Six Questions for Drew Alexander, Alto’s Head of School
Drew Alexander is an experienced international educator with a passion for teaching, fostering global citizenship, and encouraging students to become active members of their local and global community.
You have lived in many parts of the U.S. and the world before coming to California. Tell us a little about it.
I was born in the state of Missouri but grew up in Arkansas, which I still consider home. After my wife and I were married and had three young children, we were looking for a new adventure and moved to Alaska. Ever since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to live there, so I was very fortunate to be married to an adventurous individual who shared that dream. We lived in Alaska for eleven years before moving to Singapore and later to Egypt, Russia, and finally Montenegro. Just before our move to California, we lived in New York City for five years, where I was the headmaster of a school right across from the New York Stock Exchange.
Why did you choose to work in education? What makes you come to the office every day?
If you had asked me this question early in my career, the response would have been, “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.” My answer to that question continues to evolve over the years, from the positive impact my teachers had and continue to have on my life to the amazing role of teachers in general in supporting children and adolescents in charting their own paths. I truly believe that education as a profession is ‘the noblest of them all’ and it is an honor and privilege being a part of it.
How is an international education different from a traditional American education?
Education in America has often been very American centric at the expense of creating global citizens and international thinkers. Examples include a focus on Western Civilization as opposed to world history, the lack of opportunity to learn two or three languages, and little appreciation for world cultures. The good news is that this is changing. An international education, especially one embracing the International Baccalaureate, has always been committed to developing global citizenship, valuing internationalism, ensuring challenging and engaging learning opportunities, and fostering social and emotional skills.
What makes Alto unique?
The short answer is, of course, the Alto community. Our dedicated students, parents, and staff are the heart of this school. I believe Alto is a unique place due to its German roots, its adoption of the International Baccalaureate and its commitment to a personalized and progressive style of education, its German language immersion program in the lower grades, and last but not least its relatively small size and its location in Silicon Valley.
A word of advice for today’s students?
Take charge of your learning by being your best advocate. Be respectful and thoughtful of others. Ask questions. Embrace failure, it’s one of the best learning tools. Develop mutually meaningful relationships with other community members. Stay involved. Give of your time in service to the community.
We heard you went skydiving. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes, I have been skydiving, and, once the dive began, I enjoyed it tremendously. However, I was not eagerly anticipating it, and before the dive, I managed to build all the doomsday scenarios possible. We all need a ‘push’ at times to try new things, and the nudge this time came from a student who invited me to join him. At that time, I was the Head of School at the Anglo-American School of Moscow and desirous of modeling the IB Learner Profile Attribute of appropriate risk-taking, so I accepted his offer. Climbing to our target altitude of 13,000 feet in a pre-war Russian aircraft was an adventure in itself. Being connected in tandem to a professional skydiver half my size, I had to accept that my life was totally in his hands. The first few minutes were spent in free fall, soaring with the eagles 2.5 miles above the earth’s surface. When the parachute opened with a jolt, everything slowed, and I realized this adventure was going to have a happy ending. Taking the calculated risk of jumping out of the plane is a metaphor for many of life’s grand adventures. While you may not choose to go skydiving, I certainly encourage you to continually challenge yourself.
About Drew Alexander:
Drew Alexander served as the headmaster of the Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in New York City and as interim head of school in Tivat, Montenegro before coming to Alto International School. Prior to that, he spent seven years as Director of the Anglo-American School of Moscow. Drew has also served as High School Principal and Superintendent at Cairo American College in Egypt and College Counselor at Singapore American School.
Originally from Arkansas, he and family moved to Alaska early in his career where he worked as a teacher and counselor before moving into administration. Drew received his Bachelor of Science in Education in English and his Master of Science in Education in counseling from Henderson State University in Arkansas. He received his educational administration credentials from the University of Alaska. In addition to his experience as a teacher, counselor, and head of school, Drew has been a Commissioner for the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, elementary and high school principal, human resources director, and assistant superintendent for instruction.