Success from the start

Every child should enter their first classroom on day one confident and ready to learn.

Our Mission

Waterford.org seeks to blend the best aspects of learning science, mentoring relationships, and innovative technologies to form community, school, and home programs that deliver excellence and equity for all learners.

Our Story

Waterford.org was founded by Dr. Dustin Heuston, a pioneering educator who believed every child is entitled to lifelong learning success. Over the years, Dr. Heuston built a collaborative model of child, family, and educator engagement that delivers significant and lasting academic achievement gains. In 2009, that model was launched in Utah with Dr. Claudia Miner as Waterford UPSTART, a kindergarten readiness project serving 4-year-old children and their families. Funded by the Utah State Legislature, Waterford UPSTART delivers computer-adaptive instruction at home alongside personalized support from Family Education Liaisons, who monitor progress and empower parents as their child’s first teachers. Thanks to generous sponsors and partners, Waterford UPSTART has expanded to more than 15 states, and Waterford serves over 300,000 children annually through at-home and in-school programs. And that number is continuously growing!

Our Beliefs

Waterford.org believes while every individual has the capacity for growth at every stage of life, childhood academic experiences are uniquely critical for setting a lifetime learning trajectory.

In Philadelphia, nearly two-thirds of children cannot read at grade level by the fourth grade, a challenge made worse by a shortage of pre-kindergarten program access. Thanks to philanthropic support and a local partnership with Read by 4th, Waterford.org delivered Waterford UPSTART at no cost to families in the community, including Kimberly Johnson and her 5-year-old son, Kingston.

Waterford.org believes the thoughtfully coordinated support of parents, teachers, and other mentors gives students the ambition and resilience they need to reach their full potential.

Wichita Falls Independent School District in Texas faced a significant challenge. Nearly half of their students were entering kindergarten unprepared. Waterford.org partnered with the district to offer Waterford UPSTART directly to families in the community for kindergarten readiness at home and Waterford Early Learning in K-2 classrooms.

Waterford.org believes learning is intrinsically motivating, and it is accelerated when properly matched to an individual’s needs and interests.

In Utah’s rural Duchesne County, 8-year-old Sadie Cifuentes had completed her Waterford Early Learning courses and was ready to practice her reading skills more independently. Waterford.org provided Sadie with the independent reading platform, Curriculet, and her love of reading exploded! She was excited and self-motivated to read over the summer – her mother Bennie Cifuentes had to pull her away for chores and bedtime.

Waterford.org believes effective approaches for teaching and learning are best identified by research that is rigorous, iterative, and pragmatic.

In Utah’s Washington County School District, about half of the schools are Title I with students who faced significant achievement gaps and were unable to catch up with their peers. The district ran two early learning programs simultaneously to prepare their children for kindergarten. After a head-to-head comparison, the group of children who used Waterford.org software displayed greater gains in early literacy and were better prepared to enter kindergarten than students who did not use Waterford.

Waterford.org believes rapid advancements in technology will continue to increase the precision, adaptivity, and availability of high-quality learning programs, and these innovations offer hope that all individuals can receive excellence and equity in education.

Cherrise Parrish lived in a home without running water or electricity in rural and isolated Monument Valley, Utah, home to primarily Native American families. To overcome access challenges, Waterford.org provide the Parrish family and other families in their rural community with solar panels, satellite internet, and a Chromebook through the support of federal funding and the i3 grant so Cherrise could participate in Waterford UPSTART.

Waterford.org believes policymakers, philanthropists, and others who have the power to make proven, cost-effective educational solutions available to those in need have an urgent responsibility to do so.

In South Carolina, many families in rural and impoverished areas do not have access to PreK resources to properly prepare their children for kindergarten. After the success of a one-year Waterford UPSTART pilot funded by the i3 grant, South Carolina’s legislature continued the program, funding it for two more years.

Our Waterford UPSTART Families

The Martin Family

Mother-of-two Barbara Martin works four jobs, so having access to Waterford UPSTART and the parent support that comes from weekly check-ins with a Family Education Liaison helps her know her children will be ready on day one for school. Having the no-cost Waterford UPSTART project gives her access to early education services she wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.

Apiel Kuot and Suman Rai

Apiel Kuot and Suman Rai—refugees from South Sudan and Bhutan, respectively—tell their stories of how Waterford UPSTART prepared their children for school, as well as the support they received as they learned English and gained access to technology for the first time.

