Creating Impact through Collaboration

Creating Impact through Collaboration

Anja Junginger, MYP Design Teacher / Strategic Development Manager, International School of Stuttgart


Defining and building a culture of inclusive high-impact learning has long been a strategic priority for us at the International School of Stuttgart. As with any ambitious and ongoing change process, we have had to clarify our thinking around our s of success, aligned with our guiding statements, and our theories of action for achieving this success. At the heart of our work is the importance of inclusion and learner-agency. Our challenge has been to create the right structures that will positively transform patterns of behaviour and attitudes to amplify our values. This change, we hope, will in turn allow for all learners to be participants in creating a space that enables a visible, collaborative, self-directed learning culture where all can grow, and are seen and heard in the process.


The Program

There are many ways to achieve these aims, however one that we are implementing and evaluating this year is the ISS Teacher Residency Program. The program aims to provide an opportunity for aspiring educators, our Residents, to grow and develop as IB teachers within a collaborative experience dedicated to their professional growth and evidenced through student learning.  Experienced Mentor Teachers support this development not only as guides and coaches, but also as learners themselves. This is aligned with our developing strategic approach to professional learning and building a ‘Coaching Culture’. The program is rooted in the principles of adult learning, the IB Standards and Practices, and the NEASC ACE Learning Principles for all learners, as well as guided by the Learning Forward Standards for Professional Learning.

The Program is intended to inspire, support, and challenge both a diverse group of young professionals advancing on their career path, as well as the ISS Mentor Teachers who collaborate with them.  Our hope is that by enacting this learner-centered and job-embedded form of professional learning that we can lay the seeds for a culture of collaboration and self-directed learning for all learners at ISS. The program currently supports eight  Residents, eight Mentor Teachers, and two coordinators. Our aim is that these 18 educators will begin to create patterns of motivation and energy, clarity of purpose, and growth mindsets inspired by action research within their teams. This will ideally create an amplifying feedback loop.


Our Findings

Although only six months into the program, we have gathered evaluative feedback so that we can iterate improvements into the 2023-24 structure . We used several evaluation methods including surveys, collaborative brainstorming, and Focus Group sessions with the Residents, their mentor teachers, and school leaders. First, we wanted to find out if our success criteria were being met, for which we used the survey, asking participants to rate their agreement with the success criteria statements.

  • Residents express satisfaction with the ways in which they are treated and included as members of the ISS community:
    Average rating 4.4 out of 5
  • Residents can incorporate their prior knowledge into the program to aid and extend their learning:
    Average rating 4.6 out of 5
  • Residents have opportunity to collaborate based on their strengths and abilities:
    Average rating 4.6 out of 5
  • Feedback is used to support learning, in accordance with IB philosophy:
    Average rating 4.2 out of 5
  • The program is a holistic and coherent learning experience for residents in accordance with the principles of adult learning:
    Average rating 4.3 out of 5 for Mentor Teachers | Average rating 4.0 out of 5 for Residents
  • Residents can explore their personal interests and ideas and set meaningful learning goals:
    Average rating 4.40 out of 5
  • Mentors have opportunity to share their strengths and abilities:
    Finding: 4.67 out of 5
  • Mentors can describe their own professional growth because of program involvement.


Residents and mentor teachers


Some examples of what was said:

  • It’s made me more aware of my own practices and it’s challenged me to be a better teacher since I have to model that.
  • It has given me the experience to have/handle difficult conversations and made me focus on solution-based conversations.
  • It has required me to reflect on my own practices, listen and learn about new ones and perspectives, and apply them accordingly.
  • It has been a useful experience to stop and consider why I do things the way I do. It has provided new motivation to re-engage with research in education and to try some new things.

Then we also asked all groups to give us two stars and a wish. A key theme that arose can be seen in these responses:

  • Perhaps clearer expectations of what the teacher’s role is. The freedom is nice but extra guidance beforehand would go a long way in setting out roles and responsibilities.
  • Clearer expectations of the outcome of the program, possibility of residents working with more than one mentor.
  • The expectations need to be agreed and clear for everyone involved / avoid mixed messages (or perception thereof). Maybe even a job description now for the resident and one for the mentor?

As well as:

  • Make the residents and mentors more visible and enable them to contribute more to the school as a whole.
  • Communicate the program more transparently.

Another important aspect that we were curious about was what impact Mentor Teachers thought the Resident Program was having on student learning within their classrooms. Their responses included:

  • The students benefit from another educator, from an additional skillset and from another caring adult.
  • Students adapt to the circumstances put forth in the classroom and see that a teacher residency and the class teacher are both approachable and inspire, challenge and support each and every student.
  • Very positive. The students benefit from a male and female homeroom teacher – they see and respect the resident as a teacher and his relationships with both students and parents are excellent.
  • Time assigned to individual students is priceless, huge advantage for them, there are two of us at any given time. We can differentiate/individualise their learning.


Residents with students


What we have learned

We were happy to see the positive impact that the program is already having on attitudes and skills across the program participants. It was also inspiring and motivating to participate in the feedback and brainstorming sessions. These helped us to think about ways to strengthen the program for even greater impact. The new ideas that the feedback generated included:

  • Develop a clear mission for the program and better define the expected impacts
  • Make more use of the program to support all participants in developing their intercultural competency and international-mindedness
  • Clearer guidance for Mentor Teachers about expectations for observation and feedback
  • More opportunities for Mentor Teachers to share and develop their coaching skills
  • More transparency and communication of the program in the community
  • More touchpoints across the organisation with the program in order to increase impact
  • Clearer guidance on how Residents evidence their learning and progress towards goals


Our next steps

As we are continually working on developing and diversifying the program using a solution-focused design process, this feedback has been immeasurably helpful. Our first action has been to move towards a mission-driven goal, which is to diversify the program so that a greater focus can be put on promoting intercultural understanding. For the 2023-24 cohort we have been lucky to hire Residents from Bosnia, Kenya, the US, Germany, Canada, and Colombia. In line with this, we are developing a program mission rooted in developing intercultural understanding and learning impact. We plan to make the ECIS Global Perspectives courses and the Preparing for International Teaching Certificate modules a core part of our professional learning strategy.

