KAREN RUELLE, ACS KNIGHTSBRIDGE CLASS OF 1975
"The school offered an interesting array of classes and the teachers were really invested. At ACS, they really cared and were there for us. They were real people with personalities, and they knew who we were, which was new for me, and that was unusual."
The secret life of a spy
Growing up, Karen was used to moving between the United States and London. Her father was a chemical engineer and the family often found themselves relocating, which she said gave her an interesting accent such that nobody could figure out where she was from. The first time Karen moved to London, she attended an English private school, and after moving back to the States, she struggled to adjust to the American curriculum. Karen found herself behind in certain subjects and ahead in others, so she felt as if she didn't fit in. Midway through her High School years, her family moved back to London again. This time Karen started at ACS Knightsbridge and recalls: "ACS was different to anything I ever experienced. It was more intimate; my classmates were all from various places, so we were all accepting of each other. There was no 'new kid' syndrome that you have elsewhere; no one was made to feel like an outsider everybody just accepted you immediately, and it was really awesome. Even to this day, when talking to my classmates or my brother Douglas, we discuss how unusual that was and how much we treasure it".
Karen has had different jobs, including editor, book reviewer, librarian and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher; however, she's most noticeably known for writing and illustrating books for children. Karen started writing at a young age. After reading Carolyn Keene's detective series Nancy Drew, her fascination with spies began. "I always wanted to be a writer I didn't even know it was a thing you could do as a profession, it never occurred to me".
Currently, she is working on a novel for adults. "In this novel, I draw on the experience of growing up in London and having an international upbringing. Not being able to identify with one place, there was no home, home was wherever I was, home was the USA for a while, and then it wasn't. I don't have a place I can go to and say that was where I grew up."
Reminiscing about the ACS Knightsbridge campus, which operated between 1968 – 1980 and taught 8th to 12th grade students in central London. "Knightsbridge was a great big brick building that didn't feel institutional. I mean it felt like a school, as it had the classrooms and all of that, it just felt more cosy. Coming back to London and going to ACS felt like home somehow."
"The school offered an interesting array of classes and the teachers were really invested. At ACS, they really cared and were there for us. They were real people with personalities, and they knew who we were, which was new for me, and that was unusual." After her time at ACS, Karen went to the University of Michigan, to study for a Bachelor of General Studies where she was allowed to invent her own major, titled Languages and Literature. Karen recalls taking lots of different classes learning as many languages as she could, "I figured it would come in handy if I ever became a spy". A reason for that was because she studied Russian at ACS.
At Knightsbridge, Karen went on three different school trips, two to Russia and the other Romania. While living in New York, Karen worked for a non-profit organisation where she was in charge of running a programme which brought in volunteers to run conversation practice with new refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers that were improving their English. Karen received a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) teachers' certificate from the University of Cambridge. When asked if any teachers at ACS helped influence her teaching style, Karen answered "Dr Padro, the Russian teacher, using her very quirky world view and humour in the classroom was somewhat of an inspiration. She wasn't afraid to be herself which was very quirky, interesting and a bit odd which helped draw us in." Karen also created an ESL class in creative writing which she'll continue to teach when things start opening up again.
Karen's latest non-fiction book comes out in autumn 2020 for readers age 8 -12 years and is titled 'Surprising Spies and Unexpected Heroes of World War II'.
Bob Costa, ACS Hillingdon 1998 - 2000
"I had the chance to study with dozens of students from Asia, Europe, Africa and other areas, which provided me with an enriched sense of the world and how others perceive events and values. That was invaluable.”
Lina Ogaily Sami, ACS Hillingdon class of 1991
“It was really a wonderful opportunity to come back here and be able to give back to the school community. I owe a lot to ACS for the confidence it built in me."