Profile of Carrie Hughes-Grant, Head of School, Holy Name of Mary College

“It’s all about giving the girls a voice.”

Carrie Hughes-Grant seemed destined to work in education from a very young age. In Kindergarten, her teacher told her she’d be surprised if she didn’t go into teaching. Not too many years after that, she started a peer tutoring group in primary school. She told anyone who would listen, including her mom, that she wanted to become a teacher. “This was a calling for sure,” she remarks.

Hughes-Grant’s path to becoming the head of school at Holy Name of Mary College (HNMC) was in some ways straightforward and in other ways not. “I started teaching at an all-girls school in Ontario,” she explains. “I worked mostly in theatre, casting, and music. This is something I did at all the schools I worked at and I loved it.”

Hughes-Grant then worked at Mulgrave School in B.C., where continued to teach theatre and coordinate various kinds of performances. This is when her interest in taking on leadership positions started to emerge and where she began her path to becoming the head of HNHMC.  “It was a really amazing experience at Mulgrave School. The leader asked me what my goal was, and I said I wanted to be the head of a school. So he said ‘Let’s get you on the path.’ I then became the coordinator of the IB Programme and the head of the Senior School at Mulgrave.” 

Several years after this, Hughes-Grant was head-hunted for the position of head of school at HNMS. Eventually, of course, she was hired for the position, and she’s taken it on with energy, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness.

Since 2019, Hughes-Grant has been a fixture at HNMS. Her leadership approach is unique in that it’s the opposite of unilateral and it prioritizes turning others into leaders. “I really believe in leading from beside,” she says. “I give my team, including the teachers, the ability to step into their role as leaders. I lift them when they need to be and listen when they need to be heard. I help lead them into their next path. I believe that everybody can be a leader if they want to.”

This approach extends to students as well. “I encourage them to be confident, take risks, and put themselves out there,” says Hughes-Grant. “I also want to make sure they have a soft spot to land. I make sure the people around me feel supported. My door is always open and people know that. I have lots of conversations and discussions with students about opportunities to improve, grow, and learn.”

A big part of HNMS’s mission relates to its Catholic foundations. “We want our students to find their Catholic identity,” says Hughes-Grant. “We implant our core values in them, especially compassion, respect, transformation, solidarity with those in need, and justice.” 

At HNMS, Hughes-Grant explains, the girls are at the centre. The school has a student-focused approach and offers plenty of personalized learning opportunities. Teachers have discussions with girls, they talk to them in the halls, and they have Harkness discussions in class. “It’s all about giving the girls a voice,” says Hughes-Grant. “They need to know they can speak up, put themselves at the forefront of the conversation. We want them to elevate their voice and to be confident walking out of this building. We give them leadership opportunities, like student council, class president, leading clubs and committees, middle school council, and more. Girls need to be heard and they need to be heard in a safe environment. We’re trying to raise modern Catholic women, which might not be the same as traditional Catholic women, and we’re okay with that.”

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