Heather Rieman leads America Forward’s early learning, K-12, Whole Learner Education, and national service policy work. Heather also directs America Forward’s Education Task Force and associated Working Groups and oversees America Forward’s Advocacy Institute.
As an education equity advocate, Heather has dedicated her more than 20-year career to ensuring that all youth have the supports they need to succeed in school and life. More recently, Heather was the P-12 Policy Director at the Education Trust, a non-profit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families. She led the organization’s P-12 policy work exposing inequities, identifying research-based policy solutions, and supporting equity advocates to push for policy change.
Heather has significant federal education policy experience. She served in the Obama administration as the chief of staff in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and as a senior policy advisor at the Department of Education. As a senior policy advisor in the Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, she developed and helped advance innovative policies on school climate, school discipline, evidence-based policymaking, and whole child supports. She also served as the senior education advisor for AmeriCorps, where she saw the important role that social innovation organizations play in supporting student success across the country. In 2001, Heather was named a Presidential Management Fellow and worked at the Department of Education during the George W. Bush Administration. For part of her fellowship, she worked for Senator Ted Kennedy on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Heather is also a social entrepreneur. She was the co-founder and co-director of Critical Exposure, an innovative nonprofit organization that teaches youth how to use the power of photography and their own voices to create the public and political will for change. The organization was founded on the belief that proximate youth deserve a seat at the table, and their engagement is critical to advocating for strong schools and communities. Youth are taught the advocacy skills they need to help change policy on issues such as school funding reform, school climate, student supports, and school discipline.
In her own words, Heather has shared that she was attracted to New Profit’s mission and that she is “excited to join the America Forward team and to work with Coalition members to advocate for the systems level change we need to ensure that every child has an equitable and excellent education. I’ve been a social entrepreneur and a policymaker, and I know that it will take all sectors working together to scale the high-impact solutions needed to advance equity and opportunity in America. Ensuring education equity is what drives my work, and I believe that using our collective voices will enable us to successfully champion innovative and equitable solutions to our country’s most pressing problems.”
Heather was born in Chicago and grew up in Evanston, Illinois. She has also spent a lot of time in Boston – as an undergraduate at Tufts University and in graduate school at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Heather shared that she “now lives in Washington DC, with her policy-wonk husband Thaddeus and their giggly twin daughters.” She enjoys traveling, hiking, and reading (she has been in the same book club for over 20 years!) as well as family game nights and dance parties.