Rachel Boettcher2017 Rising Alumni

Rachel Boettcher

Rachel Boettcher is motivated to address the opportunity gap and other inequities faced by children and families. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education, plus a teaching license, led her to a career providing access to high quality early childhood programs for children living in poverty. In her current role at Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners, Rachel partners with school districts and other community agencies to increase investment in our earliest learners.


Program Director of Caring for Kids, Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

I volunteered with Second Harvest Heartland, distributing groceries to families of elementary school students in the Twin Cities.

I also recently completed the Wilder Foundation’s Neighborhood Leadership Program. NLP might not be a volunteer activity necessarily, but it did spark my interest in getting more involved in bettering my own community and using my voice for good.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

I distinctly remember attempting to slide down a barely-perceptible hill by the dorms on cafeteria trays one rainy night with some friends (now that I’m writing this, it sounds like something from a movie). That’s a ridiculous memory, but a happy one.

Mainly, though, I have great memories from my time student teaching and learning with my cohort in the M.Ed Early Childhood Education program. Even though the U is a large university, I felt like my classmates and professors were a tightly-knit group. The connections that stemmed from my time at the university are irreplaceable, and I learned more than I can say from my courses and student internships within metro schools.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

The most influential professor I had was Ann Ruhl-Carlson, who was my advisor throughout my time at the U. Ann is currently my mentor, and she supported me in applying for my current position at Interfaith Outreach. I’m so grateful to have her support- she believes in my capabilities and has encouraged and uplifted me for the last ten years.

I also loved LaVonne Carlson’s courses. She was a rockstar professor who challenged my thinking about early childhood education.

My cooperating teaching at the Shirley G. Moore Lab School, Amy Vavricka, also had a big impact on me- she has such a thoughtful way of teaching and connecting with children, families, and student teachers, and I carried much of what I learned through my time there to my own classrooms and experiences.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

Before entering CEHD, I knew next to nothing about the opportunity gaps that put some children behind others before they even enter school – how lacking access to things like quality child care, stable housing, and living-wage jobs create huge inequities for families and their children. Through my time at CEHD, and especially while completing my student teaching experiences, I learned about these inequities and decided that I wanted to do something about them. I appreciate that my professors, classmates, and cooperating teachers supported discussions about these issues, and that I was encouraged to continue pursuing my interest in this as the program progressed.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

The children and families I’ve had the privilege of partnering with continually inspire me. I think back to one particular child with whom I worked during my birth-3 early intervention student teaching, which is home-based. Connecting with her and her parents every week was the highlight of that semester. It was through that experience that I saw firsthand how intertwined child development is with parent-child relationships, as well as the impact that can result from connecting families with their community and the resources within it.

Also, my mom has been my number one supporter throughout my education and professional career. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for her unwavering belief in me. She is the hardest working, most selfless person I know, and I can only hope to someday emulate her a tiny bit.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

The ability to see and try to understand others’ perspectives, collaboration, and the ability to clarify your purpose.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

Running through St. Paul is one my favorite things to do. My number one out-and-back run is around the river, all the way over to the Weisman and back. Running clears my head and makes me feel strong (and has the added bonus of making my dog happily tired).

How do others describe you?

I’ve heard others describe me as driven, kind, and passionate about children and families. I’ll take all three of those!

How do you describe yourself?

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist whose theory of child development completely shaped my approach to early childhood education.

What gets you excited about work?

I’m lucky to work alongside an outstanding team of people, both in my organization and within the community. They motivate me to continue working hard to address inequities, especially in education. That being said, the children and families who are impacted by my program and organization are my main motivation, day and in and day out.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a journalist right up until freshman orientation, when I switched to early childhood education. This change was thanks in large part to my high school Spanish class, where we taught elementary-school students beginning Spanish for a semester. Thanks, Señor Nagel!

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I surround myself with people who challenge me to think critically. I also participate in conferences and workshops, join professional organizations that align with my work, and stay up-to-date on research and trends.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I hiked an active volcano last spring, and would do it again in a heartbeat!