Leadership Spotlight: Claire McQuillan

ISS Administrative Search was proud to lead the High School Principal search for Cayman International School (CIS) in Grand Cayman. Congratulations to Claire McQuillan for accepting the position, beginning August 2022! Claire is currently the Secondary Principal at the The Overseas School of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Claire holds a Masters in Educational Leadership from The College of New Jersey and a BSc/Ed in Physics and Education from the University of Exeter, UK. Her previous experiences include serving as Assistant Principal at the Chinese International School, Hong Kong; the Assistant Head of Secondary at The International School of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Senior Mistress in charge of the curriculum at Godolphin and Latymer School, UK; Physics teacher at the German Swiss International School, Hong Kong; and as a Science Teacher at the London Oratory School, UK.

Enjoy reading about the teacher who inspired her career, what Claire’s leadership philosophy centers on today, and about the most authentic project-based learning opportunity of her life.

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

It took just two weeks of Secondary School for me to decide that I wanted to become a teacher; my science teacher, Mrs. Robinson was so inspirational and kind that she made me want to be just like her. I got my wish and prior to my leadership experience, taught general science and physics to many generations of young people, exploring how to make learning visible, engaging and relevant. I am fortunate to work in a profession that allows me to be creative and connect with people, having an impact on those around me.

To work within an international educational environment is a real joy, as I have always valued exploring and learning about new cultures and places. I particularly appreciate working in a school with a diverse population which allows me to reach deeper understandings of the similarities and differences we all share.

Cayman International School

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

Cayman International School has a superb reputation for innovative, high-quality, holistic international education. Its commitment to challenge all members of its community to participate actively and with kindness had me hooked from day one. CIS has a strong commitment to curricular innovation and I am excited to work in a school that has embraced innovative curriculum structures and seeks opportunities for genuine inquiry and authentic learning. I look forward to join in writing the next chapter of CIS’s story to Connect, Inspire and Serve.

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

My philosophy of leadership is centered upon kindness, communication, respect, empathy, and transparency. Communities that share these attributes allow students to feel safe to learn and grow. I value the work of Ron Richart and Mark Church and their quest to create rich cultures of thinking in our schools, where teachers seek to unpack what is going on beneath the surface of students’ understanding; creating classrooms that value the journey of learning as much as the destination. I strive to create an environment that values curiosity and challenge, in a learning community that seeks to know more about the world around us, exploring preconceptions and asking ourselves the difficult questions that help us to grow.

What is an interesting fact or story about you that you would like to share?

When I lived in Amsterdam, I met and married my husband Erik and we had our wonderful daughter Rosie. At that time, Erik and I lived on a traditional old houseboat which was no longer big enough for our new little family. After looking at alternatives for living accommodation, we decided that the water really was our home, so we designed and built a new houseboat together. We had the advantage that Erik is a Naval Architect; but in that process, we researched traditional Dutch boats, produced papers for council approval, designed and built a brand new home. I even learnt how to put up walls and plan electricity and plumbing pathways! It was hard work but there was a great sense of achievement in its completion. It was the most practical, authentic, project-based learning opportunity of my life!

The houseboat Claire and Erik built. “If you look closely, you can see my daughter Rosie and me on the bridge. The very tangible results of project based learning!”

What was your experience with ISS Administrative Search like?

ISS provide a great team of support who were there throughout the application process and very responsive.


Thank you to Claire for sharing her journey and vision! We are wishing Claire, her husband Erik Dijkhuizen, daughter Rosie, and their dog Coco a happy transition into Grand Cayman this coming school year.

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.

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