Ryan S. Dahlem, Ninth Head of School

Ryan S. Dahlem is the ninth head of school at Rivers. He arrived on July 1, 2023, having previously served as assistant head of school at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, a PK–12 school of 1,240 students in San Juan Capistrano, CA. There, he created a unique student-centered Innovation Strategy rooted in design thinking that has been recognized nationally in the world of independent schools. At Rivers, Ryan continues that approach of student-centered learning, built on a foundation of strong relationships and the school’s philosophy of Excellence with Humanity.

"Above all, I value deeply personal relationships between educators and students. They are at the heart of a transformational education."
Ryan graduated from Stanford University with an AB in psychology and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum. He is a trained musician and avid mountaineer who has climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Ryan and his wife, Anne, have three children: Peter, Ella, and Colin.

Ryan was initially drawn to The Rivers School for its mission, core values, and tradition of Excellence with Humanity, which, he said, resonates deeply with his own educational philosophy. Building on the school’s momentum, he is delighted to lead Rivers into its next chapter.


Ryan S. Dahlem, our ninth head of school, spent several days on the Rivers campus before his official arrival. He visited classrooms, met with students and faculty members, and began the process of becoming a member of the Rivers community. We caught up with him on one of his early visits, and in this video, he shares his first impressions of the school and his excitement about his new role.

Head of School News

List of 3 news stories.

  • Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem touched on numerous topics at Monday's assembly. Here, he shares photos from his days spent shadowing students.

    HOS Ryan S. Dahlem Inspires Students to Finish Strong

    With campus in full bloom, The Rivers School held one of the last all-school meetings of the 2023-2024 academic year on Monday, April 29. Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem challenged and inspired students to finish the year strong by asking: What will you make of May?
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  • Associate Head of School for Development and External Relations Krissie Kelleher P'22, '25; Head of Upper School Melissa Anderson P'25, '25; Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem; Head of Middle School John Bower; and Board President Alan D. Rose, Jr. '87 spoke at last week's State of the School event.

    An Evening of Community and Connection: Charting the Path Forward at Rivers

    The Rivers School held an evening event for parents and caregivers, “Community and Connection: A State of the School Update,” on Wednesday, February 7, providing an overview through a range of lenses: strategy, governance, finance, development, academics, and more. The speakers painted a picture of an institution on an upward trajectory, building on the momentum of Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem’s first six months at the helm.
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  • Head of School Ryan Dahlem, left, scaled Antarctica's highest peak with his father, John.

    Cold Comfort: A Head of School’s Lessons from an Antarctic Adventure

    Climbing Antarctica’s highest peak—where average temperatures hover around -20F and base camp is reached by taking two unusual flights from Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost point—might not be everyone’s idea of a good time. But for Head of School Ryan Dahlem, who scaled the Vinson Massif years ago with a team that included his father, John, the challenges of the climb were part of what made it a life-changing experience for him.
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