Apply to join institute for school leaders

The Innovative Leaders Institute is a year-long training and mentoring experience for educators led by some of the top STEM and innovative school leaders across the country. To date, over 100 educators from urban, rural, and suburban schools across five states – including Chicago Public Schools – have participated.

Complete the application online by April 4
Applicants must apply as part of a two person team. The team must include a principal or assistant principal plus an additional building-level leader. Additional details are included on the application. Printable version of the application. Update 3/11: Session dates confirmed and added to application.

To take you inside the experience, we talked to two of the faculty members behind the Innovative Leaders Institute. Dr. Larry W. Johnson Jr. is the Instructional Leader at National Inventors Hall of Fame S.T.E.M. High School in Akron. Becky Ashe is the STEM Coordinator for Knox County Schools and founding principal of L&N STEM Academy.


Inside perspective on institute
You’re both leaders of STEM schools, how does that experience influence how you approach the Innovative Leaders Institute?
160304 Larry JohnsonDr. Larry Johnson, National Inventors Hall of Fame S.T.E.M. High School

We focus on being a fluid organization, one that is designed to adapt quickly and purposefully. That approach has allowed me to ask better questions and approach learning through innovating.

One driving question: How do we create the right mindset for learning? Dweck (2010) would call this a growth mindset. How can we, as a STEM building, design learning experiences that encourage and develop innovation?

initial picture of Becky Ashe - requesting betterBecky Ashe, L&N STEM Academy

STEM leaders face a range of needs of their school environment and it’s essential to have veteran leaders who have experienced the same problems.

These are issues like:

  • educating people on what STEM education actually is and is not (it is NOT the sum of the acronym),
  • hiring teachers with the right mix of innovation and content expertise,
  • finding continually new and exciting ways to work with the larger community of stakeholders so students have authentic learning opportunities and interactions with potential role models.

These are challenges above and beyond those our colleagues face in more traditional settings. All the faculty approach planning each day’s experiences around the idea that no two schools are alike but there are common issues we all face. We strive to help bring a framework for thinking and problem solving through the leader’s chair. The Innovative Leaders Institute provides an ecosystem for growth in leaders who face the task of real education reform.

What are a few of the key pieces participants learn?
  1. How they learn and how others around them learn. Which raises the awareness that their learners all learn differently!
  2. They learn how to fail and that failure is many times the key to learning.
  3. They learn that failing is the seed to innovation.
  1. They are not alone – others are attempting the same transformations as they but in different geographic locations
  2. Strategies for building shared leadership and ownership of school-based initiatives for improvement
  3. Factors to consider and address in leading any change effort
  4. Specific resources to assist in recruiting and retaining high quality teachers and staff
  5. Ideas for engaging students, parents, and the larger community of STEM stakeholders
What’s a change you’ve seen in a participant?
I have seen participants embrace collaborating with others differently. Initially they collaborated to finish a challenge or create a product.

During our last face-to-face, they seemed more willing to put themselves “out there” as a team because they knew how others on their team learned and it allowed them to accept that collaboration is more of a process than a product.

There was one new elementary principal in particular who began “overwhelmed” (his word) at his new position to turn around a failing elementary school by making it a STEM school.

By the end of the institute, he had identified partners and tasks so he had a clear vision of who could help him and how. He could articulate his vision and sharpened it alongside his faculty. He left with a new disposition that this was not “his” undertaking, but “theirs” – and so it seemed like an achievable dream rather than a recipe for burnout.

Have questions? Email Dr. Stephanie Johnson.

Innovative Leaders Institute is managed by Battelle Education, Battelle’s non-profit venture in STEM. Battelle Education turns STEM innovations into real-world impact. Learn more at

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