A longtime educator joins UALR program to help train a new generation of teachers

Students Hannah Wall (left) of El Dorado and Lucee Lugo of De Queen sit outside on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus.
Students Hannah Wall (left) of El Dorado and Lucee Lugo of De Queen sit outside on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has named Rachel Eells as interim director of the School of Education. 

Her appointment comes at a time when UALR is working with the Little Rock and Jacksonville/North Pulaski school districts to start a teacher residency program this school year in which 11 students will train an entire year in the school districts.

The goal of the residency program — which is funded by a grant from Forward Arkansas — is to produce high-quality, highly trained teachers who are ready for their classrooms on day one.

“It is with great pleasure that I welcome Dr. Eells back to UA Little Rock,” said Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, in a news release. “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 is a familiar name in Arkansas.

Her father-in-law is the late Paul Eells, the sportscaster who was known as the “Voice of the Razorbacks” when he broadcast University of Arkansas games.

Rachel Eells earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Concordia College and a master’s degree in gifted and talented education at UALR. She started her teaching career in Little Rock as a teacher of special education, art, and gifted and talented education at Christ Lutheran Church

Later, 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. She was a professor of educational psychology, a chairperson of the psychology department and a dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Before she joined UALR's staff, Eells was vice president for academic affairs and a professor of education at Concordia College New York.

She returned to UALR in 2022 as a visiting professor of education.

Eells is married to Brandon Eells, an actor and photographer. Their daughter, Lucy,  is a junior at Parkview Arts Science Magnet High School. 

Eells  is replacing Kent Layton, who retired over the summer. The director is an administrative and leadership role that oversees the School of Education. It is similar to a chairperson position.

“It seems like I have always been a teacher,” Eells said in the UALR news release. “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.”

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