Finding a how-to manual for new schools

How does an educator become an effective STEM school leader? Is there a how-to manual for launching and overseeing the start-up of an innovative school?

The Innovative Leaders Institute (ILI) isn’t a manual, but it covers all the basics. ILI is a year-long training and mentoring experience managed by Battelle Education and led by STEM leaders from across the country.

In four sessions held at various STEM schools, participants get advice on leadership, curriculum, hiring practices and more. They also build a support system among speakers and fellow participants.

A new cohort of the Ohio’s ILI started in early May. To get a sense of what these school leaders will experience, we asked Joshua Jennings, founding director of Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) in Springfield, Ohio – to share his thoughts. Josh participated in the very first cohort of ILI in 2013.

Q: Tell us about your professional background.

STEM school founder Josh Jennings talks about the his experience with the Innovative Leaders Institute
Josh Jennings talks about his experience with the Innovative Leaders Institute. He founded Global Impact STEM Academy.

A: I was in the production agriculture industry for five years prior to getting into education. My first teaching position was as an agriculture education instructor at Northeastern High School in Clark County in western Ohio. After obtaining my master’s in workforce development and education, I served as the director of career technical education at Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center. Those combined experiences positioned me well to lead the GISA initiative.

Q: What attracted you to STEM education?
A: The unique opportunity to grow and develop relevant programing while breaking down the traditional walls associated with public education.

Q: Why did you apply to the Innovative Leaders Institute? What was involved in the application process?
A: I applied in part to learn as much as I could about STEM education in Ohio and because I had just recently accepted the founding director position at GISA. The application process involved questions about my desire to participate and reference letters.

Q: How did your sessions operate?
A: My experience was a combination of speakers, workshops and discussions.

Q: Did the sessions meet, or exceed, your expectations? How?
A: It was extremely valuable because we were at the infancy stages of our school. Having the opportunity to meet casually with other professionals who had gone through the same thing I was going through at the time was priceless. I keep in touch with many of the other members of my cohort.

Q: Have you changed as an educator and administrator after ILI?
A: ILI helped to give me some perspective in terms of STEM education. It did drive many of the aspects in terms of direction we took as a school startup.

Q: Would you recommend ILI to other STEM educators?
A: I would strongly recommend ILI if the experience I had could be a similar experience for others. The opportunity to network and learn from STEM practitioners was extremely valuable.

Further reading
Hear from the ILI participants themselves in this Twitter chat.

You can reach Josh himself on Twitter at or learn more about the school he founded at

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