Our Founders

The Working Group for Educational Excellence was the brainchild of Jon Saphier, and Susan Freedman. The idea for a coalition approach to systemic change in education was the result of their many conversations working together at Teachers21.

Jon SaphierDr. Jon Saphier is now the past Co-Chair of the WGEE and co-principal investigator of this project. Jon is the founder and president of Research for Better Teaching (RBT), a professional development organization dedicated to improving teaching and learning. Since 1979, he and his RBT colleagues have taught in-depth professional development programs centered on the knowledge base of teaching to educators across the United States and internationally.

In 2001 he was appointed to a National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences panel to study the best methods for transferring well-established educational research knowledge to classroom practice.  In recent years he has led large-scale district improvement projects forging working alliances between superintendents, union leaders, and school boards.  Dr. Saphier is the author and co-author of eight books, including The Skillful Teacher, which has sold more than half of a million copies and is used in degree programs in more than 175 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

Dr. Saphier devotes his time to long-term, in-depth, systemic change projects in selected districts. A master teacher, he conducts workshops, coaching sessions, and delivers keynotes at national and international conferences that bring to life the principles and strategies described in The Skillful Teacher. In addition, Dr. Saphier is passionate about and active in public policy reform to promote the professionalization of teaching and leadership. Dr. Saphier has also served as a school administrator, staff developer, and teacher (K-12).


Sue FreedmanSusan Freedman is the Project Leader, co-principal investigator, and outgoing Co-Chair of the WGEE. Susan is also Co-Chair of the WGEE Steering Committee that is guiding the High Expertise Teaching project, along with Jon Saphier and DESE Senior Manager, Claudia Bach. Susan brings to this project extensive experience in district change and staff development efforts. In her time at the Center for Innovation at DESE, Susan led a staff development program with over 200 districts and facilitated a 4-year district change effort with 125 district superintendents as well as a 3-year school committee superintendent/district change program.

She served 15 years as President of Teachers21 where she coordinated staff development and support to over 275 districts. Additionally, Susan launched the research and policy development arms of Teachers21, each devoted to informing practice and policy with cutting-edge, research-backed knowledge, about effective teaching and leading. She is often invited to speak on school improvement and district change at state, national and international venues. Susan was one of only two K-12 practitioners invited to join the National Commission of Family and Community Involvement under the auspices of Yale and Johns Hopkins. Susan has co-led the Carnegie Schools Program at the DESE and served as Senior Manager of Educator Quality initiatives at the DESE and Director of the Center for Innovation. Susan is also co-author of Beyond Mentoring: Putting an Instructional Focus on Comprehensive Induction Programs (4th ed) and several books on a wide range of topics related to school improvement and district change. Susan began her career as an urban K-12 educator.

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