Our next goal is to bolster the role of the Mentor Teacher through clearer support materials and professional growth opportunities within the school. Currently they receive ECIS MLC courses, but we want to embed this work more within the school and create more opportunities for coming together as a professional learning community. We believe that Mentor Teachers will benefit from reflection, sharing, and action research related to their own development as coaches, as well as their development as middle leaders. We also want them to have better guidance on how to observe and give feedback on learning.

For the Residents, we want to continue to emphasise the focus on goal setting and evidencing learning. It is an area to strengthen and be more explicit about. The power of how we document and monitor student learning can be highlighted as we encourage our Residents, and their Mentor Teachers, to focus on this as a vehicle to document and monitor their own growth as educators. We also want our residents to experience being in different classrooms as observers to expand their experience and create more touchpoints for the program in the school.

Lastly, we will place a greater emphasis on making the program and the work of the participants more visible to the community as a whole. The excellent work that is happening should be amplified more so that others might also be inspired, and the ripple effect can be maximised.


A Vision for the Future

The importance of keeping educators in the profession cannot be underestimated. Most notably research findings such as those cited by Johnson et al in their paper Conditions that Support Early Career Teacher Resilience (Johnson, 2010) point us to the importance of creating better induction programs that support new teachers in developing the skills and dispositions to thrive and stay in the profession. Amongst other points made are that:

  • early career teachers confront a serious mismatch between their ‘idealistic motivations’ and the daily realities of classroom teaching (Abbott-Chapman, 2005); and that
  • too few early career teachers experience a quality induction program (Algozzine, Gretes, Queen & Cowan-Hathcock, 2007). Most are left to ‘sink or swim’ and learn by ‘trial and error’ in their first year of teaching (Howe, 2006).

Additionally, our mid-career teachers are another important group to focus on as we aim to create sustainability in the profession. Often the only way to progress and develop in schools is to move out of the classroom into administrative leadership positions. What if we could develop our most excellent practitioners as leaders but keep them in the classrooms where they can have the greatest impact on student learning and act as role models as ‘teachers of teaching’? School systems that excel, such as in Singapore take such an approach. “Singapore invests significantly in teachers as professional learning leaders with leadership roles that recognise excellence in professional learning, helping teachers to lead professional learning within their own schools and to align teacher needs and broader school objectives” (Jensen, 2013).

Our vision is that by bringing these two groups of impactful educators together to inspire, challenge, and support each other we can create more sustainability in the profession, develop greater intercultural understanding, and ultimately benefit students not only at the International School of Stuttgart but also in the schools that our Residents will teach in in the future.




“Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems – NCEE.”, Accessed 1 Jan. 1970.

Johnson, B., Down, B., Le Cornu, R., Peters, J., Sullivan, A., Pearce, J., & Hunter, J. (2010). Conditions that support early career teacher resilience. Refereed paper presented at ‘Teacher education for a sustainable future’, the annual conference of the Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA), Townsville, 4–7 July.





Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Anja Junginger grew up in Virginia and experienced first-hand what it means to be an international student and EAL learner. She went on to get a Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Teaching from the University of Virginia, and later, a Master of Educational Technology from Boise State University.

Anja began her career in education, and at ISS, in 1992. She started as a substitute teacher and has since been a primary school teacher, IB Primary Years coordinator, Early Years coordinator, librarian, technology integrator, and the Director of Digital Learning and Communications, all of which has provided her with the passion and perspective to help in steering the strategic developments of the school so that they have the greatest impact on learning. Inspired through the teaching of MYP Design, as well as her role as a school visitor and workshop leader for the IBO, Anja enjoys supporting collaborations, developing meaningful projects, and strategic thinking.

In addition to her professional connection to the school, both of her daughters are proud alumni of ISS, who experienced their entire K-12 education as ISS IB learners.


Self-Organised PD, Anywhere, Anytime: Uplift!

Self-Organised PD, Anywhere, Anytime: Uplift!

Jennifer Carlson & Paul Magnuson




We are two educators at two different institutions on two continents with the same interest: Uplift. To learn how other educators define, think about, experience, and practice Uplift, we invited other educators, and created a platform to share our perceptions, perspectives, and experiences. We had no specific plan for what we would share, or how. We simply wanted to talk about and learn more about Uplift.

This self-organised experience resulted in two learnings: (1) reactions to the topic of Uplift and (2) the process.


Literature Review


Educators who engage in rich conversations about critical moments in their teaching, the human condition, perceptions of who they are as teachers, and through sharing stories, grow as professionals and can subsequently transform their teaching (Palmer, 1993). Palmer reminds us that good teachers “are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves” (p. 11).

In weaving that world, we looked to Uplift; which is defined as “work rooted in caring, empowerment, and advocacy” (Bracho, 2020, p. 13), positive experiences (Neils, et al, 2018), and “real-world” uplifting experiences (e.g., enjoying a hobby, receiving positive feedback, or having a pleasant social interaction)” (Starr & Hershenberg, 2017, p. 1443). We began to reflect, consider, converse, and analyze Uplift and its benefit in teaching and learning.

Bill Tihen initially introduced Uplift at Leysin American School as a principle of good teaching (see e.g. Tihen, Uplift Resources, at We fused Bill’s philosophy with a focus on learner strengths, encouraging discovery, and developing a hopeful and person-focused humankind. We began to wonder “How do other educators from around the world define and view Uplift?”


Our Process


We sought to find out by contacting a half dozen educators, from Malaysia to Minnesota, who agreed to contribute to the discussion using WhatsApp, one of the free messenger applications that work across continents to send text messages and media, like photos, videos, and audio. The participants were educators, including current and former teachers, student teachers, educational consultants, and university professors.

The WhatsApp group provided a space for self-organized, open-ended discussion and idea exchange on a single topic, Uplift. In addition to the WhatsApp discussion, the group agreed to meet on Zoom on three Saturdays, every other week, for approximately one hour. Not everyone who participated was able to be at every Zoom. Some contributed frequently to the WhatsApp discussions and Zoom meetings, others much less.

