Profile of Innes Van Nostrand, Principal, Appleby College
Innes Van Nostrand, Principal (since 2012)
Principal Innes van Nostrand is an engineer by trade, with a degree in geological engineering from Queen’s University, but has spent his whole career in education. He started at the post-secondary level at Queen’s University, and then he moved on to work at independent schools, first at Upper Canada College and since 2012 as the Principal of Appleby College.
Finding purpose in his work is how van Nostrand defines his personal success. “I have lots of friends who have been incredibly successful in a wide range of things and many of them talk about missing a sense of purpose from what they do.” Van Nostrand’s passion for education as a force driving societal change is what motivates him as Principal of Appleby College. “Education is probably the greatest driver of societal well-being that we have.”
Van Nostrand finds his purpose in engaging with the students at Appleby. He starts his workday standing outside greeting students who are being dropped off in the mornings. He’s also known for joining students for lunch and even hosting pizza lunches to talk to students about what they’re liking about school, what they’re not liking about school, and how they can improve the school.
“I’m really energized by interactions with people. When I come to school I can always speak to people who are going to put me in a good mood. They’re happy, they’re motivated. Those interactions make me feel good as I go about my day.”
Van Nostrand enjoys the variety in his day; from interactions with students, faculty, alumni, and donors to spending time at both of Appleby’s campuses in Oakville and in Northern Ontario. This variety is also what he sees as the greatest strength of the Appleby College program.
Appleby College is not the school for students who want to specialize in only one or two areas of study. While students are able to pursue particular passions, Appleby College requires students to pursue a variety of experiences in several areas including academics, athletics, the arts, service, global education, and outdoor education. This dual focus on academics and experiential learning is at the core of an Appleby diploma and is what van Nostrand says is the best way to prepare students for a life of both success and the ability to make a contribution to society and community.
“In my view those people who have lived the values of Appleby combine both of those things. They’re able to be successful in the traditional sense of the word but at the same time they have that deeper sense of purpose. I think any great education or school has got to deliver those two things together.”
The experience provided by Appleby College encourages students to excel in not just one niche, but to pursue excellence in several areas, from academics to athletics, the arts, outdoor education, and global education, ensuring students leave having had a breadth of experience. “Even if you’re a jock you’ve got to do something in the arts area.” Giving students a broad literacy of experiences and requiring them to try new things is a value van Nostrand holds to high standard and sees something that will be especially important to students later in life. “I’m 56—the things I was convinced I loved when I was 12 were not the same things as when I was 18 or 24 or 40.”
Van Nostrand himself enjoys this breadth of experience that Appleby College provides. He enjoys spending time with students during their outdoor education program at the school’s Northern Campus located in Temagami, Northern Ontario. “I might spend three hours hiking or canoeing and that’s a great change from something I might be doing on campus.”
Perhaps the most significant experience that is unique to Appleby is the school’s boarding program. Every Grade 12 student is required to go into boarding, regardless of whether their family is local. Although Van Nostrand lives on campus, his youngest son went through Appleby and had to move 300 metres away from home to live as a boarder in Grade 12.
“These days there’s so much comfort and support by families. That’s a wonderful thing but when you talk to parents and kids often their greatest fear is what’s going to happen when they leave home, when they go off to university. What we’ve created is this half step. That’s such a powerful experience and a very safe experience."