Pilar Cabeza de Vaca

Pilar Cabeza de Vaca

About Pilar

With a career spanning three continents in over forty years, Pilar’s experiences and strengths are varied in scope.  During her last headship at The Madeira School, an all girls’ 9-12 boarding/day school, she was a change agent.  She restructured the academic program, providing a new schedule to support best practice and enhance the existing internship program; she promoted interdisciplinary learning through a focus on science and technology; and she successfully led the largest capital campaign in the school’s history, raising $95 million over her ten-year tenure.

Pilar’s career in administration took off when she was appointed Director General of the largest private school in Ecuador, the American School of Quito, also her alma mater.  She honed her skills as a strong change agent, team builder and financial manager, and she introduced the IB program, getting it approved as an official option by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education.  Her career then led her to Paris, where she was the Head of the American School of Paris for eight years, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve in the European circuit.  Pilar also served as the Executive Director of the European Council of International Schools, a membership organization providing professional development for schools spanning Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

Throughout her career, Pilar has led a multitude of accreditation teams in Latin America, Europe, and US, with schools running from 62 to 5,000 students.  She has been a board member of several non-profits, including NAIS, where she also chaired the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee. She was elected worldwide to serve on the IB Council of Heads, and she chaired regional boards in Europe and Latin America.

Fluent in English, Spanish, and French, and with reading knowledge of Russian, Pilar has a unique insight and views on diversity, as well as a deep appreciation of the importance of inclusion in today’s society.

Professional Experience

  • The Madeira School, McLean, VA, Head of School 2010-2020
  • The European Council of International Schools, Interim Executive Director 2008-2009
  • The American School of Paris, Head of School 2000-2008
  • The American School of Quito, Director General 1993-2000; Director of the International Program 1989-2003; Head of the English Department, English and History teacher 1987-1989
  • Cotopaxi Academy, Quito, English and History teacher 2983-2985
  • Colegio Alberto Einstein, Quito, English and History teacher 1975-1976
  • Free-lance translator:  United Nations, Central Bank of Ecuador and the IMF, International Security Council, Pope John Paul II Press Corps, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada 1976-1985


  • MA, Instructional Leadership, University of Alabama 1993
  • AB cum laude, French, Bryn Mawr College, 1975

Professional Affiliations

  • Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS), member of the Accreditation Committee
  • National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), trustee and Chair of the Equity and Justice Committee
  • SSATB Board, (now The Enrollment Management Association), trustee
  • European Council of International Schools, Board Chair
  • IB Regional Advisory Committee for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, member
  • Middle States Association, member of the Advisory Board
  • Association of American Schools of South America (ASSA), Vice-President/President Elect and Secretary-Treasurer
  • Council of IB Heads of Schools, Geneva, Latin American representative
  • Fulbright Foundation, Ecuador, member of the Board of Directors
  • Fundación Integridad/Carter Foundation, member of the Executive committee
  • Ecuadorian-American Chamber of Commerce, member of the board of directors