Globetrotting Educator to Head up St. James Academy’s Lower School

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Ian Clark, Ed.D has traveled a long way to become St. James Academy’s new lower school head. After finishing out the school year as the elementary school principal at San Roberto International School, he and his family made the long trek from Mexico to Hunt Valley, where he, his wife and two school-age children will start a new chapter in their lives. We caught up with Dr. Clark to learn more about his professional background, which has taken him all over the world, and how he landed in Northern Baltimore County.

Where are you from? I am originally from the UK, where my father was also a school head; I think the love he had for his work led me also to become a teacher.

It seems like the one constant in your resume is movement. You’ve worked as an elementary- and middle-school administrator and a teacher all over the world: Mexico, India, the United Kingdom and Kenya, to name a few. Has that been intentional, or a matter of circumstance? I was lucky enough to meet my wife, Sarah, when I was teaching at the Town School in New York in 1999. We had friends who suggested we would love teaching in US international schools, and we discovered that we did. So we have tried to be intentional with the moves, and we also hope we’ve added value where we’ve been. It’s certainly been fun!

What would you say is the predominant, universal characteristic of the students with whom you’ve interfaced as a teacher and an administrator? I have always found that kids do want to learn, and it is up to us as educators to ensure that we make the curriculum as authentic, accessible and interesting as we can.

Most recently you served as an elementary school principal at an international school in Mexico. What lured you to come north of Baltimore to take the job of Lower School Head at St. James Academy? Initially, the school. When I saw the posting of the vacancy, visited over Winter Break, and read more about St. James I felt the school would be a great fit for my children and me. I actually met a recent graduate who was visiting former teachers, and he truly sold the school to me!

You’ve had a rich and varied career in education. What are some of the most important attributes you’ll bring from your past experiences to your new position at St. James? I learned a lot about mindfulness and child-centered education in the American Embassy School, Delhi. I really worked hard with my passion for differentiated instruction and intrinsic motivation in Dakar, and I continued my interest in aligning standards with project-based learning in Monterrey, at San Roberto International School. I have always enjoyed the process of instruction, and I just love seeing kids have fun and learning!

What about your new job as the Lower School Head at St. James most excites you? I have already met the faculty on a couple of occasions, and I could tell how focused they are on the kids. I also really saw children engaged and eager to share what they were doing and my time with the Student Council was my favorite part of my interview, as the kids are really the most important stakeholders, and are very honest! I also love the balance of the arts, academics and sports at the school; the children have a lot of opportunities to participate and become well-rounded.

What do you want the St. James community to know about you? I would like the students to know that I care deeply that they feel happy, safe and interested in what they are learning; parents to know that I have a deep understanding of the curriculum and my role, and that my door is always open; and for faculty to know that while I have high expectations, I am a good listener, I love building community, and that I (hope that I) run fun, productive meetings!

How do you plan to get to know your new hometown before school starts in September? I have already Skyped with team members and they have been so helpful. I will be in school from July 1 to start work in my new office! My wife Sarah and I will be setting up house so we’ll be spending time in town before the year starts. We also love good food, so that will be a focal point for us as we discover Baltimore’s many restaurants.

Interview edited for length.

For more information about St. James Academy, visit the website at www.saintjamesacademy.org, or call 410. 771.4816 (Main).

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