The first Zoom focused on personal definitions of Uplift and what it might look like, sound like, and feel like in teaching and learning. Then, in the two subsequent weeks, participants used WhatsApp to (1) share moments of Uplift in our teaching and work roles and (2) reflect on Uplift in learning. After two weeks, we met via Zoom to talk about our experiences, then spent two more weeks on WhatsApp before finishing with a final Zoom. Four weeks, one topic. Self-organized, free, and entirely voluntary.


What we learned


As participant observers, it became clear to us that our self-organized professional exchange was both rich on the topic of Uplift and rich in Uplift.


The topic of Uplift


Heath (2019) shares that “Moments are what we remember and what we cherish. Certainly, we might celebrate achieving a goal…but the achievement is embedded in a moment” (p. 18). Moments in time were shared daily throughout the month-long WhatsApp conversations. Participants uploaded photos, described events, shared resources, stories, and moments where they witnessed, experienced, or created Uplift.

Some sharings of Uplift were in-the-moment. For example, one member posted a photo of a creek and rock bed they experienced while on a hike and another shared a photo of their smiling students proudly holding artwork they had just completed.

Other sharings were peak moments in teaching, like in an engineering class where the students collaborated and developed curiosity, problem-solving skills, and creative thinking to construct a boat. Another connected with a student that was new to the school over strawberries. Both teachers were Uplifted, hopefully, the students experienced Uplift, too.

We discovered that simply creating the space and opportunity to converse about Uplift resulted in the sharing of many lived experiences. This process, largely free of constraints of time, space, or directive, was Uplifting in itself.




We organized the process by identifying participants, making the two platforms accessible (WhatsApp and Zoom), determining the topic, and arranging for meeting times; however, the participation and engagement within that structure were entirely self-organized.

Participants could post on WhatsApp anywhere and at any time. They could choose to attend the Zoom, invest in the time, be present, or not. The self-organized discussions resulted in an authentic and spontaneous interaction where posts and responses arose naturally through connections, experiences, and inspirations.

Participants expressed that they made connections, gained confidence, had the freedom to explore ideas, and felt Uplifted throughout the process. One participant expressed, “I now see Uplift everywhere!”


How to do it


As we discovered, exploring ideas, exchanging resources, and learning from each other need not be complicated. Self-organized professional development can be accessible, engaging, enriching, and Uplifting without being overly structured and time consuming.

We encourage a simple start. Reach out to other professionals or friends in or outside of your network, select and make available a platform for discussion, and choose a topic or allow the topic to authentically develop. And get started!

We are almost a little embarrassed about how easy the process is. Get a group together on WhatsApp and share lived experiences on a topic you have chosen. We are almost afraid that educators and schools that could benefit from such an easy method of PD will ignore it, or brush it aside, because it is not complicated enough!

Further, we can imagine criticism that it is not clear what participants get out of the experience. Yet, we know that informal water cooler chats, those conversations in the staff room, contribute to our learning, and to our professional development. So, too, can this process. We encourage removing the constraints and opening the door for self-organized professional development. There is little reason to increase the complexity, just to make it appear more important. KISS, as they say. Keep It Simple, Silly.




Two educators, one big idea (thanks Bill!), and many colleagues created an Uplifting experience of learning, appreciation, application, and growth. As one participant shared, “Education gets stuck in correctness and correction instead of exploring ideas, goals, pros, and cons building on what the students have to offer” (WhatsApp, April 26). A self-organized professional development experience, where the participants are both the teacher and the student, invites discovery, curiosity, and connection. It provides space and time for exploration, personal and professional growth, and, as we uncovered, a great deal of Uplift.


Related blog


Low Stakes, Easy Entry, Effective PD


Contact information


Jennifer Carlson, Ph.D. Hamline University,

Paul Magnuson, Ph.D. Leysin American School, Copperfield International School, and Moreland University,




Bouhnik, D., & Deshen, M. (2014). WhatsApp goes to school: Mobile instant messaging between teachers and students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 13, 217-231.

Bracho, C. (2020). Reclaiming uplift caring for teacher candidates during the Covid-19 crisis. Issues in Teacher Education. 12-22.

Brookfield, S. D. 1995. Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2019). The power of moments: why certain experiences have extraordinary impact. Corgi.

Nelis S, Bastin M, Raes F, Bijttebier P. (2018). When do good things lift you up? Dampening, enhancing, and uplifts in relation to depressive and anhedonic symptoms in early adolescence. Journal of Youth Adolescents. Aug 47(8):1712-1730. doi: 10.1007/s10964-018-0880-z. Epub 2018 Jun 20. PMID: 29926335.

Palmer, P. J. (2017). The courage to teach (20th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, P. J. (1993). Good talk about good teaching – Improving teaching through conversation and community. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. 25 (6): 8–13. doi:10.1080/00091383.1993.9938466.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.

Starr, L. R., & Hershenberg, R. (2017). Depressive symptoms and the anticipation and experience of uplifting events in everyday life. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(10), 1442–1461.



Jennifer Carlson researches literacy, online learning, and positivity, joy and Uplift in education. She is a professor in the School of Education and Leadership at Hamline University, Minnesota, USA.

Paul Magnuson continues to experiment in professional learning at Leysin American School and at Copperfield International School, Verbier. He is an instructor at Moreland University and a frequent blogger for The International Educator.

The qualification debate: How do providers support schools with teacher training that counts?

Joanne Coles, Director for International Programmes, Tes Institute

Since I started in role with Tes Institute in 2019, I have had many conversations about what qualifications teachers need to be able to work in the international school market and, potentially, to migrate – or return – to teach in the UK. Most of the individuals I encounter are working in the international school system, or are in state education in their country but hoping to move into the international sector. This is such a difficult question to answer because it is so dependent on the individual circumstances of each person, their career aspirations, where they want to work and what the schools in those areas might be looking for. There also seems to be variation within areas.


There is no one easy solution to offer up to aspirant international teachers. I suppose, then, an early question to the reader is should there be?


