The Teton County Education Foundation’s new executive director hit the ground running this week.
Jennifer Jellen, the foundation’s first full-time executive director, comes with 20 years of nonprofit and business leadership experience. Eight of those years have been in Jackson.
Jellen runs Teton Skies, a science outreach and education company, with Ryan Hennessy. Teton Skies partners with resorts throughout the Intermountain West to provide science-based educational opportunities in the field, with a lot of programming oriented around astronomy and astrophotography.
Her resume also includes experience as development director for Jackson Hole Writers, executive director of the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, a development associate at the Teton Raptor Center and a biologist with Teton Science Schools.
She told the Jackson Hole Daily that she is excited to lead the education foundation forward.
“I think the foundation is right at the precipice of a really great period of growth and change,” Jellen said. “That’s exciting to be able to come in and help foster a new direction and help the foundation grow to support the schools.”
The foundation will begin a new strategic planning process in the next two weeks, “so we’re going to dive right in,” Jellen said.
“We’re going to reshape the foundation so that it can better serve the community,” she said. “It’s a great foundation as is, but we are just going to take it to the next level.”
The education foundation works with the teachers, staff and students of Teton County School District No. 1 to fund programs not covered by the district’s core budget. The foundation gives more than $200,000 in grants to public schools and classrooms each year and supports more than a dozen after-school activities in science, history, exploration and the arts. As statewide budget cuts for education continually loom, there’s been talk on the school board about ways the education foundation could expand its role.
Foundation board President Patricia Russell sees Jellen’s hiring as the mark of a new phase of expansion for the nonprofit.
“We’re working to create a world-class Foundation,” Russell said in a press release, “one that raises the bar of what is possible in public education and creates the best possible opportunities for the students of Teton County. We’re excited to have Jennifer lead us forward as we improve existing programs, create new initiatives and deepen support for our public schools.”