“I have a passion for the teaching profession. I’ve had a passion for teaching since the day I was born,” declared Emily Feistritzer, Ph.D. She is the founder, president and CEO of Moreland University, the remote learning teacher preparation program she launched in 2012 with just 10 students. Fully accredited and enjoying an uptick in applications since the arrival of COVID-19, Moreland University is preparing teachers online by offering certificates, graduate degrees in education and continuing education courses.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C. the program was originally named TEACH-NOW. In July 2020, it was renamed Moreland University in honor of Feistritzer’s mother and grandmother, who were teachers in a one-room schoolhouse in Moreland, KY. Alumni and students now number over 6,000 and represent 157 countries. “Our learning environment is producing highly dynamic educators who are prepared to teach tomorrow’s students in tomorrow’s learning world,” Feistritzer said proudly.
Becoming a Teacher
Feistritzer was an early adopter of remote learning tools. She cast her eyes upon the future and recognized that the internet age and related technology developments were poised to greatly impact how society would soon function. Now 79, Feistritzer recalled, “No one was paying attention to the rapid-fire technological advancements. I knew it would change everything.” Ahead of the curve but undaunted, Feistritzer developed an innovative teacher preparation method that would be accessible to teacher candidates everywhere. She said, “Online education is intuitive, dynamic and interactive. I don’t think we’ll ever return to the way teaching was done before.”
Feistritzer followed her mother’s advice and applied for a scholarship offered by an all-girls Roman Catholic high school that was operated by Benedictine nuns in Kentucky. After graduating, she joined their convent and earned a teaching degree as well. She started her career teaching math and science at another Benedictine-run high school in Kentucky.
Creating a New Platform
After 12 years Feistritzer left the convent to devote herself more fully to education. Her goal was to start a newsletter that would explore topics in teaching and education. She needed to persuade a Washington, D.C. banker to lend her $20,000 to fund a start-up. It was a challenge because she was an ex-nun and former school teacher who did not have a business degree. She persisted and the banker relented. The loan was approved and repaid. The newsletter prospered and so did Feistritzer, in the first of a series of ventures she founded and sold.
But the question of how to best prepare teachers for the profession wouldn’t leave her. Based on her own teacher education, teaching experience and scholarly research that explored teaching and learning, Feistritzer firmly believed that learning is much improved when people solve problems together. “We really needed to start over with how we prepare teachers. Someone needed to go back to the drawing board,” she observed.
Remote Learning for Preparing Teachers
Feistritzer built Moreland University into one of the fastest-growing teacher preparation programs in the U.S. “It’s the way we deliver that sets us apart. I wanted the program to be a game-changer in the industry,” she said. The method of instruction is a highly collaborative, hands-on, activity-based learning experience. It supports and encourages teacher candidates as they develop skills in the teaching arts. They are remote and yet together, expertly guided through lessons by a course instructor. “We provide resource-rich problem solving,” Feistritzer said, “There is never a lecture and never a test.”
Opinion leaders have taken notice. Feistritzer was named to Fast Company Magazine’s 2019 roster of 100 Most Creative People in Business and also recognized as a Top Ten Groundbreaker on the 2019 Inc. Magazine Top 100 Female Founders list. Not one to rest on her laurels, Feistritzer looks forward to launching a doctoral program at Moreland. She is also considering an expansion of the brand to include educating health care workers, in particular those professionals who help people age in place, at home.
Emily Feistritzer, Ph.D., is a successful serial entrepreneur who had no intention of being limited by societal expectations concerning her gender, age, or religious faith. She offers encouragement to those who desire to launch a venture themselves, “Dream big and don’t dwell on failure. Never take no for an answer if you believe what you are doing is right.”