Her title is chief education officer at The Guild School, but perhaps it would be more appropriate to refer to Annie Willis as chief student supporter/cheerleader.

Annie, who joined The Guild on July 22, enthusiastically embraces the school’s foundational commitment to integrating students into the communities where they live and learn through a wide variety of enrichment and engagement activities. Throughout her career in special education, she has pushed to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not segregated.

“If we make ourselves more inclusive, it will allow people of all abilities to use their skills to contribute,” she says. “We often overlook the skills they can offer, and we don’t recognize what we all can learn from their resilience in the face of hardship.”

Annie developed this perspective as a student at the
University of Massachusetts Amherst when the psychology major (neuropsychology specialization) did a practicum at a center for individuals who had suffered traumatic brain conditions. She was inspired by the patients’ determination to regain their skills yet taken aback that these individuals were kept away from the general public.

“I knew then that I wanted to become an advocate for people with differing abilities and needs of all types,” Annie says. “I think that as a human being you have the basic right to be part of your community.”

At The Guild, Annie is responsible for the delivery of the approved private special-education school’s educational programming, including academic, vocational and related services. She is excited to work with a staff she describes as “very motivated and student-centered.”

“Everyone who works here really cares for the students and wants them to be successful,” Annie reports. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a challenging day or a good day, they are really excited to work here, and are always willing to pitch in to help.”

Although she is no longer in a classroom, Annie vicariously shares the thrill of student accomplishments – whether big or small. She recalls the struggles of one student to read beyond the third-grade level. When he finally reached his milestone, there was excitement all around.

“He was so proud of himself,” she remembers. “It was great to see everything else he could access. We could set other goals and he realized that they were not impossible to reach.”

Annie comes to The Guild from the 
Valley Collaborative Elementary School in Tyngsboro, where she served as principal for more than seven years. She joined the school as a classroom teacher and lead Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2007. Earlier in her career, she worked as a behavior consultant at Boston ABA and as a teacher, classroom supervisor and educational coordinator at the May Institute. Annie has also taught as an adjunct professor at Fitchburg State University.

Annie earned her bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst and her master’s in applied behavior analysis from Northeastern University.