You may not find the word “edupreneur” in any dictionary, but if ever an addition is made to Merriam-Webster’s, a picture of Patricia M. Roberts ’73, M’75 should appear next to it.
An edupreneur is an educator with an entrepreneurial mindset, and Roberts has spent the span of her almost 50-year career using a 21st-century education mindset to hugely impact the field.
“I am forever grateful to West Chester University for giving me a variety of broad experiences and opportunities to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking,” she says. “My philosophy to this day is that entrepreneurial educators beget entrepreneurial thinkers and doers.”
For her work-study assignment, Roberts was placed in the University’s Demonstration School. “Ahead of its time,” according to Roberts, the Demonstration School operated on the WCU campus for more than 80 years and served both elementary students and West Chester University’s student teachers.
“That experience was formative for me,” says Roberts. “The Demonstration School provided a high-quality education with enrichment activities that went far beyond what most elementary schools could offer at the time. Both the student teachers and the students knew that they were somewhere special.”
Edupreneurs are often found building new education organizations and businesses, developing the latest ed-tech tools, and running new schools. Roberts has checked all three of these boxes.
Right after college, Roberts was hired as a teacher at the Demonstration School. As part of that experience, she not only taught young preschool children but also participated in research and educational outreach, training teachers nationwide. When the Demonstration School closed, Roberts founded Primak Educational Foundation, where she continued her work in research-based curriculum development. A commitment to the power of technology as a unique learning tool led her to spearhead the development of cutting-edge educational software as part of her second business, Early Learning Associates. Roberts then launched PTS Learning Systems, Inc., providing corporate computer training and learning support to businesses in the region. She grew the company into a multimillion-dollar business with 250 employees before selling it in 1999.
Roberts returned to the University briefly in the early 2000s as an adjunct faculty member and student teacher supervisor. With Judy Finkel ’73, now WCU emerita professor of early childhood and special education, she co-founded the Institute for Educational Excellence and Entrepreneurship (3E) as a national hub for identifying, disseminating, and funding innovative best practices developed by educators and entrepreneurs. Hundreds of educators were recognized and served by 3E.
In 2006, Roberts founded the AIM Academy and the AIM Institute for Learning & Research with co-founder Nancy Blair. Searching for the best learning opportunities for their daughters who were both diagnosed with dyslexia, Roberts’ and Blair’s AIM Academy in Conshohocken, PA, has become a leader in the field for students who learn differently. AIM launched with 24 students. Today, it serves 403 students and more than 20,000 educators who are using the tools, training, and coaching provided by AIM Pathways, an online learning platform.
Roberts says, “As educators, our collective goal is to graduate future-ready students. We want students to be prepared for fields that haven’t yet been invented by teaching them skills and supporting them with collaboration, teamwork, and problem-based learning.”
Through the years, Roberts’ service to the University has been manifold: adjunct professor, commencement speaker, College of Education Wall of Fame honoree, and member of the College of Education and Social Work Advisory Board.
“We are all the sum total of our experiences,” she believes. “I bring everything I learned and all of my work experiences with me to my jobs. If I had one message to share with students today, I would say to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.”
Patricia M. Roberts '73, M'75
"We want students to be prepared for fields that haven’t yet been invented by teaching them skills and supporting them with collaboration, teamwork, and problem-based learning."