Innovation & Vision

GcLi Scholars


The mission of the gcLi Scholars program is to bring back standout graduates, who have innovated trailblazing programs to serve as mentors for current attendees. The program was initiated in 2011, and to date there have been nine scholars. Invitations are made at the discretion of the Executive Director and Faculty Dean.

Emily Tymus Ihrke

Co-Coordinator of PK-12 Ethical Leadership Program & Upper School English Teacher, University School of Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Leadership Lab Participant: 2015 gcLi Scholar: 2021

A three-time graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Phi Beta Kappa), Emily Tymus Ihrke is a recipient of the Senator Herb Kohl Teaching Fellowship, the Wright Family Distinguished Teaching Award, the Best Buy TEACH Award, and the WEMA Media & Technology Award. She has been a speaker at the national and state levels for the past 25 years, a faculty consultant to the College Board, and the President to the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English. A published writer, full-time English teacher, Co-Coordinator of University School of Milwaukee’s PK12 Ethical Leadership Program, and recent graduate of the joint program in School Management and Leadership between Harvard Business School and Harvard Graduate School of Education, Emily loves learning at least a little something new every day, with her students, colleagues, and 9-year-old daughter.

Jan Baldwin

Dean of Students at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Princeton, NJ
Leadership Lab Participant: 2014 gcLi Scholar: 2021

Ms. Baldwin is the Chair of the Visual and Performing Art Department and the former Dean of Students in the Middle School at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. She has studied Leadership at NAIS: Aspiring Heads, IFSEL,The World Leadership School and the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in 2014. Ms. Baldwin was a co creator of The National Center for Girls Leadership at Stuart. This leadership program has grown to include teaching leadership at all grade levels, creating leadership internships and opportunities for all Upper school students and the creation of a leadership portfolio. Ms. Baldwin created a peer mentor program for Middle School students and continues as their co-coach with the School Counselor. She has been a presenter at NJAIS and NCGS for the past 2 years and the #Leadlikeagirl conferences for the past 3 years. Her presentations include teaching leadership through Advisory in Middle School, Grit and Grace: teaching Girls leadership classes in Middle school and Connecting Social Emotional Learning with restorative justice and Mediation. 

As an adjunct professor, Ms. Baldwin has taught courses in Architecture and A Survey of Art and Performing Arts course. She currently teaches classes in Leadership, Public Speaking,Theatre, Cinematography and Architecture at Stuart. She is a member of the Actors Equity Association. Ms. Baldwin holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Theatre from Skidmore College Cum Laude and a Masters of Arts in Education with Distinction from LaSalle University.

As a 2021 gcLi Scholar, Jan worked closely with Jeremy LaCasse and is the leader of the gcLi Extentson group. Jan provides mentorship to this group and the faculty at Stuart in order to expand and serve their own leadership goals.

Jonas Jeswald

Head of Middle School, Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, PA
Leadership Lab Participant: 2012  gcLi Scholar: 2019

Jonas is currently completing his sixth year at Germantown Academy. He was the Middle School Dean of Students for one year before being appointed Head of Middle School in 2014. In addition to his duties as the Division Head, he teaches a section of Middle School Spanish and a section of GA’s seventh-grade leadership course called Lead Lab. Prior to his work at Germantown Academy, he was a Middle School faculty member at Dedham Country Day School in Dedham, Massachusetts, where he taught Spanish and coached lacrosse and squash.

Katherine Berdy

Faculty, gcLi
Director of the C. Kyser Ethical Leadership Center, Altamont School in Birmingham, AL
Leadership Lab Participant: 2014  gcLi Scholar: 2018

Katherine Berdy, M.Ed, is the director of The C. Kyser Miree Ethical Leadership Center at The Altamont School in Birmingham, AL, where she creates community partnerships and experiential educational opportunities for Altamont’s students. Katherine’s career and pedagogical foundations began the mid-1990’s while working as an outdoor educator in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest. Since then, she has worked as a teacher, photographer, leadership and academic coach, mentor, and facilitator. Katherine has presented at SAIS (Southern Association of Independent Schools) and NNSP (National Network of Independent Schools) with gcLi. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.Ed. from the University of Montevallo. Her teaching portfolio includes classes in English, theater, creative writing, leadership studies, public speaking, and debate. In her spare time, Katherine enjoys traveling, reading, knitting, photography, and spending time with friends and her husband and two children.

