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Vice President of Academic Affairs

Meet our new tradition-forward visionary and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Elizabeth.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your background in education?

My background in education started early. My parents were both independent school educators, so I literally grew up in the halls of independent schools.

I have always been drawn to work that engages the life of the mind. In my career, I have taught English to grades 5 through 12. I have also served as an English Department Chair, as a Director of Faculty Mentoring in Connecticut, as a Dean of Academics and Faculty in Massachusetts, and most recently, as a Head of School at The Miami Valley School in Ohio. Throughout the majority of my professional journey, working in the classroom was one of the most fulfilling periods in my life. Those years equipped me with valuable skills, serving as the foundation from which I extract lessons that contribute to my role as a school leader. When you think about it, so much of teaching is about building community, asking essential questions, inviting everyone into the challenges and work, and making discoveries together. The same is true in leadership.

What drew you to Mid-Pacific and the role of Vice President of Academic Affairs?

Honestly, I feel like this school found me. I was exploring opportunities on the West Coast when this opportunity came about. After my first conversation with Dr. Turnbull and the search committee, I felt like I had found my school, specifically for its focus on innovation and teaching  for the future as well as honoring its 115-year legacy. The work of teaching, learning, and  Academic Affairs speaks to the core of who I am.

How do you envision your contribution to Mid-Pacific’s educational community?

My hope is that I can bring my vast experience to help support Mid-Pacific’s mission and vision as described in Aspirations 2035. I believe in the transformative power of the educational experience and the importance of joy in learning. I also hope to contribute my skills in faculty development and mentoring, curriculum design, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

How do you envision upholding Mid-Pacific’s traditions while simultaneously fostering innovative practices and nurturing the development of new traditions?

Schools are like organisms. In order to thrive, they need to change in order to grow. Mid-Pacific is a school that embraces change, preparing our students for the future they will enter. At the same time, in my first few months here, I have witnessed many customs, rituals, and traditions. Every school year brings new people and experiences. Within those shifts, it is important to  remind ourselves of what remains the same.


Could you share some insights into your perspective on educational change and why it energizes you?

I have lived in the world of education my entire life, and in that time have seen dramatic  changes, largely driven by technology, but also by brain research and examining the way students learn. To me, change that is meaningful and in support of students is essential to our

work as educators: to meet them where they are and lead them into their future with confidence and skill.

How do you see these changes benefiting the students and the educational landscape at  Mid-Pacific?

Mid-Pacific students come to our school eager to learn, to create, to innovate, and to be challenged. Learning is about presenting continual challenges to students while also supporting them in their efforts to succeed. In fact, it is the depth of that effort that helps them retain what they learn. In his book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Peter Brown talks about what he calls “effortful” learning. He says that “It’s a myth that great learning should be fast and easy. Learning is actually deeper and longer-lasting when it’s more difficult and effortful, as it helps to reconsolidate memory, create mental models and increase brain neural connections.”


Would you like to share some highlights from your time as head of school at The Miami Valley School?

The Miami Valley School is a four division school from Early Childhood to Grade 12. Throughout my time there, we worked hard to support a “one school” ethos to avoid silos and help families recognize that we were a four-part series for families. In my second year, I led a symposium on Civil Discourse inviting members of the community to speak with students and faculty about the role of civil discourse in American culture. This was very meaningful for the community before and after the 2020 election.I am also very proud of the work we did to strengthen the mentoring program for new employees. We received excellent feedback from them about the change and it helped us with overall retention of faculty. Leading a school through COVID was in many ways like building a plane while you are flying it! I remain grateful to my leadership team and the faculty for all they did to keep the community safe. I will never forget their bravery.

What inspired your transition from Ohio to Hawai‘i and what are you looking forward to learning  about your new home?

I have traveled a lot in my life and the challenge of moving here to learn a new culture and language was exciting. This year, I am looking forward to building relationships both inside the Mid-Pacific community and beyond, in the greater O‘ahu community, and serving as an ambassador for Mid-Pacific. I just became a member of the Hawai‘i Audubon Society as well as Bishop Museum. I look forward to engaging in the environmental sustainability efforts on the island and taking some good hikes with my dog, Annie.

Could you share a message for the Mid-Pacific community as you embark on this new journey?

The aloha spirit is alive and well at Mid-Pacific! I am so grateful for the generosity of time and the warm welcome I have received since my arrival in July. I hope to build lasting relationships with the community by planting roots here for many years to come.


  • Elizabeth holds dual citizenship in the United States and Ireland. She became an Irish citizen through her paternal grandfather Malachy Cleary, who was from county Galway, Ireland.
  • She has led students on trips to China, Japan, England, Ireland, and Scotland. She has also traveled to Romania, Italy, and much of the United States. 
  • Elizabeth is a published poet, authoring a series of small poems, as well as an art book of poems with an artist collaborator. The book focuses on landscapes around the continental U.S. and Ireland. The book, Landspeak, was acquired by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2015.