Ann Arbor software company hosts workshop to educate teachers on creating a "culture of joy"

It may seem odd for a software design and development company to hold a professional development workshop for teachers, especially if that company doesn’t have any products for the educational market.


But making money wasn’t why Ann Arbor’s Menlo Innovations invited K-12 teachers and administrators to its offices Aug. 13 for an event called "Back to School the Menlo Way."


"We saw an opportunity to give to our community and build relationships with teachers and show them how to work together and care for each other," says Lisa Ho, a project manager at Menlo. "It was about sharing."


"Our mission is to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology," she adds. "And a big part of reaching that mission is having a business and work culture that is founded on the value of joy."


Ho and some of her coworkers had noticed that an increasing number of teachers were reaching out to learn more about creating a similar workplace and to connect with Menlo CEO Richard Sheridan. This was especially true after the December 2013 release of Sheridan's first book, Joy Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love.


"We’ve had many people visiting Menlo because they’re interested in our culture and the way that we work. We spend a lot of time sharing what we do and how we do it," Ho says.


While Sheridan speaks both nationally and internationally, Menlo staff wanted to create something closer to home that was accessible for teachers who are unable to pay a hefty workshop cost and are often bound by busy schedules.


The event had a better-than-expected turnout of 80 participants, and Ho reports that the feedback was gratifying.


"Attendees left with information about project-based learning and planning," she says. "And of course, they left with ideas for applying the lessons we’ve learned at Menlo to bring more joy into their classrooms."


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at


Photos courtesy of Anna Boonstra.