Leadership Spotlight: Kelly Grogan

The ISS Administrative Search Team was proud to lead the Head of School search for a new ISS owned and operated school: Achieve Xiamen International School, China. Congratulations to Kelly Grogan for accepting the position, beginning May 2021!

Kelly holds a Doctorate in Education, Global Leadership from Lamar University; a Masters of Arts, Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix; and a Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Biology from the University of California, Davis.

Achieve Xiamen International School (AXIS) will open to students in August 2021, and we’re thrilled to have Kelly’s leadership at the launch. Read more about her career journey, what excites her about start ups, and what she hopes to bring to the AXIS community.


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

My own educational career began at age ten, when I founded a day school at home. I created a school community of learners by extending invitations to the neighborhood kids, my brothers, and my collection of Cabbage Patch Kids. The teaching tool of choice was a chalkboard. My passion for learning was later channeled into time spent learning about the world first through my experiences in California, then through connecting with my family history whilst living in Mexico followed by traveling the world. I have an insatiable love for learning that is deepened through culturally and linguistically diverse global experiences connecting with the people of the world.

Where has your career taken you up to this point?

I’ve led learning across the globe as co-founder of the Catalyst Education Lab, ISTE certified trainer, Apple Distinguished Educator Advisory Board member and at the UNESCO Teacher Task Force Policy Dialogue Forum. My educational journey began as a science and technology teacher in California followed by teaching mathematics at the Hong Kong International School and Korea International School (Korea), before joining Chinese International School as the Head of Innovation and Staff Learning. 

“The provocations for learning while exploring Yellowstone National Park with my family
connected to the values and impact a Week Without Walls of learning has for faculty and students.”

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

My philosophy of leadership is simple: cultivate trust by building relationships through listening, seeking to understand, and transparency. One of the biggest intellectual influences on my work has been the work of Mitch Resnick, Professor at the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarten group. Inspired by Seymour Papert, Professor Resnik describes the tenets of creative learning to be through projects, peers, passions and play. The work I do now is deeply influenced by these tenets and is further shaped by my beliefs that learning by doing, learning with others, and learning through mistakes is key to creating the conditions for learning that matters.

AXIS Early Childhood Classroom

Congratulations on the new position at AXIS! Why are you excited about this role? What are your hopes?

I love a startup, whether it be a program or school. The sense of possibility, the anticipation of the known and unknown, and the heart racing feeling of being inspired and saturated by the possibilities that lay ahead. This is what I love about this new role. I am humbled and honored to have the privilege to lead the newest international school in Xiamen in 20 years.


For everyone who has the special privilege of being in a school community, they will know the excitement that comes with welcoming students, families and faculty to campus at the start of the school year. It is an especially exciting time for me because I will be welcoming our faculty and the Xiamen community for the first time to a brand new, state of the art campus. It is exciting to think about how these learning landscapes and the Xiamen community will be powerful learning partners, acting as catalysts for curiosity and exploration resulting in learning that connects our students to the global community. It is with hope AXIS is synonymous with a place for belonging.

What is an interesting fact, story, or reflection that you’d like to share?

My biggest fear and one of my greatest joys in life are one and the same, scuba diving! I am an explorer at heart.

What was your experience with ISS and ISS Administrative Search like?

To find the right opportunity, you need the right organization with the right values supporting you. ISS is the right organization.


We thank Kelly for these reflections, and we look forward to seeing the AXIS community learn and thrive with her leadership! You can follow her journey on Twitter and Linkedin.

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



“Exploring the world with my 2-year-old nephew has reinforced the importance of the environment as the third teacher and the importance of the pedagogy of play.”