My context is that I trained as a secondary English teacher in England, then taught in state education for 16 years before moving into ITT (Initial Teacher Training). I now work for a UK-based accredited provider of teacher training, Tes Institute, part of Tes Global. We also run courses suitable for teachers to train or upskill overseas, including an Assessment Only route to QTS (Qualified Teacher Status in England and Wales) and an iPGCE. In my role, I meet a lot of people in education from around the globe and often discuss what qualifications and training teachers need to enter the market and develop their careers.


There seems to be a tendency amongst British International Schools to want teachers who already hold QTS; on the surface, this makes sense in that school leaders are looking for staff who have trained against the UK Teachers’ Standards and should be able to deliver effective teaching to their pupils.It is also perceived to be a desirable factor when choosing a school for fee-paying parents. In many instances, school leaders appear to go with what they know: many have migrated from both the state and private sectors in the UK and have experienced the training route first-hand, therefore acknowledge its reliability in growing good teachers.


However, there is an increasing teacher shortage in the UK. Recruitment for teacher training is down again for the next academic year (Tes, 2021). This once again reflects the stagnation of the profession domestically. The reality is that there will be fewer expat, QTS-holding teachers. In fact, QTS can be attained in British Curriculum and IB schools overseas, so it is entirely possible to support someone to pursue this outside the UK and they do not have to be British to hold it.


Elsewhere, the iPGCE (International Postgraduate Certificate in Education), is favoured as a teaching qualification. This is largely an academic route into teaching and, depending on the provider, the actual in-school development can be negligible. Some institutions, like Tes, will devise a supported and mentored training programme inherent to their iPGCE as they know that many people use this as a training route and, therefore, need that actual practical training. There is much variability in the offers out there and what an iPGCE actually brings in terms of teaching quality and capability.


An increasingly popular and practical option is to grow your own teachers, by drawing on support staff who have demonstrated particular aptitude for the classroom. This really is an equitable approach to teacher education, given that it creates a pathway of opportunity for people who need to be in employment. This, however, relies on schools being able to support teacher training and development. Essentially, trainee teachers need to teach and teach often, so classes have to be given over to this, which can be a risk for the school if there is parental scrutiny. We’ve seen this on the iPGCE: some learners have been limited to team teaching for the entire duration of the course or only permitted to work with large groups as the school is reluctant to give them whole class responsibility. Conversely, the Department for Education in the UK advises that trainee teachers have enough regular teaching to meet the Teachers’ Standards, which means in practice that many providers ask trainees to deliver up to a 50% timetable of teaching over their training period, which usually comprises of around 24 weeks of school placements (DfE, 2022).


We all have to start somewhere. In state education in the UK, working towards both my PGCE and QTS, I was given a timetable of classes across a range of ages and abilities. If we want teachers with qualifications, we have to give them a chance to train. It really comes down to support: if a new teacher is supervised by a mentor, or another host teacher, it should ensure that quality teaching takes place. There needs to be some reassurance that it is safe to allow trainees to take classes because they are still under the watchful supervision of the class teacher, in a controlled and supportive environment. This supervision is also valuable in that the trainee teacher should feel invested in and nurtured. The role of the mentor continues to evolve as the landscape of teacher education shifts to meet the changing needs of the profession. That said, the mentoring is firmly centred within the ‘complex ecology (not just continuum) of professional development’ (Lofthouse, 2018), an essential aspect of fostering professional growth.


Actively training teachers on the job, rather than seeking out qualified staff, could be such a useful solution to schools who are struggling to recruit and/or retain. Creating training opportunities for support staff who have shown their aptitude for teaching can build incredibly resilient and loyal staff. This happens in the UK; in my last role, I was in a challenging state school that found recruitment a challenge, yet we had incredibly talented support staff who were willing to teach and more than capable of doing so. Thankfully, there are plenty of training routes that can be undertaken around work and we could provide the opportunity to teacher train to any who wanted it. I even know principals who started as support staff and trained in school, now leading in the very schools they began as teaching assistants.


Schools that are supporting teacher training – and most are – are to be applauded. By actively seeking to engage in the process, to grow better teachers and to add to the workforce, they are safeguarding the future of the profession. It really is of fundamental importance that we celebrate the work of schools that facilitate training and the staff within these institutions who give time and funding to support this. By enabling teachers to contribute to the development of others, to coach and mentor, it is also developing them for future leadership. There is even a call for revision of the value of mentorship and how we can transform professional practice in education by making better use of this (Lofthouse, 2018).


The need for teachers is growing, UNESCO predict that we need 69 million more teachers to meet education goals for 2030 (UNESCO, 2016). There are people who want to teach and who are willing to relocate to do it. What can schools offer to support the development of teachers? How can schools help to fund accredited qualifications – in whatever form these take? How can schools enthuse parents to embrace teacher training and the possibilities that it creates? Finally, what do schools need from training providers in order to support them to offer training programmes that really do have impact?


The reflections and questions in this article are based on my experience; I really hope to spark questions in return and debate. You may have a very different perception of the situation or have another approach to recruitment for your school. In recent discussion at the ECIS conference in St Albans, I was heartened to hear many leaders favouring personality and willingness to learn over actual qualifications when recruiting to teaching roles: they expressed a desire to foster a culture of training in-school rather than expecting applicants to be fully qualified before starting.


I want to know more about the scenarios school leaders face because that clarity means that we can create better provision to enable teachers to train in a way that works for everyone. I think there has to be a conversation here, urgently, so we can make sure teachers and schools get what they need. I would welcome connection and reply; training providers and schools need this dialogue so that we can work together to build a strong, impactful teaching workforce who feel well-qualified and capable in their roles and who inspire and enthuse those pupils in their classes.



Department for Education (2022) Initial teacher training (ITT): criteria and supporting advice. Available at:

Department for Education (2021) Teachers’ Standards: Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies. Available at:

Lofthouse, RM (2018) Re-imagining mentoring as a dynamic hub in the transformation of initial teacher education: The role of mentors and teacher educators. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 7 (3). pp. 248-260.

Tes (2021) Teacher training applications drop to pre-Covid levels. Available at:
UNESCO (2016) Global Education Monitoring Report. Available at:




Joanne Coles is the Director for International Programmes at Tes Institute. She runs the successful iPGCE programme which is available globally and available at a discounted price for ECIS members. Jo worked as a secondary English teacher until she joined Tes in 2017. She is a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching.

