Director of Education

The Director of Education will advance Openlands nature-based programs for K-12 students and adults. The programs include inquiry-based education, hands-on garden education, community conservation education, and professional development for educators. At the same time, the Director will work collectively with colleagues and partners on expanding environmental education policy and greening schoolyards to connect students to nature.  

The ideal candidate is an interdisciplinary professional with experience of working with schools and understanding the systems of how schools and school districts work. The Director will possess strong organizational skills and have at least five years’ experience coaching staff, project management, creating and implementing programs, working with complex partnerships, and hands-on experience with garden and nature-based education. The Director will bring innovative ideas and contribute to a culture that promotes diversity, inclusion and is reflective of the community we serve. 

This is a full-time, exempt position and requires flexibility with weekend work and other occasional weekends and evenings during the year. This position reports to the Vice President of Community Conservation.

Essential Functions

  • Set a clear and focused direction with education programming.
    • Guide the educational strategy and content development.
    • Oversee and supervise implementation of workshops and events.  
    • Align and integrate a range of new and existing initiatives, programs, and systems that foster an inclusive climate. 
    • Establish and maintain appropriate systems for ensuring quality science and educational experience through the establishment and maintenance of programs and team training. 
    • Monitor program activities, track work, processes, and metrics.  
    • Establish annual goals, calendars, budgets, and track progress with staff.
  • Identify, establish, and maintain relationships with community groups, key program partners, and the environmental education community. 
  • Lead, coach, and support direct reports. 
  • Collaborate with development staff to identify funding opportunities and assist with grant proposals. 
  • Participate and help make decisions about Openlands larger strategic goals and planning.  
  • Represent Openlands at relevant events, forums, and meetings.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • BA/BS in Education or other related field (Master’s preferred). 
  • 4-6 years’ experience in education and community or government relations.  
  • Strong proficiency in educational standards and content and curriculum development. 
  • Knowledge of the principles, practices, and techniques of gardening. 
  • Demonstrated ability to provide leadership in a supervisory capacity and team-based environment.  
  • Strong ability to develop relationships and to work with cross-functional groups and in securing the support and cooperation of partners and staff. 
  • Proven management skills such as accountability, time management, prioritizing tasks, and meeting deadlines. 
  • Confident and competent with presentations and public speaking; strong interpersonal and communication skills; excellent analytical and writing skills for funding and general communications. Spanish speaking is a plus. 
  • Ability to thrive in a fast-paced, team-oriented environment. 
  • Experience in volunteer organizing. 
  • Valid Illinois Driver’s License and reliable transportation. This license must be maintained for the duration of employment.
  • Adhere to and foster Openlands’ employee values: Communication, Supportive, Respect, Equity and Strategic/Intentional.


Salary range is market competitive. Benefits include health, life, and disability coverage, a 403(b) retirement plan, paid holidays and vacation time.

To Apply:

This position is open until filled. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter explaining why your skills and experience would complement this position to JobApps@Openlands.org.   Please include “Director of Education” in the subject line.

Please note that applications without a cover letter will not be considered.

Work Environment:

The office is ADA accessible. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, and scanners. The employee is regularly required to talk, hear, see, and communicate effectively via computer. This role requires manual labor- standing, bending, crouching, lifting. Openlands is a smoke- and drug-free environment.

Openlands is an equal opportunity employer and seeks to employ qualified individuals based on individual merit. Openlands does not discriminate against any individual with respect to the terms and conditions of employment based on that individual’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, genetic information, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, housing status, or any other non-merit factor protected under state, local or federal laws.

Equal Employment Opportunity applies to all personnel actions such as recruiting, hiring, compensation, benefits, promotions, training, transfer, termination, and opportunities for training. Openlands is committed to a fair and equitable workplace where everyone is a respected and valued member of the team.

About Openlands:

Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.