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Venture Capitalist Quits To Become Middle-School Math Teacher

May 2, 2016, 3:17 PM UTC

Gene Trainor announced on Friday that he is stepping down as chief operating officer of Foundation Capital, a role he assumed in 2010 (before which he spent nearly a decade as COO of New Enterprise Associates). But this isn’t a retirement, nor is Trainor moving on to another venture capital firm. Instead, he’s planning to become a middle school math teacher in San Francisco’s public schools.

Trainor says that when he moved out to Silicon Valley to join Foundation, he knew he wanted to “give back,” but didn’t know how or where. He soon hooked up with The Smart Program, an education-focused nonprofit founded by venture capitalists Roger Lee (Battery Ventures) and Chip Linehan (NEA).

“It really introduced me to the educational challenges in low-income communities, and it began to resonate,” Trainor says. “I eventually realized that this is something I wanted to do fulltime… My kids have all been very fortunate, going to private schools, but the idea of teaching kids like them ― upper and upper middle-class ― didn’t really spark my interest.”

So Trainor and Foundation launched a transition plan last fall, and he plans to enroll in a San Francisco teacher residency program jointly run by Stanford and the University of San Francisco. If he passes his tests and is accepted, he’ll get put right into a middle school classroom in one of San Francisco’s lower-income areas, while working to get his Master’s degree in education at night.

He admits to being a bit nervous, particularly as he hasn’t worked with non-business math in a long time, and because today’s teaching methods differ significantly from when he went to school.

“Those concerns exist, but they’re overwhelmed by how invigorating this already has been,” Trainor says. “I feel like it’s going to add so much youth to me as a person, and hopefully help so many kids.”