My Story

I’m an Accidental Educator

After majoring in biology in college, my path first led me to environmental education, and then to graduate school to study natural resources and education. From there, and for over 20 years in several innovative schools, I’ve held leadership positions including Head of School, Director of Teaching & Learning, and Director of Admission & Communication. I never planned to work in schools, but I was drawn back again and again by the purposeful intention, the steadfast commitment to building safe, creative learning communities, and the whole-hearted “messiness” that characterizes learning in schools.

My mom thought I’d make a great Cruise Director.

When my little brother woke up he often asked, “what are we doing today, Aimee?” I always had a plan! My ideas came from books (let’s learn ballet!) and from play (I dressed Barbie in her leisure suit today, you’re next!). I was assertive, organized and enthusiastic; a self-starter bursting with ideas.

I refused to go to school in first grade.

It was a justice issue. We were left alone in our classroom to eat lunch, with no adults. I couldn’t open my thermos on my own. A boy threw up and nobody was there to help. I’ve always noticed when something isn’t right. I was observant and independent with big feelings and strong opinions. I wasn’t going back to school if it wasn’t safe.

I found my favorite teaching job in the San Francisco Chronicle “Help Wanted” pages.

“Animal Caretaker” at Children’s Day School. I still remember my first visit. I couldn’t believe it – a goat, a pig, chickens, ducks, a huge garden – in the middle of the city! I could see so many possibilities. Could we turn the petting zoo and overgrown garden into an agricultural learning center? What if it were run by the children? Could it become the center of the curriculum? I created a program that was the first-of-its-kind in San Francisco, and remains essential to the school today.

“Dad is being rushed to the hospital with a brain tumor.”

That was the text I received in the spring of 2017. My father survived. But my husband’s mom had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and his dad could no longer live at home. In July of 2018, only two years after beginning my first Headship, we left San Francisco and moved back to New England to be closer to our families.

Now I help new leaders get ahead of the struggle and enjoy the ride.

In 2019, I began to seek out training to become the kind of professional coach I could have benefitted from during my first Headship, or any other leadership position I’d held.

With over 300 hours of training, I’m now a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), a Certified NeuroTransformational Coach (CNTC), and a credentialed coach with the International Coaching Federation (ACC).

I’m an educator and an industry-insider equipped with a wide range of tools and perspectives to help.

I Wish I’d Worked With an Executive Coach

Leading a school is learning on overdrive. 

My entire career has been in independent schools. I have a lot of experience, knowledge and training, including from the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads Institute and the NAIS Institute for New Heads.

But rapidly expanding my skills, and really embodying the leadership responsibilities required when I became a Head of School, was a challenge. 

Leadership is a tremendous act of courage. 

When there’s resistance and push-back, especially when disrupting status quo practices, systems and policies, and standing up to the unrelenting pressure to change nothing, leadership can feel dangerous. From Leadership on the Line, by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky: “To lead is to live dangerously… Leading requires risks that can jeopardize your career and your personal life… But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

I’ll say that again. It doesn’t have to be this way. Leading a school is also filled with moments of inspiration and awe, joy and impact. Sometimes it’s hard not to get lost in fear.

Leading a school can be surprisingly lonely. 

When I was a Head of School, I had experienced mentors and colleagues who cheered me on and took my panicked late-night calls. The school community was friendly and welcoming. But I never had a dedicated coach. 

What might have been different if I had?

aimee giles portrait

Why I Do What I Do

I believe everyone deserves to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. The healthy development of every adult and child – to pursue purpose and meaning in our life and reach our fullest potential – is crucial to our society’s well-being, because the depth and complexity of the challenges we face today demands that each of us is maximally capable and fully alive.

I believe all people are naturally resourceful, creative and whole. I believe everyone is curious, compassionate and powerful, filled with imagination and wonder, and full of potential and ambitious desires. Nobody is broken. Nobody needs to be fixed.

My values:

  • Champion possibility
  • Discover new
  • Make a difference
  • Spark grace and joy
  • Always learning

Learning is My Superpower

Learning about how individuals grow, learn and change energizes me. And the transformation of individuals and organizations is what has captivated my interest since my first teaching job.

This is why I’ve spent over 20 years working in the learning communities we call schools. This is why I’m committed to spending the next chapter of my career helping school leaders “stay in the arena” as they courageously tackle the big challenges that lie ahead with grace, dignity and joy.