Meet Micere Keels, New NCECF Policy and Practice Leader

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Micere Keels is pictured. She is a Black woman with short curly hair, wearing glasses and resting her chin on her fist.
Friday, December 2, 2022 at Swift Hall & Logan Center. (Photo by Joe Sterbenc)

We are excited to now introduce Dr. Micere Keels (pictured left) as the incoming Policy and Practice Leader for the NCECF. She is also an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago and was the Founding Director of the Trauma Responsive Educational Practices Project (TREP Project).

For over two decades, Dr. Keels has worked to integrate mental health promotion interventions into educational systems and structures, from early childhood centers to high schools. She is the author of four books: Trauma Responsive Educational Practices: Helping Students Cope and Learn; Campus Counterspaces: Search for Community at Historically White Institutions; Trauma Responsive De-Escalation; and Your Guide to Educator Self-Care. Through the TREP Project she has supported the professional development of over 200,000 educators through school district partnerships in Delaware, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island, and through work with many individual schools across the U.S. 

Dr. Keels holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychological Sciences from University of Alberta, Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Purdue University, and Doctorate in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

In the collection of narratives shared on our Staff page, Dr. Keels said, 

“I am blessed to have a mother for whom writing is everything, she paid much of her way through college by winning poetry scholarships. For me, reading is everything; one of my favorite childhood memories is the first time I was allowed to go by myself to the mobile library and then spending the day curled up on my back veranda reading through my newly discovered treasures.

I emphasize the importance of early reading by reminding people that from birth to third grade children are learning to read and then from third grade on they are reading to learn. I will never forget Dr. Carol D. Lee’s statement (one of my former professors): ‘This is not a technological issue, we know how to teach children to read.’ No child should fall behind in school or in life because we haven’t invested the time and resources to ensure that they know how to read to learn.”

Visit her staff bio, with her contact information to connect. She is looking forward to spending her winters in Durham, getting to know North Carolina, and helping the NCECF team with the convening of so many issues for early childhood.

Dr. Keels and Her Role with Pathways, Policies, and Practices at NCECF

As the Policy and Practice Leader, Dr. Keels will: 

  • Play a key role in leading the policy and data work of NCECF’s NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative
  • Promote research-based early childhood data, policy and practices; and 
  • Convene and support state leaders and stakeholders to bridge systems and sectors in order to improve outcomes for young children and families.

Pathways believes that North Carolina’s systems for young children and their families are built on two core strengths: engaging with and learning from families, and focusing on racial equity and cultural competence. These strengths enable systems to adapt to the needs of children and their families—ensuring that those facing the most barriers to success have access to the most supports, and providing a strong foundation for children’s development and learning. And these elements align well with the work Dr. Keels has previously done and led with educators and community leaders. 

The Pathways Action Map spotlights aligned birth-to-age-eight strategies and actions that will advance grade-level reading in North Carolina, and initiatives working to impact them. Our goal is to use the Map to build awareness of what’s happening across the state in each of the action areas, to promote collaboration among leaders, and to identify gaps and opportunities that can help guide policy making, advocacy, funding, and capacity building.

The Map is organized by four expectations for North Carolina systems serving young children and families, outlined in the Pathways Action Framework. Much of our organization’s work is influenced by this Framework. Our team recently gathered together in-person (pictured below) to discuss all the initiatives, as we welcomed Dr. Keels and are excited to celebrate ten years of work for NC early childhood. 

Pictured left to right: Lindsay Saunders, Micere Keels, Crystal Folmar, Kaylan Sloane, Lisa Finaldi, Fowota Mortoo, and Muffy Grant; Feb 20, 2023

Keep in Touch with NCECF and Support Our Work

Interested in what Dr. Keels will be doing and our team’s work? Please be sure to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter and consider making a donation today by helping us transform the lives of North Carolina families, from their earliest days, while also supporting a small growing, family-friendly team. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.