Lab envisions a world where teachers and students thrive together in communities that enable life-long learning and meaningful lives.

In partnership with teachers, Teaching Lab transforms teacher professional learning from the ground up to dramatically improve student outcomes. They also work with school, district, and state leaders to create the instructional systems necessary to support these changes. Their approach to professional learning is defined by Head, Heart, and Habits.

Head: Core academic content embedded in exceptional instructional materials and aligned to research-based practices. Teachers deserve daily access to instructional practices based on research. A deep study of high-quality instructional materials allows teachers to grow their knowledge over time and spread that knowledge to their colleagues.

Heart: Teacher-led communities that build both social capital and buy-in. Teachers deserve to feel motivated and supported by their peers to learn and grow. In teacher-led communities, educators are more likely to buy into their own development and work collaboratively with their colleagues to improve instruction.  This is the “heart” of professional learning.

Habits: Structured and repeated cycles of learning in the classroom. Teachers deserve to learn from their efforts. Repeated cycles of learning afford teachers the time and space to reflect, incorporate new learning into practice, and verify changes to instruction using analysis of student work. This is the “habits” of professional learning.

Teaching Lab’s model is based on the best educational research and years of experience using exceptional instructional materials with teachers. Their team of educators is committed to ensuring all students—especially students traditionally underserved by school systems—meet the academic expectations necessary to succeed now and in the future.

Teaching Lab logo
At a Glance
Founded: 2016
Current CEO: Sarah Johnson
Location of work: Domestic
Teaching Lab
Washington DC,
Head. Heart. Habits.
A young black female teacher works at a desk in a school
Teaching Lab entrepreneur Sarah Johnson
Meet Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson was a trained scientist who decided to forgo a career in science after working as a teaching assistant and falling in love with teaching and learning. As a passionate public high school science teacher in DC and Oakland, she witnessed schools and school systems that failed to adequately serve students or teachers. For a time, she believed that the only way to truly transform teaching and learning was to dismantle a system that deprofessionalized teaching and, in turn, failed to provide all students with equitable access to educational opportunities.

Sarah was one of 25 leaders accepted to Harvard’s Educational Leadership Doctoral program where she studied systems-level leadership and developed a more nuanced understanding of how to engage in systems-change. She also worked directly with the Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning in the New York City school system, helping to manage a division of 600 educators and rolling out continuous improvement initiatives to hundreds of educators and schools.

As a funder, Sarah was compelled by the vision of Teaching Lab’s co-founders, Max Wagner and Silas Kulkarni, helped provide early funding to them and then started to lead the organization in the fall of 2018. Through these experiences, she developed a vision for professionalizing teaching focused on ensuring teachers, like scientists, are given opportunities to understand and use the science behind learning and instruction while also engaging in ongoing growth through cycles of learning. She knows that none of this will happen unless we treat teachers like humans who deserve opportunities for growth and leadership starting on day one and extending throughout their careers. If we fail to see the “whole teacher,” we will not see or serve the “whole student.”


During the 2019-20 school year, Teaching Lab partnered with over 30 school systems across 12 states, developing the leadership capacity of over 4,000 teachers and impacting more than 316,000 students.

Teaching Lab has an evidence-based approach to professional learning (PL). Over the course of 2019-20, Teaching Lab collected the following evidence of impact:

-92% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they are satisfied with “the overall quality of today’s professional learning session.”

-Teachers improved in the categories of having high expectations and racial equity mindsets by 33% between beginning and end of year.


-In Louisiana, where Teaching Lab serves 35% of the total student population:

  • 49.9% of Teaching Lab students showed top growth in ELA, compared to 46.2% of students in non-Teaching Lab school systems.
  • 44.3% of Teaching Lab students in our partner sites demonstrated mastery in ELA, compared to 38.6% in non-Teaching Lab school systems.
  • Committed to the rigorous evaluation of their work, Teaching Lab has developed a best-in-class learning and research strategy and aligned data-management system.