Ashley Leyba Furman Alumni

Ashley Leyba '05

— Head of School, BASIS Independent Fremont

For someone interested in school administration, you’ve got to start in the classroom. I would not be an effective school leader if I didn’t fully appreciate the realities of teaching.


Personal/Professional Journey

How did you find your way to where you are today? Share a little about your professional journey.

While finishing my Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, I began working at a teaching resource center that focused on improving teacher quality on campus. During my time there, I came to realize that I was passionate about teaching and that a traditional career in academia—what had been my professional track—would likely not provide me with the classroom time I wanted.

This led me to consider career options in the K-12 realm. I was fortunate to be hired to teach history at a private school that was just opening. I relished being part of the founding faculty and enjoyed the challenges and joys that came along with being in a first-year school.

Since then, my career has moved quite rapidly. I moved into administration in the school's second year. With this job change, I was able to return to what I loved about Berkeley's teaching resource center—supporting teachers and improving teaching quality at the school.

In January, 2016, I was promoted again, this time being named Head of School (school principal) of a new primary school that opened in August 2016.

What inspires you?

The students, faculty and staff at my school are a constant source of inspiration. They make my job so much fun and make me want to work harder to ensure that our school is a safe space with a joyful learning culture.

Within the field

When providing advice for professional development, what are some tools or resources one should consider?

When I was named Head of School, I spent a lot of time reading books on leadership and education. One of my favorites is "The Servant Leader" (Autry) and it has greatly impacted the type of leader I strive to be in my school. Another great read is "The Gift of Failure" (Lahey), which helped me think through the importance of developing grit and resilience in our students. It's a wonderful read for parents and educators alike.
How would you recommend someone interested in the same career/vocation pursue a similar path?

For someone interested in school administration, you've got to start in the classroom. I would not be an effective school leader if I didn't fully appreciate the realities of teaching.

Teaching is hard work and I do not want to make it harder. My job is to support teachers and make their lives easier. I wouldn't be able to do this if I hadn't spent approximately 10 years in the classroom—mostly at the university level—prior to moving into administration.
How have mentors impacted your professional development? How did you develop those relationships?

I'm lucky that my school is part of a network of 27 schools globally, so I've been able to easily identify mentors at our sister schools. When I was first named Head of School, I traveled to many of these schools to learn from and work with other school leaders.

I've also found that most people are willing to offer advice and mentorship when asked—people want to share their expertise. You've just got to ask!

For someone just getting started

What do you wish you would have known getting started in your field?

I wish I had fully appreciated how time-consuming this job would be. Opening a new school and all that goes into that takes a lot of time and energy.

As a teacher, I didn't fully recognize the hours that members of administration put in—I thought they wouldn't compare to teacher hours. Thankfully, I absolutely love what I do and I'm in the enviable position of having my child attend the school that I work at, so the long hours don't normally seem too bad at all.
What additional education or certification is required/recommended?

I've not taken any classes in educational administration myself, though I do know that many who go into administration take this route. In my mind, having experience in the classroom is more important than acquiring a certificate or anything of that nature.

Furman University

How has your liberal arts background shaped your career path or supported your success?

One of my primary responsibilities is to explain our school’s curriculum and educational philosophy to prospective families. Our school is a liberal arts school, so having gone through that type of education myself has made it much easier to articulate the benefits of liberal arts coursework to our families.  
What was your major(s)? And how have you applied it in your career field?

I was a history major at Furman and fully believe that the skills I developed while studying history have been essential in my career. Critical thinking, an ability to sort through and synthesize large amounts of information, and an ability to communicate my thoughts in various forms are all essential to my current line of work. These skills were certainly developed and honed during my years in the history department.

Young Benefactor

Why do you make giving back to Furman a priority for you and your family?

Furman made me who I am today and I would not have been able to attend had it not been for generous people who had donated to various scholarship funds. Now that I'm in a position to donate, I feel like it's my duty to do so.
What are your priorities when it comes to Furman and your giving?

First and foremost, I donate to students who need financial assistance with tuition since that was my experience. Additionally, I donate to the history department since that was my major.

I also—when possible—like to donate to Study Away programs. I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, my junior year at Furman and it transformed me.
What impact to you hope to make with your giving to Furman?

My main hope is that through my giving, it is slightly easier for students to attend Furman and experience the amazing education that I was so privileged to receive there.

View all spotlights