During his seven years as an eighth grade math and social studies teacher in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Michael Barnes witnessed educational inequality firsthand. Determined to find a way to eradicate the inequalities he found, he wrote his dissertation about the subject, focusing on what he observed in a South Texas School District.
Barnes, who has a master’s degree in computer science, is in his final semester of the doctorate program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy.
While working toward his Ph.D., Barnes and his business partner, Jose Bethancourt, a graduate of UT’s McCombs School of Business, founded Teacher Talent. The start-up uses proprietary technology to match school districts with the best-suited teacher candidates, focusing on the distinct needs of the students and broader community.
Currently, the company employs a staff of four and is working with 48 school districts in 10 states. “With Teacher Talent, I can make an impact and help a lot of real communities,” Barnes says. “We are mostly working with Title I schools. They need exceptional educators who will really honor their students.”
As a long-time Texan, Barnes chose UT Austin because of its geographic proximity to the Rio Grande Valley and its stellar reputation. “Of all the Ph.D .programs I researched, the College of Education at UT Austin was the one that spoke to me and was practically a perfect fit,” he says.
He is grateful for his time in Austin and is setting down roots to grow Teacher Talent. “The best thing the College of Education did for me was provide me the tools and knowledge to understand the world as it is,” he says. “The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy has a strong equity focus and we learned how to dig deep and challenge assumptions about the world.”