Wisconsin Entrepreneur in the Spotlight — Michelle Ching

Bascom Ventures sat down with Michelle Ching, UW-Madison graduate and CEO of Literator

Michelle struggled in her 2nd grade classroom. As the daughter of two refugees from Laos, she bounced around from school to school in a handful of states while growing up. One of them, she described, was like a prison. “There were bars over every single window. Teachers often wouldn’t show up.” It wasn’t the ideal environment for a student to flourish.

These personal experiences influenced her to start teaching at an urban school in a low-income area. She wanted to make a difference, and improve the one-size-fits-all approach to teaching — where every student is taught the same lesson regardless of where they are at.

Literator was born out of this need for an individualized teaching model. It is a mobile app that supports teachers in the classroom with students who are learning how to read. Each student is given an experience that is unique to their own situation.

What is your Wisconsin connection?

I consider Milwaukee and Madison both my homes. They gave me my education, but also taught me what education could and should be — an inclusive, accessible experience that encourages cultivation and examination of diverse perspectives and experiences. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2012. But most importantly, my experiences in Wisconsin became the foundation for my fierce commitment to redefining what learning could look like for others.

What got you into becoming an entrepreneur?

I became an entrepreneur to solve a problem that I saw with my own school experiences and with educators everywhere — a problem both truly practical and broadly impactful. I wanted to ensure high quality instruction for our most high-need students.

This problem extends across all levels of experience — seasoned and new teachers struggle with this same issue. That’s why Literator was born — to ensure that teachers and students have what they need to be successful.

Where has your teaching led you?

I served as a Teach for America Corps member and taught in Compton and Oakland, California. It was in those classrooms where I realized that the problems that were the most pressing could be solved simply and practically.

Was there a moment in particular that really struck a chord with you?

Working with seven year olds whose futures depended on my ability to teach them how to read underscored just how important teaching is: whether or not these students were on track with literacy directly impacted whether or not they would eventually graduate high school. If a student cannot read at grade level by the time they leave the third grade they are 60% more likely to drop out. I refused to let literacy be a limiting factor for any of my students’ future potential.

What is your role at Literator?

I’m the founder and CEO, leading a diverse and successful team of domain experts: an ex-Apple designer who worked to create Safari, an expert data systems engineer and web architect, and a CTO with several successful startup exits.

Watch a quick demo on how Literator works.

To learn about Bascom Ventures, or investing alongside Wisconsin alumni, follow the link.

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