The ASSISTments Foundation is proud to announce Co-Founder, Cristina Heffernan, as its Executive Director. Cristina transitioned from her role as Chief Strategy Officer with The ASSISTments Project @ WPI, in July of 2020. She and her husband, Co-Founder, Neil Heffernan have been innovating and developing ASSISTments since 2003. ASSISTments is a constantly adapting platform that merges research, applied technology and student learning in a streamlined, efficient, and effective way.
The daughter of a math professor and a teacher, Cristina went on to continue the family tradition, by getting her Master’s degree in Mathematics Education and Professional Development. She taught in schools in Central Africa as well as in public and private schools in the United States. Cristina credits her experience teaching in inner city Baltimore as one of the catalysts that drove her to champion the development of the ASSISTments product, which was designed to close achievement gaps.
Cristina sees her role of Executive Director akin to the captain of a well built ship. A ship that she states was a collaboration between herself, Neil, and Cristina’s predecessor, Dr. Megan Roberts, who served TAF’s founding Chief Executive Officer when it launched in 2019. Cristina credits Dr. Roberts’ management experience and learned understanding as key in building The ASSISTments Foundation and confidently sees her new role as one that is responsible for building upon that base with leadership from within, increased funding, and growing a robust and capable team.
“ASSISTments was built with the teacher in mind,” states Cristina who recalls from her own teaching experience that the key to success in the classroom is in the methods, tools, and resources used by and available to educators. She continues on, “That is why ASSISTments will always be free. It was built to empower teachers, work well both in and out of the classroom, and be a calming mechanism to the chaos.” An apropos sentiment as we head back to school in this time of uncertainty.
Cristina looks forward to hearing from teachers who are owning the use of ASSISTments in their classrooms to take their practice to new heights. She says, “The expectation is that with it, teachers will become better educators.” She aims to ensure that ASSISTments channels the chaos of the current health crisis into functionality in the product. “The pandemic accelerated the need for increased use of technology and educators have to figure out how to best utilize it in a way that is well suited for their classroom.” Cristina wants to ensure, along with facilitating research, putting actionable data in the hands of teachers, and providing a space for formative assessment; that the human touch is never lost in the process.
Cristina is excited about the work to be done to take TAF to the next level in its second year, and she sees the ASSISTments product eventually branching out to other subjects later on. “Math is [our] focus right now. It’s the foundation of S.T.E.M. and a good place to be rooted. But, [we] are scalable. I definitely see a day when we are the ‘go to’ tool for teachers and the phrase ‘You can use ASSISTments for that’ will be suitable for any subject.”