Leadership Spotlight: Derek Nelson

The ISS Administrative Search Team was proud to lead the Elementary Principal search for Tashkent International School, Uzbekistan. Congratulations to Derek Nelson for accepting the position, beginning July 2021! Derek is currently Primary School Principal at Bonn International School, Germany.

Derek’s career has taken him to the United States, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Germany. His prior experiences include Head of Education Development and Outreach at the Education Development Institute of Qatar Foundation, as well as Assistant Primary Principal at Qatar Academy Doha.

Derek holds a Bachelors in English and Political Science and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Mississippi. He is currently completing a PhD in Leadership and Development in International Education from the University of Minnesota.

In this feature below, enjoy learning about Derek’s early experiences of curiosity and resilience, his path to becoming an international educator today, and his visions for leadership in his new community.

What drew you to pursue the world of education? And what drew you into international education specifically?

Interestingly, it was my motivation to explore the world that led me to become an educator. After spending a year of university in the Philippines, I was desperate to find a way to see more of the world. I trained as a teacher because I knew that was a way I could find work in new countries. Then, very quickly, I figured out that I had a real passion for cultivating curiosity in others. I really thrive in environments where people are asking questions and having fun, whether that is with children or adults.

In my work I have enjoyed not only the aspects of living in different countries, but also working in international schools with multiple nationalities and cultures where we are all constantly learning and challenged to see things through different perspectives.


Derek and Grade 4 BIS students celebrating Formal Day

Congratulations on your new position in Uzbekistan! What excites you about being in this new role and school? What are your hopes?

The Tashkent International School Community is very international in its makeup and its beliefs. I am excited to come in to build on the strong foundation that has been put in place by the current Elementary Principal. There is a dynamic staff and a supportive parent community that are eager for growth. As a family, we have already felt the strong sense of community.

I am eager to help lead the construction of a new Elementary school building and utilise the 13 acre wooded campus for the development of outdoor learning engagements. It will be interesting to go through the self-study and accreditation process as the community reflects on their strengths and creates action plans for growth. We are very interested in living in a new part of the world and all the new sights, sounds and tastes that Uzbekistan has to offer.

Derek and the Bonn International School community

Please tell us about your education philosophy and your leadership style. What can your new community expect?

Learners should be inspired to ask their OWN questions, enabled to transfer those questions into understanding, and empowered to turn that understanding into action. I believe in the power of student voice and that adults must listen to and trust students to take a lead role in their learning. As educators, we must cultivate an environment that allows students to flourish and develop the skills needed to succeed in a world we can’t yet imagine. I also fundamentally believe that learning should be fun.

As a leader I am enthusiastic, visible and engaged. The TIS community can look forward to someone who believes in the power of community, shares constant excitement about learning and growth, strives to know every student and be a part of their story, and someone who knows how to have fun.

Finally, what’s an interesting fact, story, or reflection that people should know about you?

I spent the first 7 years of my life living on the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation in Arizona. My parents were teachers there. In many ways, it was similar to living internationally. We lived in teacher housing and we were different in appearance, culture and beliefs to the host community. As a child, that was my normal, and moving to rural Mississippi at the end of Grade 1 was my first culture shock. I believe that these first experiences were fundamental in creating the curiosity and resilience that have been part of my life as an international educator.


Our team is wishing a smooth move and transition to Derek, his wife Rachel, and their three children Hugo, Oscar, and Rosa, who will all be students at TIS next school year! Follow Derek for more updates as we look forward to seeing the TIS school community flourish and grow with his leadership.

If you’re interested in pursuing a school leadership position, check out our current leadership searches or get in touch with the ISS Administrative Search Team.

The Nelson Family