Life At Newsela: Elizabeth DiRenzo, Product Manager
Elizabeth joined Newsela in 2018 after six years of classroom teaching and experience bringing science products to market. As a Product Manager of Content, she collaborates across teams to create and launch products like Newsela’s Collections, which are bundles of curated content that support instruction of core and special subjects. As an alumna of Teach for America Metro Atlanta (2011) and a former K-5 Science Specialist at Korea International Elementary School, she’s passionate about helping teachers integrate literacy into science and breaking down silos between subject areas.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you collaborate with other teams in the company?
Day-to-day, I collaborate with our design team to conduct user research and learn more about teachers, students, and administrators. I also check in with our sales team to hear about the requests and trends they’re hearing from teachers and customers, which helps me identify user needs that aren’t being met.
Then, I swing over to the content team, where we work together to design innovative instructional content solutions for engaging learning. I also collaborate with our marketing and sales team when we’re ready to launch a new content product, and our community team comes in to help with that, too. They also design the professional learning that ensures teachers are successful in implementing the product into their classroom.
I truly can’t do my job without collaboration, and I wouldn’t want to. I can’t imagine a day where I’m not working with a colleague to solve a problem together. My colleagues give me energy, teach me new things, and work with me to create the best possible content products. We truly are better together, and Newsela exemplifies that!
How does your team and individual role at Newsela help contribute to the company’s larger goals?
As a product manager on the Collections team, we’re working to curate the best real-world content that is curriculum-aligned and can be updated instantaneously. Traditional textbooks can’t keep up in the 21st-century, where new content is released by the second. The moment a textbook is published it’s out of date, and their prohibitive cost means they’ll stick around in schools upwards of a decade! We want to change that. The content that students learn should reflect the real world.
I’m currently working on an Upper Elementary Science Collection and I couldn’t be more excited! Newsela started as a resource for current events and ELA instruction, and we’re excited to help teachers use our content on real-world phenomena to complement inquiry-based science instruction. We’ve heard from teachers that integrating literacy into science is one of their top priorities. Newsela’s Collections -- which help break down silos between subject areas -- are the perfect tool for doing just that, while also creating transdisciplinary learning experiences for students. We’re looking forward to hearing what students and teachers think of this new resource.
How does the company support your career growth?
From Day One at Newsela I’ve felt incredibly valued, both personally and professionally. The most immediate way I know Newsela is supporting my career growth is through my manager. Navigating personal and professional life can feel like a jungle, but it’s like she’s walking ahead of me with a machete, clearing all the brush so I have an unobstructed path to achieve my goals. I feel supported in advocating for myself and exploring different projects, and recognized for my achievements and growth. I feel comfortable sharing what I need more support with, and trust that she’ll help me develop in that area.
Newsela’s People team is also intentional about supporting the people leaders in our company through regular management training. My manager and I talk openly about my career growth, and I never doubt that she wants to elevate me. It’s rare to find that in a start-up.
Why is education and Newsela’s mission important to you?
I’ve been in education since the start of my professional journey! I was fortunate to have a variety of teaching experiences in public, charter, and international schools, and each taught me something different about teaching and learning, and impacts the work I do today.
I’ve made a professional commitment to myself to always work with companies that are designing innovative ways to decrease the opportunity gap for students. Even though I’m no longer in the classroom, I know that my work is impacting the learning experience of millions of students around the world.