Tanja Easson is a living illustration of why comprehensive guidance is needed for ALL students.
From the time she was in elementary school, Tanja was drawn to education. Her dad had a doctorate in education, and her mom had completed her degree and student teaching just before Tanja's oldest brother was born. It seemed natural that Tanja held class every day during playtime, "instructing" her stuffed animals and, later, her younger siblings.
Tanja would most likely have gone on to become a classroom teacher if it hadn't been for a meeting with her high school guidance counselor. He had every student preparing for graduation complete an inventory designed to highlight their aptitudes. When he sat down with Tanja, he explained she would do well in a science field based on the inventory results. But, Tanja countered, she was thinking of majoring in education. Her counselor pointed out that she was on track to graduate with high honors and that she had already secured a full scholarship in music performance. That didn't add up to "education major" in his mind. If not science, then maybe music was the field to pursue.
When Tanja mentioned the counselor's advice to her parents, her dad, who valued education for its role in lifting him out of a poverty-prone upbringing, was of a different opinion: Use that scholarship to finance your education, but music will never pay well. Neither will education. Major in something that will get you into law school. You'd make a great lawyer.
Tanja saw a world of opportunity as she entered the University of Utah just a few classes shy of sophomore status thanks to Advanced Placement and concurrent enrollment credits. All she lacked was a clear sense of direction and a plan. She explored myriad fields of study, finally pursuing a major in English.
As Tanja's college years drew to a close, she started looking for a new challenge and, hopefully, a career. Where do most English majors end up? In the software industry, of course! Tanja interviewed with TaxWorks (now RedGear™ Technologies), a small company that developed and supported a proprietary software package for tax preparers. The BASIC classes she had taken in high school paid off, and Tanja went to work programming forms for the DOS-based program. She was also responsible for documenting operations for the user's manuals and working on the support team. By the end of her first full tax season, she was recognized for successfully resolving more support issues than any other member of the support team.
In 1996, Tanja got married and moved from northern Utah to Santa Barbara, California. She settled in to her new life, but could only take so much of that "sun on your face and sand between your toes" lifestyle before it (and her bank account) started to wear thin. A listing for a job with an educational publishing company caught her eye. She had a strong affinity for education and, after all, she had majored in English, so she submitted a resume and landed an interview.
Tanja joined the team at Academic Innovations as the customer service manager. When Mindy Bingham, the creative power behind Academic Innovations, was assembling a team to develop digital enhancements for the Career Choices materials, she remembered that Tanja had experience in the software industry and asked her to sit on a few of the initial planning sessions, eventually making her an ad hoc member of the development team.
As Academic Innovations' digital efforts took form with the development of the Lifestyle Math Correction Key software, the creation of CareerChoices.com, and the reimagining of the Lifestyle Math Correction Key as LifestyleMath.com, Tanja made a permanent transition from the company's customer service team to their curriculum and technical support team.
In 1999, Tanja and her growing family moved from Santa Barbara, California, to southern Utah to be near her aging grandparents. Mindy Bingham, with her love of technology and her "early adopter" mindset, accepted a detailed plan Tanja proposed that would allow her to telecommute from a home office.
In 2001, Mindy saw a unique opportunity to retool Academic Innovations' operations by moving the base of operations from Santa Barbara to St. George. With Mindy still at the helm, Wendy Bingham would oversee the sales and professional development teams, and management of the operations would be added to Tanja's curriculum and technical support responsibilities. Academic Innovations has been a productive member of the St. George community ever since.
Powered by a belief that a 10-year Plan is a beautiful thing, Tanja thrives on the work she does developing print and digital resources to help educators as they build and expand their Career Choices classes and Freshman Transition efforts. She has been an instrumental member of the My10yearPlan.com® development team and works closely with Mindy on each upgrade or revision to the Career Choices series. And, calling on her in-depth understanding of the Career Choices materials and digital tools, she has developed and presented an Integrating Technology into Your Career Choices Classroom institute at the Focus on Freshmen conference each year since 2010.
Like many of her colleagues, Tanja balances a challenging professional life with the challenges of raising two kids (and two dogs). And, because she's convinced that ensuring the strength of our education system is a communal responsibility, she has been an active volunteer in local schools each year since her oldest child started kindergarten in 2003. She currently serves as vice chair of the community council for her son's middle school.