Dr. Nichole Lemmon

Director Virtual Learning and Strategic Planning for Springfield Public Schools

Dr. Nichole Lemmon
Photo by Brandon AlmsDr. Nichole Lemmon is the Director of Virtual Learning and Strategic Planning for Springfield Public Schools. Purchase Photo

Instant Boost
Pagination Bookshop is the best place to grab a book and take a breath. Owner Jen Murvin knows exactly what you need and makes the best recommendations.”

Meaningful Mentor
Her grandmother, Edna Deaton. “She always knew the right thing to say. She’s been my biggest cheerleader and champion.”

Top Event 
“You’ll find me on the second row at opening night of Springfield Ballet performances each season. My daughter has danced for nine years, and we love the professional performances this organization brings to 417-land.”

Dr. Nichole Lemmon describes her career as a series of “doing things that haven’t been done in our community before.” When she was a teacher at Central High School, she established Central Intelligence, the popular student journalism club. Then in 2011, Springfield Public Schools (SPS) asked her to take on a new role with a very 2011-sounding title: coordinator of eLearning. Now, she’s the director of virtual learning and strategic planning for SPS—in charge of virtual programs for students all over Missouri. “We serve 120,000 enrollments annually,” she says.

The virtual programs were developed to help solve scheduling issues for students. Over the next several years, SPS’s virtual learning programs grew, as did nationwide interest in virtual education. Ultimately, legislation was enacted guaranteeing families access to virtual learning—and requiring school districts to provide it. “Our school board believed in what we’d built [at SPS] and said, ‘Let’s offer it to the state,’” Lemmon says. “I thought we’d get 30 districts to sign on, but we had over 100 partners within the first six months of the idea.”

With this new scope, Lemmon’s program took on a new name—Launch—and expanded. Then the pandemic arrived, and Launch flexed again to offer programs for all grade levels.

Coming out of the pandemic, a new educational need emerged. Employers were struggling to find enough qualified employees, and the Launch team believed it could help. They envisioned a new curriculum focused on job readiness, which could be tailored to specific industries, such as teaching or computer programming. In 2022, the State of Missouri’s Office of Workforce Development and Higher Education dedicated more than $2 million in funding to support the program.

Missouri State Senator Lincoln Hough says this investment makes sense. “Making sure that our students have access to diverse educational and workforce training programs is a key component to moving Missouri forward,” Hough says. “These programs help us attract new businesses and continue to grow our small business sector. ”

For Lemmon, it’s just the latest chapter. “I don’t know what the next need will be in education,” she says. “I just know we’re flexible enough and creative enough that we can meet it.”—Lucie Amberg

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