M. René Islas Joins Leading Educators as Chief External Relations Officer

Adan Garcia
Associate Director of Communications
(202) 510-0827


Islas will oversee a strategy to expand districts’ access to supports and resources for improving teaching at scale

WASHINGTON, DC - March 26, 2019

M. René Islas, who has been a lifelong champion of expanding educational opportunities for all students, joins Leading Educators as the organization’s new Chief External Relations Officer (CERO), CEO Chong-Hao Fu announced.

The grandson of a school principal, Islas remembers learning the value of education from around the time he could talk.  “My grandfather taught me that in order for students to learn the content they need to pursue their dreams, they need strong relationships with skillful teachers who care about them and believe in the great things their students will achieve.  Throughout my career, I’ve been driven by a commitment to create the best school environments where teachers and their students will thrive,” Islas shared.

Islas has spent much of his career navigating the government, nonprofit, and consulting sectors to build coalitions of support around the issues most critical to advancing educational equity.  Most recently, he was the Executive Director of the National Association for Gifted Children where he led efforts to increase public awareness, change policies, and improve educator practice in support of advanced learners, especially the most vulnerable students who are historically underrepresented in gifted and talented programs through initiatives including the Giftedness Knows No Boundaries campaign.  Previously, he served as the Senior Vice President at Learning Forward, a nonprofit education association focused on building the capacity of leaders to establish and sustain effective professional learning, and as Chief of Staff for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education.  As CERO, Islas will lead a robust strategy to expand supports for districts and teachers to eradicate within-school equity gaps in pursuit of universal college and career readiness.             

“René brings a wealth of leadership expertise to our team, and he has helped make big things happen throughout his career to advance student outcomes by improving access to excellent educational opportunities.  Whether it was leading a coalition to create the Teacher Incentive Fund within the U.S. Department of Education by the U.S. Congress or launching thriving consulting businesses at Learning Forward and B&D Consulting, René has taken on innovative leadership challenges that have contributed to the broader education sector,” Fu shared.

“I am excited to join the powerful team at Leading Educators that is reinventing professional learning to support effective teaching for students from all backgrounds,” said Islas about the work ahead.


About Leading Educators

Leading Educators is reinventing professional development for teachers, igniting the potential for exponential impact in schools and across districts.  We partner with states, districts, and public charter networks to design content-based learning and support structures that create the conditions for continuous improvements in teaching across their schools--helping teachers reach better, more equitable student outcomes.

Reflections on Leading Educators’ Facilitator Induction: Harnessing the Power of TEAM

On March 9th, fourteen new and seven veteran Leading Educators Facilitators converged on the beautiful campus of Tulane University. We came together not only to learn how to deliver high quality seminars and ground in the Leading Educators culture but, perhaps more importantly, to make these powerful decisions: Who can we be and what can we accomplish together? Our answers to these questions give life, give a spirit to our work. It strikes me that these are the kind of decisions that drive the life of our schools daily, and the answers that the teacher-leaders with whom we work will learn to bring to the foreground in their school communities.

As a facilitator body, we live all over the United States: Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and New York. We have different roles in the landscape of educational transformation: some of us are program directors or administrators working inside public districts, some of us are independent educational consultants and trainers, some of are retired leaders whose spark for impacting the lives of kids and teachers has only gotten brighter over the years. We each bring different strengths and experiences.

As we shared our backgrounds and engaged in hearty dialogue and practice, I realized that our differences converge, like the instruments in a symphony, in a powerful mission and vision:

  1. Our Mission: Re-imagining and delivering a robust, consistent, and sustainably impactful core Leading Educators curriculum
  2. Our Vision: every teacher and every student achieves extraordinary success through strong, impassioned, visionary teacher-leaders.

I am looking forward to what unfolds as we continue to harness the power of team, among our facilitator body and extending into the teams our teacher-leaders create in their schools.

Dawnelle J. Hyland, Transformational Leadership Trainer and Consultant

Dawnelle Hyland’s background spans both educational and corporate domains, where her career has been focused on building impactful, visionary leaders.

She is deeply passionate about supporting teachers in developing their leadership talents, and supporting school administrators in creating thriving, leadership-based school cultures.