Educator Spotlight: Erik Batson, Academy Coordinator, Jackson-Olin High School

Despite the impressive list of places where he has taught—from the Bronx, to Austin, Texas, to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina—you’d be hard-pressed to
find a teacher anywhere that has as much enthusiasm for their system as Erik Batson has for Birmingham City Schools.

Sitting at a table at Starbucks in Five Points South, wearing cycling clothes complete with a “Brooklyn”-emblazoned cycling cap, he professed, “I love my job. I love working for Jackson-Olin, and I love working for Birmingham City Schools—much better than other places I have been.” Continue reading

Partnership Feature: Rebecca Brown, Director of HR at Brasfield and Gorrie

RB headshot

“I always knew that I wanted to work with business and people,” says Rebecca Brown Director of Human Resources at Brasfield & Gorrie – the largest privately owned general contractor in the Southeast, As the chief liaison to Ed’s Bridging the Gap program at Huffman High School, Rebecca has demonstrated an immense talent for working with people by creating engaging ways for students to learn more about the jobs they may want to pursue in the future. Continue reading

Getting to Know Our Families: Nikilya McNeil, Ramsay and Tuggle Parent

Nikilya McNeil

“Sometimes it’s hard to balance my life and [my children’s] with all of the academics and activities, but I make it a priority” says parent, Nikilya McNeil, a Birmingham City parent and minister at Love Fellowship Christian Center. In our brief conversation, Nikilya clearly conveys her dedication to supporting her children and what it means to be an involved parent. Continue reading

Student Voice: Robyn Gully, A Ramsay High School Senior

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Robyn in Washington, D.C.

This student piece was written by Robyn Gulley, a student at Ramsay High School. She has a long list of notable accomplishments and accolades and tells a very compelling story about her travelling experiences, her education, working with Ed, and her future goals. Read on to see what she had to say. 

        My name is Robyn Gulley and I am currently a senior at Ramsay High School. Seventeen years ago, June 18,  my twin sister and I were born in Houston, Texas at the South Memorial Hospital. Early during my childhood, I learned that life had its seasons. When I was 9 years old, my mother got pneumonia & her immune system was not strong enough to fight it off. The last time I saw my mother breathing she was not only in a lot of pain, but she could barely breathe so we rushed her to the emergency room. Little did I know that I’d never get to tell her “I love you” or even “goodbye” again. Continue reading

Educator Spotlight: Gena Casey, 5th-grade teacher, Avondale Elementary


Types of Sentences Write-a-Thon.

There are those who believe that everyone has a calling or a purpose in life and Gena Casey is one of them. When asked how she got to where she is now, she simply said, “I felt I was called to be a teacher.” Gena Casey graduated from Mountain Brook High School and decided to extend her education at the University of Alabama. She began there as a theatre major, but wrestled with her passion for educating children. She decided to change her major to elementary education and graduated in 2012. After teaching 5th grade at Maxwell Elementary, in Tuscaloosa, AL, she decided to bring her talents back to Birmingham at Avondale Elementary where she has been for a year, teaching 5th grade. Continue reading

Partnership Feature: Denise Gregory, Director of Diversity & Intercultural Initiatives at Samford University

Denise Gregory 8.12The response to touring Samford’s campus from students in Birmingham City Schools has been overwhelming.

“I didn’t know a campus this private existed in Birmingham,” one student says.

Or: “The chapel is beautiful,” says another.

Or, my personal favorite: “I didn’t think I could go to Samford, or that I would want to, but after going there, I am definitely going to apply.” Continue reading

Student Voice: Theodore Tyson and “A Huffman Child’s Vision”


Build Day at Huffman High School

On a Wednesday in April, we are working in the shop at Huffman High School, painting scrap pieces of wood and metal and fashioning together a makeshift set of stairs.

In that moment, soon-to-be graduate Theodore Tyson turns to me and says, “Is this all because of my idea?”

“Sure is,” I said.

“That’s awesome,” he said. “That’s really, really cool.”

Continue reading

Educator Spotlight: Diann Pilgrim, Wenonah High School


Ms. Pilgrim (center) and her students volunteering at the Wenonah High School 10th Annual Unity Breakfast this year, during which time they prepared food for and served over 500 guests.

If you’re making a visit to Diann Pilgrim’s class at Wenonah, you better bring your appetite.

On any given day of the week, her students are experimenting in the professional-grade test kitchen, memorizing and perfecting recipes for an upcoming competition, awards-ceremony spaghetti dinner, or a mid-afternoon snack. And aside from being very promising aspiring chefs, her students are nothing if not gracious (and generous) hosts. Continue reading