Jennifer D. Klein

CEO, Principled Learning Strategies, Author, "The Global Education Guidebook," Speaker, Facilitator, and Coach

English, Spanish
Denver, Colorado, USA

A product of experiential project-based education herself, Jennifer D. Klein taught college and high school English and Spanish for nineteen years, including five years in Central America and eleven years in all-girls education. In 2010, Jennifer left teaching to begin Principled Learning Strategies, which provides professional development to support authentic student-driven global learning experiences in schools. She has a broad background in global education and partnership development, student-driven curricular strategies, inclusivity, and experiential, inquiry-driven learning. As a former head of school with extensive international experience, 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 socio-economic contexts, and to shift school culture to support such practices. Jennifer is also committed to intersecting global project-based learning with culturally-responsive and anti-racist teaching practices, and her experience includes deep work with schools seeking to address equity, take on brave conversations, build healthier community, and improve identity politics on campus.

Jennifer has facilitated educator workshops in English and Spanish in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, India, Mexico, Palestine, Peru, Sierra Leone, and the United States; and has led teacher groups on professional development travel programs in Belize, Costa Rica, Peru and Cuba. Jennifer’s first book, The Global Education Guidebook, was published in 2017 by Solution Tree Press, and her second, The Landscape Model of Learning: Designing Student-Centered Experiences for Cognitive and Cultural Inclusion, is slated for publication in May 2022, with co-author Kapono Ciotti

From 2010–2017, Jennifer worked as a consultant, workshop facilitator and teacher coach for a variety of educational organizations, including World Leadership School (Colorado), TakingITGlobal (Toronto), the Centre for Global Education (Edmonton), the Buck Institute for Education (California), the Institute of International Education (Washington DC), and the International Studies School Network of the Center for Global Education at Asia Society (New York). From 2017-2020, Jennifer served as head of school at Gimnasio Los Caobos, a preK–12 project-based school outside of Bogotá, Colombia, where she also wrote for various Colombian publications. Jennifer’s articles have been published in Independent School, The NSSSA Leader, and The Educational Forum. She has blogged for a variety of forums, including EdWeek, Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and her own Shared World blog.

As a school leader, writer, speaker, and bilingual workshop facilitator, Jennifer strives to inspire educators and shift their practices in schools worldwide.

My Story

When it comes to education, I’ve been lucky since the day I was born.  In spite of deep fears that only traditional education would ensure success, my parents made the choice to send me to two of the most progressive experiential schools in existence at the time (The School in Rose Valley outside of Philadelphia, PA, founded by thought leader Grace Rotzel; and the Jefferson County Open School outside of Denver, CO, founded by thought leader Arnold Langberg).  My parents' choices meant I was almost always recognized for my talents, encouraged to grow my gifts, and taught to articulate and work toward improvement in my areas of weakness.  Their choices meant I saw the world in my teens, engaging with it in authentic ways through service learning trips to places like Mexico, southern Florida, and the Middle East.  Their choices meant I learned to think for myself and to work with autonomy and discipline toward goals which held purpose and meaning.

I lost my faith in humanity along the way, unfortunately. Late in my high school years, I had experiences in the Middle East which took me off course, which showed me the worst in human nature at a vulnerable age (a story I’ll tell in my memoirs one day). After I returned to the US, just before my 18th birthday, I hid myself in books and the study of literature, probably because the reality of the world hurt too much to look at it closely or often. I called myself a “cynical idealist” during the years that followed: I was aware that something better was possible, that humans were capable of building peace and understanding, but I was convinced it would never happen.  It wasn’t until after I finished my Master’s that I decided to re-engage with the world by moving to Central America--and even then, it was an act of desperation more than of hope.

A year later, I entered my first high school classroom, as an English teacher at the Lincoln School in Costa Rica, and my entire worldview started to shift.  It wasn’t that I changed my mind about the worst in human nature; it was that I found a way to address it.  Education, I realized, could change any and all elements of a given society.  And an education filled with authentic, globally-connected, student-centered work, the kind of education I’d been lucky enough to experience, was the kind of education that could create change leaders for our gravest challenges around the world.  I spent 19 years in the classroom, empowering young leaders with the skills and sensitivities they needed to be constructive participants in the world, and it was the most important work I’ve ever done.

When I decided to leave teaching, it was because I wanted to ensure that this kind of education could exist for all students from all backgrounds and regions of the world, not just for the students who passed through my private-school classroom.  I had been the victim of far too much bad professional development, by which I mean experiences that didn’t impact my classroom practices.  I started to build coaching and workshops that would ensure practical applications, that would guarantee real shifts in practice on Monday morning.  And I recognized that inspiration was key, that teachers and educational leaders needed to see and feel the “why” just like any student needs a sense of purpose behind what they learn.

I still educate from this mindset today, whether I’m working with students, teachers, or leaders.  I believe that a good education sees the whole child and differentiates accordingly, fostering students’ talents and strengthening their weaknesses.  A good education teaches students to learn with and from others, to engage with the world from an asset lens, to honor others for their views and differences.  Above all, a good education prepares young people with the skills they need to confront a volatile and changing world with a belief in their own agency and the ability to create positive solutions for their communities. 

I’ve dedicated my life to this work, and I believe every “global graduate” has the potential to improve the world.  I now call myself a “brokenhearted optimist.”  I am, of course, still perpetually disappointed by what humans are capable of.  But I also believe in our capacity to work together to heal the world. Every day, my former students and other young people impacted by the kind of education I work toward prove me right.  And every day, my heart is a little less broken.

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