Why I Didn’t Get the Job: Reflections on leading, growing, and moving forward

Kimberly Cullen
Senior Management Professional | Writer | Author


I was a finalist for a head of school position at a small Montessori school in the midwest. I didn’t know anything about Montessori, and my previous leadership experience had primarily been at the secondary level, so going into the process, I felt a little out of my league. That didn’t seem to matter though – the search team saw enough in my application and in my panel interview that they flew me across the Atlantic to interview me in person. I was one of four candidates in total – statistically, each of our chances were fairly low. I realized that I knew very little about the school so I decided the trip would be useful for me to learn more about them and their needs. As much as I knew about the school from their website, my research on Montessori, and the position description, I had no idea whether this would be a good fit for me, and so in a way, I was interviewing them as much as I was being interviewed.


Many weeks passed between the initial panel interview and the finalist visits. Almost 10 weeks, to be exact. In that time, I had received a significant number of rejections from a range of schools for similar positions. I wondered if maybe the universe was encouraging me to find another way to explore my interest in leadership, and I started looking into doctoral programs in leadership, adult learning, and organizational behavior. I had spent the last year on sabbatical thinking about my own leadership path – a seemingly impossible climb through the ranks of an international school from intern to Upper School Director over the course of 18 years, and I knew that as hard as I worked for the opportunities that came my way, I never learned about leadership. I knew when I was inspired and when I wasn’t, when I was growing and when I wasn’t, and I understood that being challenged and being criticized were two different things. But I also spent almost a decade trying to hide what I felt might be flaws.


No one had taught me what it meant to lead, and as successful as I had been figuring it out on my own, there were so many things I didn’t know.. and even more that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  My sabbatical year had given me the opportunity to learn about coaching, to become a coach myself, and to teach coaching to other leaders. I realized how unprepared so many of us are for leadership and I grew committed to supporting others in the development of their own leadership skills. I co-authored a book for women leaders in international schools, and I facilitated a workshop series around coaching for growth.  As I considered all of these experiences, the possibility of pursuing a doctorate grew increasingly exciting to me, and I started working on applications to several different programs.


In the days leading up to the final interviews, I almost convinced myself that I didn’t want the job. I was fully committed to pursuing a doctorate at this point. I submitted a few doctoral applications before my interviews as a kind of “emotional safety net” so that when I didn’t get the job, I would have something exciting to look forward to. As a result, the nervous energy that crept up on me as I flew across the ocean to the very cool city that this school community called home took me off guard.  I spent the next day and a half preparing intensively for my visit to the school and the interviews that would come. I felt strong, confident, and I was inspired by the school’s mission and potential.


For a brief moment, I wanted nothing more than to be their new Head of School.  I had fun with my interviews, and reveled in that I’m kinda rockin’ it feeling. Eventually, as it usually does, the time came for me to talk about why I was the right person for the job – “Things are going fine at the school right now,” one Board member said, “so if you are selected, how will you demonstrate to the school community the added value of hiring you?” To be fair, the question came my way at around 7 p.m. after a full day of interviews and a raging case of jet lag that had me awake since 2 a.m. I don’t remember my answer.  I just remember being exhausted.


In the end, I didn’t get the job. As much as I had planned for that outcome (remember, doctral applications were already submitted), I was still disappointed. Rejection is never easy. In retrospect, I understand now why I wasn’t selected. Excuses aside, I failed to stand out. And while I can’t remember my answer to the most important question of all (why should we hire you?), I know I didn’t say this:


I have no experience with Montessori, and very little with k-8 education. I am learning about both and am committed to continuing. But what I am passionate about is guiding people. I know that my own leadership path is unique for a school environment, and I have had the benefit of a year-long sabbatical during which I have focused almost solely on how to become a better leader. I believe that schools have as much potential as those who work in them, and that in order to be great, we need to build on the strengths of our educators and staff.  No one is born a leader – leadership is something we learn, and I am committed to not only growing the best leadership team possible, but also harnessing the leadership potential of those they serve. And having said that, I myself am still developing as a leader. 


I have a lot of experience and great potential, and at the same time, I bear a healthy dose of humility and am not afraid to be vulnerable in front of others. I am eager to learn and to serve – in the interest of both of those things, I will be a leader who is committed to growing publicly. I will get a leadership coach, and I will work closely with those I lead to make sure we are all growing each day. It’s amazing that the school is doing well. And yet as a Search Team, you are committed to doing even better – that is why you embarked on such a thorough search process. My favorite quote is from Kung Fu Panda, when Master Shifu says to Po “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are.” No organization should content itself with being good enough, and no leader should either. Together, our growth would be seen and felt by the entire community.


There is no way of knowing whether speaking this truth would have gotten me the job, and in hindsight, I realize that it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the experience has helped me clearly define how I feel about leadership, and what I believe is possible.  I recently started reading An Everyone Culture:  Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Review Press, 2016), and it reminds me that I have a lot to learn about what makes leaders, and the organizations they serve, most effective.


Regardless of where you work, the need for change has become the baseline.  Education, technology, business, finance – all of it depends on people, awareness, connection, and the understanding that we cannot stand still. We have to keep growing.  Ultimately, my goal is to help other see this, because in the end, it is the pursuit of growth (personal, professional, organizational, societal) that will bring about the greatest changes of all.


  • Never stop growing. 
  • Leadership is earned, yet it must be learned. 
  • Reflect, Learn, Move.
  • Speak your truth.


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.



Kimberly Cullen

Kim is a senior management professional skilled in building capacity, leadership development and learning. She is and experienced writer & author and passionate about bringing out the best in people.


Promoting a Gender-Inclusive Hiring Process

By members of the Carney, Sandoe & Associates International Schools Practice


At Carney, Sandoe & Associates, we are aware of the role that search agencies play in shaping the overall make-up of school leadership, both within individual schools and across the collective community of schools. In short, we know that who we identify and promote as strong candidates who meet a school’s particular needs matters a great deal.


