Skip to main content

Friday Institute Executive Director, Associate Dean and Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor Hiller Spires to Retire June 1, 2022

Associate Dean and Executive Director for the Friday Institute for Educational InnovationHiller Spires

Hiller Spires, Ph.D., — who is nationally recognized for her innovative research and approach to K-12 education, particularly as related to digital and disciplinary literacies — will retire June 1, 2022, after a 43-year career in education, including over 35 years at NC State’s College of Education. Currently, Spires is an associate dean and executive director of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and an Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of Literacy and Technology in the college’s Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences.

“Dr. Spires’ contributions to our college, state and world have been invaluable. She has been a pioneer and built a reputation for her innovative research and approach to K-12 education, helping our college and the Friday Institute reach levels of success and global impact not before imagined,” said Paola Sztajn, dean of NC State’s College of Education. 

Spires joined NC State’s College of Education as an assistant professor in 1986 and was promoted to full professor in 1998. She was the founding director of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation from 2002 to 2006, and helped in all facets of making the Friday Institute a reality when its doors opened in 2005. 

Since then, the Friday Institute — named in honor of former UNC System President William C. Friday and his wife, Ida — has become a leader in North Carolina K-12 education with a focus on research, evaluation and professional learning. The Friday Institute has been critical in bringing together students, teachers, researchers, policymakers and educational professionals to help advance innovations in K-12 education.

Spires began serving a second round as the Friday Institute’s executive director in November 2019, during which she oversaw an $18 million funding portfolio and led new organizational development activities. Under Spires’ leadership, the Friday Institute team pivoted overnight to support North Carolina K-12 educators as they shifted to emergency remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic. During this time, Spires also initiated the Exploring Next-Generation Education Webinar Series, engaging local and national leaders to share their insights on innovations, equity and the changing landscape of education. The Friday Institute has served over 80,000 educators and all 115 public school districts across North Carolina through online professional learning since 2020.

“I am a first-generation college graduate who grew up in a small town in South Carolina. At NC State, I’ve been afforded more support and opportunities than I could have ever imagined — to be creative, take risks, grow as a leader and a scholar, and give back,” Spires said. “I draw my energy from people, relationships and great ideas. For me, that’s where the magic happens. My NC State colleagues, students and friends have made my career here magical. This next phase will be my greatest design challenge yet — and I’m looking forward to it.” 

Spires’ research focuses on the integration of research-based practices for digital and disciplinary literacies with diverse learners; she has received over $13 million in grants to support her research program and published over 200 refereed articles, chapters, and papers. Her publications have appeared in Journal of Educational Psychology, Cognition & Instruction, Journal of Educational Computing Research, Journal of Literacy Research, Literacy Research and Instruction, Computers and Education, Information Sciences, and the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, among others. She was guest editor for the international special issue of Journal of Media and Communication on the topic of critical perspectives on digital literacies in 2019.

Relatedly, she created Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global, an inquiry-to-action learning cycle that engages students and educators in learning about and responding to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Over 3,000 teachers and students have engaged in PBI Global in the U.S., Belize, Kenya and China. She was also the founding director of the Friday Institute’s New Literacies Collaborative and led the development of the New Literacies and Global Learning (NLGL) master’s program, including the K-12 Literacy Cohort. This program has annually graduated the most master’s-level literacy teachers of any program of its kind in North Carolina since 2009. 

Globally, Spires has conducted extensive research, teaching and engagement with teachers in China, having led 10 delegations to China, including a three-city study abroad trip for education students in 2019. She has had partnerships with Beijing Royal School, one of the leading private schools in China, since 2010. She supported 24 Beijing Royal School teachers in receiving master’s degrees through the NLGL program. Spires currently serves as honorary principal of Suzhou North America High School, which she helped design and create in 2015. 

Spires’ research and engagement activities with educators in China culminated in the groundbreaking book, Digital Transformation and Innovation in Chinese Education, which she was the editor for in 2018. Her latest book, published in 2020 by Teachers College Press, is Read, Write, Inquire: Disciplinary Literacy for Grades 6-12.

Over her career, Spires has received numerous awards and honors including the following:

  • North Carolina IHE delegate for the National Forum on the Recruitment, Preparation, and Support of Persons of Color in Teaching, US Department of Education, Washington, DC., 1995.
  • NC State’s Academy of Outstanding Faculty in Extension and Engagement in 1996
  • Outstanding Writing in the Field of College Reading, International Reading Association in 1998
  • AB Combs Leadership Award, AB Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School, Raleigh, NC in 2004
  • NC State’s Gertrude Cox Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching & Learning with Technology in 2009 
  • NC State’s Jackson A. Rigney International Service Award for her work with Chinese teachers and students in 2011
  • NC State’s Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor Award in 2012 
  • NC State’s Centennial Campus Partnership Award for her international work with Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School in 2015
  • Appointment to NC State’s Academy of Excellence in Global Engagement in 2019

Spires received her Ph.D and Master of Arts in Literacy and English Education, respectively, from the University of South Carolina; and her Bachelor of Science in English Education from Tennessee Temple University.

During retirement, Spires will continue her literacy research and engagement work by co-editing Critical Perspectives in Global Literacies: Research into Practice through Routledge Publishing with her former Ph.D. student, Shea Kerkhoff ’16 PHD. She is also creating a nonprofit organization that will provide books to under-resourced communities, both locally and globally.

Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Education and Friday Institute Senior Faculty Fellow Hollylynne Lee will serve as interim associate dean, Friday Institute, College of Education; and Shaun Kellogg, the Friday Institute’s Senior Director of Program Evaluation and Education Research, has agreed to serve as the Friday Institute’s interim executive director, pending final approval from the UNC System. The college will conduct a national search for a permanent associate dean and executive director.

“As I enter this next season in my life, I’ll continue to advocate for educators and students. My role is shifting, but my voice will not diminish. And I’m delighted that my esteemed colleagues, Drs. Lee and Kellogg, will provide leadership during the interim period. The Friday Institute is in great hands,” said Spires.