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David Olinger: How Adobe Saved My Career and Taught Me What Great Learners Do


David Olinger: Humanities Instructor, Curriculum Designer & House Co-Director at O’Dea High School.

Note: This essay originally appears on Adobe Education Leader David Olinger’s Linkedin Post

Three years ago I needed something to change. I was going through the motions each day and finding that I lacked energy, joy, and passion. I was heading down a path to burnout, and becoming one of those teachers who was “once a great educator”. My first thought was “I need to find a new job”, so I reached out to some friends who reached out to friends for opportunities.

Through this network, I found the solution to my problem.  It wasn’t a new job.  My friend Eric introduced me to Melissa who interviewed me, denied me a job, and then introduced me to the Adobe Education Leaders.  Through this community of practice I became a learner surrounded by energy, joy, and passion.


Great Learners Believe in Themselves

I remember looking at the Adobe website and familiarizing myself with the Adobe Education Leader program. My name was next to names already familiar to me. The members were people who authored books that I taught, people who created trainings that I used, and people who create bleeding edge technology for education. I felt unworthy.

At my first community gathering in San Jose, Melissa pulled me aside and said “you have a lot to offer this community”. I didn’t believe her, but I decided to pretend that her statement was true and engaged with this community as if I had something to bring. The masquerade worked and in preparation for my second community meeting, I was paired with a long standing Adobe Education Leader to present on how teachers can use technology to meet Common Core Standards.  The presentation took place on the main stage and generated a lot good feelings for me. I felt capable, valued, and creative.  I became more dedicated to my learning.


Great Learners are Curious and Connected

As a global community, Adobe Education Leaders are active twenty-four hours a day. During my first year, I spent as much time as I could engaging in community activities. Adobe Education Leaders engage each other with curiosity and openness. It’s the environment Adobe promotes. I learned that curiosity is a strong foundation. In this non-threatening and creative environment best practices in education are created and disseminated globally. Adobe uses its resources to maintain connections, bring people together, and manage a culture of curiosity. It’s part of what makes these educators the innovative leaders in their field. I learned that grounding my practice in curiosity and being connected with others generates joy, energy, and passion.


Great Learners Have a Defined Mission

Adobe Education Leaders share a common mission, to make the classroom a place where students create. This mission challenges the bank deposit system of education, where the teacher teaches and students are taught. I learned treating my students as more than empty vessels waiting to be filled changes the dynamic of the classroom. I learned to trust my students. I learned to say to them “you have a lot to offer”. Adobe’s mission is worthy. It asks educators to create school environments where learners can believe in themselves, connect with their community, engage with curiosity and share a common purpose.

My term as an Adobe Education Leader is up for renewal and as I prepare my re-application form, I find myself questioning my worth. This time I have an answer for my doubt: “you have a lot to offer this community”.


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  • By Helena Showell - 5:31 PM on March 9, 2016  

    The feelings David expounded are feelings that are (or were) so much like me! As an adjunct professor with long hours and poverty-level pay, I was, and am, feeling/experiencing burnout, exhaustion, depression, lassitude, etc. However, what is helping to alleviate these states, which are diminishing, is ADOBE, and the Adobe Community! I’ve been immersing myself in Adobe course work since Nov. 2014, and my outlook on life in general and my mental state are improving, which is positively impacting my physical health. Adobe is FEEDING my creative spirit, professionally and personally; and I’ve been able to transfer some of my Adobe assets, assignments, projects, curiosity, passion, etc., over into my online teaching arts & culture to two-year nursing students. Thank you, Adobe and Adobe Community! You’ve helped to save my life! 🙂

    Here is a link to an example of my work on Behance!