Rishi Raghunathan

Faculty, gcLi
Head of Upper School, Wellington School
Leadership Lab Participant: 2015  gcLi Scholar: 2018

This July, Rishi is excited to start a new chapter in his life in Columbus, OH as the Wellington School's Head of Upper School. Rishi just ended a 17-year tenure at the University School of Milwaukee (USM). At USM, Rishi was an active teacher-leader, serving as an advisor to the Class of 2019, a co-advisor of the Upper School Gender Sexuality Alliance as well as the Asian-Heritage Affinity Group. He also serves as a trustee on the Independent School Association of Central States (ISACS) Board of Trustees and is the chair the ISACS Equity and Justice Committee.

Jay Parker

Director, The Institute for Leadership and Purpose, Calvert School, MD
Leadership Lab Participant: 2011  gcLi Scholar: 2017

Jay has owned and operated Mountain Element, a summer wilderness program that builds character through adventure for middle and high school students. He is a graduate of NOLS Alaska, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and earned his masters in school counseling from Loyola University Maryland in 2015.

Gretchen Martin

Teacher; Leadership and Spanish, Gilamn School, Baltimore, MD
Leadership Lab Participant: 2011  gcLi Scholar: 2017

Gretchen coaches three interscholastic sports teams and is the faculty advisor for the Student Council and Honor Committee. Gretchen also serves on the Association of Independent Schools of Maryland and DC Student Leadership Committee. At the 2019 NAIS Annual Conference Gretchen presented on building school climate. This summer Gretchen will receive a master's in School Leadership from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania where her research is on student perceptions of leadership and gender. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Meg Stowe

Director of Innovation, PK-12 Independent School, East Greenwich RI
Leadership Lab Participant: 2014  gcLi Scholar: 2016

In 2014, Meg Stowe founded Girls Leadership Collaborative, a leadership development organizations for girls and women, providing programs, camps, workshops, speaking engagements for parent groups, faculty, and higher education, and creator of professional development opportunities. In 2017, Meg was hired as Rocky Hill School's founding Director of Innovation, designing programs and experiences for students, faculty, and families, building a culture of innovation and entrepreneurial mindset. She is a graduate of Denison University BS, Lesley University M.Ed, and the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Impact Accelerator Program in 2015. Meg is also a strategic advisor to startup founders and social entrepreneurs in the tech and social innovation spaces.

Natalie Simms

Social Media Director, gcLi
3rd Grade Teacher, Brownell Talbot School, Omaha, NE
Leadership Lab Participant: 2012  gcLi Scholar: 2015

Mrs. Natalie Simms is a third-grade teacher with experience that spans both public and independent schools in New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, California, Oregon, and Nebraska. Throughout her career, she has taught kindergarten and second through fifth grades. Natalie has her M.Ed and Master Reading Teacher certification from Southern Methodist University and a B.S. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in Math/Science from Rowan University. Currently, she is working toward an Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University. Natalie is passionate about helping elementary students realize their potential in leadership and as agents of change in their community. She is a Girls on the Run coach and teaches leadership enrichment classes to fifth and sixth graders.. She has presented at national conferences on the pedagogy of leadership and how it has been incorporated into projects within her classroom. One of these presentations was the Symposium in Pedagogy of Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys traveling with her husband Tom, running, and reading.

