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Transforming Education Through Technology

by Isabell Gilfoil

Dave and partners presenting at ISTE

ACE Teaching Fellows brought Dave Messer into the classroom, and he’s used that experience to help make teaching and learning more engaging and effective with educational technology. 

Dave joined the 15th cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows after graduating from Saint John’s University in Minnesota. He had studied philosophy and art, but he had no concrete career plans – except for wanting a career with meaning and positive impact.

He now works as a product manager with Google for Education, including Ed Tech products like Google Classroom and Google Workspace for Education.

Dave Messer (left) and Kyle Baker (ACE 14, San Antonio) at ISTE
Dave Messer (left) and Kyle Baker (ACE 14, San Antonio) at ISTE.

Dave taught fourth grade at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in San Antonio, Texas, and he says he naturally incorporated technology into his classroom to help students learn. He would use YouTube to help students learn different topics like the water cycle.

“For the students, it was really engaging and it was a way to bring the world into the classroom,” Dave says. “It was a way to differentiate their learning, and I was just having fun with it because I was learning how to teach. I incorporated technology into instruction naturally and just kept exploring how it could help students learn.”

Dave moved to Chicago after graduating from ACE and continued teaching fourth grade – this time at Alphonsus Academy. He said the school was doing some innovative work as it integrated the arts and standards-based grading. 

While at Alphonsus Academy, Dave became really close with the technology coordinator, Julie Tuten, and they bounced ideas off each other to brainstorm how they could incorporate technology in the classroom. After his first school year, she came to Dave to say she was leaving and wanted him to take over her position.

“I started to manage everything from the hardware, [to] some very old laptops, to the software and the systems and everything,” Dave says. “I started to really understand how technology can be used across an organization.”

In this role, Dave brought Chromebooks to his school and introduced Clever, a digital learning platform that manages and automates student rosters and updates their information in learning programs.

Dave also helped build in-house data analytics products for the school that would pull data from different sources to help teachers and administrators understand their students’ needs, allowing them to relay this information to parents. It included a homegrown, standards-based report card. 

Seeing how technology had the potential to help schools – but was often limited – Dave went back to school in the evenings to earn a master’s degree in software engineering from DePaul University and moved to a charter school doing personalized learning. 

Left to right: Dave, Grace, Jude, Luke, Mae, and Katherine (ACE 15 San Antonio)
Left to right: Dave, Grace, Jude, Luke, Mae, and Katherine (ACE 15 San Antonio)

As Dave and his wife, Katherine who also did the ACE Teaching Fellows program, welcomed their second child, they decided to move from Chicago to Long Island.  When first looking for a job, Dave stumbled upon a product manager role at an Ed Tech company – then Centris Group, but since acquired by Frontline Education – that focused on administrative software for special education. After several years at Frontline Education, Dave joined the EDU team at Google. 

Dave says he can understand the technology problems teachers and administrators face in the classroom because he has been in their shoes. 

“When I talk to teachers or administrators – I was in their shoes, I understand the problems they have,” he says. “It’s really humbling to help teachers and others through that – just to help make their life a little bit easier behind the scenes and help solve those problems that were frustrating as a teacher and took up precious time, like entering grades in multiple systems. My goal is to help solve that problem for other teachers.”

Some of these problems that Dave has experienced as a teacher and gets to work on as a product manager include Google Classroom add-ons that help connect popular Ed Tech directly in Google Classroom for easier sign-in and grading.  

“I know firsthand how much time a teacher can spend just trying to get students signed into each EdTech app. Features like this can help maximize instructional time on learning, not managing tools.”

Dave says he also credits ACE because the Teaching Fellows program introduced him to great people and his career path. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without having done ACE,” Dave said. “When I look back, it was a key experience in forming both my life and career trajectory. I always cared about service and making an impact in people’s lives, and education is one of the biggest ways of doing that. I think being able to be a part of that and start to see the ways that education, teachers, administrators can make an impact was formative.”