Virginia Board of Education and former Virginia Secretary of Education
Opening Session Keynote Speaker
Anne Holton is a life-long advocate for children and families in Virginia. After graduating with a B.A. from Princeton and a Harvard law degree, Holton worked as a legal aid lawyer serving low-income families. She served as a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge from 1998 until 2005 when her husband, Tim Kaine, was elected Governor of Virginia.
As Virginia’s First Lady, Holton championed a successful initiative to secure permanent family connections for more foster youth. She later served as a consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation on foster care systems reform, with a focus on judiciary issues and preventing unnecessary out-of-home placements of youth due to complex behavioral issues.
In 2008 Anne Holton worked with the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education to establish the Great Expectations program, which works through campus coaches based on community college campuses to improve access to and success in higher education for Virginia’s foster youth and alumni. She served as the Program’s Director in 2013.
Holton attended public schools in Roanoke, Richmond, and Fairfax County, Virginia. With her family she helped integrate the Richmond Public Schools in 1970. She has been an active PTA member and volunteer at six Richmond public schools, where her children were educated. Holton served on the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation Board 2010-2012 and on the Voices for Virginia Children Board 2010-2013. She also has served on the Advisory Board to Youth-Nex, the UVa Center to Promote Effective Youth Development at the Curry School of Education.
Holton is the recipient of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Life Award of Distinction and the Richmond YWCA Outstanding Woman in Law award in 2006 among other honors.
She and her husband (now U.S. Senator Tim Kaine) have three adult children and reside in Richmond, Virginia.
Educator and Founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation
Closing Session Keynote Speaker
Erin Gruwell is a teacher, an education activist, and the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. She created the Freedom Writer Methods, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula designed to achieve excellence from all students.
By fostering an educational philosophy that values and promotes diversity, Gruwell transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. With Gruwell’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence to become aspiring college students, published writers, and catalysts for change. They dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” –in homage to civil rights activists The Freedom Riders—and published a book.
Inspired by Anne Frank, Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book records their “eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.” In early 2007, Teach With Your Heart, Erin’s powerful memoir and call to arms was published.
While Erin has been credited with giving her students a “second chance,” it was perhaps she who changed the most during her tenure at Wilson High School. She decided to channel her classroom experiences toward a broader cause, and today her impact as a teacher extends well beyond Room 203. Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches teachers around the country how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. Recently, Erin’s teaching methods from her time in Room 203 have been published in the Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide. Proceeds from the sale of all books directly fund the Freedom Writers Foundation.
Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara Walters’ The View, and Good Morning America, to name a few. Erin and the Freedom Writers have earned them dozens of awards including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award.
Erin is a graduate of the University of California Irvine, where she received the Lauds and Laurels Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned her Master’s Degree and teaching credentials from California State University Long Beach, where she was honored as Distinguished Alumna by the School of Education.