Candace A. Lynch
Johnson STEAM Academy
Cedar Rapids Community School District
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
As principal of Johnson STEAM Academy, Candace Lynch has helmed a full cultural and curricular transformation by harnessing the creativity, leadership, and agency of her teachers. Facing rising poverty and homelessness and the challenges of a highly mobile student population, the former arts elementary school was declared failing by the state several years prior to Lynch’s arrival in 2013. Six years later, Johnson is now home to the district’s first magnet program with a highly sought-after curriculum that integrates content across subject areas with a focus on social-emotional learning, 21st-century career skills, and STEAM. This interdisciplinary curriculum is driven by deep professional collaboration and delivered through a flexible, mixed-age pod structure that regroups students throughout the day to target instruction to skill level. This structure was self-determined in a process that Lynch facilitated to engage all staff in dreaming of the school they wanted to teach in and has led to marked increases in student motivation and achievement. Lynch’s leadership from visioning to implementation has greatly increased stakeholder satisfaction, shifted community perception of the school, and led to several recognitions, including a Merit School of Distinction award from Magnet Schools of America. Lynch holds an Advanced Studies Certificate in PK-12 Principalship from the University of Northern Iowa, an M.A. in K-12 School Counseling from the University of IA, and a B.A. in Elementary Education from St. Mary’s College.