Zoe Weil (pronounced “Zoh While”) is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement. Zoe created IHE’s M.Ed., M.A., and graduate certificate programs, as well as IHE’s Solutionary Framework, which guides teachers in bringing solutionary thinking and action to their students.
Zoe is the author of seven books including Amazon #1 Best Seller in the Philosophy and Social Aspects of Education, The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries (2021/2016), Nautilus Silver Medal winner, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life (2009), The Power and Promise of Humane Education (2004), and Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times (2003).
She has also written books for young people, including Moonbeam Gold Medal winner, Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs (2023/2007), about 12-year-old activists inspired by their teacher to right wrongs where they find them, and So, You Love Animals: An Action-Packed, Fun-Filled Book to Help Kids Help Animals (1994).
Her upcoming book, The Solutionary Way, will come out in 2024.
In addition to her books, Zoe has written numerous articles on humane education and humane living and has appeared frequently on radio, podcasts, and television. Zoe writes for Psychology Today where you can read her blog Becoming a Solutionary.
In 2010, Zoe gave her first TEDx talk “The World Becomes What You Teach” which became among the 50 top-rated TEDx talks within a year. Since then she has given five other TEDx talks: “Solutionaries”, “Educating for Freedom”, “How to be a Solutionary”, “Extending our Circle of Compassion” and “How will you answer this question?”
Zoe speaks regularly at universities, conferences, and schools across the United States and Canada. She is a frequent keynote speaker, including at international teachers’ conferences in China and Mexico. She is a consultant on humane education to people and organizations around the world and has served on the board of directors of the Heroic Imagination Project and HEART, and as a steward at The Good Life Center.
Awards and Honors
Zoe is the 2023 recipient of the National Council of Social Studies “Spirit of America” award, which honors people who follow their conscience and act against current thinking in order to stand up for equity, freedom, and the American spirit of justice. She is the 2019 Distinguished Alumnae award-winner from the Nightingale-Bamford School. In 2017 she was named one of Maine Magazine’s “50 independent leaders transforming their communities and the state.” In 2016 Good Housekeeping included her in their women over fifty “groundbreakers shaking the world.” In 2012 she was honored with the Women in Environmental Leadership award at Unity College, and her portrait was painted by Robert Shetterly for the Americans Who Tell The Truth portrait series. Zoe was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame in 2010 and was featured in The Unbound Project.
Zoe received a Master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School (1988) and a Master’s and Bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania (1983). In 2015 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Valparaiso University. Zoe is certified in Psychosynthesis, a form of psychotherapy that relies upon the intrinsic power of each person’s imagination to promote growth, creativity, health, and transformation.
In 1987, I found my life’s work and discovered that this work had a name: humane education. I taught several week-long summer courses to middle school students at the University of Pennsylvania – one on environmental preservation and another on animal protection. We went on field trips, viewed videos filmed undercover, had great discussions, and focused on what we could do to make a difference. I watched in amazement as these 12- and 13-year-old students became passionate, committed changemakers virtually overnight.
I’ve stayed in touch with a few of them, and they are now extraordinary adults, still working to make a difference for people, other species, and the environment. One of them recounted that the humane education course changed his life. Since teaching these courses, my commitment to humane education has never wavered. I believe it is the most effective and important way to create an informed, conscious, and caring generation, and to prepare young people to take their place as solutionaries who will make the world a better place for all through whatever professions they pursue.
Between 1988 and 1996, I taught tens of thousands of students about the problems we face and the solutions we can create. That experience deepened my passion for humane education and made me want to see comprehensive humane education grow and spread. The problem was that there were only a handful of us who were teaching about the interconnected problems of human oppression, rampant consumerism, animal abuse, and environmental destruction. In order to solve global, systemic problems and create a world where everyone can survive and thrive, we needed a humane education movement in which all teachers were humane educators, all schools offered comprehensive humane education, and everyone was exposed to humane education in their lives.
In 1996 I co-founded the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) to train other people to be humane educators and to advance this important work, and now the solutionary movement is spreading, thanks to all our graduates, students, workshop and online course participants, and concerned citizens like you.
It is a privilege and a joy to be part of a movement that has the potential to solve every problem we face and create a restored, healthy, and humane world for all. As Henry David Thoreau once said, “There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots.” Nothing makes me more hopeful about the future than humane educators teaching and inspiring others, whether in schools and colleges, through the arts, in the media, through non-profits and businesses, in politics, in writing and filmmaking, or at camps and learning centers. They are doing the work that will foster solutions at the root. Thanks for all you are doing to teach and inspire others and to create a humane world.