Leadership Spotlight: Michael Adams

The ISS Administrative Search Team was proud to lead the Executive Director position search for The Association of American Schools of Central America, Colombia-Caribbean and Mexico (Tri-Association). Congratulations to Dr. Michael Adams for accepting the position, which will begin in August 2021! Michael has been the Superintendent of The American School Foundation of Monterrey (ASFM), Mexico, since 2013.

Michael attended Austin College, where he earned a BA in Psychology and a MA in Elementary Education. Following his post-graduate degree and teacher certification, he continued his studies earning a professional certification in School Guidance and Counseling from the University of Houston, and later a Ed.D in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota. In 2016, he was named as one of the three recipients of the Distinguished Alumni award from Austin College.


Michael’s career in education began in Texas as a homeroom teacher in Bells ISD and Pflugerville ISD. From 1990 through 2000, he worked at the Columbus School in Medellin, Colombia as a teacher, counselor and Middle School Principal, followed by a role at Colegio Granadino in Manizales as General Director. In 2006, Michael assumed the role of Deputy Director at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, and from 2010 until 2013, served as the Director of Colegio Jorge Washington in Cartagena, Colombia. Since 2013, he has served as Superintendent of the American School Foundation of Monterrey (ASFM), Mexico.

Learn more about Michael’s journey, his ethos as both an educator and leader, and his hopes for this new chapter with Tri-Association.

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

From a very young age, I knew I wanted to work with children and youth and focus on their wellbeing and their ongoing growth and development. Luckily, in High School at ASIJ in Tokyo, Japan I had the opportunity to take an elective called Elementary Teaching Techniques and from that experience forward I knew I wanted to work with children and adolescents in their pursuit of happiness and overall wellbeing.

Having grown up in Tokyo, Japan for most of my youth from 1974 to 1982, the international experience was something I understood, associated with, and longed for. After meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Clara Rico, a Colombian national raised in the USA, we decided to move to Colombia for what was supposed to be a 1-year experience. Now after 30+ years in Latin America, we call Colombia our home!


Tell us about your education philosophy and your leadership style. What can the community expect? What excites you about this new role with Tri-Association?

As an educator, I have had the opportunity to work with children, adolescents and adults as a classroom teacher, behavior modification specialist, guidance counselor, and school administrator. In each position, my primary desire and objective was to help others grow developmentally, build a strong self-esteem, believe in themselves and encourage them to learn from their experiences in order to lead a healthier, more positive lifestyle. My heavily humanistic approach to teaching, guidance and leadership, has enabled me to develop strong relationships with others based on trust and mutual respect. These relationships have in turn allowed me to make a difference with the people and institutions with which I have worked.

As a leader, I have been able to work with others as a team member in order to help accomplish our ongoing challenging goals. I feel an important characteristic of a true leader is one who is able to produce results from the group without standing out as the key player. To me it is more important for my team or my school to shine than it is for me to take credit as a protagonist. I believe people see me as an approachable leader in whom they can place their trust and confidence.

Congratulations on your new position as Executive Director of Tri-Association! How will your past experiences shape your work? What hopes and goals are you excited for, looking ahead? 

Over the past 30+ years I have had the honor and privilege of working with students, educators, leaders, parents, board members, and community members in Colombia and Mexico. During this time, I have focused on the growth and learning of these groups knowing that the main goal of our schools is to promote ongoing improvement, development, and growth at all times.

At this point in my career, I am now eager to give back to our region and help other schools, other leaders, and all educators educate and prepare our leaders of tomorrow. I am interested in helping the region in this way based on the love I have for it and based on the fact that the region has helped me develop as an educator, leader, mentor, spouse, father and grandfather for many years.


This region and the five schools I have had the privilege of being a part of have made me who I am as a person and as a professional and have helped my children become the mature, professional adults they are today. After a 20-year tenure as a Head of School, I am now eager to move in a different, but related direction that allows me to remain in the region and continue working with and supporting my friends and colleagues from Colombia, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico. My wife of 32 years, and my #1 supporter and friend, Clara Rico, will be by my side in Bogota as we set up our home once again in the city where our two older sons (and daughters-in-law and grandsons) live and work.

These past eight months of living with, planning for, managing, and juggling the realities of a pandemic have taught us all that times are changing and we must think outside the box as we move forward in the years to come. I truly believe that the ongoing learning sessions we have all participated in over these months have shown us that we are able to achieve a great deal and learn a lot without being side by side in one physical location.

With this in mind, I think all of our regional organizations will now continue with this type of networking and remote learning to better support our schools and be able to reach a greater number of educators and leaders. We must all rethink and redesign the future and how our schools will adapt to the needs of our students. I see my job as the Executive Director playing a key role in this research, planning, mentoring, and implementation within the region. This type of work is very difficult on your own; but as a team anything and everything is possible.

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

The personal care that Dr. Beth Pfannl, Mrs. Liz Duffy and the ISS team provided to me as I contemplated the next steps in my career was incredibly helpful. The ISS team was very open and willing to mentor and coach me through my thought process and my decision-making process as I analyzed the pros and cons of my next steps. The team was not just interested in helping me “find a job”. They were interested in helping me determine what was best for me and my family.


We wish Michael and the ASFM community a smooth transition, and look forward to his exciting leadership work ahead with Tri-Association! You can follow Michael as well as Tri-Association on twitter for more updates.

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.