Kimberly Eckert

Brusly High School, Louisiana, USA

Kimberly  Eckert

Kimberly grew up in humble circumstances on a bayou close to a rural town in the southern state of Louisiana. The legacy of segregation still loomed large during her childhood, and family commitments meant her parents did not have the chance to pursue their own education. These factors convinced Kimberly that education was the best way for people in her situation to improve their prospects, but she also knew that leaving her home town would mean it remained the same. So she resolved to bring education, empowerment and aspiration to the people around her and be part of the solution to help make the area a better place. She initially studied social work, but felt she wasn’t changing the world fast enough, so she switched to teaching – where she could make a big difference at the time in life when it counts most.

Her first school was in an urban area where 95% of students were identified as economically disadvantaged, 86% were students of color, and 15% had disabilities. Many of these students have had to overcome difficult experiences including violence, racism, classism, sexism and bullying. In this setting, Kimberly worked predominantly with students in special education who had emotional disturbances and a broad range of neurodiversities. Her teaching approach consists of a problem-based learning approach, allowing students to identify problems, interests and conflicts, while teaching them ways to meaningfully think through these. She also allows students to spend 20 per cent of the week developing personal passion projects – an important and creative use of time. Her students have since raised thousands of dollars for scholarships, raised awareness about sexual assault, learnt to code, created podcasts about equality, led book studies to challenge bias and racism, spread awareness about mental illness, petitioned community leaders to do more about poverty in the area, and founded a club for support within the LGBTQIA student community. Their academic achievements have also grown impressively.

Kimberly’s focus is now on helping school districts recruit quality teachers, which she believes is the key to solving the world's problems. Her spare time is filled with developing the Educators Rising programme, which aims to diversify the profession and help school districts encourage and train teachers from their own areas. These efforts are now active in 28 schools and four universities.

Kimberly’s achievements have been recognized with the NEA Foundation Global Fellowship (South Africa), the Louisiana Public Interest Fellowship, and the 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year award. If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, she would aim to bring Educators Rising to the most vulnerable school districts so that they too can grow their own next generation of teachers.