Leadership Spotlight: Linda LaPine

The ISS Administrative Search Team was proud to lead the Head of School search for the International School of Hyderabad (ISH), India. Congratulations to Linda LaPine for accepting the position, beginning August 2021! Linda is currently Principal/CEO of GEMS World Academy Abu Dhabi. 

Linda’s previous experience includes roles as Head of School at ACS Hillingdon International, Director of the International School of Panama, and Deputy Director of the Anglo-American School of Moscow. She holds a MPS in Special Education from Manhattanville College, as well as a BA in Urban Studies from the State University of New York – College of Purchase.

In this feature, learn about what sparked her journey in international education, the glass ceilings Linda has faced (and broken) through her leadership career, and what she hopes to bring to the ISH community. 

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

The power of education to change lives was evident to me early on. I saw the difference it made in the lives of my family members, our friends and neighbors. I was also aware of the power that teachers held in making learning a joyful or a painful experience. I wanted to be that teacher who cared. From my very first teaching year, I knew I had taken the right path. I felt at home in my work as a teacher; it was challenging, but the rewards were enormous.

Teaching also allowed me the opportunity to travel extensively and, while I loved my holiday trips, I decided I wanted to experience living and working abroad. I still remember the excitement I felt driving home in the snow from the ISS job fair in Boston knowing that I was headed to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Looking back, from the moment my feet hit the ground in Dar, I knew I would never go home.

What countries or regions have you worked in the past?

I began my teaching career in the New York metropolitan area working in public and private schools. In ‘92, with great excitement, I began my international career at the International School of Tanganyika in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Hooked on international education, I then joined the Singapore American School as a teacher before becoming the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. After nine years in Singapore, I moved to Moscow to become the Deputy Director of the Anglo-American School of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The opportunity for my first headship was at the International School of Panama followed by London’s ACS Hillingdon International School where my eldest, Mia, graduated high school and went on to attend Queen Mary University. My younger daughter and I moved on to Abu Dhabi where I joined GEMS World Academy. Sanna graduated from GEMS American Academy and is now studying elementary education in the U.S. Both girls appreciate the advantages that the international school environment provided in their development as true global citizens.

Linda and her daughters Mia and Sanna

Congratulations on your new position at the International School of Hyderabad! What excites you about being in this new role and school? What are your hopes?

During the online interview process necessitated by the pandemic, I was struck by the incredibly warm welcome I received from the Board, parents, students, faculty and staff. With every conversation I knew that ISH embodied exactly what I was looking for in a new school and community. I could sense the commitment from everyone I met to not only provide ISH students with the best educational possible but also to work together to as a school community enjoyable for everyone.

The ISH tagline, Leading Our Own Learning, really came to life in my interview with the students. They were able to articulate their creativity, ability to take ownership of their learning and the strong desire to challenge themselves. The close alignment with my philosophy of education makes this is a particularly exciting opportunity for me. I am fortunate to be able to build on the remarkable successes of Oli Tooher-Hancock, the outgoing Head of School. Hopefully, the new school year will start with fewer pandemic-related restrictions as I begin my work to move the school forward providing the highest quality international school experience for the entire community.

Linda with students at GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi

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

My philosophy of education has remained throughout my career as a teacher and a school leader. The focus is on the keys to student success: empowerment, challenge, high standards, stellar instruction, caring expert teachers, and the social aspect of school life. Students today will compete in a world we can only imagine, and there are so many questions to grapple with to prepare them. What career choices will they have to make? Will they work in isolation or with others? What will their sense of citizenship be like? How can we best prepare them in a way that will allow them to reach personal fulfillment? I go back, as I always do, to the fact that school must be a place where it is safe to learn, where challenge feels good and children can succeed or fail and walk away with their heads held high, ready to tackle their next challenge.

Our world has grown smaller and being internationally minded and inter-culturally competent requires tolerance, appreciation for diversity and respect for cultural differences. Adult members of the school community must model the behaviors and values we seek to instill in our students. Research helps us to improve, adapt and change the ways we teach, but one thing remains the same; academics and meaningful, caring relationships go hand in hand.

What is an interesting fact, story, or reflection you would like to share?

Shortly after I adopted my second daughter, I had lunch with a colleague, an influential man in the international school world, to discuss my leadership aspirations. I will never forget the shock I felt when he advised me, a single mother, to put away my aspirations and go back to the classroom so I would have more time for my family. It was clear that he genuinely believed this was best, so I didn’t let it spoil my respect for him and appreciation for the good work he had accomplished. Instead, this interaction opened my eyes to what Marilyn Loden termed the glass ceiling. It also strengthened my resolve to be a successful school administrator and at the same time, a good parent.

During my career, I won’t deny I hit the glass ceiling a few times, but also broke through it. Aided by supportive colleagues of both sexes, a strong at-home support structure for my girls, unbiased Boards or hiring committees, and wonderful friends who cheered me on at every turn, I have enjoyed a rich and rewarding career while raising two amazing daughters. As I move into my new school in India, in addition to supporting leadership training for male and female students, I am excited to start the Kamala Club, a leadership group for female students and staff where we will celebrate and study women leaders.

“Malou was the key support as I raised my girls.” 2019 trip back to Singapore to visit Malou, the family’s nanny of 16 years

What have your experiences with ISS and ISS Administrative Search been like?

The care taken by the team at ISS goes far beyond being efficient and professional. The degree of personalization is phenomenal. Searching for a new leadership position during the pandemic had definite drawbacks and their understanding of the school’s needs and mine made a major difference in assuring a great match. The consultant’s knowledge of the school was more in-depth than I had ever experienced before, and this was key going into the online-only interviews. I highly recommend them for any candidate or school looking for the most positive experience possible.

We thank Linda for sharing her journey and thoughtful reflections, and we look forward to seeing her leadership flourish at ISH!

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.