Episode 10 – A Conversation with Shannon Ritz: From Pom-Poms to PD

Our Vice President of Professional Development Shannon Ritz has been around the block a time or two. With 20 years of experience at Solution Tree, her tenure rivals that of CEO Jeff Jones. As one of the six original employees, Shannon has ridden the ups and downs, seen the company evolve, and has personally grown our PD from the ground up.

Read on to discover her story and a little bit about professional development at the Tree!

How It All Began

Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Shannon is no stranger to Solution Tree or its mission. Seeing that both of her parents were educators, landing in the field of education was a logical choice. Speaking of landing, here’s a fun fact about Shannon: she’s a celebrated gymnastics and cheerleading coach. Besides being a college cheerleader herself, Shannon also led a local high school squad to the national championship…and won.

It was when she was earning her MBA at the Kelley School of Business at IU that she put aside her coaching career to solely focus on her pivotal role at Solution Tree. When Shannon first started working at Solution Tree 20 years ago, she was part of a small but mighty team. Bouncing around from customer service/operations to marketing, Shannon finally hung her hat on PD. Focusing her energy there ever since, she has worked over the years to build our professional development offerings into what they are now. And boy, we are sure glad she did!

How It Works Now

Whether it’s a one-time, one-hour session or hundreds of days inside the classroom, Shannon has developed PD into a personalized experience based on both the strategic training of experts and the strategic matching of experts to schools. 

First, our presenter relations team onboards new associates. During this phase, Solution Tree learns everything it can about the associates, including their background, experience, skills, and personality. Next, account management collaborates with the presenter relations team to get to know the new associates as well. Serving as the liaison, account management works with schools requesting PD to match the perfect associate based on needs. 

So how do Shannon and her team develop associates? Think of it as PD for PD experts! Seasoned associates work with the newbies to train them on staff development, coaching, presenting, and more. New associates then get the chance to show their know-how by presenting to Solution Tree’s professional development team. Feedback is given and content training continues until new associates are ready to go! 

Where do our new associates come from? Shannon explains that she doesn’t find educators and then instruct them on what to coach, but rather finds individuals who have personally experienced what they plan to teach and have developed their knowledge in the classroom. 

Where It’s Going in the Future

While the bulk of Solution Tree’s professional development requests used to come from suburban schools, Shannon is seeing a shift to a more urban and priority school customer-base. What other predictions does she have for the future of PD? She believes PD will continue to be a blend of both virtual and in-person coaching in the coming months and even years. No matter what format it’s delivered, Shannon is certain that professional development is more important now than ever!

New Episode Coming Soon

Get ready…Episode 11 of Inside the Treehouse will be available on March 26. Tune in for a charismatic chat with the one and only Luis Cruz.


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