News: Ciarán Cunningham-Watson’s Journey to Head of School - Jun 22, 2016
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016Candidate Stories

Ciarán Cunningham-Watson’s Journey to Head of School

Ciarán Cunningham-Watson witnessed his father's rekindled enthusiasm for his work as an educator in the years before his retirement. His father taught History and Irish, eventually becoming Head Master, before ending his profession teaching in prisons and youth offender centers. About to embark on a Master's program in History and Politics in a new city, Ciarán not only took notice, but was profoundly affected.

As he studied for his MA, Ciarán also worked as a substitute teacher at a boys' grammar school, St. Columb's College in Derry, U.K. Because the school community was so welcoming, he learned a great deal from his colleagues while quickly becoming involved in numerous aspects of the school. Soon after, Ciarán qualified as a teacher when he earned his Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and then embarked on his full-time teaching career. He describes the joy of teaching:

"It's being part of a journey of personal, academic, and co-curricular development of everyone in the whole school community… Working in a school is an invigorating, enriching, and, ultimately, rewarding experience… I continue to learn from others around me each day, so I like to feel that the education we provide to our students comes back to us many times more… There is a certain excitement in that feeling that also brings an element of humility to what we do too."

Having worked in boarding schools for over 10 years, Ciarán became accustomed to working with international students, their families, and colleagues from different countries and cultures. As a result, he and his wife became very keen to travel, and in the process, broaden their horizons, experience other cultures, and learn new languages. They also wanted their children to become more internationally-minded, and what better place to cultivate that trait than an international school? Ciarán took his first post abroad in Barcelona, Spain as Headmaster of a British School. He wanted his second international post to be in a different country, but one that "offered a vibrant Hispanic community, the Spanish language, and a strong cultural environment." A friend and colleague recommended that Ciarán enlist the help of Search Associates. He took the advice and had a very positive experience:

"I can certainly add my endorsement to Search Associates, as I found them to be knowledgeable about the roles and the schools that they managed, but they also showed that they knew about me and my experiences, strengths, and potential suitability for advertised positions."

To begin his overseas search, Ciarán highlighted his preferred locations on a map of the world. He used the Search Associates website on a daily basis, checking for advertised positions, updating his own profile, and researching the different schools that posted international teaching vacancies. When jobs came up in the regions that interested him, he researched each country, culture, and local environment to see what would best suit his family. Ciarán then consulted his Associate, Executive Vice President David Cope, to discuss the position, the application process, and Ciarán's potential for landing it, which helped Ciarán refine the details of his application. Ultimately, Ciarán accepted a position as Head of School at Madison International School, in Merida, Mexico. He offers some final words of wisdom for future international educators:

"For anyone else out there contemplating taking up a teaching position abroad, I would strongly endorse it. An educator can only be as good at teaching as he is prepared to learn for himself. Teaching and learning in a vibrant setting, with similarly enthusiastic professionals, experiencing new cultures, foods, and languages adds an extra dimension to life, which I for one strongly advocate experiencing and fully embracing."

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Gez Hayden led the first international school authorized to offer all three IB programs in China.