Kingston and the 
Johnson Family

Meet Kingston and Kimberly Johnson, a family from West Philadelphia. Kingston and Kimberly are one of many families who, having no access to early education programs, benefited from philanthropic support and the Waterford UPSTART project, run by Waterford.org.

Waterford.org is Committed to Providing Early Education Access to At-Risk Populations

At-risk children suffer disproportionately when it comes to early education access. This means they are entering their first classroom 2-3 years behind their peers. Children from at-risk populations who graduate from Waterford UPSTART, ran by Waterford.org and supported by philanthropic donations, come to school ready to learn on day one and have been shown to maintain academic gains at least through the fourth grade. Help change the lives of our most at-risk children.

Meet the Leadership of Waterford.org

Benjamin Heuston
PhD, President & Chief Executive Officer

As a leader in educational technology over the last two decades, Edward “Benjamin” Heuston continues the legacy started by his father Dusty. Benjamin is an active speaker in educational settings and is also a member of several boards and associations, including the SIIA Education Board, the Society for Scientific Study of Reading, and the International Gold Key Honour Society, as well as a mentor for Utah Entrepreneurship Challenge. Benjamin holds two bachelor’s and a master’s, and he earned a PhD in psychology from Brigham Young University.

Andy Myers
Chief Operating Officer

Andy rejoined Waterford as Chief Operating Officer in June 2016—nearly 21 years after starting his career in education technology sales. After that first role, Andy filled several leadership positions in sales and marketing before becoming COO for Pearson’s digital learning business unit and later Senior VP of Digital Product Development for Pearson’s U.S. K-12 curriculum division. More recently, Andy served as CEO at Scientific Learning and as CSO at Renaissance. Andy holds an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley.

Claudia Miner
PhD Executive Director & Cofounder of Waterford UPSTART

Claudia came to Waterford in 2007 with more than 25 years’ experience. She has developed, piloted, and scaled Waterford UPSTART projects in Utah and more than a dozen states, with plans to serve more than 80,000 children by 2020. She is project director of the completed federal Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation grant and the current Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Expansion Grant. She was honored as a “Women Entrepreneurs Changing Education” by the Omidyar Network. Claudia received her PhD from Washington State University.

Tom Ness
Chief Financial Officer

With over 20 years’ experience, Tom has worked as a consultant advising businesses on best practices in accounting and management and helped a variety of startups mature from early-stage companies to established businesses. Of the three technology companies Tom has worked with, one had a successful IPO raising $42.3 million and was eventually acquired for $9.3 billion, and the other two were acquired for a total value of $497 million. Tom holds two bachelor’s degrees.

Todd Stevenson
Executive Vice President School Partnerships

Todd has spent the past thirteen years in the educational technology space, specializing in virtual, blended, and online learning, as well as district partnerships. Since his arrival at Waterford in 2016, Todd has led both inside and regional sales teams and was promoted in 2017 to Executive Vice President – School Partnerships. He is fluent in German and holds a master’s in Modern European History.

Anne Brown
Vice President of Education and Business Development

Anne has spent her career engaged in advancing the design and implementation of digital personalized learning. Her experience as a teacher in low-income, high-risk schools prompted her desire to improve education for all learners, regardless of their circumstances. Anne is a national leader in personalized learning working with the AASA The School Superintendents Association to build the first Superintendent’s Cohort and Certification in Personalized Learning.

Mike Hight
Vice President of Products

As VP of Products, Mike is responsible for Waterford’s product vision and software development. Mike has 15+ years of experience building products and analytic platforms in healthcare, politics, e-commerce, and education. His deep understanding of data and analytics has allowed him to repeatedly solve seemingly intractable problems. Mike holds a master’s in information systems from Boston University.

Lisa White
Vice President of Customer Success

As VP of Customer Success, Lisa is responsible for the program implementation and management of the Waterford Reading Academy learning program and the Waterford UPSTART kindergarten readiness project. Lisa has over 25 years’ experience in leading complex marketing and technology implementations for Fortune 500 clients and has led customer success and project management teams in Dallas, San Francisco, and New York.

