By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF | Published August 14, 2023
ATLANTA—Longtime educator Jennifer Hughes is the new director of parish preschools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
There are 25 parish preschool programs in the archdiocese, serving children between 12 months and 5 years of age. Hughes will support the directors and teachers of the programs in a variety of ways.
Hughes earned a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education from Kennesaw State University and began her career teaching fourth grade in a Cobb County public school. She and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. for a year, where she taught fifth-grade science before returning to Atlanta.
“I then had the good fortune to join First Presbyterian Preschool, where I found my true love—preschool,” said Hughes.
She served at First Presbyterian for more than 16 years, teaching pre-kindergarten for nine years then joining the administrative team as a curriculum coordinator and technology supervisor. Her key responsibilities included planning and implementing innovative curriculum based on best practices, developing STEM curriculum and conducting workshops for training teachers and support staff.
In 2016, Hughes became the director of Haygood Preschool in the Morningside area of Atlanta, where she was instrumental in acquiring the first SACS/Advanced Ed. (now Cognia) accreditation for the preschool.
For Hughes, the desire to teach first surfaced in childhood.
“I remember the exact day I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I was in third grade, and my teacher was standing up front teaching fractions, and she was so kind and funny and patient with us and it just hit me. I wanted to be like her,” she remembered.
For Hughes, the best compliment she received from a student was that she was both kind and strict.
In her new role, Hughes is looking forward to seeing firsthand the extraordinary work the directors and teachers are doing for children—academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
“Each child is uniquely made by God and he or she becomes aware of God’s wonder and love through meaningful spiritual experiences, religious themes, nature exploration and prayer,” said Hughes. “That’s what make Catholic education remarkable. I am overjoyed to be a part of such a special Catholic community.”
Hughes and her husband have one daughter, Lily, who attends St. Pius X High School. They are a family of animal lovers and have a 90-pound Great Pyrenees mix who sheds all over the house. In her spare time, Hughes loves to cook, garden and complete 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles.
Hughes entered the Catholic Church through the RCIA program at the Cathedral of Christ the King, and says she was fortunate to have her mother-in-law as a sponsor.
“I am still learning about the Catholic faith, and I discover new treasures of the Catholic Church daily. I love the tradition and beauty of our faith—the statues and the symbols, the bells, incense and candles, the liturgy of the word, the prayers, the music, and of course, the Eucharist,” she shared in an email. “I love attending daily Mass at the Chancery and I also enjoy working in the Flower Guild at Christ the King, bringing beauty and joy to the parishioners when they are at Mass.”