Team Member Spotlight: Eliza Moeller

We would not be able to fulfill our mission without our staff, a group of professionals who intentionally work across difference, are experts in their field, and care deeply about young people and their postsecondary journeys. 

Each month, we’ll highlight a member of our team by “passing the mic” to hear directly from them about their work and purpose. This month, we are highlighting one of our Transformation Coaches, Eliza Moeller. 


What do you do at the Network for College Success?

I have had a BUNCH of different roles at NCS, but currently, my role is Transformation Coach. I coach Freshman Success Team leaders in 5 CPS high schools. I am also on the team that leads professional learning for our National Freshman Success Institute and our Freshman Success for Equity Network. My favorite part of my job is co-leading our Equity-Based Leadership training as well as facilitating equity-centered professional learning with schools in Chicago and across the country.

How do you help high school teams build on the work they’re doing and make improvements?

Our approach to Freshman Success work is about empowering teachers and teacher leaders to be sophisticated, collaborative problem-solvers on behalf of their students. Our vision is that Freshman Success Teams should be powerful engines of collective efficacy that can have significant and lasting impact on students and whole schools. I work with team leads to shift their lens from “What do I want my students to do?” to “What do I want teachers to do?”, and then imagine new ways to help teachers change their practice for the better. How we do that for each team is going to look a little different, but at the moment, I’m spending time helping teams and team leads to develop data routines, to adopt more equitable grading practices, and to build trust and mutual obligation among teachers on the team.

What about the culture of NCS empowers you to show up the way you do?

What I love most about our approach at NCS is that we never waver in our commitment to building the capacity of educators to solve their own problems. There are no silver bullets in this work, no magical curriculum or constellation of tutoring and mentoring supports that will solve the problems of the transition to high school — there’s just the day in/day out commitment of teachers to do better for their students today than the did yesterday — and to do it together. It means that we go into a coaching relationship with more questions than answers, which is often uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, when a team of educators can feel what it feels like to solve a problem on their own, they’ll never be the same educators again. And that’s what real improvement looks like.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I love being able to bring what we call “The Chicago Story” to new audiences. I get to tell people from all over the country the story of the dire state of high school graduation in CPS before the On-Track movement, the evidence-based work we did city-wide to move the needle on the problem, and the resulting increases in on-track, graduation, and college enrollment rates. If we tell the story right, even the most demoralized educators will come away feeling like this is a problem they can solve, and that moment always feels amazing.

Can you share a memorable moment or achievement during your time with NCS?

Ten years ago, we were wondering whether or not there was even any interest outside of Chicago in doing on-track work. We decided to host our first National Freshman Success Institute with only 40 participants. It didn’t seem at all clear that this would be a viable route to the kind of impact we hoped to achieve. But then, the next year we had nearly 100 participants, and the year after that, we were turning people away for space constraints at 120. We’ve been maxing out participation ever since, and I am so, so, SO proud of the learning experience we’ve designed that keeps people coming back.

Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or interests that you enjoy pursuing?

I love to cook. One of the unexpected benefits of pandemic life is that I started cooking myself three meals a day from scratch most days, and I really came to love both the result but also the work of cooking. Cooking became like a daily meditative ritual for me and kept me grounded. Also, I’ve been practicing Pilates seriously for about 10 years now and credit a couple of really good pilates teachers for keeping my spine pretty healthy.
Want to meet other remarkable staff at NCS? Visit our staff directory page here.