Throughout her career as a public school teacher, policy adviser, and now as director of corps member leadership at Teach For America, Rachel Willis ’04 has been guided by a desire to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
"I feel a deep sense of responsibility," she says, "that one day all students in this nation will have the opportunity to obtain an excellent education."
As a government major at Smith, Rachel imagined she would one day work in the nation's capital, crafting policies in support of communities across the country. After graduation, her plans took a turn when she signed up for a two-year stint with Teach For America, the organization that pairs college grads with underserved schools. It was then she realized, "This is what I am supposed to be doing."
Returning to her hometown of Atlanta, Rachel taught third grade at Morningside Elementary School, excelling in the classroom and becoming a strong advocate for her students and fellow teachers. She went on to be Atlanta Elementary School Teacher of the Year and the winner of a prestigious Milken Educator Award. She was also chosen to serve on Georgia's Education Advisory Board, a group of public school educators and administrators who work with the governor on education policy and reform.
Last year Rachel joined Teach for America in Washington, D.C. There she is leading a campaign to increase the number of participants who continue to teach beyond their two-year commitment—just as she did. Using her own experience as an example, her goal is to inspire future leaders of the education movement.