Heidi Kasevich

Director of The gcLi Leadership Academy
Leadership Lab Participant: 2012  gcLi Scholar: 2015

Founder of Kase Leadership Method, Dr. Kasevich is a Leadership Educator and Coach. A national keynote speaker, she is passionate about helping adults and students alike to use self-awareness to optimize their ability to lead in today’s world. Her work as Educational Director at Quiet Revolution has been featured on NPR and in numerous publications, including Huffington Post, New York Magazine, and Harvard Magazine. Her proficiency is grounded in over 20 years of experience as history and leadership educator, leadership program designer, and history chair at several independent schools and universities in New York City, including Nightingale-Bamford, Dalton, Berkeley Carroll, NYU and Cooper Union. During this time, she authored various curricula, including the Guide to Giving, a highly-acclaimed K-12 philanthropy curriculum, and Closing the Gap, an influential girls’ leadership curriculum. Dr. Kasevich is co-author of The Introverted Actor: Practical Approaches (2020), and has a forthcoming publication in 2022, Heard: Understanding How Introverted Students Learn and Lead. A proud gcLi alumnus scholar, she received her BA from Haverford and PhD from New York University.


Head of Middle School, Nichols School
Leadership Lab Participant: 2008  gcLi Scholar: 2014

Paul has been the Head of Middle School at Nichols School (Buffalo, NY) since 2010 where he has reconfigured the structure of the middle school into grade level teams with teacher leaders overseeing the student experience.  More recently, faculty have explored restorative practice and mindfulness work to create the Middle School HEART program, an all-encompassing and reflective initiative designed to promote community, connectedness, and character. Paul also supports experiential education and leadership within the school by assisting with the winter mountaineering trip in the Upper School and developing and leading the Leadership Academy, a 5-day hiking expedition in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for 7th and 8th graders.  Previously, Paul taught and led middle schools in Maine (North Yarmouth Academy) and St. Croix, USVI.  He is a graduate of the Klingenstein Institute with a M.Ed in independent school leadership and the University of New Hampshire, B.A. and M.Ed.


Faculty, gcLi
Middle School Division Head at Hamlin School, San Francisco
Leadership Lab Participant: 2011  gcLi Scholar: 2014

Kelsey Twist Schroeder, Ed.D., is the Middle School Division Head at the Hamlin School in San Francisco.  Before joining Hamlin, Dr. Schroeder was a faculty member, coach, and Upper School Dean of Students at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, MD.  Dr. Schroeder is a proud 2011 graduate of the gcLi Leadership Lab and a 2014 gcLi Scholar.

Dr. Schroeder has lectured on the pedagogy of leadership at local and national conferences, including the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference, the Association of Independent Maryland and D.C. Schools (AIMS) conferences, and the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) conferences.  Her writing has been published in Independent School Magazine, the Baltimore Sun, and U.S. Lacrosse Magazine.

Dr. Schroeder’s research interests include the intersection of leadership and identity, student-centered practitioner inquiry, and youth participatory action research.  She is especially interested in nurturing leadership skills in students who identify with groups that have historically been excluded from formal positions of leadership.

Dr. Schroeder earned her B.A. in Art History and her M.A. in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, where she was named an Academic All-American and captain of the Women’s Lacrosse Team.  She earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Schroeder lives in San Francisco with her spouse and their three daughters.

Kate Wade

Editor in Chief, gcLi Blog
English Department Chair & Coach, The Fenn School (MA)
Leadership Lab Participant: 2011  gcLi Scholar: 2013
gcLi-PennGSE Scholarship Recipient: 2014

While attending gcLi in June of 2011, Ms. Wade started to dream about providing opportunities for her students, particularly sophomores, to learn about their strengths and show them that being their best selves means positively influencing others. In partnership with her advising team at The Rivers School, she developed RISE (“Reflection and Introspection Through Service Education”), a tenth grade program that encourages and supports student growth and the development of leadership skills and qualities through service-learning. Currently the English Department Chair and Coach at The Fenn School, an all-boys middle school in Concord, MA, she actively collaborates with colleagues to bring the Pedagogy of Leadership to life on a daily basis. Through her recent work as Editor in Chief of the gcLi blog, she has thoroughly enjoyed connecting with all facets of the gcLi family and invites you to reach out if you have an idea you'd like to share with our community!

