Get to Know NatGeo: Chief Education Officer Dr. Deborah Grayson

Image credit: Rebecca Hale, National Geographic Society

As autumn approaches and we prepare for a new school year, the Education Division at the National Geographic Society (NGS) is looking forward to a new year of learning, storytelling, and opportunity. In all of our work, NGS Education remains committed to the Society’s mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world through science, storytelling, and, of course, education. The back-to-school season is always an exciting time to share new resources, highlight the incredible work of our Explorers, and connect with our audiences around the world.

Just as we enjoy connecting with you, we’d like to help you connect with us by sharing stories from our team. In this “Get To Know Nat Geo” series, meet Dr. Deborah Grayson, National Geographic’s Chief Education Officer. We recently asked Dr. Grayson a series of questions to share a bit of her story, background, and her vision for the work of National Geographic Education to support educators and students around the world. 

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At first I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Then I decided that I wanted to be an artist and a teacher. Eventually I became both an artist and a teacher (though I did not teach art). Coupled with a deep interest in learning technologies and traveling and living in different parts of the world I would say that the little girl who grew up in NE Washington, DC and Montgomery County, Maryland grew up and continued to expand on her dreams.

What led you to this career?
It feels like everything I have ever done in my professional life has led me to this career. I have a deep love of learning and helping people connect to their highest aspirations and goals for themselves. There is something about having the opportunity to listen to the ideas, aspirations, and questions from learners that inspires me. Having the opportunity to connect learners to information—to co-create solutions with them for their goals is what keeps me deeply engaged in and excited about my work.

What was your first paying job?
My first paying job was working at an art store in Wheaton Plaza in Maryland. I would talk to customers, demonstrate how to use different types of art supplies and then help them to select the right supplies for their projects. It was fun and the discounts were great too!

Who inspires you?
Outside of my immediate family I would say librarians, teachers, young people, the elderly. I am inspired by people who are dedicated to making a difference, who are willing to stand in the gap for others, who will speak up especially when it is hard because it is the right thing to do.

Do you like reading? If so, what genre of books do you like?
I LOVE READING. It’s hard to select a genre because I tend to read widely. But if I had to choose my top three genres they would probably be science fiction or speculative fiction, eco-philosophy/nature writing, and art history.

Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?
I can’t say that I am hiding any hobbies or talents. I love growing flowers and vegetables, I enjoy experimenting with plant based recipes, and I like to build things. I am also an avid hiker.

In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read?
Do I have to choose? Most evenings you will find me either visiting my parents or reading.

What energizes you at work?
Having the opportunity to work alongside super smart and dedicated people in the Education Division on a daily basis. The perspectives, the way everyone approaches their work, their willingness to put explorers, educators and learners first really energizes and inspires me. I can’t even hide my bias here. I feel that I have joined a great team and I am pleased to work alongside and lead the team. Of course all of the other divisions at the Society are pretty great too!

What do you hope to accomplish through your work with the NGS Education team?
I hope to expand the reach and impact of the work that we do in partnership with and in support of Explorers and their teams. In so doing my hope is that we are able to provide rich content, strong immersive experiences, and innovative learning design solutions that are globally relevant and that spark curiosity, wonder and action from educators, learners and communities on behalf of our planet.

As Dr. Grayson has said, the National Geographic Society  strives to provide content, experiences, and learning opportunities that spark curiosity and wonder with all of our audiences. Whether you are inside a classroom or outside exploring, we have a wide variety of opportunities to learn and engage, several of which are launching this month.

Explore our Programs

Explorer Classroom is back! The 2023–2024 season of this popular weekly event launched today, September 14, when National Geographic Explorer Ru Somaweera shared about The Fantastic World of Reptiles. Explorer Classroom is a live, virtual interactive event that connects National Geographic Explorers and classroom audiences. These events are recommended for students ages 8-13, but all are welcome. The sessions are held twice every Thursday, at 10am and 2pm U.S. Eastern Time (-4 GMT, -5 GMT after November 5). New this year, Explorer Classroom will host two sessions every month aimed at older students (highschool / ages 13-18). The first pair of high school sessions will be held on Wednesday, September 20th at 10am and 2pm U.S. Eastern Time (-4 GMT, -5 GMT after November 5) when Louise Leakey will speak about Digging for Humanity’s Origins. Click here to learn more about Explorer Classroom sessions and how to register.

September also marks the launch of the 2024 Slingshot Challenge, a learning experience and global challenge for young innovators, storytellers, and change-makers to share their solutions to challenges faced by their local communities. You can learn more about the Slingshot Challenge and submission guidelines and read some of our past posts to learn more about the 2023 award recipients of the challenge’s inaugural year. The 2024 Slingshot Challenge opens September 20th, and the final submission deadline is February 1, 2024.

Be sure to keep an eye on our online EduHub for new content collections, educational resources, curriculum supports, maps, learning opportunities, and more exciting content throughout the year.