Tom McLean, Director, International School of Debrecen

  • 30 Jun 2023 3:22 PM
Tom McLean, Director, International School of Debrecen
Tom became aware of his love for teaching and learning through his experiences in outdoor education as a teenager.

He was introduced to the world of International Education while working as a sailing instructor in Bahrain and has never looked back.

Tom is passionate about global issues and sustainability education and he has served as a steering committee member and workshop facilitator for Compass Education since 2009.

He has facilitated learning for school educators and leaders in the Association of Chinese and Mongolian International Schools (ACAMIS), East Asian Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS), Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA), and European Council of International Schools (ECIS) regions.

Tom has worked in International schools in Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, where he is now the Director of the International School of Debrecen (ISD).

In his two years at ISD, Tom has led the school through International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program (MYP), and Diploma Program authorizations. ISD is the first and only IB continuum school in Hungary. 

1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?

The first time was in 2007 and it was motivated by love. The visit lasted a year but the love is still going strong. The second time was in 2021 and was motivated by the prospect of work at ISD, lifestyle preferences, and the cultural connection for my Scottish-Hungarian family. 

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?

Yes, I have lived in Bahrain, The Gambia, The Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?

I was immediately impressed by the respect that young people showed towards elderly people e.g. offering their seats on public transport.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do? 

See -  the people, the architecture, the spectacular views. Do - walk, eat, drink, dance, sleep.

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?

Gombás bakonyi nokedlivel.

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?

Sparkling water.

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?


8. What do you miss most from home? 

Mountains, sea, sky, friends and family.

9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?

I am so happy doing what I do that I would have to make something up as I never think about it. Prior to becoming a school teacher I worked as a sailor which sounded cool but it is much better as a hobby. Leading a school is endlessly challenging and rewarding.

10. What's a job you would definitely never want?

Anything repetitive. I need variety and new challenges.

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?

I went to Krk in Croatia with family and friends in April. It was beautiful.

12. Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?

I will have 3 days in Portugal playing golf with old friends next week. 

13. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?

The charm of my wife and children.

14. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?

Band - New Order
Film -  Cool Hand Luke
Hobby - Mountain Bike Racing

15. Red wine or white?

It depends on the weather. I am no expert but I liked Hárslevelü when I visited a winery in Tokaj. I am also a fan of the Tempranillo grape and like a glass of Rioja when I get the chance, like next week when I go to play golf in Portugal for a few days :)

16. Book or movie?

Book. I have been reading two books recently. One for professional learning called 'The OIQ Factor: Raising your school's organizational intelligence'. The other was bedtime reading for my two football obsessed sons, 'I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic'. 

17. Morning person or night person?


18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?

I think inequality is at the root of most problems.

19. Buda or Pest side?


20. What would you say is your personal motto? 

I tell my children to focus on three things in life and I guess I should be consistent.  
Be kind, try your best, and be honest.


  • How does this interview make you feel?