Joanne McEachen (Ngāi Tahu)

A recovering public servant, a social entrepreneur, a non-stop giver, humanitarian by nature and a formidable wāhine warrior.

The purpose of education is to learn who you are, how you fit into the world, and how you can contribute your gifts to humanity.

An international education leader and innovator with over 30 years experience, I know that when students, teachers and leaders develop self-understanding, connection, knowledge, and competency, we add to the world. And that leads to well-being, meaning, and fulfillment for everyone. My methodology transforms school systems through the eyes of their least-served learners, supporting systems to embrace and celebrate students’ cultural identities and individual interests and needs.

My purpose is to make sure every learner knows who they are, how they fit into the world, and what unique gifts they have so they are able to create and succeed in a better world.

Read more about me and my team

When we contribute, when we add to the world, we find purpose, engagement, motivation, and meaning. Every child deserves an equitable opportunity to learn to contribute in their way to the world. It will make their own lives, and others’ lives, better—and nothing could ever be better than that.

The Learner First (TLF) is an holistic approach to developing academic + social and emotional learning outcomes by aligning effective, school-generated change across three core areas:

  • Culture –  develop a culture of purpose and belonging where self-understanding, connection, knowledge, and competency are all equal outcomes of curricular learning,
  • Design – achieving inclusivity and differentiation through purposeful pedagogical strategies rooted in teacher and student collaboration, and
  • Assessment – aligning the academic achievement standards with formative and summative assessments to create equitable access to success for every student.

Beginning with the cultural and practical capabilities that school systems need to develop well-being, we put the processes in place for designing contributive learning experiences, measuring outcomes, and leading real change.

Learn more and explore support options. 


The Depthvale Detectives and the Great Education Crisis: A Guide to Contributive Learning in Schools (2020)

The Depthvale Detectives and the Great Education Crisis is a story for educators, parents, and students about using your “powers”—your learning—for good. Together with its tools and professional learning activities, it can help you make well-being, meaning, and fulfillment the ultimate outcomes of all that you do. Read More

“This book marks a true meta-moment for schools, a chance to consider what your best school would look like, and to choose the behaviors that bring it to life.”

―from the foreword by Marc Brackett, Ph.D.Director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Professor, Yale Child Study Center Author of Permission to Feel

“Every educator will be able to read this, see themselves and their school, and begin to think about how they can truly contribute to their own school community.”

Patrick FisherPrincipal, Meramec Elementary, United States

The Depthvale Detectives will help us move to a more inclusive school focused on well-being, meaning, and fulfillment.”

Chris DenchPrincipal, Kilcoy State High School, Australia

The Depthvale Detectives and the Great Education Crisis is a fantastic resource for schools… The purpose of school and education ought to be to make people’s lives and the world better. Contributive learning is a brilliant way of thinking about how to realize that purpose, how to add to the world.”

Dominic RegesterProgram Director, Salzburg Global Seminar, Austria, Executive Committee Member, Karanga: The Global Alliance for Social-Emotional Learning and Life Skills

“Don’t let the story format fool you―this is a deep dive into school culture and practices.”

Ellen PercontiSuperintendent, Goldendale School District, United States

“The story of the Depthvale Detectives is gripping…. The book transcends all boundaries and becomes relevant to everyone who interacts with the education system.”

Suchetha Bhat CEO, Dream a Dream, India

What’s New?

The latest news and learning from us and other voices.

When We Say No

By Ellen Perconti, Superintendent of Goldendale School District in Washington State. Years ago, in the depth of winter, our school team was asked by a teacher to support a kindergarten student (“Lisa”) who, in response to every request,…

Joanne McEachen at [RE]LEARN

Between November 9-20, 2020, the [RE]LEARN Online Learning Innovation Festival brought together thought leaders from around the world to share insights and strategies aimed at creating global shifts in education. With over 200 speakers and 60…

Edmund Hillary Fellowship

For her continued innovation and thought leadership in the global education sector, The Learner First CEO Joanne McEachen has been selected as a Fellow by the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF), a network of leaders and entrepreneurs committed…

The Good and the Bad: Equity, Assessment, and the Great Education Crisis

“Assessment shouldn’t serve as a judge, but a guide, giving students direction on where to go next. It ‘fits’ students into the academic system, but should show them how they fit into the world—who they are, where they’re going,…

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