Meet ASCD President Debra Hill
In her career as an educator, Debra Hill has worked at just about every level of education, from classroom teacher to superintendent to university professor.
She discovered her calling during her sophomore year at Northwestern University, when she designed cultural activities for young children. "I spent a summer with 25 5- to 7-year-olds—and 1 assistant—and decided, 'This is fun!'" Hill says.
As a student teacher, Hill taught a multiage class (grades K–2) and was the first full-time African American teacher in the Oak Park (Ill.) school system. Next, Hill says, she was teaching elementary school in Evanston, Ill., when the superintendent tapped her to fill an open position as curriculum coordinator in the central office.
"When I asked him why he had selected me," Hill says, "he said that he had observed me in my interactions as a part of various committees—particularly the curriculum advisory council and some of the professional development activities I had led with the group—and he thought that I would make an excellent curriculum coordinator."
Even though she had not been seeking the opportunity, Hill transitioned into her career as an administrator.
From that curriculum coordinator position, Hill advanced to director of curriculum and then assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Evanston School District 65. At the same time, she worked toward earning a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and human resources and development at Loyola University–Chicago. Hill was the assistant superintendent for staff development in Evanston School District 65 and also the interim superintendent of schools, before moving on to be the superintendent of schools for West Northfield School District 31 (Ill.).
Although she officially retired from the superintendency in 2007, Hill continues to operate at full speed, serving as a consultant and university professor, community leader, ASCD Board member, mother, grandmother, and tireless advocate for children. She is a currently an associate professor at Argosy University in Chicago, where she teaches blended courses on change theory, diversity, and educational leadership.
After joining ASCD in the early 1980s, Hill has remained loyal to the organization and held various leadership roles. She has served as the Illinois ASCD secretary, president, and governance chair and has been an Annual Conference participant and presenter; ASCD Nominations Committee member, vice chair, and chair; and ASCD Legislative Committee member. At the conclusion of ASCD's recent Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Hill was inducted as the president of ASCD.
One thing Hill says that she plans to focus on during her tenure is strengthening partnerships that support the Whole Child Initiative.
"We are really in the era of 'It's going to take a village,' and that village has to extend beyond just educators—the professionals," Hill says. "My goal as ASCD's president is to elicit more partnerships, help make more connections, and encourage schools to network with agencies and organizations that have programs that would connect nicely with the whole child tenets.
"I believe the Whole Child Initiative can really help to refocus, reform, and revolutionize the conversation about education."