This work inspired Ms. Wade to return to school, as the inaugural awardee of the Gardner Carney scholarship in Pedagogy of Leadership at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. There, her practitioner research project considered how Rivers could measure the experience of students’ leadership growth in the RISE program.

Ms, Wade has a Masters in Education from PennGSE and a BA from Bowdoin College.

Her work with the RISE program is chronicled in an EDGE film.

Chris Howes

Dean of Student Life, Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, MA
Leadership Lab Participant: 2011  gcLi Scholar: 2012

Mr. Howes is Dean of Student Life at Cushing Academy where he began serving under gcLi graduate, Chris Torino, Head of School, in 2014. Cushing has many initiatives underway which seek to enhance the culture of student leadership that permeates the school. As Dean of Students at Severn School, in Severna Park, Maryland, Mr. Howe was tasked by the headmaster with building a leadership program that was intentionally and purposefully integrated throughout the entire upper school.  In other words, he was asked to build a culture of student leadership.

Caroline Blatti

Head of School, Roland Park Country School, Baltimore, MD
Leadership Lab Participant: 2010  gcLi Scholar: 2012

Mrs. Blatti is the Head of School at Roland Park Country School, an independent school in Baltimore for girls in grades K-12, with a co-ed preschool for children 6 weeks through 5 years. Now in her fourth year at the school, Mrs. Blatti has been instrumental in the establishment of the RPCS Leadership and Entrepreneurship Institute, a comprehensive program that focuses on pivotal areas of character, ethics and personal responsibility and equips students with the tools to innovate and ultimately impact the world for the better.

Previously, Mrs. Blatti served as the Head of Upper School at Hutchison School in Memphis, TN for two years. She was also the Founding Director of Hutchison Leads, a comprehensive, school-wide leadership development program that provides extensive leadership training for all students at the school. Prior to that, Mrs. Blatti taught English and coached cross-country. She earned an A.B. in English Literature from Princeton University and a Master of the Arts in English Literature from the University College London.

Robert Franz

Teacher of History and Coach, Berkeley Preparatory School, Tampa FL
Leadership Lab Participant: 2008  gcLi Scholar: 2011

Robert Franz is an Upper Division History Teacher at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa FL. His experience ranges from the classroom to administration. He has served as an Academic Dean, Department Chair, Global Studies Director, Middle School Division Director and Assistant Head of School. At each iteration of Robert’s career, the development of leadership programming has been at the core of his educational philosophy. Robert constantly searches for avenues to extend leadership development to others through presentations at annual conferences at NAIS, VAIS and FCIS. Robert attended gcLi in 2008 and helped initiate gcLi’s scholar program in 2011, then continued to work with gcLi as a faculty member as well as part of gcLi’s marketing committee.

Samantha Brennan

Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA
Leadership Lab Participant: 2006  gcLi Scholar: 2010

Samantha Sawin Brennan is currently Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA. Prior to joining St. Mark’s in 2016, Samantha served as the Upper School Dean of Students, Director of Leadership, and the School Counselor at the Rivers School. She graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Georgetown University and an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University.Samantha was a participant in the 2nd gcLi Leadership Lab in 2006. Upon returning to Rivers, she became the architect of a leadership development project that involved faculty, students and board members and culminated one year later in a comprehensive leadership program that quickly became one of the hallmarks of the school and a program that has been regularly referenced as a national exemplar in pedagogy of leadership™.

Samantha served as a gcLi Scholar in 2010, an Extension group leader in multiple years, and a presenter at gcLi’s inaugural Symposium in pedagogy of leadership™ at Teachers College Columbia University in 2014. She has also presented about her leadership work as a keynote at the AIMS Learning to Lead workshop. Her expertise includes mentoring teachers around professional development and faculty cultural change.