Kerry Manders believes every young person can help to change the world. And, as Principal of St Stephen’s Catholic College in Mareeba, she is passionate about helping each and every one of her students achieve their goals and dreams. Ms Manders opens up about her vision for St Stephen’s, her strong sense of justice and love for live theatre in the latest Principal Profile for 2021.
What do you hope to achieve in your role as principal?
My vision is to continue to grow our inclusive community to ensure learning success for every student. This would mean each student has access to opportunities at school to enable them to graduate with positive future options ready to be a positive influence in the world. I have absolute faith that if every student is successful then we can change the world.
What makes you most proud to be the leader of your school community?
I am most proud of the compassionate support and optimistic hope-filled hospitality that our dedicated staff, students and parents show to each other particularly during difficult times. I am also proud of the innovative response of our staff to provide exciting learning opportunities for our students. Every day I feel blessed and humbled by the sense of community, compassion and service that is imbued in our college.
What are some of the best things about living and working in Far North Queensland?
Definitely the beauty! I really do live in God’s own country. In a short, scenic drive, I can be in desert savannah, glorious sunsets, misty rolling green hills, bushland rockpools, tropical waterfalls and the world’s greatest treasure – the Great Barrier Reef! Mareeba, in particular is wonderful with 300 sunny days a year, no humidity and there is always a cool breeze! And if that is not enough, I work in an amazing community with first-class facilities and a team of dedicated professionals on a search for innovation to create opportunities to ensure every child is successful. Seriously, what more could you ask for? And I haven’t even mentioned the gourmet food trail across the Tablelands…
What were you like as a child?
As a child I was curious with a strong sense of justice. I also enjoyed being part of a big boisterous family. I have very fond memories of growing up in a house filled with people, music and laughter. I still have a strong sense of justice, love being with people and watching live theatre (though COVID has dampened this recently).
If you could give any advice to your childhood self, what would you say?
Set big audacious goals then make a plan, take risks, be courageous and relentless!
I have absolute faith that if every student is successful then we can change the world.
How did your education shape you to be the person you are today?
My parents valued Catholic education to academically challenge and personally shape children with a strong sense of justice, compassion and integrity. I was fortunate to be educated by the Sisters of Mercy, their charism certainly touched my heart. The model of women who were called to action to be merciful, compassionate and at the same time relentless in improving the lives of others. This gave me real passion to work towards a more merciful world.
What motto, affirmation or prayer do you live by?
I have two quotes that inspire me to embrace all that life brings. Firstly, John 10:10 – “I have come so that you may have life and have it abundantly” and a quote from a little Aussie classic “A life lived in fear is a life half lived”.
What is the highlight of your career so far as Principal?
The highlight of my career has been the creativity of my staff to find ways to support so many different types of learning for students and the way that students have embraced these opportunities.
Learn more about St Stephen’s Catholic College, Mareeba here.