Many school systems have faced increasingly significant challenges in attracting and retaining teachers and preexisting teacher shortages in critical areas have only been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These shortages have a direct impact on educational opportunity for students, and research shows that educator shortages disproportionately impact students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and students from rural communities. The U.S. Department of Education has committed a significant set of actions and resources to support states, districts, and schools in attracting and retaining a teacher workforce that is racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse and well-prepared to ensure students have equitable access to high-quality educational opportunities. Join us to learn more about the latest efforts and resources from the U.S. Department of Education, including a showcase of examples from states working closely with the Regional Comprehensive Centers to develop long-term solutions to educator workforce shortages.
Nikki Churchwell (she/her) serves in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, supporting the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to elevate the teaching profession and address the educator shortage. With over a decade of experience in education policy at the federal, state, and local levels, Nikki is dedicated to using data and evidence to inform policies and practices that foster education excellence and ensure equal access. She began her career as a middle school math teacher, earning her Bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education as a first-generation college student at the University of Georgia and her Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University.
Danielle Smith serves as Director for the Office of Program and Grantee Support Services in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) at the U.S. Department of Education. Ms. Smith oversees technical assistance programs serving all States and U.S. territories including the Comprehensive Centers Program, the Equity Assistance Centers, and other national technical assistance centers. Ms. Smith leads planning, implementing, and evaluating technical assistance activities and coordinates OESE’s support to grantees. Ms. Smith previously led technical assistance initiatives in the Office of State Support for Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs including Title I, Title II Part A, Title III, ESEA flexibility, School Improvements Grants, Race to the Top, and Equitable Access including in the State Support Network, the Equitable Access Support Network and the Reform Support Network.
Dr. Carol Keirstead has over 30 years of experience in leading and managing educational enterprises. Carol currently leads the National Comprehensive Center’s portfolio of work on Diversifying the Educator Workforce and serves as co-lead for the Center’s Driving Equity Through School Improvement Community of Practice. She also serves as project lead on the Region 7 Comprehensive Center’s intensive technical assistance project using implementation science to build capacity of the Mississippi Department of Education to improve the design and implementation of its Professional Growth System. From 2005 through 2019, Carol led USED funded technical assistance centers serving states in the Northeast, where she was responsible for the overall design and operation of the center and led work supporting states’ school improvement, equity, and educator effectiveness policies and programs. Other RMC work Carol has led supported includes several projects conducting site visits for the purpose of collecting and analyzing data on district and school effectiveness. From 2010-2014, Carol served as a Trustee of the Lowell Community Charter Public School, helping to lead a rapid school turnaround that resulted in the school achieving and sustaining Level 1 status and outperforming the district and state in serving high needs students. Carol holds a doctoral degree in Leadership in Schooling.
Dr. Saroja R. Warner is the Director for Educator Development and Diversity and provides strategic leadership for WestEd’s technical assistance, research and policy work with state education agencies, district leaders and school-based educators focused on developing and sustaining an effective, culturally responsive, and racially and linguistically diverse educator workforce and increasing educators’ and leaders’ use of policies and practices that promote successful and equitable learning outcomes for each student. She has also served as co-director of two Comprehensive Centers, federally funded education services centers, run by WestEd serving states in the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions of the U.S. She is a nationally recognized expert in educator workforce initiatives and culturally responsive teaching, leading and school cultures. Dr. Warner launched a national initiative at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) prior to coming to WestEd to increase educator diversity and culturally responsive practice (CRP) and authored an anchor paper for that work A Vision and Guidance for a Diverse and Learner-Ready Teacher Workforce which provides guidance to states to meet these goals and identifies model best practices. Prior to that, she has led educator workforce initiatives in her role as Branch Chief for Educator Preparation and Assessment at the Maryland State Department of Education, Director for Professional Issues at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and edTPA Implementation Director at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Warner is also a nationally board-certified social studies teacher and has maintained that status since 2004.
James Colyott, Ed.S., is a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant at the American Institutes for Research with over twenty years of experience in district and school leadership, monitoring, and improvement. Colyott is currently the project director of the Developing a Statewide School Improvement Implementation Monitoring Tool Project with the Wyoming Department of Education, the project lead with the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Project with the Illinois State Board of Education, and the dissemination lead for the MyTeachingPartner Project with Learning Forward.
Dr. Jennifer Kirmes is the Executive Director of Teaching & Learning for the Illinois State Board of Education where she supports ISBE's departments of Educator Effectiveness, Standards & Instruction, and CTE & Innovation. Prior to joining ISBE staff, Dr. Kirmes served as the Principal & CEO of Amandla Charter School for six years and before that, was Principal of Bowen High School in Chicago Public Schools. Through all of her roles, she has demonstrated commitment to ensuring excellent educational outcomes for all students and a passion for achieving educational justice.
Educator. Visionary. Leader. Shuana Tucker-Sims, Ph.D. exemplifies a life of learning, service and commitment to excellence. As Chief Talent Officer for the CT State Department of Education, Shuana has oversight of the Bureau of Educator Standards & Certification, the Bureau of Educator Effectiveness, the Office of Dyslexia & Reading Disabilities and all education diversification initiatives. Her ultimate goal is to develop all educators to their fullest potential specifically in the areas of equity and diversity while ensuring educational excellence for students. Her career in education and human resources has spanned over 25 years at the local, state and national levels including the Educational Leadership Department at University of Connecticut and the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC.