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The Intersection of Teaching, Acting, and Activism The Intersection of Teaching, Acting, and Activism

On June 12, 2020, Teach For America celebrated the start of  Virtual Summer Teacher Training with a special livestream kickoff event. During the event, Senior Vice President of Teacher Leadership and Development at Teach For America, LaNiesha Cobb Sanders (Metro Atlanta ’03) spoke with actor, activist, and former teacher Jesse Williams about systemic racism in America, the future of education, and the actions teachers can take to ensure a more equitable learning experience for students.

Teach For America’s Conversation with Jesse Williams

“I am not discouraged. This, in particular, is a really encouraging and rare opportunity that we need to take advantage of.”

Jesse Williams

Actor, Activist, and Former Teacher

Speakers & Special Guests

Jesse Williams

Actor, Activist, and Former Teacher

Jesse Williams is an activist/actor/entrepreneur and former high school teacher. He plays ‘Dr. Jackson Avery’ in ABC’s hit series “Grey’s Anatomy” and has appeared in films including Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” “The Cabin in the Woods,” “Band Aid” and the upcoming “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Selah and the Spades.” He will make his feature directorial debut with the upcoming film “Till.”

Williams is the co-founder of the Ebroji Mobile App, a popular cultural language keyboard and BLeBRiTY game, a very successful black culturally centered mobile game. He's also a partner and board member of Scholly, a mobile app that has connected students directly to over 80 million dollars in unclaimed scholarships.

Jesse served as senior producer and correspondent alongside Norman Lear for their EPIX docuseries “America Divided.” He executive produced the documentary “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” which premiered summer 2016 and is currently touring internationally. Williams co-hosts the sports and culture-themed podcast, “Open Run” with Lebron James' and Maverick Carter's Uninterrupted Network.

Williams is founder of the production company, farWord Inc. and the executive producer of “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a series of transmedia art installations on display as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture's permanent collection. Their curriculum and content is available for a limited time at 

Williams gained international attention for his 2016 BET Humanitarian Award acceptance speech. He is also the youngest to sit on the Board of Directors for both Advancement Project, a leading national civil rights advocacy organization, and Harry Belafonte’s arts and social justice organization,

LaNiesha Cobb Sanders (Metro Atlanta ’03) 

Senior Vice President, Teacher Leadership and Development

A proud graduate of Florida A&M University, LaNiesha started her teaching career in Metro Atlanta, where she taught middle school science and reading. In 2005, she joined Teach For America as manager of institute support for the charter Atlanta summer institute. In 2007, she joined the national Knowledge Development team, where she played a key role in refining and explicating our shared vision of transformational teaching through the Teaching as Leadership rubric, resulting in the launch of the Teaching As Leadership Online Navigator and the published Teaching As Leadership textbook. In 2008, she returned to the Atlanta Institute team, where she supported her team to meet their student achievement, corps culture, and staff satisfaction goals. In August of 2011, she moved into the senior managing director of institute role and then in 2013 became the vice president of institutes, overseeing all national institutes. She became Senior Vice President of the National Teacher Leadership Development team in October of 2016. LaNiesha is originally from Dallas, Texas, and currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband Brannan and three children—Kenni Rose, Stone, and Reese.