Given the longstanding gender inequities in school leadership — the bias toward white menhat still holds today — we are committed to identifying and promoting diverse groups of highly qualified candidates for every school leadership position. We also see it as our job to educate all school search committees and governing boards about the qualities a range of candidates bring to the job and about the overall value of diverse leadership within and among schools. At the same time, we understand that it’s essential to focus energy on expanding the pool and pipeline of candidates for these positions in the future. This tripartite process is at the core of every search we conduct.


Recently, it has come to our attention that in the world of international schools — a vibrant, fast-growing area of K-12 education — the percentage of women heads and other top leaders has been particularly low. According to data from the Academy for International School Leadership (AISH), women heads of international schools have only improved slightly — increasing from 27% to 33% over the past ten years. While it’s good to see improvement, we submit that this percentage of growth is unacceptable, especially in a profession with so many extremely talented, highly competent women.


Our Focus on Gender Equity

For every search, the members of our International Schools Practice build a database of candidates and analyze it to ensure that we are interviewing for equitable access to leadership roles. Many times, this means we seek out and nurture talent, offering to review résumés and cover letters in advance, and holding one-on-one coaching sessions.


Separate from retained searches, we uphold our commitment to supporting women in education by hosting our annual Women’s (Re)Institute. First held in person in 2017 and now having completed its second virtual iteration, the (Re)Institute draws hundreds of women together to engage in workshops, one-on-one career advising, cohort groups, panel presentations, and keynotes related to female empowerment, skill building, and overcoming the unique challenges women face working in education. The event includes a range of sessions designed to help women educators develop their skills, make connections, and understand their leadership options and possibilities. Among the sessions this year, for example, were: “A Woman’s Worth: The Art of Negotiation;” “Living with Imposter Syndrome and Biased Workplaces;” “More than Conversations: A Feminist Approach to Equity Work in International Schools;” “Women, EQ, and Leadership;” and “Huddle (verb): To Gather Your Sister Circle.”


Given the low numbers of women leaders in international schools, this year’s (Re)Institute also included a topic we consider of utmost importance: “Ever Consider Leading an International School?” which was led by CS&A consultants Deb Welch and Karen Neitzel and included presenters Robin Appleby, Head of School at American School in London; Madeleine Hewitt, Executive Director of the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools; and Nancy Le Nezet, Head of School at the Swiss International School in Qatar.


Additionally, Carney Sandoe offers implicit and cognitive bias training for search committees at no extra charge. Our consultants work internally with the Carney Sandoe staff as well, helping us to recognize ways our own identities, cultural perspectives, and biases that may be unconsciously serving as blind spots in our work. To further our organizational commitment to antibias work, Carney Sandoe is also covering the cost this summer for consultants to attend (diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) professional development of their choice.


We are engaged in this work across the board because we know it’s the right thing to do and because we know diverse leadership teams in schools function at a higher level that monocultural groups and, thus, serve the faculty, staff, and students best. Research makes it clear, for instance, that diverse teams focus more on facts, process those facts more carefully, and are more innovative (Rock and Grant, HBR, Why Diverse Teams are Smarter). The bottom line is that, by committing to helping create diverse leadership teams, we are not just committing to equity and justice, we are also helping to create better decision-making in school leadership teams, boardrooms, and classrooms.


Toward the aim of an equitable gender balance in school leadership, we’re proud of our record of recent appointments of women to senior administrative and leadership positions. Of those recent placements, 70% of them have occurred since 2018.


Female Appointments from Recent International School Searches



President, 2022


Primary School Principal, 2021


Superintendent, 2018


Director, 2019


Director, 2020


Executive Head of School, 2022


Interim Head of School, 2016


Head of School, 2018


Head of School, 2017

Director of Institutional Equity, 2021


Head of School, 2020


High School Principal, 2018


Executive Director, 2017


Head of School, 2018


Head of School, 2019


Chief Inspection Officer, 2021

Vice Head of Primary, 2021


Head of Upper School, 2016


Director of College Counseling, 2015


Upper School Head, 2021


Head of School, 2021


Deputy Superintendent, 2014

Middle School Principal, 2014

Elementary School Principal, 2020

Deputy Head of School, 2016


Principal, 2018


Superintendent, 2007

Head of School, 2021


Founding Head, 2022


Executive Director, 2013


Middle School Principal, 2019


Director, 2020


General Director, 2017


Montessori Director, 2019


Head of School, 2019


Head of School, 2018


Middle School Principal, 2019


Middle School Principal, 2017


Director, 2019


Director, 2019


An Invitation

At Carney Sandoe, we will continue to highlight the value of diversity in school leadership and promote diversity in the hiring process. In particular, we are dedicated to finding new ways to increase the number of women and other underrepresented groups. In this light, we are constantly encouraging talented candidates to apply for positions of interest, even if they believe it may be a bit of a “stretch.” We also help such candidates establish a connection with a search consultant who can advise them on their suitability for different positions and encourage them to test the waters. Meanwhile, we advise search committees that no candidate will check all the boxes of the desired profile, but that we are adept at identifying areas in which a candidate will be an excellent match for a school. We also advise candidates to work with a variety of search firms, since no single firm does all the searches.


For educators aspiring to leadership positions in international schools, this is a particularly good time to be looking. The number of international schools continues to grow at a remarkable rate and all of these schools are searching for administrators (and teachers) who are native English speakers. For those educators who are our candidates, we encourage you to let search committees know where your strengths and interests lie — so we can better align these strengths and interests with the needs of schools. Mostly, though, we encourage educators aspiring to school leadership to step up, cast your net wide, and believe in yourself. We know from experience that the right position will come.



This article was contributed by Art Charles, John Chandler, Karen Neitzel, and Deb Welch of the International Schools Practice.


As Managing Associate for the International School Practice, Art Charles has done more than 140 senior administrative searches, both in the U.S. and abroad. Prior to coming to CS&A, Art worked in five international schools, most recently as President of International College in Beirut, Lebanon. He also worked as an administrator and teacher at the American College of Sofia, Academia Cotopaxi (Ecuador), The American School in Switzerland, and the American Embassy School (India).




