Teachers as market influencers: Towards a policy framework for teacher brand ambassador programs in K-12 schools


  • Christopher Michael Saldaña University of Colorado - Boulder
  • Kevin Welner University of Colorado - Boulder
  • Susan Malcolm Associate Attorney at Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP
  • Eleanore Tisch independent researcher




Commercialism in schools, teacher influencers, teacher brand ambassadors, marketing in schools, educational technology, privatization, ethics, conflicts of interest


Marketing in schools has a new twist, and teachers are at the center. Corporate firms, particularly those producing education-technology products, have contracted with teachers to become so-called brand ambassadors and micro-influencers. Scant research, however, has examined these brand ambassador arrangements, leaving policymakers uninformed about the implications for students, teachers, and schools. In this article, we delve into what it means to be a teacher brand ambassador (TBA) and micro-influencer by examining the context in which these programs arose and studying current examples of TBA and TBA-like programs offered by Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. We review how these recent instantiations of marketing compare to similar practices used to sell prescription drugs to and through doctors, and we explore ethical, legal and policy issues associated with the recruitment and contracting of teachers as brand ambassadors. Further, anticipating the need for the protection of students’ and teachers’ interests as TBA programs grow as a presence in public schools, we offer a model policy framework to regulate the use of these marketing practices in schools.



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Author Biographies

Christopher Michael Saldaña, University of Colorado - Boulder

Chris Saldaña is a PhD candidate in the School of Education at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics from the University of California, San Diego and a Masters Degree in Economics from California State University, Fullerton.

Kevin Welner, University of Colorado - Boulder

Kevin Welner, PhD,  is professor of education at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, where he chairs the Educational Foundations Policy and Practice program area. He co-founded and is Director of the National Education Policy Center.

Susan Malcolm, Associate Attorney at Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP

Susan is a associate attorney at Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP. She earned her B.A. in Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara and her J.D. at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Eleanore Tisch, independent researcher

Eleanore Tisch earned her M.A. in Educational Foundations Policy & Practice from the University of Colorado, Boulder with an accompanying certificate in Culture, Language, and Social Practice. She received her B.A. from Naropa University in Writing & Literature.




How to Cite

Saldaña, C. M., Welner, K., Malcolm, S., & Tisch, E. (2021). Teachers as market influencers: Towards a policy framework for teacher brand ambassador programs in K-12 schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(August - December). https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.29.5654