Dear Entrepreneurial Teacher, You Are Not Alone!

04 Jan 2022

Teachers are like CEOs of multibillion dollar conglomerates with one employee: you. Teachers need support. “Kitchen Chemist” Jonté Lee shares how to find and invite partners to support schools and school districts.

Jonté Lee, High School Chemistry Teacher

The following was written by Jonté Lee, a chemistry teacher and DoD STEM Ambassador. DoD STEM Ambassadors work with the Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) to advance STEM outreach for students who are underrepresented in STEM and/or military connected. Thomas was selected by USA Science & Engineering Festival as their DoD STEM ambassador for the 2020-2021 school year.

Raise your hand if you are a teacher and the following job responsibilities apply to you:

  • Grade papers promptly (for students, parents and administrators, “a timely manner” is less than 24 hours)
  • Record daily attendance and contact truant students’ parents to provide support for increased attendance
  • Provide social-emotional support to students and develop social-emotional learning in the curriculum
  • Create a curriculum that is culturally relevant while including scope, sequence and differentiated lesson plans
  • Meet required state standards
  • Meet required school and administration standards
  • Deliver dynamic, engaging student-driven lessons

Did I miss anything? Oh, yes, let's not forget fundraising and mandatory professional development (that may or may not align with your personal career goals). Teachers are like CEOs of multibillion dollar conglomerates with one employee: you. Teachers need support. In this post I will share how third-party partnerships can support teachers.

First, I want you to know that you are not alone. Daily teacher responsibilities leave little time to research, solicit and cultivate partnerships. Let’s start by going over the benefits of partnerships and how they can ease some teaching duties by creating a community-based classroom.

What Is a Third-Party Partner?

A third-party partner means HELP. Here’s one scenario: a math teacher has students with a high failure rate in class, so students could benefit from tutoring (a duty I forgot to mention above!). The teacher does not have time to provide additional support to every struggling student. A nonprofit, such as DoD STEM partner, National Math and Science Initiative, offers free tutoring in math, and they need students. It is a perfect match. Some partnerships include teachers providing lesson plans with appropriate scope and sequence. Some nonprofits can share student progress reports, which helps the teacher tailor future lessons based on student progress. Many nonprofits offer study sessions for state exams. This is an example of a successful third-party partnership. Does this sound like a dream come true? By partnering with DoD STEM-supported organizations such as MATHCOUNTS, FIRST Robotics and the Dayton Regional STEM Center, many positive scenarios can become reality.

Benefits of Having a Third-Party Partner

A third-party partner can help with tutoring, plus they can provide the following:

  • Funds or in-kind donations; you are BIG TIME if a partner sponsors your classroom or school
  • Extracurricular activities for students
  • Professional development opportunities aligned with your professional goals
  • Networking opportunities
  • Lesson plans aligned with state standards
  • Experiential learning opportunities for students

Where to Find Third-Party Partners

Okay, I know what you are thinking—all of this sounds good, great even, but where can I find these mythical third-party partners?

Social Media

Social media makes it easy to find partners. Most companies and nonprofits have some form of social media. Plus, because they offer cheap advertising and direct consumer contact, corporate sites are monitored closely by internal marketing and communications department personnel.

Once you identify companies you’d like to partner with, check out their social media accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

If you use their products, tag them in your post. Use the same hashtags as the companies because these are the hashtags they and others like them follow. Even if do not use their products, follow these steps and post about your success. Will this work? Yes! Because companies want you to use their products and serve as a third-party influencer for them!

Check out who companies follow and who follows them, which is a great way to learn more about their industry.

Company Website

Research whether companies have a development or community outreach officer. If this position isn’t listed on their website, conduct a search on LinkedIn. Ask a sales representative for a contact in the community development department. Sales representatives are always a great go-to.

They WILL Contact You

Third-party partners are desperate to gain access to schools because it looks good on their balance sheet as “community goodwill.” Having you as their contact person makes their jobs easier. To get their attention, follow the steps listed under social media above.

Cultivating a Relationship With Your Third-Party Partner

Relationship is the correct word. Third-party partners should not be viewed as clients or a clinical transaction because you will need them to advocate for you. More on that later.