John Chandler is a senior consultant. The majority of his work has been in leadership searches for international schools. He has also led searches for U.S. independent schools and has consulted on governance. He has completed more than 120 searches. After several teaching and admissions roles, John served as Head of School at Pingree School (MA) for 14 years before becoming General Director of the Koç School in Istanbul, Turkey. Following Koç, he served as Head of School of Robert College, the oldest American school outside the U.S., also in Istanbul, for seven years.




Karen Neitzel is a search consultant for the firm’s Head of School, Key Administrator, International Schools, and Catholic Schools Practices. Karen joined CS&A from ‘Iolani School (HI), first serving as Dean of Studies before becoming Associate Head of School. Prior to ‘Iolani, Karen held several leadership roles in the Hood River County School District (OR), including Vice Principal and Principal. She also worked at The Archer School for Girls (CA), where she served as Assistant Head of School, Academic Dean, and Director of Technology.




Deb Welch is a senior consultant for the International Schools Practice. For five years, Deb served as CEO of the Academy for International School Heads (AISH), a leading organization among international schools. Her experience working in independent schools is deep and varied. She was the Director of American School of Doha in Qatar, as well as Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Professional Development; then Deputy Head of School at International School Bangkok. She also has significant consulting experience, having worked as an independent consultant for various international schools and organizations.

Moonshot Thinking from the Sidecar


Debra Lane, Ed.D., CEO, Lane Leadership Group


I participated in an adventurous Sidecar Summit in Red Lodge, Montana sponsored by Sidecar Counsel. Fourteen international women leaders gathered at The Pollard Hotel to do some Moonshot Thinking on July 7 with Lakshmi Karan, Co-Founder of Future Frontiers Institute, and Bridget McNamer, Chief Navigation Officer of Sidecar Counsel.

Photo credit: Brian Korzenowski

According to the Macmillan Dictionary, ‘moonshot’ actually means a type of thinking that aims to achieve something that is generally believed to be impossible. Moonshot or stretch goals are goals that seem impossible to achieve. They should force teams and individuals to rethink how they work and take you out of your comfort zone. In the literal sense, President John F. Kennedy invented moonshot thinking in 1962 when he challenged an entire nation to set an incredibly audacious goal of sending man to the moon in fewer than 10 years…50 years later, Astro Teller has taken this discourse and transformed it into a philosophy, a certain mindset. Teller is the Director of X (formerly Google X), Google’s disruptive innovation division where they ideate, test and launch projects that use cutting-edge technologies to build solutions that can radically improve the world. Literally a Moonshots factory.


Lakshmi shared her vision and task. She reminded us how space travel was about to take off and asked us to think of the galaxy and what this means by 2121. She said, “We are in the midst of a new space race. Driven by political and economic incentives, with a focus on settling on the moon. We want to see a learning institute first before a military base. We want an advisory composed of humans (Monks, Scientists, Teachers, Students, Nurses, Data Scientists and many more humans). Her task is to help create the ecosystem that will enable us to explore and stay in a sustainable, equitable and responsible way.


As women leaders in education, we started to brainstorm ways to embark on this journey. How will success be measured by our own values and what is the process to get there? Who sets the rules and who is accountable? How will this learning benefit us back on Earth? Bridget and Lakshmi asked us to take this moonshot thinking back to our present roles and do the following:


Identify a huge problem that affects the entire organisation.

Most of us identified the issue of a need for more gender equity and women of colour in leadership positions. According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 study, for the sixth year in a row, women continued to fall behind in moving into first-level management positions. According to the study, for every 100 men promoted into a managerial position, only 85 women were promoted—and this gap was even larger for women of colour.


Identify a big, bold, seemingly impossible goal.

In the case of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), consider taking broad aim at diversity (for example, “We will achieve gender and racial parity at all levels of the organization, including our board of directors, by 2030.”). Your colleagues may jump to why this cannot be done at all levels or within the timeframe, but this is not the point. Moonshots are not designed as feasible goals; the point is to push the collective mindset beyond the gravitational pull of small incremental changes.


Craft breakthrough new approaches to tackle the challenge.

When it comes to driving increased diversity, it is imperative to start with data. Invest in a thorough collection and analysis of everything impacting representation, including recruiting sources, hiring processes, and promotion practices. Enact sweeping changes to talent acquisition, sponsorship, and performance review practices to include a much more diverse talent pool from which to draw. There are countless examples: Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos or Virgin Galactic in the space world; JUST or Impossible Foods in the gastronomy universe (trying to eliminate animal suffering) or cell-based chocolates; these are just a few examples of creating breakthrough approaches.


As we finished our morning with Lakshmi Karan and Bridget McNamer I had a number of ideas fleshed out on how I would like to push some big, bold goals and craft some breakthrough approaches to tackling those challenges. What are some of your moonshot thoughts going into the 2021-2022 school year?


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.



Debra Lane, Ed.D.

Dr. Debra Lane has been an educator for more than 25 years as a teacher and administrator in the U.S. and abroad. She has led several schools as principal, including most recently at Shanghai American School. She taught grades from pre-K through middle school, as well as ESOL, Literacy, and Gifted and Talented classes. Currently, she is working on federal grants focusing on transformative leadership and increasing teacher’s leadership and instructional roles across the U.S., Central and South America. She is also the founder of the educational consulting firm, Lane Leadership Group, LLC.

School Governance in the Age of Covid-19: How Effective Boards Ensure School Survival and Continued Success

Ray Davis, Senior Consultant, The 5Rs Partnership


There has been much speculation about the longer-lasting outcomes of the remote learning challenges that schools across the globe have experienced as a result of Covid-19. The pandemic has brought unparalleled challenges but has also been a catalyst for some exciting thinking and invigorating ideas on the nature of the future of pedagogy and learning.  Educators, school leaders, and students have responded well and adapted very quickly to a new paradigm which has tested and challenged the traditional way of teaching and learning. Our education systems are not known for initiating rapid changes to the ways in which they operate, however, the experience of adapting teaching and learning in response to the current pandemic has demonstrated that effective change can take place more rapidly than previously thought.


