Adam Gehlhar, now in his second year as principal of North Dakota’s Jamestown High School, knows how important it is for students to connect what they learn every day with the working world. In West Fargo, where he previously served as a teacher and administrator, Gehlhar organized “You’re Hired,” a day-long activity in which teams of students tackled real-world problems using the engineering design process. Gehlhar invited members of the local business community, along with teachers, administrators and parents, to listen to the students talk about their collaborative solutions and methods. He also created a high school internship program through which students have worked for attorneys, chiropractors, engineers and architects. A similar program is now in the works at Jamestown.
Gehlhar’s passion for helping students connect their classroom learning with the working world stems from an internship of his own. In 2012, through the Greater Fargo/Moorhead Economic Development Corp.’s Teachers in Industry program, Gehlhar studied lean engineering at a large health care company in Fargo.
Known as a visionary leader, Gehlhar balances bold and ambitious ideas with the practical communication and capacity-building skills required to execute them. A strong advocate for project-based learning (PBL), Gehlhar reached out to innovative educators throughout the region, studying their methods and bringing best practices back to teachers. He also delivered a popular TEDx talk, “Redefine Learning,” challenging educators to embrace PBL, and created partnerships with North Dakota State University and farm and construction equipment manufacturers Bobcat Co. and Titan Machinery Inc.
At Jamestown, Gehlhar has supported best instructional practices, including research-based instructional strategies, site-based leadership teams and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. He spends hours each week observing classrooms and providing teachers with specific, actionable feedback. As part of his commitment to continuous learning, Gehlhar has presented to staff about innovative education and learning targets, and one of his first initiatives was reworking the schedule to allow time for professional learning communities for all Jamestown staff.
Gehlhar led the district’s STEM committee in West Fargo and has been active at the state level within the STEM Network. In both West Fargo and Jamestown, he introduced PAGE (Peer Alliance for Gender Equity), a federally funded program that focuses on creating gender and socioeconomic equity, closing the achievement gap and providing STEM opportunities in underserved populations. A decorated U.S. Army veteran, Gehlhar served two combat tours in Iraq clearing roadside bombs. He spent more than a decade in the Army National Guard.
Gehlhar is an alumnus of North Dakota State University, earning a bachelor’s in social science education in 2008 and a master’s in educational leadership for secondary administration in 2011.
Press release: Making Jobs "Job 1" Earns Principal Adam Gehlhar $25,000 Milken Educator Award
"As an administrator I have a much broader lens and my interactions with students are both direct, in our day-to-day activities, and..." (read more)