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Talking Heads: Genazzano FCJ College’s Karen Jebb

18 Sep 2017

Genazzano FCJ College Principal, Karen Jebb, is passionate about learning. In fact, she’s been devoted to schooling since starting her own education at St Damian’s Primary School in Bundoora in the 1970s.

“I’ve never not wanted to go to school,” Karen says during a break on a busy morning at Genazzano.

“I love getting up and coming to work. There is such a lot of energy and there are a lot of positive things you can achieve in a school community with young people and teachers. It’s a great place to be.”

Karen started as principal of Genazzano in January last year, moving on from Our Lady of Sion where she had also been principal.

“I was at Our Lady of Sion for 11 years and it was a wonderful school. But I think, after 11 years, it was a good time to look for a new opportunity,” she says.

“As a leader of a school, you aim to be a good role model to students, showing them that you are also prepared to take on new challenges. This is particularly important for girls to see women take on other leadership opportunities.”

It was Genazzano’s excellent reputation as a girls’ Catholic school that attracted her to the role.

“I love the fact it has an early learning centre [and students] right through to year 12. That was something that attracted me,” she says.

“Being the only Catholic boarding house for girls in Victoria is also a great point of difference, and this brings much to the wonderful culture of the school.”

Other drawcards included Genazzano’s engaged school community, and the fact it is a girls’ school.

“In an all-girls’ environment, there’s nothing that holds back the girls from pursuing their aspirations,” Karen says. “They’ll take on any subject, in any area where perhaps boys tend to dominate in a co-ed environment.”

At the end of last year, nine Genazzano girls went on to study engineering.

“I think that’s exceptional,” Karen says. “It shows that they’re not being held back by stereotypes.”

Karen, who has a background in science, mathematics and information technology, recognises the importance of these subjects for the future workforce. She also encourages students to follow their own calling in education.

“I support anything the girls want to do,” she says.

Since Karen started at Genazzano, initiatives have included the Genazzano Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences. Launched in April, it involves partnerships between Genazzano, Deakin University, St Vincent’s Foundation and psychologist Andrew Fuller to research the science of learning.

“The institute ensures that, as professional educators, we are informed about best learning practices for our students,” she says.

“The institute will assist our teachers to continue to develop their expertise and they will be able to transfer this understanding into the classroom.”

As well as academic achievement, a focus for Genazzano’s students is faith and service through the school’s heritage as a Faithful Companions of Jesus school. “I strongly believe in what we can achieve in a Catholic school to cultivate the girls’ faith, give them a sense of hope in all they do and teach them to be good citizens, to reach out to others and to be champions of social justice in the world – that is really important.” Karen says.

The school has a companionship program that involves girls working as tutors for refugee students, working in socially disadvantaged areas and fund-raising for FCJ programs in Asia.

“Our girls are amazing with the social justice work that they do – they love it,” Karen says. “They feel there is real purpose in it.”

As an educator of 27 years, Karen says she’s excited about the future with Genazzano, for herself and the students. She hopes to instil in them the passion for education she has had throughout her career. “I want to make sure our students go confidently into the world, ready to embrace life’s challenges, contribute positively to their community and to pursue the career of their choice.”

Article originally posted on The Weekly Review, 10 August 2017