Getting to Know Mrs. Carol Grant-Watt
Q&A with Mrs. Carol Grant-Watt before starting her journey as STS' new Head of School.
What achievements are you most proud of in your career thus far?
In my career, I am most proud of the students I have taught and worked with. I am also so proud of the people who I have worked with throughout the years to make our schools the best places for children possible.
What do you love most about education?
I love working with children and colleagues who are passionate about education. In a school, every day is new and no day is ever the same. There is nothing more energizing, inspiring and rewarding than seeing young people become young adults. I cannot imagine working in an environment without the energy of young people. I am excited about working with elementary students again and seeing the optimism, love of learning, and belief in dreams that they inherently have.
What kind of leader are you?
I am a compassionate leader who believes in team collaboration. I do my best to emulate and live by my own high expectations. I strive to be a high integrity individual who puts people first, who has the courage to make the right and tough decisions, and who believes that leadership is about service to others.
What inspires you or drives you?
Making a positive difference in the interactions I have. I believe I am a very blessed person and have a desire to ensure I honour all that I have been given by giving back to others. I am inspired by courageous people who take on challenges and change the world. The STS motto: Nil Nisi Optimum – nothing but your best is something I truly believe in.
Why did you want to take on the leadership of STS?
As someone who grew up in the Calgary area, I was very aware of STS, and its great reputation and innovative programs. Dr. Jones was a Canadian Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) mentor for me when I assumed my first headship and he is someone I admire and respect immensely. Our conversations over the last nine years have only deepened my respect for the school. I was excited to have the opportunity to champion the distinctive ethos of the school and its focus on providing a complete well-rounded education for its students. I have had the honour of visiting the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School campus many times and am always in awe of the grounds and facilities. However, I am most impacted by the poise, confidence, and maturity of the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir students I meet and interact with. There is something truly special about the school and it is evident in the students I meet, as well as in the staff and faculty. The opportunity to become involved in this community was simply impossible to resist.
In your first year at the helm of STS what do you hope to achieve/focus on?
What I believe to be true of STS speaks to my core belief that the best schools provide for students by having a strong focus on the mind, challenged through rigorous and relevant academic programming; the heart, through a vibrant fine and performing arts program, creativity, a caring culture, and servant leadership; the body, through high level athletics, sport and recreation; and the soul, through a commitment to values and character. It is in this environment where students thrive, and where I thrive as a school leader and educator. What I hope to focus on in my first year is getting to know people. I want to earn the respect and trust of the students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. I will be doing my very best to understand where I may be able to add value, and I hope to meet as many people as I can.
STS has been through some remarkable progressions in recent years (facility expansion, establishment of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching, expanded scholarship and bursary program, etc.). How do you hope to build on these (or complement these) to continue to position us well for the future?
The Centre for Excellence in Teaching is truly an exciting vision and I hope to see this program grow and flourish. I am a collaborative leader who believes it is essential to develop people and build capacity in others. Ensuring a strong succession plan for each role in the school is critical for the strength and sustainability of the school. It is vitally important in the attraction and retention of outstanding teachers and staff. This is an area of great strength for me as I reflect on the individuals I have worked with who are now successfully leading in their own schools and organizations.
I will also, of course, remain focused on maintaining the strength and permanence of the organization ensuring we are relevant, progressive, and renewing. I will be working with our Board of Governors, my team, and our community on developing the next strategic plan that will take STS forward.
Being a Head of School isn’t always serious… here are some questions to help our community get to know you better:
What brings you joy in life?
The short answer is simplicity and family time. I am a recent grandmother and spending time with my grandson brings me a new level of joy that I find remarkable. I love spending time in the outdoors kayaking with my husband and two dogs. I find joy spending time with friends. I love my work and find great joy in the company of students, their families, and my colleagues.
Who is your greatest mentor?
I have been the beneficiary of the mentorship of so many great people. I am blessed to have both of my parents still living nearby and I consider them to be my greatest mentors.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I mostly always wanted to be a teacher. It is in my blood and it has been such an honour that I have been able to spend my career in this remarkable profession. For a short time, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but that did not last long.
What is your favourite food?
This is a tough question. If I must give one answer I will say just about any kind of soup. There is something about soup that is good for the soul. I would also say that my favourite food is that which is prepared or served in the company of friends. I love an evening with a small group enjoying simple food paired with good conversation.
What is your favourite movie and why?
The Dead Poets Society is a favourite. Probably because it is a teacher movie and captures the complexity of the work we do. You cannot help but relate to the young men in the story, and it makes you laugh and cry.
What is your favourite flavor of ice cream?
What is your favourite book and why?
Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean. The book tells the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch forest fire in Montana. James Keelaghan, a Calgary singer/songwriter wrote a song called Cold Missouri Waters about the story. The story of the crew, who all perished, has become a part of my leadership work.
What is your favourite place you’ve travelled to and why?
I love the islands in the Caribbean. The people are friendly, the pace of life is wonderful, food is great, and the water amazing. There is nothing better than a swim in the sea and long hikes on beautiful beaches.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to be outdoors kayaking, hiking, and camping. I also enjoy reading and binge watching historical documentaries.
What do you look forward to most being the STS Head of School?
I love new adventures! I am most excited about meeting the students and experiencing all that STS has to offer. To answer your question, I will simply say – everything. I am truly honoured to have this opportunity and cannot wait to explore all that it has to offer.