Alumni Spotlight! Educational Leadership Graduate – Kate Graham-McHugh

DePaul alum and resident principal Kate Graham-McHugh and her DePaul Faculty Mentor, Chris Pagnucco

Educational Leadership (EL) alum, Kate Graham-McHugh, began her DePaul career as an undergraduate student in the Secondary Education program with a concentration in English. After graduating from DePaul’s undergraduate program in 2005, Kate taught middle school for two years at St. Mary’s in Riverside. She then went on to teach 9th grade English for 8 years at Orr Academy High School in West Garfield Park. Orr offered Kate the opportunity to work primarily with struggling readers, and she met this challenge by developing a classroom environment “where students felt safe and a part of a community where they could take risks as they continued to grow and learn.”

Additionally, Kate took on new leadership roles and responsibilities at Orr. This lead to her decision to go back to school to learn more about how to become an effective school leader.  In her second year of the EL program at DePaul, Kate was accepted into The Chicago Leadership Collaborative, a CPS-run principal preparation program.  While continuing her studies, Kate left Orr, her home of eight years, in order to take on a new role as Resident Principal at Back of the Yards College Prep High School.  In June 2017, she completed the Educational Leadership program, during which she gained additional training, honed leadership skills, and received mentorship from exemplary school leaders.  Kate was hired as a CPS assistant principal for the upcoming school year following her graduation from DePaul.

Reflecting back on her time in the Educational Leadership program, Kate shares what made her experiences at DePaul stand out. “My cohort felt like a family.  We were able to share our experiences in class discussions, our struggles and successes, our hopes and visions of a greater future for the children of Chicago and the schools that we served.” She also references her courses with Professor Bill Hoecker as her “most important learning” as an educator. With Hoecker, Kate was made well aware of how to be a principle-centered leader who works diligently with staff to develop a shared mission, vision, values, and goals for schools.

For Kate, the importance of education can be explained simply with one word: freedom. Having worked closely with CPS students, she has become all too familiar that education can mean the difference between life and death for some students. “Education should empower individuals to access resources that will allow them to improve their lives and provide them the ability to transform the communities in which they live.”

Kate hopes to contribute to restructuring the educational systems in place that are insufficient in helping students obtain their optimal goals in her new role as Assistant Principal for Hernandez Middle School. In regards to the future of education, Kate hopes this statement reaches out to future DePaul leaders: “I know that the work is not easy- the demands are too great, the expectations too high, and the need too severe.  However,  I believe that our students who are most at risk and most vulnerable need fierce and thoughtful leaders to advocate on their behalf to ensure that they can and do learn in our buildings.”


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