Brittany N. Packnett
As a supporter of education reform and the empowerment of young people, Brittany Packnett exudes passion for the often overlooked people and places of St. Louis. A St. Louis native, Brittany grew up in a family of educators and inherited their commitment to empowering children. Following graduation from Washington University, she became a third grade teacher with Teach For America (TFA) in Washington, D.C. and earned her master’s degree in education. She served as a legislative aide to Congressman William Lacy Clay, Jr. and later become a director of Government Affairs for TFA.
Missouri was in Brittany’s portfolio and her work became deeply personal. She was essential in securing greater federal support for TFA. Brittany partnered with civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis to host a national conversation on inspiring more African American men to increase their presence among the nation’s teachers. She garnered 500 participants and strengthening investment among core education leaders in the House.
Now, as Executive Director of Teach For America in St. Louis, Brittany is driven to serve the 20,000 students in her care. She spent her first 3 months listening to voices that would help her craft the strategy for St. Louis’ TFA region, creating a clear, compelling vision that would mark the start of a significant increase in the satisfaction of corps teachers; an uptick in aggregate student achievement; an increase in the diversity of TFA teachers and staff members; and an increase in fundraising in her first year.
Recently, it is her work in Ferguson that has shed a light on Brittany’s best qualities of integrity, wisdom, and compassion. Emerging as a critical voice following Michael Brown’s death, Brittany spent a great deal of her time there, listening to the residents and youth of the area, and creating a platform to amplify their concerns. She helped set up shop with students and community members in the Ferguson Library while school was forced to close in August and November, providing still-rigorous learning for children who were displaced by the chaos.
Her work in Ferguson took her to many places, including NPR, Good Morning America, TIME Magazine, the Oval Office, the Ferguson Commission, and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. As nominators Maxine Clark and Bob Fox note: “St. Louis is fortunate that hers is a voice emerging from the noise, pushing for honest conversation and substantial change. Brittany has put her time and energy where her beliefs about justice and equity are, essentially doing three jobs at once as she pushes for change in classrooms, in Ferguson, and beyond.”