Leadership Spotlight: Rachel Leonard

ISS Leadership Search was honored to support the Director search for the International School of Toulouse in Toulouse, France. Congratulations to Rachel Leonard for accepting the position, beginning August 2023! Rachel was most recently the Vice Principal at United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) in Singapore.

Rachel’s prior experiences also include serving as the Deputy Head (Secondary) at the French International School of Hong Kong. She holds an Executive Master of Arts in International Educational Leadership and Change from the Education University of Hong Kong; Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the Open University, England; Postgraduate Diploma in Communication and Information of Organisations (DESS) from the University of Bordeaux, France; and a Master of Arts in English Literature from the UCO Angers, France.

In this spotlight, read about why Rachel looks forward to joining the IST community, what her vision as a school leader looks like, and how she herself has experienced a “superpower” found in lifelong learning!

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

I was drawn to teaching from a young age, and discovered a different educational environment during the year I spent in England as a young French Assistant. I was taken by how different schools were from the model I had known growing up in France, and this opened the door to more curiosity.

After starting my teaching career in France and England, I discovered the world of international schools in Hong Kong where I went to follow my husband who had been posted there. I became instantly fascinated by the energy, the possibilities, and the forward-thinking I became exposed to in such a vibrant context. I was lucky enough to meet liked-minded and inspiring colleagues with whom I grew as an educational leader, working collaboratively with them to continually make learning environments the best for our students.

Congratulations on your new role at the International School of Toulouse! What are you excited about in this new role?

My hopes are to be an inspiring, caring and forward-thinking leader for my new community. I am incredibly excited and grateful to be joining the IST family. I find this new chapter to be a wonderful crossover between my international education experience and being back in my home country. IST is a strong and well-established school set in the thriving and inspiring environment of global industries, and I am looking forward to discovering what this means for the IST community in terms of learning opportunities, and its future.​


International School of Toulouse

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

I believe in holistic education where learning programs adapt to our ever-changing world and learners can become their best selves and have a positive impact on the world. I support mission-aligned learning pathways that allow students to flourish, and promote the skill sets they need to become future leaders in their areas of passion. I value and recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in our communities, and as an international educational leader, I am committed to create and support an environment where every member of our community feels seen, recognized and supported.

I believe in an international education where leaders are agile and strong supportive collaborators; embrace challenges with courage; are solution-focused; listen to stakeholders; are compassionate; put community well-being at the heart of what they do; create a safe and positive environment where students are enthused to learn and to advocate for themselves; ensure that teachers feel supported, valued and inspired to grow.


What was your experience with ISS Leadership Search like?

I felt very supported by ISS at all of the various stages of the process. The description of the role and conversations thereafter were very clear, and really helpful.


Finally, what is an interesting fact or story about you that you would like to share?

I started to learn English at the age of 11, upon joining my local secondary school in the heart of France. I instantly fell in love with learning a new language, and the sense of new freedom and opportunities it brought me from a young age. Looking back, I value so much the impact my first English teachers and their passion for teaching the English language had on me. It really became like a magic power I had to go places, and discover the world. Little did I know as a younger English student that this superpower would lead me to meet my husband in England, bring my three children up to be bilingual and find my true calling in international education. I often refer to this with students as an example of lifelong learning, as I truly believe that my learning journey of speaking another language has opened me to so many other areas of learning and growth.


Left: Open spaces of Auvergne, Rachel’s home region
Right: Rachel, her husband Chris, and their three children hiking in France

Our thanks to Rachel for sharing these reflections on this special new chapter, weaving together life in her home country and her deep experiences in international education. We’re excited for the supportive environment Rachel and IST will create together, and wish her whole family the best in the move! You can connect with her on 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 Leadership Search Team.