Staff Highlight: Joe Coladonato
The “Guy in the Background” Putting Educational Excellence in the Foreground
From the journal of: Joe Coladonato
Position: System Administrator
Years in the Agora family: Six
Home base: Media, PA
One of Joe’s most significant influences early in life were his parents. His father instilled in him the value of possessing a strong work ethic and showing it. Joe’s father taught him that half the job is showing up—every day—with the other half comprised of taking pride in presenting yourself with integrity, working hard and trying your very best, even in tough situations. Another big influence along his journey was Joe’s love for swimming, which he did competitively for several years. Through swimming he learned the principles of self-discipline, making a strong effort and working relentlessly for whatever you set your eyes on. Lastly, an undeniable influence that motivated Joe to get to where he is today was the world of technology burgeoning around him. A child of the 90s, everything that was happening in technology was formative for Joe—he grew with it, saw its opportunities and, as we see today, turned those opportunities into a life and career that every day connects thousands of Agora students with the technology not only to get a quality education but to explore life-changing paths.
The journey to Agora
At first, Joe had his eyes on becoming an electrical engineer, however, the world of technology kept calling to him. By the time he reached college he had determined his true path—a career in information science that would give him the opportunities to build systems and map out how they communicate with each other. After receiving his B.S. in information science and technology from Penn State, in 2016, Joe took a position with Agora as an internal helpdesk professional. Before the end of that year, Agora was engaged in an IT infrastructure overhaul, with Joe front and center helping build things from the ground up. He embraced the opportunity to take a lead role in helping Agora navigate new waters that would elevate their ability to educate with excellence and pave the way for additional cyber charter school success. This required him to research and explore new areas, conceptualize and analyze options, and strategize then execute an integrated solution of technical and engineering concepts. Today, Joe is “chief overseer” of the systems and programs—from the full Microsoft infrastructure to email accounts to assistive technology for smartphones and tablets—that make Agora education possible and keep it humming.
“Technology is what brought me here,” said Joe. “But what Agora means to education is what keeps me here. Everything at Agora is about the student learning experience and personalized service. Making sure they have the best experience and are getting a good education. It always feels good when you can assist a family or student to help them with their schooling. You get a great feeling when you can hear in their voice the impact you made.”
Being the difference
Simply stated, without Joe and the systems he maintains, there would be no distance learning capability, and, therefore, no Agora. That alone is a big difference he makes to our students, families and staff every day! But Joe does so much more than keep things running on the “tech side.” As a part of a great team, he is another set of Agora’s eyes and ears in the tech world, bringing new opportunities to us that can further enhance our cyber learning model and make education even more accessible, convenient, exciting and effective. Joe is also that “guy in the background” everyone seeks out when they need support with technology. And when they do, they find an experienced and knowledgeable professional who also understands that technology, while wonderful, can sometimes be frustrating or intimidating. A compassionate, patient supporter, Joe defies a lot of what people typically think of when they hear someone is a “tech person.” That is, he is personable and understanding. Joe communicates well with teachers, families and students alike, and takes pride in being as accessible as possible—because he knows many times, he and his skills are the bridge between a student and their education, between a teacher and their students, and between a parent and their child’s educational experience.
“I take one thing at a time and focus on students and making sure they can get to class and start learning. Same for staff. Without teachers, nothing happens. My goal—our goal at Agora—is to use tech to benefit our teachers and students for a better learning experience. We need to make everything on the tech side as easy as possible and eliminate roadblocks that could stop teachers from teaching and students from learning.”
The next chapter
“Until I started with Agora, I didn’t even know online K-12 was a thing. But quickly I saw that our model is the future of education. Since it was so new to me, the possibilities were endless—and they still are. To see how far we’ve grown from when I started is incredible. Every day is different and exciting.”
Joe loves his role at Agora, the team he works with and the opportunities he has daily to connect students, teachers, staff and families with an exciting world of education. That same competitive spirit that defined his swimming pursuits drives Joe to keep Agora at the top of the technology game. From childhood, he experienced constantly that technology was a living entity—a set of always evolving tools that collectively present new possibilities to the world of cyber education. With “childlike” curiosity and the capabilities of a highly experienced System Administrator, Joe is dedicated to continuing to explore, discover and put to use new technological assets for the benefit of the Agora community. While many may consider him a “tech guy behind the scenes,” Joe is proud to be a pivotal part of the Agora family. He is dedicated to educational excellence, believes in Agora’s power to prove the value of cyber learning, and will always be instrumental in changing lives through learning.