For the first six years of her career, Gina Robertson was a science teacher at Waconia Public Schools in Minnesota. From there, she launched into a 17-year career for a nonprofit in international education, catering to exchange students from more than 40 countries as well as opening and supporting K-12 programs in nine countries. As Gaggle’s Director of Operations-Safety, Gina helps develop scalable solutions for our Gaggle Safety Team in order to provide timely, relevant responses for our district partners.
As our company—and our vital Gaggle Safety Team—continues to grow, Gina helps identify what we do well, what we may need to improve, and things we may need to start doing. “I recently met with the Gaggle Safety Team leaders to discuss how we flag specific words,” she shared. “The algorithm is set up to not flag certain words when it’s a student simply expressing their identity to a friend. The items that come through as concerning are situations where vulnerable communities are being harassed. We’re looking for any kid in crisis—including kids who are being harassed or bullied—and making adults aware of these situations so they can intervene.”
Start date: March 29, 2021
We asked Gina five questions to get to know a little more about her and her time with Gaggle. Here’s what she had to say:
What are three words to describe Gaggle?
- Innovative: When I think about the work we do on the technology side, innovation is part of what we’re after. We’re focused on how we keep kids safe—it’s our overarching goal. It’s the catalyst for why we do what we do in regard to technology.
- Resilient: When I think of the Gaggle Safety Team—and when I think of Gaggle as a whole—when considering the difficult things that we face, there is never this attitude that everything is hard or we won’t get past this. There’s always the attitude that it’s okay and we can figure out how to work through anything we’re facing. Gaggle is also very thoughtful about providing support for team members who have difficult jobs.
- Inclusive: From the day I started, whenever I had a question, people always responded with a smile. It’s been clear in the communication that everyone is here to help me fit in, help me learn, and help provide context where needed. I’ve also had discussions with people at the company about making sure that we are as diverse as we can be, and I love that inclusivity. In my background in international education, I’ve had the opportunity to work with kids and adults in more than 40 countries. Inclusivity is part of my life—it’s just who I am as a person, and I love that about Gaggle. I did not have to give that up.
What drew you to Gaggle?
I met Jeff at an event—he told me about the company, and I was taken aback by Gaggle’s mission. I told him that I was incredibly impressed with what the company does and what he had built. And as he started listening to my background, he mentioned a job he knew was coming up. There wasn’t a title or description yet, but he had a feeling I would be a good fit.
After learning about Gaggle’s mission, I put the company at the top of my list as somewhere I wanted to keep an eye on. International education was hit fairly hard during the pandemic, so I was actively job hunting. There were some high-level aspects I personally needed for my next job, and Gaggle hit all of them. The mission is what caught my attention, and then I started doing the research. The things that brought me here were the mission, company culture, and the people—I really wanted to work with a company that had a good culture. Everybody I met talked about the company and the goals of the company, and I could tell it wasn’t just a sales pitch. They were passionate about it and wanted to hire people who were also passionate. As a company, Gaggle is not interested in bringing people on board who are not passionate about what we do because it’s such important work.
What have you gained from working at Gaggle?
A lot! I think that I have more confidence in my own voice just because of the quality of the group of people I get to work with every day. I work with a group of people who are incredibly passionate about keeping kids safe and the work that we do, and they are meticulous in making sure we do it well. I love the collaborative climate I get to work in—I’ve been involved in so many discussions about how we can do this better. And it may be just one little piece of the puzzle of what we do as the Gaggle Safety Team or in Operations overall, but we’re meticulous in looking at all of those little pieces. You just get closer and closer to the best that you can be, and that’s what we’re after. I feel like our team works really well at identifying things we could do better and focusing on those things. I’ve also gained some good friends!
What is your proudest moment at Gaggle?
When I got feedback from the Gaggle Safety Team Manager that a suggestion I made in a meeting with him was instrumental in helping a student in crisis. During this brainstorming session, I suggested we add “mentally unstable” to our list of flagged words and phrases. The phrase was added, and he gave me feedback that this led to Gaggle identifying a student who was struggling. Had we not added it to the list, this situation could have been missed. It brought tears to my eyes. I know that the work we do is important, and when you see firsthand how what you do impacts the life of a student—and the lives of that student’s friends, family, school, and community—it anchors in you the fact that we need to keep doing this. And we need to do it better than we did yesterday. It was a very proud and humbling moment.
What is your favorite memory at Gaggle?
Even though I’ve only been here since March, I already have a lot of great memories from my time here. One day that stands out was when I got to speak to two different members of the Gaggle Safety Team and inform them about an incident they participated in that saved a girl’s life. The student in question had made the decision to end her life, and when she was found, she was in medical distress. Because these two reps worked diligently and alerted the district when they did, they were instrumental in saving this young girl’s life. They were both invigorated by the news and knew that the rest of their shift—and their week—would go well.
My team has a hard job to do, and they see some things that impact them and stay with them. While we, and they, are very mindful about their own wellness and mental health, when they get to hear about the impact, it confirms with them that their work is important and worth the hard times. One of the reps had only been with the company for about a month, and this was her first opportunity to realize that she played a vital role in saving a kid.
“I know that the work we do is important, and when you see firsthand how what you do impacts the life of a student—and the lives of that student’s friends, family, school, and community—it anchors in you the fact that we need to keep doing this. And we need to do it better than we did yesterday.”
Gina’s team—the Gaggle Safety Team—is crucial to the overall success of Gaggle’s mission to ensure the safety and well-being of students and schools by leveraging people and technology. Thanks to her and her team working hard every day to keep students safe, Gaggle is able to protect 5.2 million students in 1,500 districts across the country, and Gina and her team recognize the importance of supporting all students in crisis—including our most vulnerable student populations. “Gaggle is doing work to collaborate with organizations that support minority populations and those populations at risk,” she shared. “We work hard to make sure these communities are being kept safe, just like everybody else. They’re all students, and our job is to keep them as safe as we can. We want to make sure that we’re always working toward doing better.”