by Claire Sykes
In the mid-1970s, Joy Evans and Jo Ellen Moore were two Title I-school teachers determined to not only teach their students basic skills, but also to ignite a love of learning. They created their own lessons to supplement the core curriculum and as they watched their students succeed, they knew they were bringing something special into their classrooms. In 1979, Joy’s brother, lawyer Bill Evans, joined the two friends and together they founded Evan-Moor Educational Publishers.
Since then, the Monterey, California-based company has produced more than 450 pre-K-through-grade-8 resources for teachers and parents; as well as games, center kits and flashcards. They’re used in more than 1 million classrooms in the U.S. and 90 countries. The supplemental educational materials enhance core curricula in building and bolstering basic and complex skills in all subjects while sparking students’ curiosity.
Ed Dealer is curious, too, about how the company has evolved to meet the needs of today’s learners. We recently talked with Lisa Vitarisi Mathews, the company’s publisher of print products, about Evan-Moor’s success, and where it’s setting its sights for the future.
Ed Dealer: Forty years is a long time. To what do you attribute the company’s longevity?
Lisa: As a company of teachers, we’ve always been grounded in current standards and best practices in education. We’re inspired by teachers in the classroom and we’re excited about what we’re doing! This passion only feeds our commitment to support teachers and parents in helping children learn. We’re also committed to learning, about new methodologies and best practices, as we change and grow with the market.
What’s your bestseller today?
The “Daily” product line – for language review, math practice, word problems, science and many other skills across the curriculum. These are paced programs, most for 36 weeks, with a worksheet for each day. The methodology is “repeated practice leads to mastery.” Its roots go back to 1992, when we began with Daily Language Review, our top seller out of all our categories.
How often do you introduce new products?
About once a year. We have critical thinking resources and we recently published two STEM products. One is a series of full-color workbooks for parents whose children are pre-K, K and grade 1. We haven’t seen any other print resources that focus on STEM for that age group. The other is for classroom teachers. The lessons include STEM challenges about solving real-life problems, plus design-thinking models, science concepts and visual-literacy support.
Some of our resources are digital. Currently, the digital market is about 10 percent of our total business and it continues to grow.
Evan-Moor was acquired last May by Lincoln Learning Solutions, a nonprofit that offers online learning solutions and support services. Did business change as a result?
There have been almost no changes since we became a Lincoln Learning division. Joy passed away in 2012, and after many great years, Bill and Jo Ellen decided that it was time for Evan-Moor to evolve under new ownership.
Lincoln Learning Solutions’ business is distance learning and ours is print publishing, and we’re both dedicated to helping children learn. We’ll keep evolving as we always have.
What are classroom teachers, parents and homeschool parents looking for today? How does Evan-Moor meet their needs?
Parents and teachers rely on Evan-Moor for high-quality curricula. If a parent doesn’t know how to use a product or needs some help, someone from our in-house staff will get on the phone with them to provide support. We often talk to teachers and parents to make sure we understand what they need and what works well in their learning environments.
All of our products are based on research. Our content-knowledge experts go to conferences alongside teachers, and learn from educational researchers presenting their studies. We work hard to make sure we understand the pedagogy and methodologies.
Teacher stores are very important to us because they share with their customers their knowledge and expertise – of both classroom and learning-at-home materials. Often, educational dealers are working right alongside parents and teachers to help children learn. Their staffs are well trained and know the product, and they can help navigate it and make knowledgeable recommendations. That’s a specialty that the big-box stores and Amazon do not have.
What tips can you offer teacher stores for selling Evan-Moor products?
One of the best things they can do is make up the projects from the workbooks – Evan-Moor will comp those books for them. It becomes very meaningful for them when they get hands-on experience. They’ll find that their customers will be drawn to the creative learning tasks, especially when they see them on display.
In terms of creating the knowledge base for staff to help parents and teachers make decisions … we encourage storeowners to go through the “front matter” with their staff. Almost all of our products have front matter that explains how to use the book, what page types target particular skills, and how the lessons fit into the child’s educational experience. They’ll discover what’s great about the product and what makes it different – they’ll be excited about it! – and they’ll be able to talk intelligently about it with customers.
What’s next for Evan-Moor?
We’re publishing more products for at-home learning, such as full-color workbooks. More parents are homeschooling and extending learning to the home, so we’re responding to that demand. We’re always looking at teachers’ blogs and teachingchannel.org to see what’s really happening in the classroom; and edutopia.org for videos and professional development.
The nature of education is changing; students are becoming more involved with their own learning, and our resources are evolving to support them. Evan-Moor will continue to evolve as we see education evolving and classrooms changing. But we know now, more than ever, that there is something really special about sitting with a book and having those tactile and visual experiences. That’s one thing that will never change.