Headshot of Phoebe McKinney

After leaving CIE, Phoebe worked in Washington DC as the Campaign Director for Amnesty International USA before moving to California. She then worked for CIE on the Sudan Basic Education Project beginning in 2005.  Her experience in South Sudan started her career in international development education. As Phoebe reports, “The first time I got off the plane in Nairobi, I knew that I had found my professional calling. I wasn’t wrong, and it was the start of a long and rewarding career in international development education focused on education in post-conflict/fragile states.”


Phoebe then undertook various international consulting jobs in education before becoming Program Manager in 2008 for the Dutch government-funded Acholi Bursary Scheme in Gulu, Uganda. The project focused on increasing access to secondary education and vocational training for a total of 9,000 war-affected youth, including girls and former child soldiers.


She next moved on to spend several years working for various education programs implemented by EDC, Save the Children, Food for the Hungry, and the NRC. Starting in 2013, she worked as a Post-Conflict/Fragility Education Specialist in Doha, Qatar with the USAID-funded Educate a Child Program.


Then, Phoebe returned to Africa to spend several years as the Senior Director for USAID’s Liberia Teacher Training Program, managed by FHI360. The project focused on pre- and in-service teacher training using Early Grade Reading Assessment and Early Grade Math assessment. The project was challenging because it had to deal with the Ebola crisis and coordinate teacher training with the reopening of schools post-Ebola


Changing continents again, Phoebe next worked as Senior Education Director and STTA in Kabul, Afghanistan with USAID’s Afghan Children Read project. In 2018 she returned to Liberia for two years as the Chief of Party for the Learning Links Project based in Gbarnga. The project focused on access to education for adolescent girls who were not in school because they had become pregnant. This was an innovative pilot project that trained literate women in the community to teach out-of-school girls basic literacy and math in the communities where the girls lived, thus lowering access and safety barriers. The project used smart phones to augment face-to-face teaching and learning sessions, with small financial incentives provided to the girls for completing quizzes and monthly assessments using the phones.


Starting in 2021 Phoebe served as the Chief of Party for USAID’s Esho Shikhi (Let’s Learn) Project in Bangladesh. At the end of that job, she said “After more than fifteen years of living and working in international education overseas, I decided to remain largely stateside for the future.” For a time, Phoebe continued working remotely as a short-term international education development consultant, but she then decided it was time to pursue a new career altogether.


In January of 2024, Phoebe began pursuing a second Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. “I spent my career trying to help people and am not yet done doing so. This time around, I will be helping people in a new way as a therapist. I am especially interested in serving as a therapist for people who have experienced trauma and substance abuse, but who knows what the future will bring?”


Phoebe and her wife Mary Lugton, now live in El Sobrante, California where they will soon celebrate their 25th anniversary. Mary continues to work as an English Language Development teacher trainer and coach for the local West Contra Costa school district helping teachers to teach English Language Development more effectively to newcomer students from around the world. 


Phoebe and Mary also find time for various hobbies and activities.  Mary loves working in her garden and working out at the gym. They still have one of their three original dogs that Phoebe brought back from Africa.  Phoebe owns and trains a young mule named “Critter” and raises chickens for their delicious eggs. Several years ago Phoebe and Mary enjoyed an epic adventure riding mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Phoebe recently returned from a similarly epic dog sledding adventure in Northern Minnesota.


Phoebe still misses working overseas and is deeply grateful for the role that CIE played in getting her started in her previous career. “I had a rich and rewarding career because of CIE. Wherever I went in the world, when I said I had attended CIE, everyone knew what it was and its strong reputation. If we were to add up all of the CIE graduates who have worked in international education, I think we would be amazed at what a huge collective differences we have made in the lives of tens of thousands of people. For me, that is one of the most rewarding and satisfying feelings I could ever have.” [3-24]


Email: phoebemckinney90@gmail.com


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