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UA Little Rock Welcomes Longtime Educator as Interim Director of School of Education

Dr. Rachel Eells
Photo of Dr. Rachel Eells by Brandon Eells.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has named longtime teacher and administrator Dr. Rachel Eells as the new interim director of the School of Education.

“It is with great pleasure that I welcome Dr. Eells back to UA Little Rock,” said Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education. “An esteemed and accomplished alum, Dr. Eells joins us at a very exciting time as we continue to elevate the standard of excellence in teacher preparation. I look forward to working with her toward our goal of becoming the top provider of day-one ready teachers in Arkansas.”

Eells earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Concordia College followed by a master’s degree in gifted and talented education at UA Little Rock. She started her teaching career in Little Rock as a teacher of special education, art, and gifted and talented education at Christ Lutheran Church, but Eells said teaching has been her goal since she was a child.

“It seems like I have always been a teacher,” Eells said. “Even when I was in high school, I was teaching summer camp or Sunday School. It felt right to me even at that young age. My mother was a teacher, served as my first-grade teacher, and I saw her moving up through higher education. Everything I do, I can help people find a deeper understanding about themselves, and I really enjoy that.”

She later moved to Chicago where she earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago. Her dissertation focused on the relationship between collective teacher efficacy and student achievement.

In 2007, Eells joined Concordia University Chicago, where she worked as a professor of educational psychology, chair of the psychology department, and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to joining UA Little Rock, Eells served as vice president for academic affairs and a professor of education at Concordia College New York. She returned to UA Little Rock in 2022 as a visiting professor of education and said she’s enjoyed catching up with former students and colleagues.

“Just this past summer, I taught one of my Christ Lutheran students at a graduate class at UA Little Rock,” Eells said. “That is one thing that is fun about coming back to Little Rock. I’m seeing the kids I taught as adults at UA Little Rock or out working in the community. It’s especially fun to see the students who have gone into teaching.”

Eells said that she is happy to be in a leadership role at such an exciting time for the School of Education. UA Little Rock is partnering with the Little Rock and Jacksonville North Pulaski School Districts to start a teacher residency program this school year where 11 students will be training an entire year in the school districts. The goal of the program is to produce high-quality, highly trained teachers who are ready for their classrooms on day one.

The residency program is funded by a grant from Forward Arkansas. Since 2021, UA Little Rock has received more than $550,000 from Forward Arkansas to develop an innovative model focused on reimaging teacher education.

UA Little Rock also received a $3.5 million grant from the Windgate Foundation to endow the directorship of the School of Education in May. This gift will support the transformation of teacher education at UA Little Rock in its quest to become a premier provider of teachers in the state.

“The School of Education is at an exciting time for upward growth,” Eells said. “I am proud to support the faculty while they bring their expertise to help prepare the best teacher candidates in the state. I am looking forward to working closely with the Arkansas Department of Education to promote excellence in our schools.”

Eells is married to Brandon Eells, an actor and photographer, and they have a daughter Lucy, who is a junior at Parkview Arts Science Magnet High School. Her father-in-law is the late Paul Eells, a popular sportscaster who was known as the “Voice of the Razorbacks” for broadcasting University of Arkansas basketball games. Outside of work, Eells enjoys crocheting, reading, theater, working out, and watching the wildlife in her backyard.