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Grace Cotter Regan

St. Mary’s High School moves graciously into the 21st century while holding on to its founding principles. By Susan Doucet // photograph by Susan Doucet

Grace Cotter Regan’s enthusiasm is evident in her voice when talking about St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. It’s more than her job-it’s her vocation. Serving as Head of School since July 2012, Regan arrived at St. Mary’s eager to maintain its high academic standards, while establishing new programs to further the school’s growth. Perhaps the most significant improvements St. Mary’s has seen since her arrival is the new Digital Citizenship Initiative, which requires all students to own iPads for educational purposes.

Can you describe how the Digital Citizenship program came to be? It was a collaborative decision. We needed to move forward. Students need to be equipped with a diverse skill set. The iPad is really just a tool; it’s a different way to approach 21st-century learning. We could have just a straight lecture, but the iPad’s applications can be used for homework and writing assignments. With the Digital Citizenship program comes a whole new set of rules for educational engagement. It looks at acceptable uses of technology and the skills necessary for success in college. It’s an opportunity to really incorporate all the skills that we see young people using every day.

Was cost a consideration when establishing this initiative? From a value perspective, it made sense to us. It alleviates the students’ book bills. They purchase an iPad and the software applications rather than textbooks, each of which can cost up to 50 dollars. So in one year, they kind of recoup the initial cost. Next year, it’ll just be a matter of buying downloads. So from a cost perspective, it’s a real value for us.

What is the biggest advantage of the program? I think 21st-century learning is very integrated. For me, as an educator, it’s fascinating. There are tools out there that can really enhance the learning experience.  There are a lot of alternative methods for teaching now. They change the way teachers teach, but they also change the way students learn. In many ways, it makes students become more invested in their learning process.

Do you think this makes St. Mary’s more competitive when compared to schools without digital programs? I think so, though there are a lot of schools that have made the jump. We made a clear decision to create a digital initiative while maintaining the core curriculum. We’re committed to providing the best education and high-quality educators. Student performance is very important to us and will be a major priority for us going forward.

Have you enjoyed your work at St. Mary’s during the past year? I love being here. The kids inspire me. What gets me up in the morning is knowing that a St. Mary’s education is going to change someone’s life. I feel blessed daily. I don’t think everybody has the luxury of loving their job. That’s what you have to do-find what you love, find your inspiration.