Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Leadership Institute of Nevada
Judi Steele is Founder and CEO of the Leadership Institute of Nevada. She has served local, national, and international education and business communities as an educator, business owner, consultant, and executive coach. She is an Education Innovator and Entrepreneur and was a Co-Founder and CEO of the Public Education Foundation.
Judi has championed public education and the arts, and she is a respected thought leader guided by an entrepreneurial spirit and the courage to challenge conventional wisdom. She was active in the civil rights movement and is a champion of equal rights and human justice. She has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of teaching and learning for all children.
Judi was born and raised in New York City and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and elementary education from Hunter College. She began her distinguished education career as a fifth grade teacher at P.S. 171 in East Harlem.
Before beginning her career with the Clark County School District (CCSD), Judi taught elementary and middle school in Providence, Rhode Island, where she began her graduate studies at Brown University. She completed her Master of Education degree in secondary and adult education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Judi’s career with CCSD began as a classroom teacher at C.V.T. Gilbert Prestige School. She also served as Integration Consultant with the Intergroup Education Department. She was a Team Leader for Teacher Corps, a Summer School Site Administrator, the first teacher of the Academically Talented Program, and the first coordinator of Child Find.
As the Director of Special Education Programs and Services for the District, Judi developed and implemented procedures and staff development activities to ensure that all students with disabilities received a free, public, and appropriate education. She was responsible for district-wide programs for the visually, aurally, and emotionally challenged, learning disabled, and academically talented students.
Judi designed CCSD’s first Individualized Education Program, established multi-disciplinary team processes, and supervised speech and language therapists, school nurses, and teachers of the academically talented.
In 1987, Judi took a leave of absence to assist with some political campaigns and became President of Steele & Associates, a management consulting firm offering executive coaching. In 1991, she returned to CCSD and served in a dual role as Manager of the Office of Development and Education Improvement and Co-Founder of the Clark County Public Education Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization established to improve public education in Southern Nevada.
In 2001, Judi retired from the District and was named President and CEO of The Public Education Foundation. Under her leadership, the Foundation was recognized for working collaboratively with Nevada school districts and for leadership in creating and sponsoring innovative results-driven initiatives.
In 2010, during Judi’s tenure, the Public Education Foundation piloted a talent development initiative called the Leadership Institute of Nevada. Driven by her unwavering belief that people make the difference and leadership matters, the Institute’s Executive Leadership Development Programs were incubated under the umbrella of the Foundation. These programs were designed to respond to today’s education challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities.
Emerging from the pandemic, the roles of the Institute and the Foundation diverged, and Judi worked with community leaders to establish the Institute as an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) Nevada corporation, ensuring that the Institute’s mission remains unchanged. She is committed to identifying, developing, and retaining exceptional leaders in education and to engaging public and private sector leaders to drive significant, systemic improvement in public education.
Judi has received numerous honors and awards for her lifelong service to children, families, and the community. In 2006, the Clark County Board of School Trustees honored her, as she became the namesake of the Judith D. Steele Elementary School.
Judi has been inducted into the CCSD Educational Excellence Hall of Fame. She has served on many boards of directors, advisory boards, and was the Founder and President of the Arts Council of Henderson and “Nevada Shakespeare in the Park.”
In 2014 and 2015, Judi was included among “Las Vegas’ Top 100 Women of Influence” in MyVegas magazine and, in 2014, she received the first Distinguished Endeavor Award in Education presented by Distinguished Women in Nevada. In 2021, she was listed in Women in Power Business Magazine as one of 10 Influential Women In Nevada. In March 2022, she was recognized by the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office Women’s History Month, Celebrate Women in Nevada.
Judi has a daughter, Elyse, a son, Arthur, and two granddaughters, Taylor and Haley. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, photography, and writing.
With vision, passion and boundless energy, Judi has lived by the Talmudic philosophy: “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
Ramona Esparza joined The Leadership Institute of Nevada in 2021 and currently serves as a President. Prior to joining The Leadership Institute, she worked as a Public Service Intern with a state mental health agency, Children’s Behavioral Services (CBS) for the State of Nevada. She taught preschool students with emotional and behavioral challenges in a treatment program. She was a servant leader in the Clark County School District for more than 27 years in various roles as an English and ELL teacher, project facilitator, and an administrator serving students and families and the greater Las Vegas community. Her love of learning and teaching became evident in her transition to teach teachers in CCSD; she was a former part-time instructor (PTI) at Nevada State College. She is a self-published author of an educational children’s book Joaquin’s Cajon. She enjoys traveling and learning from others.
