Ryan S. Dahlem Begins Tenure as 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 shared optimistic remarks about the future of Rivers.

    Celebratory Welcome for Ryan S. Dahlem Ushers in Friday Night Lights

    A celebration for Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem and his family brought excitement and fanfare to Rivers on Friday evening. More than 300 members of the Rivers community gathered in Kraft Dining Hall to officially welcome the school’s ninth head, Ryan S. Dahlem, and his family to Rivers, preceding the season’s inaugural Friday Night Lights game.
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  • Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem shared his vision for Rivers' future at Monday's all-school meeting.

    Looking Back and Forward: A Student-Centered Vision for the Future of Rivers

    Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem shared a bright and exciting vision—for students and members of the Rivers professional community alike—highlighting the future of The Rivers School at Monday’s all-school assembly. Dahlem opened with an extended moment of silence in honor of the victims of 9/11 and their families on the 22nd anniversary of the tragic event. He went on to  thank the community for an “amazing first week of school...the energy, the excitement, the engagement were so inspiring for me to see.”
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  • Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem addressed the school community on Tuesday.

    First Day: Dahlem’s Tenure Gets Under Way on Opening Day

    “Happy New Year!” The calendar may still read 2023, but that was the greeting offered by Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem at an all-school assembly on the first day of school this past Tuesday, underscoring the excitement of launching into both a new academic year and Dahlem’s tenure as head.
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