Leadership Spotlight: Ruth Clarke

ISS Leadership Search was proud to lead the Head of Upper School search for The International School of Amsterdam (ISA), The Netherlands. Congratulations to Ruth Clarke for accepting the position, beginning August 2023! Ruth is currently the Secondary Principal at Nanjing International School, China.

Ruth holds an MA in Education from the University of Bath; a PGCE University of Exeter; and a BA in History from the University of Birmingham. Her experiences in education have taken her to China, Qatar, Belgium, Kenya, and the UK.

In this feature, learn more about the early experiences that launched her interest in impacting schools, her excitement for this next chapter at ISA, and what makes education the most fulfilling profession to her.

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

I have always loved learning and the world of academia. I think I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher and make a difference. However, the catalyst for me was my own experience of High School which was not a very happy one. Poor teaching, uninteresting courses, unruly behavior and ill discipline meant that I do not look back to those days with fondness. I suppose this experience led me to wanting to change the way that schools work so that young people get the education that they deserve.

It was the allure of travel and adventure that first drew me to apply to a school in Nairobi after just three years of teaching in the UK. I loved the buzz of life overseas with all of its color and variety. A fascination for different cultures and my background in history just made me want to find out more about the world outside of my home in London.​


Ruth speaking at TEDxYouth@NIS

The International School of Amsterdam

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

I have already felt the warmth of the ISA community through the interview and post interview process. I am excited to meet the professionals that I have been connecting with and to begin working alongside them. The school has an illustrious history and a fabulous reputation for excellence which I am thrilled to be joining. My hope is that I can add a new dimension to an already outstanding team and bring a different perspective. I am hoping to learn from them and enrich my skillset as a leader in an international education.

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

My philosophy of education revolves around not losing sight of why we do what we do. Education has a responsibility to develop young people into thinking, informed and skilled members of our community. Schools should inspire and excite students, equip them with the tools they will need for their future roles as members of a global community, to be the changemakers and problem solvers we need them to be. If the students we work with gain the skills needed to be independent, happy and fulfilled members of society we should be proud.

International education is uniquely positioned to be a model for inclusive education. Within the classroom of an international school, students of all nationalities will experience the opportunity to learn together and discover the ties that connect them. We are creating a global network of internationally minded caring people, which is why education is the most fulfilling profession.


UN Sustainable Development Goals in action

Ruth, Danny, and family

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

My husband, Danny, and I have been so incredibly lucky to have experienced 13 years of our lives in China. During our time in this fascinating country, we have watched our three children grow up and graduate from Nanjing International School with a smattering of Mandarin and appreciation for the rich Chinese culture that has been their reality.

We have walked the Great Wall, experienced the Forbidden City, visited Everest Base Camp and the Potala Palace, climbed the karst mountains, seen the Hong Kong skyline, strolled along the Shanghai Bund, swum in oceans and lakes, cycled through villages, met incredible people and sampled delicious local food. Working at Nanjing International School has been more than a job; it has been a way of life and it will always hold a special place in our hearts. Thank you NIS.

What was your experience with ISS Leadership Search like?

The layout of the website and the way that the roles are presented is very clear and appealing. The application process was straightforward. I really enjoyed my meeting with ISS Leadership Search, and the advice and feedback that the team gave me were super helpful.

Our thanks to Ruth for sharing these reflections! We are wishing her a smooth transition ahead, and look forward to watching Ruth and ISA foster great things with their students and community next 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 Leadership Search Team.