Now that you’ve made contact, what do you say? How do you make the pitch? Well, the pitch is easy if they contact you, but if you contact them, I suggest the WIIFT method: “What's in It for Them?” The most effective way to do this is to create a T-Chart. On the left side, list classroom or school needs and mission statement. On the right side, list partner needs and mission statement. State how this partnership will help them meet their needs. If you are going after a for-profit company, it is prudent to state how you can contribute to its bottom line. Do you have a solid social media following? Do you have influence in your district? Will you promote its products?

STOP!! A word of caution: having a third-party partner is nice and there can be great rewards for your school or classroom; however, you should never create a need to gain a partner. The rule is to find a partner that meets an existing need.

A no is not always a no. It may be a “not right now.” Keep posting and tagging. Trust me; they are watching. If you get a yes, it is time to set goals. During your initial meeting, agree on what the partnership will look like, what needs will be met, and most importantly, the frequency of check-ins. Be realistic in these meetings; what can you honestly commit to? (I know a teacher should not end a sentence with a preposition, but in this instance, it works.) You don't want to create more work for yourself, and this is a partnership. You are not an employee.

Maintaining the Partnership

The most valuable thing you can do is publicly brag about the benefits of the partnership. If you can gain coverage via your school or district's social media, you will have struck GOLD and OIL! Publicity is currency. If you can gain news coverage with a feel-good article about the partnership, you will have a friend for LIFE! During your touch-base meetings, discuss how both parties are progressing on the agreed-upon goals. Be honest with yourself; if the partnership is not working, that is okay. Remember, as an entrepreneurial teacher who is a CEO, you still have to teach.

Examples of Some of My Partnerships

Carolina Biological is a scientific educational supply company that aligns its materials with the Next Generation Science Standards. (

Terms: Carolina Biological supplies my classroom with scientific kits, and students provide feedback. Students earn community service hours. I also sit on the educational advisory board; this is a paid position. As a board member, I interact with members of the STEM education community across the nation. Carolina Biological sponsors my Facebook science lessons that are open to the public.

Bud Engineering introduces students to various careers in engineering. The company emphasizes diversity in STEM. (

Terms: Bud Engineering supplies my classroom with engineering kits, and students provide feedback. Students earn community service hours. I also sit on the educational advisory board; this is not a paid position.

Drone Legend's mission is to teach scholars how to code drones for various scientific applications. (

Terms: Drone Legends supplies my classroom with drones and lab manuals, and students provide feedback. Students earn community service hours. I also sit on the educational advisory board; this is not a paid position.

The American Association of Chemistry Teachers' vision is to inspire and empower K-12 chemistry educators. The mission is to support the success of educators by providing quality resources, professional development, and networking opportunities. (

Terms: I sit on the educational advisory board; this is not a paid position. I have the opportunity to be at the forefront of chemistry pedagogy.

The Thurgood Marshal Student Center develops students to be leaders in STEM, diversity and the community or industry. (

Terms: Students are provided with community service hours and internships. They are paired with a mentor. Mentors are people of color who are leaders in STEM fields. Students receive help with college applications and entrance exams.

The mission of the USA Science & Engineering Festival is to stimulate and sustain the interest of the nation’s youth in STEM by presenting compelling, exciting and educational STEM events and programs. (

Terms: I am the USA Science & Engineering Festival STEM Ambassador to the DoD. DoD STEM supports hands-on learning opportunities, teacher enrichment, scholarships, internships and fellowships to inspire and cultivate a diverse pool of exceptional STEM talent. As the government’s largest employer of STEM professionals, the DoD is committed to increasing the pipeline of candidates qualified for technical careers. A stipend is awarded.

If you need a thought partner in developing third-party relationships, please reach out. I can be found on Instagram and Twitter: @JonteRLee.

With or without partnerships, you are a hero to someone!! Thank you for all that you do for students.


Prior to teaching STEM in Washington, DC, public schools, Jonté Lee worked in the corporate sector as a marketing specialist. He first felt called to teaching while volunteering for the Big Brother Big Sister program, where he found joy reading to his little brother. Jonté started out as a part-time college teacher while still working full time. He was able to earn his license through Ready to Teach, an alternative teaching certification program at Howard University. Teaching has become his life's passion. He enjoys making meaningful connections with students and pushing them academically. His greatest joy is seeing them grapple with and then learn a concept.