As educators look toward implementing new ways of teaching and learning it is also a time when school Boards can begin to identify what they have learned about effective governance during the Covid-19 crisis. Forward-thinking Boards are now asking themselves how they might turn the crisis into future opportunities and how they might implement more effective ways of operating to ensure the continued sustainability and the promotion of continuous school improvement. School Boards have grappled with a wide range of challenges that have necessitated rapid decision making, often in realms that they previously had never considered. Good governance and strong leadership has always been the key to school success. For many schools during the present crisis good governance and s leadership is now a necessity for survival as well as success.


Sound Governance during Crisis Situations:


The schools that will emerge in good shape from the current world health crisis will have Boards that have implemented sound features of accomplished governance such as those below:

  • Having a positive mindset and taking the opportunity to be aspirational and ambitious. (Considering how the school may emerge from this challenge stronger, more engaged, and more capable than before);


  • Ensuring that there is a strong degree of trust in and amongst the Board and the school leadership and that the Head of School/Board partnership is functioning effectively;


  • Creating trust amongst all stakeholders through dialogue and actions and not just through public statements;


  • Reaffirming the Head of School as the leader of the school community and ensuring that the respective roles, responsibilities, and authority of leadership and governance are fully understood and acted upon;


  • Ensuring that all Board members are engaged in the decision making and not just the Board Chair and Head of School;


  • Ensuring that all decisions are well-aligned with the school’s guiding statements and protect the interest of students;


  • Creating the understanding that decisions taken during the crisis may affect the school well into the future;


  • Creating operational practices that allow for agility in decision making and strategic planning – (Many of the most successful organisations have moved to 90-day strategic planning and have reshaped Board committees and committee membership to bring in specific expertise to address particular challenges);


  • Insisting on confidentiality of Board discussions and decisions, and identifying who is responsible for communicating decisions to stakeholders– (usually the Head of School);


  • Keeping the school community connected and engaged by having a well-developed and comprehensive communication policy to keep all stakeholders, families, students, and staff, informed in a timely and considered manner;


  • Having established policy and practice in relation to privacy and the disclosure of information;


  • Ensuring that the Board understands the pressures that school leaders and staff have been under during the crisis and supporting them with their task as well as supporting their well-being.


  • Reviewing and adapting strategic initiatives and their timelines;


  • Having a predetermined proactive role with risk management and compliance requirements and making realistic assessments of potential outcomes;


  • Advocating for and facilitating staff training to manage risk;


  • Keeping the school community connected and engaged by having a well-developed and comprehensive communication policy to keep all stakeholders, families, students, and staff, informed in a timely and considered manner;


  • Having well established and effective links with external agencies – (health, law enforcement, local and national government agencies, social service agencies, specialised professionals and embassies);


  • Actively engaging in dialogue and sharing information with other schools and with educational associations;


  • Shifting development priorities where necessary to ensure that the school has the technological capacity to provide engaging distance and remote learning;


  • Ensuring financial stability by considering new models of financial planning and management;
  • Establishing an early commitment to the issue of refunds to parents in areas such as tuition fees, transportation, catering, Boarding, activities etc.;
  • Establishing future fee levels based on data as well as objective market evidence;
  • Identifying alternative forms of income;
  • Developing sound models to predict future enrolment;
  • Reviewing and revising future contingency commitments;


Establishing a compensation philosophy and reviewing school leader and staff salaries to ensure retention and recruitment of staff in uncertain times with the challenges of international travel, nationally imposed travel and quarantine restrictions, and uncertainty about future enrolment levels;


Establishing a plan to retain school leaders: Ensuring that the Head of School and senior leaders feel valued by the Board and developing a long term succession plan for school leadership;


Recognising that the pandemic has brought another  dimension to the management of well-being and ensuring that strategies are implemented to manage student and staff self-care, emotional well-being, and mental health;


Ensuring that appropriate protocols are in place to ensure the safeguarding of students engaged in remote learning;


Ensuring that appropriate support is provided for the individual needs of students.


Questions Boards should consider as schools begin to re-open to students:


As schools begin to reopen their doors to students it now makes sense for Boards to spend some time over the coming months reflecting upon what they have learned from the experiences of responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Some useful questions for Boards to reflect upon include:


  • How prepared were we to face the immense challenges of such a pandemic?


  • Did we have the organisational structure necessary to review the challenges faced and make appropriate decisions in a timely manner?


  • Did we have the necessary data that was required to inform our decision making?


  • Did we have a communication policy that satisfactorily kept stakeholders informed?


  • Did we have the necessary external links with experts and professional bodies to assist us in our decision making?


  • To what extend were our risk management protocols effective in dealing with the challenges faced?


  • Did we have a suitably nimble and agile approach to implementing our strategy?


  • To what extent are we now prepared to meet the challenges of a future crisis?


  • If we could go back in time, what would we have done differently?


Looking to the future, it will be necessary for Boards to consider these three questions:


  • Are we accurately able to gauge the effectiveness of the actions taken over the past months on the school’s reputation?


  • Do we have a suitably effective and renewed plan for a marketing plan to ensure the sustainability of enrolment?


  • Are we able to accurately assess the most appropriate level of tuition fees and ancillary fees for the coming and successive school years in order to ensure the financial stability of the school whilst maintaining its affordability for parents?


In conclusion, schools that emerge from the current health crisis in a strong position will do so because of sound governance and strong and informed leadership. The attributes necessary to govern well during the risks and uncertainties of a crisis have been outlined above. It is now time for Boards to take the opportunity to reflect upon their response to the crisis and to develop governance action plans that not only enable them to strengthen the effectiveness of their governance responsibilities but enable them to become more proactive in successfully meeting the unknown challenges that lay ahead.

Please contact Ray Davis at for further information on governance support.


Thoughts to share about this article? Let us know below.



Ray Davis is currently the Senior Consultant with The 5Rs Partnership (  and is based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been a Head of School in three international schools and a national school in the UK and is the former Director of School Evaluation with the Council of International Schools (CIS). The 5Rs Partnership is a global consultancy specifically for schools in strategy planning, marketing, and market research, reputation management, and governance, established in 2004.