Laura Encalade

Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation

Laura Encalade currently serves as the senior vice president of strategy and innovation for NIET. In this role she supports strategic planning efforts, partnership opportunities and the development of new services and technologies for the organization. Prior to joining NIET in 2019, Laura served as the chief of staff for the Tennessee Department of Education, where she served as a top aide to former Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen. As chief of staff, Laura also led strategic plan integration and monitoring across the department and supported key initiatives like the creation of the state's Office of School Improvement.

Previously, Laura served as director of policy and research for the Tennessee State Board of Education, leading projects including the state's academic standards review process and the redesign of Tennessee's teacher preparation report card. Laura's focus on state-level education work also included roles as the deputy director of Tennessee's $500 million "Race to the Top" grant and the department's director of educator talent, where she supported district and statewide design and implementation of strategic compensation policies.

Laura began her career as a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher in St. Louis where she was nominated for the Pettus Award of Excellence in 2010. A Memphis native, Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics at the University of Tennessee, a master's in secondary education from the University of Missouri and a master's in public policy from Vanderbilt University.

 Laura  Encalade

Why are you passionate about working at NIET?

My own experience as a classroom teacher and my previous work at the state level has always affirmed the tremendous role, responsibility and power that educators have. I am energized by the work that NIET does to empower educators to advance student learning and to be a thought leader in the field of human capital.

What do you do in your free time?

My passion outside of education is travel. I love to see and explore new places and cultures and recently visited my sixth continent. I am always thinking about and planning my next adventure! When I'm not traveling, you can find me spending time with my friends, family and rescue dog Cinnamon, and enjoying the music and food of Nashville.

What was your favorite subject in school and why?

I became a social studies teacher because I always loved learning about history, geography and culture. I had teachers that made the world and history come alive through innovative lessons and projects. That is the same energy I took into teaching social studies where I had the opportunity to bring the outside world into my St. Louis classroom. Social studies integrates so many elements of critical thinking, problem-solving and literacy to enrich the student experience.