Mark Welling
Vice President of Marketing

Mark Welling is an experienced managing editor, writer, and marketer with extensive background in digital marketing, content development, and brand storytelling. Mark spent the past 10 years working in the tech publishing and marketing space. Since joining Waterford.org as Vice President of Marketing, Mark and his team have worked tirelessly to ensure that as many children as possible gain access to academic opportunities, so they can achieve success from the start in their educations.

Meet the Waterford.org Board

Chairman of the Board

A. Scott Anderson
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Zions Bank

A native of Salt Lake City, A. Scott Anderson joined Zions Bank in December of 1991 as executive vice president of Retail Banking, and he assumed his current responsibilities as president and CEO of Zions Bank in 1998. Scott has a bachelor’s from Columbia University and a master’s in economics and international studies from Johns Hopkins University. Active in community affairs, Scott serves as a board member for several nonprofit organizations.

Board Members

Benjamin Heuston, PhD
President and Chief Executive Officer, Waterford.org

As a leader in educational technology over the last two decades, Edward “Benjamin” Heuston continues the legacy started by his father Dusty. Benjamin is an active speaker in educational settings and is also a member of several boards and associations, including the SIIA Education Board, the Society for Scientific Study of Reading, and the International Gold Key Honour Society, as well as a mentor for Utah Entrepreneurship Challenge. Benjamin earned a PhD in psychology from Brigham Young University.

Stephanie J. Monroe, JD
President and Founder, Wrenwood Group, LLC

Stephanie J. Monroe is President of the Wrenwood Group, a boutique Washington, D.C. health and education consulting firm. She has contributed to many family and child development efforts, including the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the Head Start Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, and No Child Left Behind.

Ann Christensen
President, Christensen Institute

Ann Christensen is president of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, where she directs overall development and oversees its growing research programs. She has also worked at Huntsman Gay Global Capital, Elan Pharmaceuticals, and Deloitte Consulting. Ann holds a master’s in business administration from the Harvard Business School.

James Holbrook
Professor, College of Law, University of Utah

James R. Holbrook is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Utah where he teaches negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Before joining the faculty in 2002, he practiced law for 28 years in the complex civil and federal white-collar criminal litigation. James earned a master’s from Indiana University and a JD from the University of Utah.

Todd Cranney
Partner, Riverwood Strategies

Todd Cranney’s experience with successful political campaigns allows him to deliver intelligent, thoughtful strategic guidance. Before co-founding his Idaho firm Riverwood Strategies, Todd served as National Deputy Political Director of the Romney for President 2012 campaign. Todd has also served in a number of leadership positions, including as a political appointee at the Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. Through his experience, Todd has developed an extensive network of political contributors and leaders in all 50 states.

Allison Gushée Molkenthin
Managing Director, Bentley Associates

Allison Gushée Molkenthin has advised a variety of tech-based companies on raising private equity, cross-border investments, and M&A. Allison has over 30 years of experience in investment banking and graduated from Brown University with AB’s in both Mechanical Engineering and in Comparative Literature, as well as an MBA from INSEAD in France. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for graduate research in photovoltaic solar energy in Morocco.

“I Did Not Have to Tell a Family ‘I Cannot Educate Your Child’”

Dr. Travis Armstrong, Director of Early Learning for Wichita Falls Independent Schools, recently explained:

“Every year in my career I’ve had to turn away families. For the first time in my career as an administrator, I did not have to tell a family ‘I cannot educate your child.’ The Waterford UPSTART project has been a godsend for our school district. I recently sat down and explained Waterford UPSTART to a family in our school, they said, ‘I don’t think we’ll be able to afford this.’ And I said ‘Good, because it is free to you.’”

Help fund a scholarship for a Waterford UPSTART child today!

“I Did Not Have to Tell a Family ‘I Cannot Educate Your Child’”

Dr. Travis Armstrong, Director of Early Learning for Wichita Falls Independent Schools, recently explained:

“Every year in my career I’ve had to turn away families. For the first time in my career as an administrator, I did not have to tell a family ‘I cannot educate your child.’ The Waterford UPSTART project has been a godsend for our school district. I recently sat down and explained Waterford UPSTART to a family in our school, they said, ‘I don’t think we’ll be able to afford this.’ And I said ‘Good, because it is free to you.’”

Help fund a scholarship for a Waterford UPSTART child today!

Proud Partnerships

Waterford.org is proud to partner with individuals, organizations, schools, institutes, businesses, and governments who want to help all children gain access to academic success to attain a brighter future.

Translate »