Katie Cristol: Virtual worker
Katie Cristol sees her lawyer husband, Steve Giballa, off to work one fall morning, then sits at the kitchen table in her Arlington apartment in a T-shirt and blue jeans rolled up to mid-calf. Spreading cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel, she’s waiting for two back-to-back phone calls involving five colleagues, all of whom live in different states. Like Cristol, they work for Education First, a virtual consulting firm.
Bagel consumed, Cristol steps into an adjoining room that serves as both office and spare bedroom. She sits down at a computer monitor nestled in a black, floor-to-ceiling bookcase and prepares for the first call. She and a company principal will share documents on their screens as they discuss how school districts evaluate student performance. Bear curls up on the floor to her right.
Cristol grew up in Bethesda and says she was a “pro-life” conservative in middle school who wore argyle vests when other girls were wearing tube tops.
“Then 9/11 happened and catalyzed me,” she says. “I needed to know more about it.” She volunteered in the office of then-U.S. Rep. Connie Morella, a moderate Republican from Maryland, and became a voracious consumer of news. Over time, Cristol grew more liberal in her political views.
Five years ago, she graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in political and social thought. While at U-Va., she served as president of the University Democrats and, to the chagrin of her Republican father, Rick, organized Cavaliers for Kerry in support of John Kerry’s presidential race against George W. Bush. She also pierced her nose, prompting her father, in playful retribution, to put a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on her car.
Cristol’s grandparents and parents placed a high value on hard work. Cristol’s maternal grandmother ran a delicatessen while supporting two children. Her father, president of a management firm, put himself through college. Her mother, Ronni, was a schoolteacher until she had children, and once Cristol, the younger of two, turned 13, Ronni returned to work as office manager for a children’s theater.
Cristol always knew that she would have not only a job but also a career. In high school, she told Ronni: “Mom, I love you, but I’ll never stay home.”
She laughs about that now that she is at home, working.
Cristol was attracted to Education First when she found out it seeks to help school districts graduate students who meet “common core standards” in English and math, a federal initiative adopted by 46 states so far. She liked that the standards, designed to make students “college- and career-ready,” aim to emphasize depth, not breadth, of knowledge. She started as an analyst and was recently promoted to consultant.