Teaming Up Against Bullying

Startup is helping Pennsylvania set the standard for bullying prevention among schools nationwide.

Linsey Covert, Penn State College of Education instructor turned CEO, launched her company, Teamology LLC, in 2016. The interactive cloud-based software delivers anti-bullying curriculum to teachers. Known as Project TEAM, the curriculum is based on a holistic framework that uses team-building to cultivate social, emotional and life skills in children. It offers research-based lesson plans, activities, achievement badges and a collaborative social platform for teachers to share their ideas and results.  

Left: The backs of children seated in an auditorium. Right: Children and adults put all hands in.

Project TEAM follows a social-ecological model that provides a framework for teaching character education, bullying prevention, career education and collaboration. Images: John H. Wright

“We know that more than 3.5 million students across the country report being bullied each year — and that's only the students who report. It’s a major societal problem, but unfortunately a lot of bullying prevention initiatives that focus solely on bullying don’t actually work,” Covert said. “As a school counselor, I was exposed to a lot of programs and saw that nothing was connecting to the students. I knew there was nothing else out there on the market like what we were developing at Penn State.”  

With the support of colleagues Richard Hazler, professor of counselor education, and Jolynn Carney, associate professor of counselor education, and Penn State’s entrepreneurial  ecosystem, Covert was able to scale her techniques and find a way to have a broader impact on students and teachers throughout Pennsylvania.

"The interest, awards and recognition Teamology has received because of Penn State's support have been invaluable," Covert said.

“I had a vision to create a technology that was accessible and fun for teachers to use to foster a team-oriented culture in their own schools,” Covert said. “But I was trained to be an educator and counselor; business was never something I had thought about.” 

Covert turned to TechCelerator at State College. After her first pitch, she was accepted into the 10-week startup accelerator run by Ben Franklin Technology Partners to help early-stage Penn State and local entrepreneurs convert their business ideas into operating ventures.  

Covert said winning second place at the final TechCelerator pitch competition motivated her to keep moving forward, and that the timing couldn’t have been better since Invent Penn State — an initiative designed to leverage the University’s size and broad research strength to drive job creation, economic development and student career success — was just getting off the ground.  

At the Invent Penn State Venture and IP Conference in 2016, Teamology earned second place at the Penn State Tech Tournament, winning a $25,000 award based on the strength of its business concept and product. Later that year, Ben Franklin invested for a second time with $75,000 to support the startup’s growth, and the young company also was one of the first to receive $75,000 in JumpStart program funding from Invent Penn State’s Fund for Innovation in 2017.  

The startup also received assistance from the Office of Technology Management to license its intellectual property and consultations with Smeal College of Business students who helped the company explore marketing opportunities. 

“The interest, awards and recognition Teamology has received because of Penn State’s support have been invaluable,” Covert said. “Doors started to open and that exposure attracted a lot of the reasons we’re starting to be successful.” 

"We want Pennsylvania to be the model we go to nationally to eliminate bullying in our schools."

Today, about 1,000 teachers are using the school-wide program to assist 14,000 K-8 students across Pennsylvania and New Jersey with social and friendship skills, career education and anti-bullying strategies.

In addition, Project TEAM meets Pennsylvania's state-mandated requirements for bullying prevention programs and addresses standards from the upcoming Future Ready PA Index, which among a host of goals, aims to prepare students for the workforce with 21st century skills like collaboration and teamwork.

“Strategically our focus is Pennsylvania right now. We want to make enough impact and grow enough here so that people will pay attention to what our state is doing in this space,” Covert said. “We want Pennsylvania to be the model we go to nationally to eliminate bullying in our schools.”  

Covert says she’s excited for future opportunities to meet the bullying prevention requirements of all 50 states and to bring parents and students onto the platform.

“People want to belong to something and when they do, when the feel connected to something bigger than themselves, we see a reduction in bullying, increases in academic achievement and more kids helping and looking out for one another,” Covert said. “Starting a company is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but if this program helps even one child have a better experience in school and life, it’s worth it for me.”