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.

With The Learner First’s framework and system of tools, school communities can fulfill their true purpose by learning, connecting, and succeeding as one.

Develop a culture of purpose and belonging where self-understanding, connection, knowledge, and competency are all equal outcomes of curricular learning.

Contributive Curriculum
Student agency and voice take center stage in an inclusive environment where students are architects of learning that is meaningful, engaging, and personally relevant.

Check out the curriculum

Authentic Mixed Method Assessment (AMMA)
With a range of strategies, measures, and assessment tools, develop an equitable system of assessment that works for each one of your teachers and learners.


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.

SEL and Social Justice Series

“When we’re talking about equity, we have to redefine success. Because meaning and fulfillment is the new wealth, and contribution is the only way to earn it.” —Joanne McEachen, CEO, The Learner First The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted…

Joanne McEachen on Contributive Learning

In support of the Getting Smart Podcast’s “difference-making” focus, The Learner First’s Joanne McEachen sat down with Getting Smart CEO Tom Vander Ark for a conversation on her new book, The Depthvale Detectives and the Great Education…

Profile of a Principal in Liminal Times

By Mary Coverdale, Director of The Learner First, Australia. It’s becoming common to use the anthropological term “liminal” to describe the period of time we are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It means the space and time between…

Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined: Thoughts and Responses from Education’s Frontline During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), in support of Qatar Foundation’s UNGA Global Goals week platform, is hosting a virtual session launching a WISE Special Edition eBook titled Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined: Thoughts…

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