Leadership Spotlight: Sheena MacLeod
ISS Leadership Search was honored to support the Elementary Principal search for American School of Milan (ASM) in Italy. Congratulations to Sheena MacLeod for accepting the position, beginning August 2024! Sheena is currently the Middle School Principal at Nido de Aguilas, Chile.
Sheena holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Dundee, Scotland; a Master of Arts in International Education from Oxford Brookes University, UK; and an EdS in Educational and Counselling Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA.
In this feature, learn about the first experiences that inspired Sheena’s international education career, her relationship-centered leadership philosophy, and her excitement about joining American School Milan’s strong, caring community.
Please share about your career experience in education.
All my career has been in in international education. My first experience was in Lusaka, Zambia as an elementary teacher at the International School of Lusaka. From there I moved to the International School of Beijing as an EAL teacher. Following on from Beijing, I moved to the International School of Bangkok and that is where my leadership journey started. Then I went back to Africa to the Pretoria Campus of the American International School of Johannesburg as PreK-8 Assistant Principal. Most recently, I have been working in Chile at Nido de Aguilas as Middle School Principal. Although I grew up in the UK, ASM will be first experience working in Europe.
What drew you to pursue the world of education? And what drew you into international education specifically?
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, but presumed that it would be in Scotland until at secondary school I heard about the United World Colleges. I applied for a scholarship to Atlantic College for my last two years of school, never really thinking it was a possibility, so was very surprised to learn that I was selected. As an IB student, my community service was social service and I served students at a local primary school and also young people who were physically disabled. Those experiences firmed up my dream of being a teacher.
Learning alongside students from all over the world and realising how little I knew about the world and other perspectives was eye opening for me. The conversations that we would have about “International Understanding” (as it was called in those days) and our belief in the concept of global peace being attainable if young people worked together to effect change, made me want to teach internationally. It’s interesting thinking back to those days and seeing the connection between our conversations back then and DEIB today. It’s also a little sad knowing how much work we still have to do.
Please tell us about your education philosophy and your leadership style. What can your new community expect?
Relationships are essential for building a positive school culture, which in turn creates the trust that is needed for all learners (all students and adults in the community) to learn and grow. I strive to create an inclusive community where everyone feels a sense of belonging, has the skills and courage to advocate for themselves, and recognizes the strength that diversity brings to an international school.
Open, two-way communication that allows everyone to contribute is key in building a positive school culture. As an Adaptive Schools trainer, I facilitate and develop collaborative practices within the community, so that teachers can experience the joy of learning through inquiry and collaboration. Schools are always busy places and for me it is essential that my leadership helps everyone to prioritize the goals and work that align with the school’s vision, mission and values.
Congratulations on your upcoming role at American School of Milan (ASM)! What are you excited about in this new role?
The importance of community cannot be underestimated, and ASM has a strong, caring community and this is one of the reasons that I am excited about joining ASM. In addition to this, ASM believes that in preparing students for a successful future, focusing on how children learn is just as important as what they learn. The curriculum at ASM is designed to do both, within an inclusive, safe, learning environment and I am excited about being part of a school that has such a strong understanding of pedagogy and learning.
What is an interesting fact or story about you that you would like to share?
As a teenager and young adult, my sport was judo and I achieved my black belt! I loved everything about judo: the physical fitness and strength that it developed, the strategy in competitions and the camaraderie within the club.
What was your experience with ISS Leadership Search like?
The ISS Leadership Search Team was hugely supportive and always very responsive.
Thank you to Sheena for sharing her rich journey in international education, and her hopes for this new chapter ahead! We look forward to seeing her collaborative leadership woven into the ASM community.