Krista Moroder is co-founder of NonQuixote, LLC, a video production company & brand storytelling agency. She is an educator, district-level administrator, and former project director on a storytelling & technology program at Digital Promise.
I met Krista in 2013 when she was at Kettle Moraine SD in Wisconsin and then followed her to Digital Promise. I’m really excited to find out more about her new venture in storytelling with her production company. I have to say I learned so much about Krista and even cried during the podcast. What an amazing story! Don’t miss Krista’s story and read excerpts from the post below from the podcast.
Can you share your story about you, where you grew up, and your family?
I grew up in Wisconsin in a big family and am a first-generation college student. My parents are very self-driven learners and set a great example for me. I spent a lot of time in the library and still check out books every time I want to learn something new.
What is your background in teaching and using technology?
This is kind of a strange story. I didn’t actually intend to become a teacher. I was constantly sick for the first few years of college. After a bone marrow biopsy, I found out that I don’t grow white blood cells on my own. It’s a random blood disorder called neutropenia sort of like the movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. If I get sick with a cold, it will turn into a life-threatening situation within days. I have a medical bracelet, carry a card with me, and give myself shots in the stomach twice a week to jumpstart white cell production in my bone marrow overnight.
Because of that, I had a very different college experience. My sole focus was getting a job so that I could immediately support my very expensive medical issues. In the last decade, I’ve been to the hospital hundreds of times, had four bone marrow biopsies, and given myself thousands of shots. So the real reason I chose to become a teacher had absolutely nothing to do with me wanting to make an impact in education. I needed a stable job with really good health insurance. Despite all the craziness happening in politics, teaching is still pretty stable. And at the time, teachers in Wisconsin had some of the best benefits in the state.
The technology was added to the equation once I was in the actual classroom. I immediately started getting sick from touching student papers (germs can live up to three days). I started using technology to put a buffer between me and my students and ended up seeing a lot more benefits – like giving feedback throughout the whole writing process. I started sharing what I was learning, got an award from ISTE, eventually took a job as the Director of Education Technology for another school district, and ended up with an entire career that really spawned out of a very logical, unpassionate decision.
When and how did you get involved with Digital Promise?
I became interested in the idea of competency-based professional development while I was working in the Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin. My superintendent (and one of my mentors!) Pat Deklotz was all about challenging the status quo, and we agreed that it didn’t make sense to have hourly-based training for a teacher when we were trying to move away from seat-based time for kids. I did some research, saw that Digital Promise was planning on starting a micro-credentialing program, and realized that I could potentially help us shift that model by getting involved.
I was hired at Digital Promise as the project manager for the initial launch of micro-credentials, and Kettle Moraine became one of the biggest pilot users of that program. After we launched the micro-credentials program, I moved to another program called the “Verizon Innovative Learning Schools” program about bringing technology and storytelling programs into schools across the country. The goal of that project was to create a guidebook for how to do 1-to-1 programs in schools, so we created a framework from a lot of the lessons learned.
What did you do after you left Digital Promise?
I accidentally ended up on a speaker panel while I was at Digital Promise about the importance of teaching young women to code. It was at the YouTube headquarters, and I think they wanted Karen Cator, my boss to speak, but she had a conflict that day. So it ended up being me and three other women: the CEO of change.org, the head of engineering at YouTube, and the head of diversity for Google. They were amazing. They were totally out of my league. They also all knew how to code. I felt totally unqualified but also totally inspired by these women.
I’m so excited about your new venture NonQuixote. Can you tell me how your company came to be?
I’ve always wanted to be self-employed but my biggest barrier was always health insurance– my medicine costs about $7,000 a month. In February, I was put onto a research study where I would start getting my medicine for free. So after 10 years, I had finally gained my freedom. So I started thinking about making a move.
Two months later, in April, I went to Arizona to visit a former colleague from Digital Promise. He’s an independent filmmaker who I teamed up with on a project just a few weeks before I left. The more we talked, the more we realized we wanted to work together again. About the same time, I started getting offers to help schools figure out coding and get back into public speaking. I decided it was time to jump into self-employment.
What do you mean about a brand storytelling agency?
Marketing is no longer about just the products– we follow brands because we trust them and because they reach us emotionally. Here’s an example. We just wrapped up a commercial last week for this product that is an alternative to the cotton swab. Part of the reason we were drawn to helping this company was that of the founder, Lily. She is a 30-year-old CEO and started her company after getting a patent for inventing this product. It would have been very easy to film a 1-minute video about this device, but that type of a video is a dime a dozen. We decided to cast the younger version of her and create a short video showing the importance of teaching young women to be curious so they grow up to be inventors. Every story you tell is a chance to share your values, and we wanted to show Lily for the inspirational, empowered female leader she is.
The primary focus of our company is video production for education and social impact organizations. It is SO important for these organizations to story tell – the funding, resources, and support always go to the people who share the good things they are doing.
I’m so lucky to work with Ian, my co-founder. He’s won multiple awards and his work is top-notch. I’m blown away every time I see what this camera is capturing. He’s the type of person that could make a lot more money in the Hollywood system– but is dedicated to using his skills to make a positive impact.
We have the worst business model– there isn’t a lot of money in video production, and even less when it comes to working with these types of organizations. Luckily we can charge less than almost anyone else (even companies that are local) because we don’t have an office or any overhead costs so we still get work. But you know what? The best advice I got was that there is nothing more valuable than making a living just being yourself. So as long as I can pay my bills, I don’t care. I’m so grateful every day that I don’t have to worry about my medical expenses and that I can do what I enjoy: meet people, tell their stories, and share the cool things they are doing with the world.
I love your passion for stories and film. Can you share some of the stories and films or anything else you would like to share what you are doing now?
Well, I can give a little teaser… Ian and I in the development stage right now for a feature documentary about some of the best things we’ve seen in education over the last ten years. I’m sure I’ll have more to share soon!
Krista Moroder is the co-owner of NonQuixote LLC, a brand storytelling agency, and production company based out of Los Angeles and San Francisco. She is an award-winning educator, award-winning district-level administrator, and former project director on a $40 million storytelling & technology program at the Congressionally-authorized NGO Digital Promise. She’s also been a full stack software engineer, a theater technical director, an international public speaker, and an advisor for organizations that include the International Society for Technology in Education, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and the Google in Education team.
- Advisory Council Member, Learning Programs Strategy, Google, 2013
- Advisory Council Member, Digital Learning, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2013
- Special Projects Team, CUE (Computer Using Educators), 2013
- Advisory Board Member, National Education Technology Standards Strategy, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Washington D.C., 2013
- Leadership Team Member, ISTE Young Educator Network, 2012 – 2014
- Board Member, National Neutropenia Network, 2013 – 2017