Our year-long residential leadership academy brings together education leaders to form a peer network committed to better aligning education towards the goals of ecological integrity, economic vitality, and social justice. Through the ten days of this program, you'll create a learning community exploring Education for Sustainability (EFS), systems thinking, and leadership for school transformation.​ You will discover new ways of thinking, new skills to create change and nurture yourself, and present them with innovative ideas and strategies to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the future. At the heart of this work is educators supporting one another with a sense of hope, love, and resilience.

The Leadership Academy is best suited for PreK-12 practicing educators and leaders, though all types of educators are welcome to apply.

Applications are closed for 2023–24. Save the date for our next offering of Leadership Academy, kicking off July 30–August 1, 2024 for 2024–25. Express your interest to be notified when applications open for our next cohort.

What You'll Learn

It is expected that participants will have a strong foundation in sustainability and EFS, or teaching/leading with the interconnections of social, environmental, and economic systems in mind. Building from this base, we will explore systems-thinking, leadership skills, and change-making in order to transform education.

  • All participants will develop a professional EFS Action plan. The EFS Action Plan is a big-picture look at the change the participant is trying to make in their school, organization, or the world.
  • During the year, participants will work on a 90-day research and action project to address a “problem” in their practice. Thoughtful and ongoing support from peers in the program will help each participant evaluate their efforts and overcome the “implementation dip.”
  • Participants will walk away with new insights and an updated action plan to move their work forward after the completion of the program.

View EFS Leadership Academy alumni list


In Your Words

I wanted the support of the Leadership Academy to be able to meet people outside of my school context who can help me have thirty- or sixty-thousand foot discussions. We’re asking big questions like, how can we shift the public education system to be more inquiry-based? That’s the thing I value most, the time and space for conversations.

Headshot of Kestrel Plump. Kestrel smiles at camera with trees in background.
Kestrel Plump
Sustainability Coordinator, Sustainability Academy
  • Andrea Estey

    Join a learning community for retreats throughout the year at Shelburne Farms.

  • Andy Duback

    Form a peer network of fellow educators.

  • Andrea Estey

    The year-long residential program explores Education for Sustainability, systems thinking, and leadership for school transformation.

  • Shelburne Farms staff

    As we gather seasonally throughout the year, we tune in to what is happening around us in the natural world to reflect on our professional practice.

  • Andrea Estey

    The waterfront Orchard Cove house at Shelburne Farms serves as your home base, the ideal setting for reflection and discussion.

Meet the Core Instructors

  • Jen Cirillo, Director of Professional Learning, Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools
  • Aimee Arandia Østensen, Professional Learning Facilitator, Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools
  • Simon Jorgenson, Associate Professor - Elementary Education, The University of Vermont
Aerial view of the University of Vermont campus in springtime. Large towering buildings stand in foreground with grassy school green in middleground. Rolling hills stand in background.
UVM Spatial Analysis Lab

Our Partnership with the University of Vermont

Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools and the University of Vermont share a belief in the transformative power of education to shape a healthier, more sustainable future. Our programs combine the Institute’s international reputation for EFS professional learning and unique campus with UVM’s research capacity, land-grant mission, and track record of high-quality teacher education. As a student, you’ll have the opportunity to tap into the resources, support, and knowledge of both institutions.

Program Overview

Leadership Academy is a yearlong program with four seasonal, in-person gatherings at Shelburne Farms.

As we gather seasonally throughout the year, we tune in to what is happening around us in the natural world to reflect on our professional practice. Between each session, we gather virtually to dialogue about shared readings, reflect with a peer partner, or support a peer’s work. 

The 2023-24 gathering dates are:

  • Tuesday, August 1 – Thursday, August 3, 2023 (3 days)
  • Friday, October 27 – Saturday, October 28, 2023 (2 days)
  • Thursday, January 25 – Saturday, January 27, 2024 (3 days)
  • Friday, May 3 – Saturday, May 4, 2024 (2 days)

Click on each gathering theme to expand details.

