Ian Craig Q&A Trinity Valley’s new head of school getting to know city, students

Ian Craig

Ian Craig has found a perfect match in his new position as head of school at Fort Worth’s Trinity Valley School, a K-12 independent, college preparatory school with an enrollment of 970 boys and girls.

Born in Montreal, Canada, to two educators, he moved fairly quickly to the United States and attended an independent day school in New York before eventually going to boarding school.

He received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Syracuse University in 1990 and a master’s degree in secondary social studies education from New York University in 1992.

After graduate school, Craig taught history and coached in two independent schools on the East Coast before beginning his administrative career in 1998 at Greenhill School in Dallas, where he was the assistant head of the middle school. He then served as middle school director at the Westtown School in Westtown, Pennsylvania, from 2000-2005 and as middle school director at the University School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 2005-2006.

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He spent the last 10 years as the head of school at Harding Academy, a K-8 coed day school in Nashville, Tennessee.

Craig and his wife, Holly, have two sons, Cooper, a freshman at Trinity Valley, and Holden, a freshman at Texas Christian University, in addition to two large black Labrador retrievers. Holly Craig is an entrepreneur who will soon launch a custom gifting business called Worthy.

Your father was a school administrator. Is that what you always wanted to be?

Really, I did not have administrative aspirations as I loved teaching history and coaching, but I just grew into each role. I quickly realized that I could have as significant an impact as an administrator as I did as a teacher and not necessarily lose touch with the kids.

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What other profession would you like to try?

My second choice would be professional hockey player, but I think that ship has sailed.

What do you like best about teaching history?

My goal was always to help students see the real-life implications of having a solid background in history and to be able to use that information to think critically and thoughtfully toward developing their own conclusions relative to current local or world events.

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What sports have you coached and what do you enjoy about coaching?

I have coached football, ice hockey and lacrosse the most. I have also coached soccer (briefly), wrestling and skiing.

I enjoy being able to have a slightly different relationship with the student-athletes than I do as a classroom teacher or an administrator. It’s a different way to make an impact on a young person and to forge a relationship.

What attracted you to TVS? To Fort Worth?

We were looking for a coeducational, secular K-12 school with a strong balance of arts, academics and athletics. Once we got to know the school a little better, we were excited to learn about the Trojan Outdoor Experience (where our students engage in overnight trips and experiential learning in primarily outdoor-based settings) and Global Initiative Program (students can travel all over the world and be a part of in-person and virtual exchanges). Meeting all of the incredible people that make up the community sealed the decision as far as we were concerned.

We are excited to see the cultural aspects of the area, from the wealth of museums, to the Stockyards, to all of the new areas from West Seventh to Magnolia and all of the areas in between.

What is your vision for the school?

To continue the trajectory of excellence that has been established, and to be sure that we have focus and balance in arts, academics and athletics, in addition to the unique Outdoor Education and Global Initiative Programs.

We also work diligently to be sure that our graduates are prepared for college and beyond and are armed with the necessary skills to be able to think critically, to be creative and to express themselves verbally and in written form while continuing to be leaders.

Before you assumed your new role at TVS you emailed each junior asking them to tell you about themselves so you could know them better during their senior year. What were some of the responses you received and were you surprised by any of their remarks?

I wasn’t necessarily surprised but was amazed at the incredible variety of interests and talents, and the wealth of causes and activities in which our students are involved.

One very consistent theme about which the students spoke was an appreciation for the unique relationship they have with their TVS teachers. They feel valued and respected and have the sense that their teachers are willing to do anything in order to help them to be successful.

It became clear very quickly that this is a place where kids feel comfortable engaging in different activities, and this is supported by the school and their teachers. We have students who are athletes and actors, student council representatives and cheerleaders, community service volunteers and club leaders all at the same time. These are amazing, multidimensional kids. We have students who are pilots, others who are programmers and others who spent their summers engaged in incredible service opportunities abroad, for example.

Your younger son, Cooper, is a new ninth grader at TVS. What do you hope he will gain from his experience here?

I want him to take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities and the world-class teaching that exists at TVS. I want him to be able to play lacrosse, join debate, participate in a play and travel abroad with Global Initiatives, and travel domestically with the Trojan Outdoor Experience Program. The bar is high, but this is the right place for all of that to happen.

From those experiences he will gain a full picture of the world and himself and be so much better prepared for life beyond TVS in four years.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by our students. They are incredible young people and give me optimism for a better world than we have left them. Their enthusiasm, energy, intellect and optimism are contagious, and I am better for it.

Describe your leadership style.

I work diligently to find and hire the best and smartest possible people I can find and then work collaboratively with them toward our shared goal of providing the best possible school environment for our families. It’s all about the people and giving them the latitude to be creative and inspirational in the best interests of our students.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Best piece of advice was from my father – “Be sure you put a lot of energy into hiring and admissions because it’s the people that make for a great school.”

What advice do you give teachers and aspiring educators?

Don’t be afraid to establish a relationship with your students before diving right into the curriculum. We all learn best in an environment where we feel safe to take risks and comfortable in offering differing viewpoints, and so take the necessary time to create this culture within your classroom.

Your advice to students?

Participate! Take an active role in your own education and participate in as much as you can, whether in the arts, on the athletic field, student government, clubs or community service, outdoor education or travel, and embrace all of the incredible opportunities that our school has to offer.

What do you do for fun?

I most enjoy spending time with my family but I am also pretty active, and my favorite activity is playing ice hockey, having played since I was little. I love coaching lacrosse as well. I also play guitar and read a great deal.