Jun 7 2021

Reimagining Teaching: Diversifying the Educator Workforce and Beyond

Grantmakers for Education


June 7, 2021

Virtual - Last winter, members and other education funders identified diversifying the educator workforce as a top priority in our Big Vision for the Next Stage of Education Philanthropy survey. What are the strategies to make this systemic change? Who are the innovators who are moving the needle to make it happen? How can funders serve as catalysts?

This is the third session in our series Education Post-COVID: Learning to Move Forward. The intersecting health, social and economic pandemics of 2020-2021 have disrupted American education and elevated critical issues into public awareness. With billions of recovery dollars about to make their way into the education system we have a moment to reflect on the lessons of past educational improvement efforts, and ​ensure funders are equipped to best support their partners rebuilding our education system in ways that are more equitable, just and humane.

This event is intended for members and other education grantmakers. There is no cost to attend this Grantmakers for Education program.


Heather Kirkpatrick
President and Chief Executive Officer
Alder Graduate School of Education

Heather Kirkpatrick is the President and Chief Executive Officer at Alder Graduate School of Education. Heather earned her PhD in Education Administration and Policy Analysis at the Stanford University School of Education, her Master’s in Education Administration and Policy Analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and her BA from Barnard College. After her undergraduate years, she worked in a nonprofit for indigent adults with mental illness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then taught high school at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, New York. Today, Heather is honored to have the opportunity to continue leading what began in 2009 as a pilot to develop teachers and principals through a residency model at Aspire Public Schools. Previously, as Chief People Officer at Aspire Public Schools, she helped grow the organization from two schools in 2000 to 40 schools in California and Tennessee by the time she transitioned to Alder GSE sixteen years later.


Jesse Solomon
Executive Director
Boston Plan for Excellence

Jesse Solomon serves as Executive Director of the Boston Plan for Excellence, which runs a PreK-12 pathway of schools in the Nubian Square neighborhood of Boston. He co-founded the Boston Teacher Residency program in 2002. Previously, he taught middle and high school math for 10 years — at the King Open School in Cambridge, and Brighton High School and City on a Hill Public Charter School in Boston. At City On A Hill, he co-founded and directed the Teachers' Institute, a school-based teacher preparation program. Mr. Solomon has been an instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a National Board-certified teacher. He holds a BS in Mathematics from MIT and an MEd from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has been a Barr Foundation Fellow and a Pahara Aspen Education Fellow, and serves on the Board of Directors of Cambridge College.


Elisa Villanueva Beard
Chief Executive Officer
Teach For America

Elisa began her journey with Teach For America as a 1998 corps member in Phoenix. She joined staff in 2001 to lead the organization’s work in her hometown in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Four years later, she became chief operating officer, leading Teach For America’s expansion from 22 to 48 regions and growing its network from 12,500 to 43,000-plus leaders by 2013 while improving student outcomes each year.

In 2015, Elisa was named chief executive officer. Today, under her leadership, Teach For America corps members impact hundreds of thousands of students each year in nearly 2,300 schools across the country. The Teach For America network of 64,000 leaders is working inside and outside education to ensure that all children have the access and opportunity to learn, lead, and thrive.

Elisa holds a B.A. from DePauw University. She sits on the boards of the Holdsworth Center and Leadership for Educational Equity. She lives in Houston with her husband, Jeremy, and their four sons.


Melinda L. Wright
Senior Program Officer
Walton Family Foundation

Melinda L. Wright is a Senior Program Officer for the K-12 Education Program at the Walton Family Foundation. In this role, Melinda focuses on collaborative philanthropy, funder networks, African-American donor engagement and special projects. Prior to joining the foundation, Melinda served in a variety of roles at Teach For America including Senior Vice President of Alumni Diversity. In this role, Melinda developed Teach For America’s first ever national alumni of color association, The Collective.

Melinda received her Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies from Cornell University and upon graduating, she joined Teach For America and taught in New York City. After completing her corps commitment, Melinda attended George Washington University law school where she attained her Juris Doctorate as well as her master’s in history (African-American Studies) and Public Policy (Education). She spent her second summer of law school studying International Human Rights Law at Oxford University. Immediately following law school, Melinda seized the opportunity to serve as the Head Coach of Howard University’s women’s lacrosse team, which at the time was the only Division I team at a historically Black University. Soon after, Melinda and her family relocated to Westminster School, a 9th-12th grade boarding school, where she served as the Director of Diversity, Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Student Life. Melinda currently participates in the McKinsey Fellowship for Black Executives which fuels her love for continuous learning. Melinda greatly enjoys spending time with her husband and three children and loves to bike and read in her spare time.


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