Profile of Karen Jurjevich, Principal, Branksome Hall
Karen Jurjevich, Principal (since 1998)
Principal Karen Jurjevich arrived at Branksome Hall in 1998, bringing with her a wealth of experience working in independent schools as well as in the public education system. Jurjevich taught at Havergal College, followed by the North York Board of Education (now part of the Toronto District School Board). She was Vice Principal at Lawrence Heights Middle School, Victoria Park Collegiate Institute and AY Jackson Secondary School.
Together with deputy principal Karrie Weinstock, Jurjevich has led Branksome Hall for over 23 years, making one of the longest and arguably most productive administrative terms in Canadian education. “We have a really great partnership,” says Weinstock. “We have a lot of space around each other, and we’re very connected in our approach to things.” Each have an open door policy and close relationships with students.
Jurjevich was hired at Branksome Hall to develop a student-centred approach for the school. “They were really looking for someone, I think, who would be connected to the girls, and also someone who has a deep understanding of programming and curriculum.”
“I’m an educator through and through,” says Jurjevich. “Education is in my blood and I really have always been fueled by that.” The idea of leading an all-girls school spoke to Jurjevich on a deep personal level. “I really believe in the empowerment of women.” The ability of women to contribute to society in ways we see today, she argues can be in part attributed to single sex education and the ability of all-girls schools to provide opportunities for young women to reach their potential and make a lasting difference in the world. “The idea to come to a school where your competency is not questioned, your curiosity is not questioned, your desire to make a difference is not questioned; it’s actually what’s welcomed. In an all girls’ school, that can really take off and flourish.”
Creating an environment where girls can see themselves reflected in the values of the school is important to Jurjevich. Branksome Hall values making a difference, community, creativity and inclusiveness. “We have an opportunity in an all girls to bring out the real strengths and the real potential of each individual girl.”
Jurjevich says working in education provides her with an opportunity to continue learning herself. “Every day I have the opportunity to go to work with some of the most curious, innovative thoughtful individuals and those are our students”. Getting to be involved in creating an innovative and leading edge environment that will prepare young girls for a future that no one really understands yet provides Jurjevich with a mentally stimulating career.
“This is a school that is never sitting still. This is a school that has embraced innovation, embraced the future, always looking to address what the best product is for our students.”
Branksome Hall feature a world renowned, rigorous International Baccalaureate academic program. “The IB has led the way in terms of impacting our culture (and) helping us understand that those who think differently can also be right.” The program emphasizes service and responsibility to be good global citizens. Branksome Hall also has a sister school in Asia. Grade 9 students in each school have an opportunity to travel to the other school and study, immersing themselves in another culture, providing an experience unique to Canadian girls’ schools. “We attract students who really want to learn, who are truly curious, who see that by engaging in an international curriculum, my point of view will be broadened. My understanding of this global world will be enhanced.”
While Jurjevich spends her days working with many collaborators including the board of governors, educators, parents and students, every interaction she says is driven towards enhancing the experience of her Branksome students. “Everything I do in the end takes me back to that classroom experience that the girls are having.”