John Henry, senior manager of STEAM and sustainable schools at the New Jersey School Boards Association, has retired after nine years of dedicated service with the Association.
Henry will be remembered fondly for his work in making the STEAM Tank Challenge a tremendous success and his efforts in promoting STEAM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.
In 2018, his efforts were recognized by Mercer County Technical Schools when he was named its 2018 Business Partner of the Year. Henry provided the technical assistance that helped MCTS obtain a Sustainable Jersey grant to incorporate green technology into the district’s curriculum. He also provided ongoing consultation for the development of the Sustainable Building Trades Academy at MCTS.
In August 2018, Sustainable Jersey recognized him with its Sustainable Hero Award. Each month, the Sustainability Hero award honors someone whose passion shines through and inspires others in the field of sustainability. Henry was instrumental in developing the partnership between NJSBA and Sustainable Jersey that resulted in Sustainable Jersey for Schools.
Before Sustainable Jersey for Schools was launched, Henry managed NJSBA’s Sustainable Schools Project, which was a three-year pilot program that included eleven school districts. The project highlighted how schools lowered operational costs and redirected savings to advance other priorities.
“(John Henry) has devoted the last 15 years to advancing sustainability across a broad range of educational venues from K-12 schools, colleges and universities, government agencies and state departments of education. John values collaboration and is known for his determination and drive” said Sustainable Jersey in announcing the award in a press release.
In addition to his efforts at NJSBA, Henry has served as a board member for the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education and the U.S. Green Building Council New Jersey Chapter. He formerly served as co-chair for the Green Schools Committee for the U.S. Green Building Council – New Jersey Chapter.
Before joining NJSBA, Henry spent time in the solar industry, as a teacher, and in other fields. He earned a master’s degree in industrial studies and technology education from Montclair State University and taught there after receiving a two-year research and development grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. He spent 14 years as a classroom teacher, coordinating an electric vehicle program at Woodbury High School. He co-authored a proposal that resulted in the school earning a National Aeronautics and Space Administration Explorer Schools Grant, which made the school the only NASA Explorer School in New Jersey at that time. He went on to be selected as a NASA Einstein Fellow and served on the National Selection Committee for NASA Explorer Schools.
In the Sustainability Hero profile, when Henry was asked why he focused his career on education, he said, “When children approach sustainability challenges, they are not bogged down by politics or how hard it is going to be to get it done. They understand that we are polluting the earth and we need to have solutions now. There is a purity to their approach. There are things we can do now, and we need to come together to implement them. Sometimes adults find compromises, get stuck on the price tag or feel like it can’t be done. I’m inspired by students.”
The NJSBA staff will miss Henry, as will leaders in education throughout the state.
“John never saw sustainability as an option or an add-on when it came to educating our students,” said Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director at NJSBA. “While he may have been inspired by students, I know he served as an inspiration himself – to all his co-workers as well as educators throughout our state focused on making sustainability a priority. We wish him a very happy retirement!”
Michael Kvidahl, manager of marketing at NJSBA, called Henry “an invaluable resource” throughout his tenure at NJSBA. “When the pandemic hit, John and I premiered the I-STEAM and Sustainability Facebook Live Sessions, which amassed tens of thousands of views!” he said. “That was because of John’s expertise, knowledge, and willingness to work outside of the box on a brand-new initiative.” He added, “He made work fun and his passion for sustainability and I-STEAM was infectious.”
Jennifer Siehl, manager of STEAM Tank, said it has been an honor to work alongside Henry. “I take great pride in being able to carry his torch,” she said. “John has a heart of gold, and I will miss our working relationship, but take comfort in knowing he is only a phone call away.”
Henry said, “I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside of amazing educators and school leaders. Many, I can call my friends. I will never forget the help and support that I received from all of you for the countless collaborative workshops, meetings and initiatives that we were part of together to help impact student achievement. I want to express my thanks and sincere gratitude.”