Lessons on Learning

Former teacher Greg Schermbeck wants to make education more innovative—and fun.

Greg Schermbeck always chooses his words carefully. So when he says, “We do cool sh*t in education,” describing the work his consulting firm does, you know he means it.

Still, the 31-year-old quickly clarifies, smiling as he says, “We help people do cool things in education.”

In other words, Charlotte-based Schermbeck Consulting finds innovative ways to help nonprofits partner with schools, they help launch charter schools, and they’re helping make sure every kid in Charlotte has access to afterschool programs.

Schermbeck grew up in Ohio and played college football before moving to Charlotte in 2008 to teach at West Charlotte High—a school with a history of challenges. He took the job as part of the Teach for America program, a national group that places high-performing recent college graduates in teaching jobs in under-resourced areas.

After three years there, Schermbeck moved to Nashville, Tenn., where he launched a charter school for low income students. At just 25, he served as the founding dean of students. While there he also got a graduate degree from Vanderbilt University and was starting to figure out how he could truly serve in the education field.

“I got to be involved in helping grow an organization while also going to school to learn how to make things grow,” he says.

He comes from a long line of people who serve. Just about every male in his family was in the military, but his parents wanted a different life for their three boys. Raised in a Toledo, Ohio trailer park until the fourth grade, Schermbeck is the first in his family to go to college.

“My parents sacrificed so much for me and my brothers to go to school. It was an opportunity they frankly didn’t have.”

So he combined his passions for education and entrepreneurship, and started consulting with his first contract in 2014 when he served as the director of education initiatives for the Council for Children’s Rights. Just a year later he officially launched Schermbeck Consulting. 

“From the beginning, the goal was to help drive innovation in education,” he says. “Our organization works from two premises—that every kid can learn and achieve at a high level and, two, that every kid deserves access to a high quality education.”

Last year, his firm helped create and launch Charlotte Next, a program that makes sure every impoverished middle schooler in Charlotte has access to good after school programs in their neighborhoods.

He spent the summer helping open two charter schools and hopes to help more Charlotteans understand the need to bridge the divide between charter and district schools.

“I was a teacher in a traditional district school and then I helped own a successful charter school,” he says. “So I’ve seen both sides of the aisle and I think we in education sometimes place too much emphasis on labels and not enough emphasis on what works for students. Our goal is to make sure every student has access to a quality education and the only way that can happen is adults working together.”

Essentially, he says, it’s on all of us to make cool, uh, stuff, happen in education.