Hiller A. Spires, Ph.D. is nationally and internationally recognized for her innovative
research and approach to K-12 education, particularly as related to digital, disciplinary
and global literacies. Her 43-year career in education, includes teaching high school
in Chattanooga, T.N., directing the Academic Skills Program at the University of South
Carolina, and serving 36 years at North Carolina State University. Spires served as
an associate dean and executive director of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation
and an Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of Literacy and Technology in North
Carolina State’s College of Education.
Spires joined North Carolina State’s College of Education as an assistant professor
in 1986 and was promoted to full professor in 1998. She was the founding director
of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation from 2002 to 2006, leading in all
facets of making the Friday Institute a reality when its doors opened. Spires began
serving a second round as the Friday Institute’s executive director in November 2019.
Under Spires’ leadership, the Friday Institute supported North Carolina K-12 educators
as they shifted to emergency remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic. She
also led the N.C. Literacy and Equity Summit in 2022 which engaged 834 educators virtually
to address the question: How do we transform our shared aspiration—that all N.C. students
read on grade level—into action? The Friday Institute served over 80,000 educators
and all 115 public school districts across North Carolina through online professional
learning since 2020.
Spires’ research focuses on the integration of research-based practices for digital
and disciplinary literacies with diverse learners; she has received over $13 million
in grants to support her research program and published over 200 referenced articles,
chapters, and papers.
Spires created Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global, an inquiry-to-action learning cycle
that engages students and educators in responding to the UN Sustainable Development
Goals. Over 3,000 teachers have engaged in PBI Global in the U.S., Belize, Kenya and
China. She was also the founding director of the Friday Institute’s New Literacies
Collaborative and led the development of the New Literacies and Global Learning (NLGL)
Master’s degree program, including the K-12 Literacy Cohort. This program annually
graduated the most master’s-level literacy teachers of any program of its kind in
North Carolina since 2009.
Globally, Spires has conducted extensive research, teaching and engagement with teachers
in China for which she received NC State’s Jackson A. Rigney International Service
Award in 2011. In 2013, she was approached to help design and create Suzhou North
America High School, as a model high school which embraces the best of eastern and
western educational practices; she continues to serve as their Honorary Principal.
Spires’ research and engagement activities with educators in China culminated in the
groundbreaking book, Digital Transformation and Innovation in Chinese Education, which
she published in 2018. In 2020, she published Read, Write, Inquire: Disciplinary Literacy
for Grades 6-12 with Teachers College Press.
Spires received her Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Literacy and English Education from
the University of South Carolina and her Bachelor of Science in English Education
from Tennessee Temple University.
Spires is continuing her literacy research and engagement work by co-editing Critical
Perspectives in Global Literacies: Bridging Research and Practice through Routledge
Publishers, due out in May 2023. She is also creating Margie’s Books, in honor of
her mother, with the Triangle Community Foundation, which will provide children’s
and young adult books to under-resourced educational communities, both locally and