Jennifer D. Klein is a product of experiential project-based education herself, and she lives and breathes the student-centered pedagogies used to educate her. A former head of school with extensive international experience and over thirty years in education—including nineteen in the classroom—Jennifer facilitates dynamic, interactive workshops for teachers, leaders, and students, working to amplify student voice, to provide the tools for high-quality project-based learning in all cultural and socioeconomic contexts, and to shift school culture to support such practices.
My why is the intersection of writing and education and the urge to make the world better through educational practices. I am committed to intersecting global student-centered learning with culturally responsive and anti-racist teaching practices, and my experience includes deep work with schools seeking to address equity, take on brave conversations and restorative practices, build a healthier community, and improve identity politics on campus.
My parents sent me to an alternative school, the Open School in Colorado. During high school, I lived in Israel/Palestine for six months, followed by two months backpacking around Europe and Britain. I completed three independent projects for high school in those eight months. I hold a bachelor of arts from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and a master of arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder, both in literature and creative writing. Additionally, I completed my principal licensing studies at the University of Denver. I currently live in Denver, Colorado.
Why you became an educator
I stumbled into teaching when I was doing my master’s and later when I moved to Costa Rica at 25; teaching jobs were easy to find, but I quickly fell in love with teenagers and the potential they have to improve their world. My choice to leave the classroom to facilitate professional learning came from a desire to teach others what was done right in my own student-centered educational experiences.
Your journey as an educator to consultant
I am a former head of school with extensive international experience and over 30 years in education–including 19 in the classroom, several of which were in Costa Rica. As Head of School at Gimnasio Los Caobos (Bogotá, Colombia) for three years, I was able to put my educational thinking into practice with a profound impact on the quality of student learning and their growth as agents of change.
I have facilitated workshops in English and Spanish on four continents, providing strategies for high-quality, globally connected project-based learning in all cultural and socioeconomic contexts, with an emphasis on amplifying student voice and shifting school culture to support such practices.
My first book, The Global Education Guidebook: Humanizing K–12 Classrooms Worldwide Through Equitable Partnerships, was published by Solution Tree Press in 2017. It is about how providing opportunities for students to engage directly with the world can be life-changing, often providing a sense of purpose that motivates and grounds young people well into adulthood. But if that sense of purpose is based on the belief that one country or cultural group can save or fix others, these experiences may be causing more harm than good.
This book helps educators develop global partnerships grounded in equity and a “learning from and with” mentality.
As co-authors, Kapono Ciotti and I ground our work in metaphors that come from nature for a reason. We believe that educating students is a growth process that mirrors the growth of plants and the movement of species and water and wind across landscapes, not a factory production line. We can help students take the lead on reaching their personal highest level of success by shifting from the current paradigm of education. This guide offers the landscape model and its three elements: understanding what students bring to the ecosystem, defining the horizon, and charting the pathway.
I’m working on a new book on leaders doing right by kids when their context pushes back, hoping to provide strategies and solidarity for leaders struggling to keep their jobs in challenging settings. I also wrote a chapter in Barbara’s new book, Grow Your Why…One Story at a Time.
Jennifer’s Contact Information
Jennifer mentions the work of Arnie Langberg in the podcast; he is one of her earliest and most important educational mentors, and his new memoir, “To Create the World that Ought to Be,” traces the journey of the Open School founder’s life as a “radical educator.”
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jennifer D. Klein, who knows experiential project-based learning and does so much to make the world better through educational practices. It was such an honor to have Jennifer share her story and her WHY with me. Please share this podcast and the post with your friends.
|Make sure you check out more of the Rethinking Learning podcasts and each post that the guests created. Click on this link or the logo below to list by episode, alphabetical, or reflections.
|I am a co-host of a new podcast “Real Talk with Barbara and Nicole.” Check out the episodes about Authenticity in a Polarized Society around different topics. Click on RealTalkBN or the logo below.
|I’m getting wonderful feedback on how much the information and stories in “Define Your Why” has helped them. For more information about this book, go to this page or click on the book for resources, questions, and links.
My new book, “Grow Your Why…One Story at a Time” includes 23 stories from inspirational educators, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Go to this page or click on the book to go to Why Press Publishing for when details, resources, and more.