Her philosophy of life-long learning is infectious, and she has been an advocate that believes “educating others with empowerment and self-efficacy is an equalizer.” She is known for her innovative systems thinking, consensus building skills, ability to analyze situational practices, process development, visionary thinking, resource development, facilitating professional development, and coaching leaders. She co-founded the Nevada Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents’ (NVALAS). Her education includes a B.S. in Secondary Education, English, and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and Education Leadership from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Dr. Brian Myli, Senior Vice President of Institute Portfolio, has three decades of experience in public education.
Originally from Iowa, Brian came to the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas in 1994. He spent ten years serving students as a High School Counselor and Counselor Department Chair. In 2004, Brian joined the CCSD Guidance and Counseling Department as a College Counselor Specialist and was later appointed Coordinator of College Readiness Programs and Initiatives.
Brian joined The Public Education Foundation in 2010 to participate in the Executive Leadership Residency. From 2012 to 2021, he served as Vice President of Leadership and Innovation to coordinate all leadership programming for the Leadership Institute of Nevada, an initiative of The Public Education Foundation.
In 2021, Brian retired from the Clark County School District after 30 years of service. He was named Senior Leadership Fellow by the Leadership Institute of Nevada to continue work in leadership programming across the state and region.
Brian holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arizona State University, a master’s degree in educational counseling psychology from the University of Denver, a Nevada administrative endorsement in educational leadership, and a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Thomas Zimmerman specializes in educational technology and user-interface design for the web and Internet applications. He also is the Leadership Institute’s art director for various multimedia events, web and print projects.
Prior to joining the Public Education Foundation in 2007, Thomas served as a project manager for the Clark County School District, developing and managing projects for educational technology and distance education. Thomas also developed the information architecture and user-interface design for the school district’s website and Internet applications. Additionally, he taught visual art and design for 11 years in CCSD.
Thomas holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Illinois State University. He has taken master’s level classes in educational technology from Western Governors University.
Zhan Okuda-Lim is a Ph.D. candidate in Policy Analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an Assistant Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation. His research interests include K-12 education policy and equity; the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on educators, families, and students; local and state education governance; student, community, and educator voices in decision-making; school finance and funding; and the mobilization of cross-sector resources to support schools and communities.
Prior to joining RAND, Zhan served as the Director of Policy and Government Relations at the Public Education Foundation (PEF) and was a Resident Fellow with the Leadership Institute. In these capacities, he collaborated with cross-sector stakeholders to explore policy priorities for Nevada’s students and guided education, nonprofit, business, and government leaders on researching and addressing problems in education policy and practice, including expanding student access to rigorous courses, improving coaching and feedback mechanisms for educators, and recruiting and supporting educators of color. Previously, he held summer policy experiences with the Clark County School District and engaged in projects to bolster supports for students with disabilities and students in foster care, address disproportionality in exclusionary school discipline, and implement positive behavior interventions and restorative practices.
A proud native Nevadan and graduate of public schools, Zhan’s interest in education policy and passion for public service was sparked during the Great Recession through significant budget cuts to public education. As Chair of the Nevada Youth Legislature and the CCSD School Board Student Advisory Committee, and as a student council leader and the Student Member on the Nevada State Board of Education, Zhan partnered with and mobilized peers to elevate students’ voices to local and state leaders and advocate for education funding and resources.
Zhan earned an M.Phil. in Policy Analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, an M.P.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an A.B. in Public and International Affairs from the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs.
Jeremy Hauser joined the Leadership Institute of Nevada in 2016 and served as the nonprofit organization’s Senior Resident Fellow until 2023. Jeremy brought a wealth of experience to his work at the Institute.
Prior to joining the Leadership Institute, he worked for the Clark County School District for three decades in a variety of roles: in the classroom as a teacher, in school leadership as a principal and as a district-wide administrator.
His passion and deep understanding for the work related to school empowerment led to his appointment as Special Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent to implement school empowerment reform district wide through the “Empowerment Schools” program.
Jeremy began as a 4th grade elementary teacher in the Clark County School District in 1986, then moved on to become a special assignment teacher, assistant principal and eventually a principal at Matt Kelly Elementary School, Edythe & Lloyd Katz Elementary School and Linda Rankin Givens Elementary School.
He served as the academic manager over a variety of CCSD programs, such as School Improvement, Turnaround Schools, Professional Practice Schools, Dual Language Schools and Empowerment Schools. He also was associate superintendent over the Operational Service Division and was responsible for Maintenance, Operations, Food Service and Transportation.