Imagine getting out of the car on the first day of school, and seeing your new Head of School, greeting you with a warm smile, and a large pair of fuzzy bear slippers. All in the name of school spirit.

Meet Chris Hughes, the new Head of School at Garrison Forest.

As cheerful as he is professional, Mr. Hughes shared a little about himself, his vision for Garrison Forest to be the leading force in empowering girls … and a few words of wisdom for parenting tweens.

Meet Chris Hughes, Garrison Forest School - (cool) progeny - Photo by Laura Black

Meet Chris Hughes: Head of Garrison Forest School

Tell us a little about your move to Garrison Forest and your new role as Head of School.

I was Director of College Counseling at a day-boarding school earlier in my career and I was Academic Dean at an all-girls’ boarding school in Virginia. My wife (who is a brilliant artist, by the way) and I moved to St. Paul to raise our family in a more urban landscape. Now that our children, Jordan and Leah, are in college, we decided to come back to the East Coast.

How do you describe your leadership style?

I find being a male head in an all-girls’ school both challenging and familiar. I set high standards for myself, and realize that part of the responsibility that I have is making sure that I am all about empowerment and engagement. I am really cognizant of how I work with the leadership team, the administrators around me, and how I connect with students and faculty members. I make use of opportunities to engage and connect with them, so that I’m using my role to help them be what they want to be, to grow and develop and make those connections.

Meet Chris Hughes, Garrison Forest School - (cool) progeny - Photo by Laura Black

What is one thing that may shock others about you?

It would shock people to know that I can be a lot sillier than I come across. My wife and my kids would agree with that! I’m often called upon to be formal, but there is a very silly side of me that my kids, my wife and my dogs see. My students get small pieces of it. On the first day of school, I wore grizzly bear slippers to carpool (our school mascot is the Garrison Grizzly). It was a great ice breaker!

Do you have any advice for families with girls in their tween years?

By far, the most important piece of advice is to listen. Some girls (boys as well) are going to be open books, and some won’t. One way to learn more about your child, is to listen to conversations with peers in the car rides.

I would recommend to parents to volunteer for pick up duty so that you can hear what’s going on. It’s like an old chauffeur’s window. Listen for what is happening in their lives, and offer helplines when they struggle.

I think one of the hardest questions we can ask as parents is “how do we draw that line between wanting our kids to have enough experience to understand the world, and to be safe when they’re on their own, and sheltering them from life’s storms?” Being able to be in those conversations with your child, is going to help you figure out where those lines are.

Meet Chris Hughes, Garrison Forest School - (cool) progeny - Photo by Laura Black

If you could look back in five years and say “I did that!,” what would you want to be able to say?

I really want to get connected to the community. I want to know them and I want them to know me. That starts locally at first. I try to get into every division of the school, every day, and I hope to get to know the alumnae as well. It’s important to me for Garrison to be the leading force in empowering girls. I want it to be a place where they’re comfortable to be who they are, and a place where they can chart the path to be who they want to be. What’s that going to look like over the next several years? It will be up to our community to decide.

This article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about Garrison Forest School, visit their profile in our independent school directory, schedule a personalized visit at www.gfs.org/visit, or call 410-559-3111. Photography by Laura Black.