Gathering 1: Summer—Growth

In the summer, we take a cue from the natural world and look to what is alive and growing. We experience summer on the farm, by the lake, and in the field and forest. We spend time together as a new group reflecting on: What brought me here? Where do I want to go? Who am I as a leader? What do I need to know in order to create change? We share what is alive for us as educators and leaders in our work.  

In this gathering you will:

  • Begin developing an EFS Professional Action Plan, considering your individual goals, hopes, and expectations.  
  • Create a systems map of your work context as a way to better understand how you might leverage change in your school or organization.  
  • Practice professional collaborative protocols to deepen your practice.
Gathering 2: Fall—Change

In the fall, we consider how you can effect change and what evidence of change looks like in your educational context. Again, we are inspired by our surroundings and awaken our senses to the phenological events in the fall: nature’s changing landscape and the activities of its inhabitants. Together, we explore narratives, ethnography, and storytelling as powerful tools toward sustainability.  

In this gathering you will:

  • Begin to reveal more of your personal practice, sharing your work with each other, seeking feedback and the wisdom of the group.  
  • Deepen your practice using reflection and collaborative protocols.
  • Learn skills of interviewing and documentation and explore how storytelling can be a tool for your systems change efforts.
  • Develop a 90-day action plan for individual research and reflection.
Gathering 3: Winter—Adaptation

In the winter we connect the concept of adaptation in the natural world to that of leadership practice. We explore adaptive leadership techniques that can respond to changing external conditions. Outdoors we look for patterns to use as metaphors for your work and systems map. We explore questions like: What have I been tracking? What do I need to do differently? What perspectives do I need? We dive into the required skills and address understanding of diversity, power, and privilege. Getting out on the land, we experience winter’s gifts of quiet and how stories are revealed in a different way.

In this gathering you will:

  • Reflect on your action plans and get feedback from peers who will help you consider alternative perspectives or next steps.
  • Read articles on leadership practice and reflect with peers on applications for your own context.
Gathering 4: Spring—Renewal

In the spring (the close of the year-long program), we explore the concept of renewal. For your personal and professional practice we consider sustaining the practitioner in the hard work of systems change. The land inspires us as we look for signs of animal and plant growth, rebirth, and migration.  

In this gathering you will:

  • Develop a plan and share your commitment to sustainability work.
  • Deepen your ability to advocate for EFS.
  • Celebrate and rejuvenate!

Application Details

We are no longer accepting applications for Leadership Academy 2023-24. Registration for this program is by application only. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the program is full, and the program is typically limited to 16 participants.

To apply, please send an email to Jen Cirillo, jcirillo@shelburnefarms.org, with a response to the essay questions: What is it that you want to contribute to, nurture, or heal? (750 word max.)

Scholarships may be available for our programs on a need-based scale. Please fill out the scholarship application prior to registering for a program. For any questions about scholarships, email registration@shelburnefarms.org.

Create Your Learning Pathway

It is expected that Leadership Academy participants will have a strong foundation in sustainability and EFS, or teaching/leading with the interconnections of social, environmental, and economic systems in mind. Education for Sustainability is an approach that empowers students to strive for, and thrive in, a more sustainable future, learning that links knowledge, inquiry, and action so students can create positive change now and carry this activism into their adult lives. To grow your knowledge, take our series of three EFS-focused courses:

  1. First, Foundations in EFS;
  2. Second, Immersion in EFS; and
  3. EFS Leadership Academy third.

Or, take all of these classes within the Education for Sustainability Graduate Certificate.

Interested in graduate credit? Some of our programs, including Leadership Academy, are typically offered for optional credits for an additional fee. Contact us to learn more.

Start a conversation with Director of Professional Learning Jen Cirillo at jcirillo@shelburnefarms.org or 802-985-0315 to talk about our programs and available graduate credits. Or, complete our request for information form and someone will be in touch.