EP Alumni Spotlight: Crystal Hill

Crystal Hill

Chief People Officer, AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation/AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School
2013 EP Fellow in Washington, DC


This year marks the 20th anniversary of Education Pioneers (EP), a significant milestone in our organization’s journey. To honor this occasion, we’re sharing an ongoing blog series to showcase EP Alumni who are actively addressing opportunity gaps within their communities.

Crystal Hill’s (2013) journey with EP began with a fervent desire to use her expertise in human resources to make an impact on public education. “I had just completed graduate school and was eager to use my skill set to assist an organization investing in its people strategies,” she remarked. Fast forward more than a decade later, Crystal’s work addresses the pressing issues confronting the education sector in Washington, DC and beyond. “We are seeing so many people leaving the classroom to pursue other avenues. My work advocating for fairness in policies, nurturing professional growth opportunities, and optimizing operational efficiency directly supports those who continue in the field and encourages others to join.”

Prior to the EP Fellowship, Crystal held roles in human resources at various education-focused organizations. In 2013, she took part in EP’s Human Capital Fellowship at Achieve, Inc., a now-closed nonprofit education reform organization that supported states with career readiness initiatives. Following her Fellowship, Crystal served as the organization’s Director of Human Resources and Operations until she joined the Urban Institute as Associate Vice President of Human Resources, then Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Administrative Officer.

Crystal has since joined AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, a renowned early childhood education network, research institute, and instructional model developer in Washington, DC. She has held the role of Chief People Officer (CPO) since 2020. As CPO, she leads a team of six, and has worked to reshape the human resources function to better support organizational needs. Her work has included designing compensation strategies to equitably boost teacher pay, developing AppleTree’s approach to attracting high-quality talent in a tight labor market, and refining performance management strategies.


A Ripple Effect

Crystal describes how EP Alumni have left an indelible mark on the education landscape in Washington, DC. “In every role I have had since my Fellowship, there was a long list of Alumni managing complex change and needed improvement in the sector,” she explains. “In fact, at AppleTree, we’ve continued to work with a former EP Fellow after his Fellowship, and are hoping to bring him on as a full-time Data Analyst due to his impactful work in creating a new system to effectively aggregate and analyze data for informed decision-making.

Crystal recounts an example from her first years at AppleTree, where she drew upon the EP Alumni network to solve an enrollment challenge. “One of my first initiatives was better understanding our enrollment operations,” Crystal recalls. “I went right to my EP network and asked, ‘who knows this work and can help?” A fellow cohort member who was doing this exact same work for her LEA in Atlanta raised her hand. She was able to design training and provide consultative support for our organization as we redesigned the function. I know I can tap into my EP network with any needs I have. The knowledge base is so vast and everyone is willing to pitch in and support each other.”


Strength in Numbers

How can leaders start to drive collective action? It all comes back to effective people management, says this human resources leader. “It is a leader’s job to motivate a team to contribute meaningfully and allow freedom to take risks to help drive positive change together. We are all chipping away at this iceberg called education. Diverse minds, backgrounds, and skill sets will help you solve problems faster and with more creativity.”

Crystal envisions a future where EP Alumni continue to join together to shape the educational landscape for generations to come. “We need people who continue to be passionate, die-hard advocates for high quality education,” she emphasizes. “Anyone can bring their varied skills in business, tech, operations, HR, facilities, curriculum, teaching and learning and all other subject areas together to help solve the challenges we face and embrace the wonderful opportunities to come.”


EP believes in the power of mobilizing diverse, skilled professionals from inside and outside of the sector to transform education as we know it. That’s why EP is actively recruiting Impact Fellows to join us in this vital mission. If you’re an Alumni looking to multiply your impact, you can get involved by referring a Fellow or hosting a Fellow at your organization. 

About our Alumni Network
After completing their Fellowship, EP Fellows join our vibrant Alumni network made up of more than 4,600 connected changemakers at every level of educational leadership. Together, EP Fellows and Alumni drive meaningful change and work towards creating a more just and equitable future for all students. Learn more about the impact of our Alumni network here