Elementary School Associate Principal

Leah Shy

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Leah Shy comes to ASIJ with 20 years of experience as an educator across a variety of contexts. She began teaching elementary school in California, taught English as a second language in Osaka, and then started her career in international schools teaching in Kobe. Following her seven years in Japan, she taught at HKIS in Hong Kong, during which time she earned an International School Leadership Certificate along with her MA in school administration. Most recently, she taught graduate students in the teacher preparation program at the William & Mary School of Education while working on her Ph.D. in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership, which she earned in 2019. Her research interests center around curriculum and assessment, particularly in the context of early childhood education. She returns to Japan with her New Zealander husband, Frazer Wilson, and their two children, one a student at ASIJ and one in preschool.

We asked


a few questions...

What sets apart elementary school from the other divisions of a K-12 program?

Elementary school is where the foundations of future learning occur. So often, it is easy for schools to look at their outcomes--where graduates attend university, for example--as signs of their quality, but it is the beginning years that set students up for all their future successes. Students spend longer in elementary school than the other divisions, and in these years they can really start to develop their approaches towards school and attitudes towards learning. Because elementary school teachers teach so many subjects, they are focused less on individual subject matter and more on the whole child's development across not just academic fields, but really all developmental domains. It is a time of such rapid growth and development in children that it is very exciting to watch and be able to nurture this growth!

How have your studies for your doctorate impacted your day-to-day work in a school?

This is hard to summarize in a short answer, because doing a full-time residential Ph.D. program has been transformative. It was way more than just extra professional learning, it really changed the way I approach everything. I have a much deeper understanding of the role research plays in what we do with students in schools and how scientific research and practical experience inform each other. I have also seen how knowledge creation in ivory towers of academic buildings can be meaningless if it's not applicable to students, schools, and educators in real life settings. I try to bring to my day-to-day work a combination of the desire to deeply understand, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate educational issues with a practical understanding and experience of why any of that deep thinking matters and how to use it to impact positive change and growth.

Having lived in Japan before, what is your favorite hot spring getaway?

I lived very close to Arima Onsen, so it was a nice nearby hot springs getaway if I only had an afternoon. But for a longer trip, I recommend Beppu on Kyushu. I liked the wide diversity of types of onsen experiences found there, and though some of the places were a bit more touristy, that is all part of the fun. There are still plenty of off-the-beaten-path places in Beppu to explore and soak in the atmosphere (literally and figuratively!) At the same time, it's hard to beat an outdoor onsen in the snow, as I've experienced in Nagano and Hokkaido. I think it's so hard to name a single favorite hot spring getaway because I love exploring new ones and finding and appreciating the unique experience each one has to offer.

We asked him more than a few Questions...