The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

Meet Robin Appleby: The new Head of School


At 8:05 a.m. on most days, you will find Head of School Robin Appleby on the steps of Waverley Place, dedicating the first 15 minutes of her day to greeting students and faculty as they arrive at school. “It’s very much part of my personality to be involved in the life of the school because otherwise I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing,” Appleby said.

After spending two years as the director of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Appleby applied for the Head of School position last fall. Prior to Chicago, she had worked as High School Principal at the American School of The Hague and Superintendent of GEMS Dubai American Academy.

It was during her time in the Hague that Appleby became familiar with ASL and hoped to work at the school. “I had come to know the American School in London both by reputation and by visiting it once or twice when I was at the American School of the Hague. I knew this was a place where I had aspired to work,” she said. “I had hoped there would be a really good fit between what I’m interested in, which is high-quality American approaches to education in an international environment, and that’s exactly what I found.”

Although her transition to ASL was long, as she accepted the position in October 2016, Appleby felt it was smooth as well. Additionally, Appleby spent a week on campus in April before officially moving to London and assuming her new role on July 1. “I felt when I got here in July that my feet were already on the ground, that I understood the things we have to deal with most immediately,” she said.  

Unlike previous heads of school, Appleby wears a second hat within the community- a parent. Her daughter, Eden, is in Grade 6, and Appleby is the first rolled at ASL during their tenure. “She’s used to it. Normally I get known as ‘Eden’s mom’ by people who are in her grade level and her friends,” Appleby said. “But she’s very independent.”

Being a school administrator and parent is something Appleby has always balanced, and gives her the ability to see the school through two different lenses. Additionally, her husband, John, is the Grade 5 and 6 soccer coach. Whether it is planning who cooks meals or who is home after school, juggling family, work and school is something Appleby’s family has always faced. “I think it’s that our whole family balances it. We’ve just figured out how to get stuff done,” she said.

Initial Plans

Given her extensive communication with Hester, Appleby felt that she understood one of Hester’s flagship projects during her tenure: the New Frontiers campaign. With this, Appleby feels confident in her ability to maximize the spaces’ potential. “I knew the areas we would have to settle into even more so this year. The swimming pool and the art building, [they’re]  only really a year old. Sometimes you have to live in spaces for three or four years before you really feel like you’re embedded in them,” Appleby said.

Yet upon her arrival, Appleby had one plan set for the year: To observe and to listen. Throughout her first year, she plans to adjust to ASL and learn about the makeup and atmosphere of the community before suggesting any adjustments. “There was a lot of agreement that I really need to spend the first year listening and learning about the school and not trying to make any major changes,” she said. “[This initial period is] a very good opportunity to hear from people about what’s important to them what they hope we could do differently, but not going into any formal planning process until at least a year from now.”

Appleby is also eager to build a relationship with the student. “I’ll be at as many sports events as I can, at music and theater [events] because that’s really why we all work here; it’s the lifeblood of the school,” she said.

She hopes to observe various  student-group meetings as well, and will be travelling with high school students on the Zen in France Alternative.

International Community

Between her time in Dubai and the Hague, Appleby’s work in the international school community stretches over 12 years. To her, the identity and success of an international school comes from the school’s ability to embrace and celebrate diversity.

Incorporating diversity into the mantra of the school, Appleby looks to two questions: “How do we get along with one another and handle our diversity? How do we think about our responsibilities in the larger world?” she said.

To her, the best international schools contemplate these questions frequently, and are always pushing boundaries to expand their global engagement.

From her experiences across the globe, Appleby feels she brings an extensive understanding of cultural competency. As the school community becomes increasingly diverse, Appleby believes the makeup of the school shifts, requiring readjustment and celebration of different cultures, ideas and beliefs. “It is one thing [for a school] to be diverse, it is another thing to really understand diversity and that is what the cultural competency work is all about,” she said.

At her school in Dubai, Appleby felt they excelled in celebrating all facets of diversity, whether it be various cultures or religious holidays, and hopes to implement similar routines at ASL. “We were extremely good there at celebrating diversity… without feeling that anyone was superior to another,” she said. “I hope that I bring that to my work at every place. I think I learned a lot from that and I am hoping to continue in those kinds of engagements.”

At the end of the day, however, Appleby believes her main job is to ensure ASL is as exciting and successful in 20 years time. Although her work does not feel like a “job” to her, as her passion for education is second nature, she knows her legacy will be defined by the long term success and development of the school. “Will there be things that we will need to innovate around in order to make sure we are ready for the future?” she said. “If I can help the school figure that out and what the right innovations are, that will feel pretty good.”


Written by Editor-in-Chief: Print Michaela Towfighi

Photo by Print and Online Media Editor Olivia Abrams 

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