MY mother, a former middle school math teacher, was a model for my career in education, although I did not take the classroom path. She and my father, a bank executive, raised me and my younger sister and brother outside Chicago, in Skokie and Glencoe, Ill.
I graduated in 1980 from Indiana University in Bloomington, with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. That summer, I taught remedial math to seventh graders, but found that I didn't have the right tools to assess them and to help them master the material.
After I graduated, my first full-time job was at an education publishing company, Scott Foresman, developing reading and math software for students.
Early on, I learned to use the first spreadsheet program -- a predecessor to Excel -- and was struck by how technology could aid productivity. In 1985, I earned my M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.
McDougal Littell, a publisher, hired me in 1994 as vice president for marketing just after it was acquired by Houghton Mifflin. Four years later, I became the general manager for the Everyday Learning Corporation, owned by the Tribune Company. In 2000, I became president of the Wright Group, a Tribune education company that McGraw-Hill had acquired. Two years later, I was named president of Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, the elementary textbook division of McGraw-Hill.
After leaving in fall 2006, I started StrategyFactor, a firm to advise companies in the education market. One client was Kaplan Inc., and in 2008, I was named president of Kaplan's K12 Learning Services division.
Jonathan N. Grayer, Kaplan's former C.E.O., hired me in 2011 to join Weld North, an investment firm in Greenwich, Conn. We looked for investments in the education market, and our first was Education 2020, an online learning company. After the acquisition, I became Education 2020's C.E.O.Last summer, my husband, Phil Factor, a critical-care physician, and I moved to Arizona, where the company, renamed Edgenuity, is based.
Our online curriculum allows students to learn at their own pace, and helps them to develop skills like goal-setting and note-taking. With fewer resources, schools are cutting back educational offerings, but we can offer an online course in a foreign language or health science, for example, even if only a few students want to take it.
We also offer professional development courses to help teachers use our online curriculum and tools in the classroom. So far, we are providing online courses to nine of the country's 15 largest school districts.
I also serve on the board of the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, which helps disadvantaged students from the elementary to high school level gain the academic and life skills they need to succeed in college and beyond. Much of my work is driven by the realization that many students don't have the opportunities they should, and that access to education can level the playing field. And technology enables that access.
When I joined Edgenuity, I visited a school where students who had failed classes were using our personalized curriculum to learn and earn the credits they needed. One student asked me: "Why did I have to fail to be able to learn this way?" Talk about a piercing observation. That was the moment I pledged that we would redouble our efforts to help those students whom the system has failed, and to pioneer more engaging and effective ways for students to experience real learning. That experience inspired my efforts to help students advance at their own pace.
As told to Elizabeth Olson.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.