Profile of Struan Robertson, Head of School, The York School
Struan Robertson, Head of School (since 2019), BEd, BA
Struan Roberton joined The York School in late 2017 as the Junior School principal and deputy head of academics. He became head of school in 2019. While Robertson is relatively new to the role, this is not his first experience as head of school. Prior to arriving at the York School, Robertson was principal at International School Bangkok (ISB), in Bangkok, Thailand, and he later served as head of school at Lakefield College School, in Ontario. Throughout his career, Robertson has gained over 20 years of experience in the independent and international school systems.
Robertson’s experience abroad has impacted his philosophy of education, something he says allows him to bring a “global outlook to the school.” The York School’s motto is “experience teaches.” Nowhere in the school is that motto more evident than in the Grade 9 ICE (Integrated Canadian Experience) Program, where students spend every second day in and about Toronto, gaining hands-on experiences all over the city. “From Toronto Island to community housing projects to field trips, but really they get very deeply involved in the city and that urban experience.”
Robertson lives an active lifestyle. Staff joke that he never sits down. As evidenced by his standing desk, they are accurate. “We learn and think and do when our bodies and minds are active.” Robertson coaches hockey in his spare time and enjoys being active. “Growing up with my siblings, we were always so active. Pushing boundaries, testing things. It was like mom and dad were running a summer camp STEM lab. And through that I became a camp counsellor and, over time, learned that my passion was to teach and encourage those around me.”
A career in education seemed to fit Robertson’s desire to stay active, in body and mind. “Going into education was an extension of summer camp for me.” He enjoyed having the opportunity to influence the lives of young people in a positive way. Robertson earned a master’s degree from the State University of New York, a bachelor of education from the University of Windsor, and a bachelor of arts degree from Dalhousie University.
One of the things Robertson says he enjoys most about his career is that it provides the opportunity to “make people feel really good about what they do, and build that culture of feeling appreciated, challenged.” Robertson lives the values of activity, resiliency, diversity, and empathy, and he tries to impart these values on students and staff through his leadership.
Building strong relationships with students and staff are a priority for Robertson in his role as head of school. Robertson can be found every morning standing at the front door of either the Junior or Senior School. “It starts with being visible and establishing those relationships with the students and their parents so you build that trust.”
Robertson also encourages teaching staff to teach through relationships. The smaller class sizes allow for teachers to get to know students very well on a personal level, and Robertson encourages staff to get to know parents as well. “We know students’ academic success increases when parents are involved in their education.”