EF Academy Blog
Stories from our international boarding schools
MenuVisit EF Academy

Meet our Head of School at EF Academy Pasadena

Meet our Head of School at EF Academy Pasadena

Get to know Pasadena’s new Head of School, Dr. Sally Mingarelli, by reading her answers to these interview questions!

Dr. Mingarelli’s diversity of experience has cultivated her strong sense of how to build programs around student-centered, innovative teaching and her work as she has transitioned schools over the years has always been to bring innovation to academic programs. In addition to her work in schools, She also pursued a four-year career as a chef, studying at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, and then working as the executive sous chef at a restaurant named Ouest on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Dr. Mingarelli plans to use her academic and leadership background to help shape EF Academy’s academic program around the Learner profile, ensuring that all EF Academy students emerge as Learners, Leaders, Scholars, and Global Citizens.

Briefly tell us about yourself and your background

I have 16.5 years of experience working in four US independent schools in three states. I am so grateful to have gathered insights from so many environments about innovations in curriculum and student care. I began my career in a school for students with learning differences, which has shaped my whole philosophy of how to design schools to truly teach students and not just subject areas. I have also worked in three rigorous college preparatory schools, and over the last 12 years I have watched the landscape of college admissions evolve to demand more of high school programs. Colleges seek applicants with “21st century skills” in communication, collaboration, and critical thinking that they can apply to creatively solve real world problems in a global context. In addition, the ever-changing future of the workplace requires a new emphasis on building grit, resilience, and an entrepreneurial mindset in young people. It has been a dynamic time in high school education, as academic programs have shifted to educate students with the proper combination of knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to succeed in college and beyond.

I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Colorado College, a master’s in physical chemistry with an emphasis on chemistry education from UC Berkeley, and an educational doctorate from University of Southern California in organizational change and leadership. My doctoral research focused on competency-based learning as a tool for achieving equitable learning outcomes with diverse students. I am eager to apply my expertise in learning design as we imagine a rigorous and innovative curriculum for the EF Academy Pasadena campus.

What inspires you about working in education?

I am inspired by students. My whole career in education has been spent working with students at the high school level, and I love the energy, questions, and individuality that teenagers bring to a school community! Working with high school students is inspiring work, because in them you can see hope for the future. As a school leader, my job is to ensure the academic and residential/student life programs provide every opportunity for students to know themselves, discover their strengths, and pursue their interests and passions with rigor, challenge, and joy!

What is your vision for EF Academy Pasadena?

My vision for EF Academy Pasadena is that the students, families, faculty, and staff share an understanding of the learner profile and enthusiasm for the significant role that the learner, leader, scholar, and global citizen competencies will play in the academic program. EF Academy Pasadena will not only prepare students with subject area knowledge in the key disciplines, fulfilling the US high school diploma requirements and offering challenge through AP course offerings. EF Academy Pasadena will offer a unique 4-year competency-based global leadership program that offers students varying pathways towards engaging with experiential and project-based learning. While we will offer pre-determined strands for the program, with emphasis on STEAM, linguistics and culture, or business; I see it as my job to ensure that there are as many pathways to success at EF Academy Pasadena as there are students in the school.

What kind of a campus environment / community do you want to create at EF Academy Pasadena?

The first two words that come to mind are family and structure.

Family – I want students to feel like they have settled into a home away from home, with peers and adults who feel like supportive family. I want students to feel safe, happy, and like they belong. I want students to know they have a voice as pioneers of the EF Academy Pasadena campus, and I want the sense of new beginnings to be palpable and inspiring.

Structure – I want students and adults to feel like expectations across all areas of school life are clear, with boundaries that both provide safety and direction but that also leave room for creativity and invention. I want students and families to have high confidence in the academic and residential/student life programs and to see that we have all the systems and structures in place to help our students find their place at the school and thrive!

What are you most excited about being the first Head of School at EF Academy Pasadena?

It is an unbelievable opportunity to build a school from the ground up, and few educators will ever get that experience. I am so excited to build the team and engage together in the journey of designing and redesigning, executing, and iterating, to make the absolute best version of EF Academy Pasadena! I am a firm believer that excellence is a pursuit with no destination, and that striving to always be better is, in fact, the definition of excellence. I am delighted to hold the responsibility of ensuring that every staff member has the mindset to be excellent – by trying bold things, making mistakes and recoveries, and modeling for students what lifelong learning really looks like.

What advice would you give the next generation of leaders (or rather, global changemakers)?

Well, of course, our EF Academy students are the next generation of global changemakers. I would advise them to learn how to ask questions – good questions, tough questions – with respect to culture and difference. I would advise them to learn how to form opinions by evaluating data and scrutinizing sources. I would encourage them to be bold and creative and to never run away from failure. I would tell them that failures are just data that inform your next decision. I would advise them to educate themselves about the world and to learn how to communicate with diverse people in a variety of media and languages. And because the next generation of global changemakers include EF Academy students, I would advise them to take advantage of every opportunity in high school. I would advise them to commit to defining and utilizing their strengths and embracing and working on their areas for growth to set them on a path for success and delightful challenges throughout their lives!

Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your feelings about joining this community?

I could not be more thrilled to be joining the EF Academy family. It is a privilege to lead the new Pasadena campus. I cannot wait to welcome every student, family, and faculty and staff member to the campus this August and launch this inaugural year!