Leadership Team

Tom ap Simon

Managing Director – Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12

Mr. ap Simon serves as Managing Director of Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education), handling the organization’s strategic vision, management, and day-to-day execution to deliver the best possible support and services for schools, programs and families.

Mr. ap Simon first joined Pearson, the world’s learning company, in 2004. He has successfully led many different aspects of the organization’s various businesses and has held several leadership roles, including Interim President of the Growth Markets (Pearson’s emerging markets businesses). Prior to becoming Managing Director, Mr. ap Simon was Sr. Vice President North America from July 2017 to February 2018. From 2014 to July 2017 Mr. ap Simon served as Sr. Vice President Finance, Growth Markets, where he focused on building the business’s talent, culture, and financial discipline to drive improved performance. Mr. ap Simon reshaped and simplified the Growth Markets business, leading to a much sharper strategic focus within the Growth division and delivery of business goals. Mr. ap Simon also spent five years overseeing Pearson mergers and acquisitions in the U.S., giving him a strong understanding of U.S. education landscape trends. Mr. ap Simon holds a MA in Economic and Politics from the University of Edinburgh. In his spare time he juggles being a dad to three young kids and is an avid Arsenal and New England Patriots fan.

Dr. Steven Guttentag

Co-Founder – Connections Academy
Senior Vice President – Planning & Processes

Dr. Guttentag is one of the co-founders of Connections Academy, and has over 20 years of career experience designing and deploying technology solutions to improve K–12 education. Dr. Guttentag currently serves as the company’s head of planning and processes, overseeing process improvements and transformation programs to ensure operational excellence and continuous improvement across the organization.

Dr. Guttentag most recently served as the Managing Director and President of Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education) from 2014-2018. In this role, Dr. Guttentag navigated the organization through an evolving marketplace, including a rebrand to Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12; spearheaded diversification of business lines; and implemented new processes and functions to support the company’s continued growth. Dr. Guttentag was part of the founding team of Connections Academy in 2001 and crafted the company’s initial business strategy and product design, and helped build the business from four employees and zero customers to a global leader in K–12 virtual learning. Dr. Guttentag has held several different roles with the company, beginning as the Chief Education Officer managing all school operations as well as leading curriculum and instruction. Prior to founding Connections Academy, Dr. Guttentag served as the Chief Education Officer for Education Networks of America, a provider of complete, managed Internet-access solutions to the education community, and led KPMG Consulting's Midwest education practice. He began his career as a classroom teacher within the District of Columbia public schools, and has held several senior administrative positions within the School District of Philadelphia. His academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Education Policy and Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Holly Atwell

Senior Vice President – School Services

Ms. Atwell leads school services for Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education), ensuring all customers are supported in delivering high quality academics that improve learner outcomes. Ms. Atwell oversees Student Academic Services, providing services to students including teaching, tutoring, speech, and special education management. Ms. Atwell also leads several teams providing services to schools, including training, program management, facilities management, state reporting, school counseling and state testing consultative services, and supports school leader management, human resources and compliance services. Ms. Atwell joined Pearson Online & Blended Learning (formerly Connections Education) in 2008 as Connections Academy's Director of High School. Prior to this, she taught high school math and led district STEM and magnet initiatives in a Maryland county school district. Ms. Atwell began her career as an Industrial Engineer and Program Manager, and has twenty years' experience in the industry - including work on military and consumer electronics projects at Westinghouse and Northrop Grumman. She holds a Master’s of Education from the University of Maryland University College, and a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University.

Pat Laystrom

Senior Vice President – Client Development & Partnerships

Ms. Laystrom leads client development and partnerships for Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education), ensuring the successful acquisition, retention and satisfaction of clients across all lines of business. Ms. Laystrom oversees several functions, including State & Strategic Client Relations, Board Relations, School Financial Services, Proposals, Client Services & Sales Operations, and Sales teams. Ms. Laystrom first joined Pearson Online & Blended Learning (formerly Connections Education) in 2001 as a consultant, and in 2011 began leading the State Relations team, focused on identifying new business opportunities, building key relationships, and working on legislative activities across the country. Ms. Laystrom has over 30 years of experience in education and has held senior management positions with several leading educational companies, including: Vice President Sales & Business Development for AHA!interactive; Director of Sales for Scholastic New Media; and Vice President of Sales for Educational Resources. Ms. Laystrom began her career in the classroom, and has also managed a series of educational learning centers. She holds a B.S. in Education from Indiana University.

Dr. Christopher Gentile

Senior Vice President – Product Development

Dr. Gentile leads product development for Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education), focusing on building, integrating, and maintaining K–12 course content and assessments, professional development and training content, and POBL platforms and software. Dr. Gentile oversees the following product development areas: Software Engineering & Architecture, Content Architecture, Agile Facilitation, and Content Development & Production. He has over 25 years experience in educational technology with a specific concentration on the development of innovative online curriculum and training products, learning platforms and content management systems. Prior to joining Pearson in 2017, Dr. Gentile was the founder and former CEO of FYI Online Learning, an education publishing company that develops and licenses online curriculum to higher education and K–12 markets. He is also the co-founder and former CEO for Virtual Sage, an online curriculum company, and the University of Miami Online High School, and has served in various senior leadership positions at Kaplan Education, iMind Education, the National Academy Foundation and Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Gentile began his career as a public school teacher in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and has held several administrative positions within the school district. His academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, M.S. in Behavioral Medicine, B.A. in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Miami, and a post-doctoral specialist in Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Amar Kumar

Senior Vice President – Product & Portfolio Management

Mr. Kumar leads product and portfolio management at Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education), responsible for developing and implementing product and service road maps with a focus on efficacy, customer satisfaction and enhanced user experience. Prior to joining Pearson Online & Blended Learning K–12 (formerly Connections Education) in 2017, Mr. Kumar served as the Sr. Vice President of Efficacy & Research at Pearson, the world’s learning company. His team was charged with defining, measuring, and improving learner outcomes across Pearson's global portfolio of products and services; and supported Pearson’s Affordable Learning Fund, helping to expand access to quality education in the world's developing communities. Prior to Pearson, Mr. Kumar held management positions with McKinsey & Company and Eli Lilly. Mr. Kumar began his education career as a Principal at Thomas Memorial English School in Bangalore, India. He serves as the non Executive Director for education start up companies Experifun and Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions, and as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees for two UP Academy Charter Schools. He holds an MBA from Harvard University and a B.S. in Computer Science from Purdue University.


IN MEMORIAM
Barbara Dreyer
(1955 – 2014)

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Connections Education, inspirational and energetic leader and natural teacher, Barbara helped redefine education today by creating life-changing educational options for families throughout the country.