Joshua Long is the principal of Southside Occupational Academy (SOA), a transition center for students with disabilities who are 16 to 21 years old. Under his leadership, students achieved 55 percent growth. Joshua has guided the creation of several vocational learning labs, a school-wide functional curriculum, a differentiated student assessment system and community-based classrooms across several schools in Chicago. Students enrolled at SOA participate in classes focused on independent functioning as well as vocational, social, emotional and applied academic skills. Following the completion of one to two years of on-site classes, many students are then selected for placement in community-based internship sites. Joshua works with staff members to provide individualized instruction to each student, allowing them to become as independent as possible within their communities upon graduation.
Joshua began his career with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in 2000 after earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Speech and Hearing Sciences from Indiana University and his Masters in Communication Disorders from the University of North Dakota. Working across many neighborhoods in Chicago, he was confronted with the reality that some students needed more than a traditional education program to reach their full potential upon graduation. In 2009, after obtaining his Masters in Educational Administration from Governors State University, Joshua became a manager for over 100 SLPs within 200 schools. In this role, he realized the influence of a school principal on student learning and the school environment. Joshua decided that he wanted to effect change at a higher level and become a school principal for students with disabilities.
Joshua firmly believes that all students are entitled to a coordinated, well-executed, tiered educational program. He also believes that schools have the responsibility to meet all of the students’ needs and serve as a resource for them and their families. Joshua applied to the Cahn Fellows Program to further his leadership skills and to learn more about the tenets of adult learning and teacher leadership. As a 2016-17 Cahn Fellow, he has participated in trainings to understand models of adult learning and work toward his ultimate goal of creating a school-based system of teacher leaders. The best part of Joshua’s day is standing outside and greeting the students in the morning. He is so proud of his students, and they are always happy to come to school!