In our educational leadership series, we’re introducing you to individuals who shape the landscape and school culture at our partner institutions. This week, meet Sue Sadler, Head of School at The Bryn Mawr School.
Meet the Head of School: Sue Sadler, The Bryn Mawr School
You’ve been ‘on the job now’ with a school full of students for a few months. What has surprised you most since taking on the role of Head of School at Bryn Mawr?
I am really surprised at how quickly I have come to love and feel at home at the school! It’s such a warm and welcoming place, and everyone has helped me get up to speed. Although I am still learning a lot each day, I really feel right at home.
I’m also heartened to see how well Bryn Mawr lives its mission. Every person here is committed to giving girls the best possible preparation and education for a meaningful life. That’s a wonderful thing to discover!
Describe your leadership style. How does that impact educators who work for you at Bryn Mawr? How about students?
I really believe in the mission and communicate that commitment and confidence every day in words and actions. It’s personal to me, which is why I want to know every individual in the organization, and I am working hard at that. It’s important that we build a trusting community that feels invested in the mission and outcomes of the school. I try to tap into the strengths of my team and spend time listening to what they think. Then we make a plan and move forward. Sometimes that’s by consensus, and other times, I have to do what I think is right for the mission. Everyone knows that at the heart of every decision is the question, “What is right for our students?”
Before Bryn Mawr, you were Associate Head of School and Upper School Director at Hathaway Brown in Ohio. What piqued your interest about the position at Bryn Mawr and encouraged you to apply?
I was at a point in my career where school leadership was the next logical step, and I knew I wanted to find a real educational home. I have been blessed with an amazing experience in girls’ education through my work at Hathaway Brown, so the bar was high! I have always known about Bryn Mawr. It has a national reputation for excellence in girls’ education and is recognized as a leader in the girls’ school world, so when I saw this opportunity, I was very intrigued. What sold me, however, was the tour I took with students during my interview. The girls’ sincerity, eagerness, and genuine love for this place is what convinced me! It was truly one of the best moments of my life when the school offered me the job!
Baltimore is probably a little bit different than Shaker Heights! Have you found a few favorite local places in your new home?
Actually, I have found more similarities than differences between greater Cleveland and Baltimore. They are both very liveable cities with wonderful “major league” assets, but because they are on a smaller scale, everything is pretty accessible. I love Baltimore’s restaurant scene, the Cone Collection at the BMA, the harbor, and that we are so close to so many historic places. I hate to break it to Cleveland, though; Baltimore is sunnier! At least it has been this fall!
Bryn Mawr is an K-12 all girls school with a co-ed preschool. In your opinion, why is single sex education a great option for girls?
Something powerful happens in a community of strong, smart, ambitious girls who are encouraged to reach for their dreams. They develop a true sisterhood and support each other along the way through challenges and triumphs. Whether our students aspire to be engineers, politicians, or astronauts, they learn at the earliest levels that nothing can stand in their way. Girls’ schools send that message to students every single day.
Plus, our faculty understand girls and how they learn best. They know how to challenge, engage, and inspire them to achieve at their highest potential. Plenty of research shows that graduates of all girls schools are more academically engaged, have higher academic self confidence, and have more leadership opportunities (among other things). Beyond the research, we see every day that girls are free to voice their opinions, take risks, and let their true selves shine, without comparing themselves to male counterparts.
How are you getting to know faculty members and students at the school?
This has been one of the best parts of my time here so far. I’m spending a day with each grade – sitting in on classes and getting to know the girls. I’ve conjugated Latin verbs with eighth graders to the tune of Jingle Bells, practiced Spanish colors with Kindergarteners, “fished” for ordinal numbers with our pre-first graders and seen sixth grade “mineral” presentations in science classes! These visits give me such a good understanding of what the girls are learning at every stage of the game.
Beyond classroom visits, meetings and informal gatherings, I’m also meeting one-on-one with every faculty and staff member who works on our campus just to get to know them a little better. That has really helped me create a better “map” of how the school works.
What is one thing you want prospective parents to know about Bryn Mawr?
Bryn Mawr is a joyful place to learn with an outstanding curriculum and teachers who love their students. We believe in the amazing power of girls and put the wellbeing of our students at the center of everything we do. We keep the bar high and do what it takes to help our girls achieve their goals….and have a lot of fun along together along the way.
A Bryn Mawr education prepares girls with the knowledge, confidence, and community they need to thrive in a world of complex challenges and nearly limitless opportunities.
When you look back on your first year at the school, what’s one thing you hope to have accomplished?
I hope we can say we loved learning together, and that we met challenges together. I believe in the power of community, and the strength of the school stems from the amazing commitment of the individuals involved.
If Pandora or Spotify are on in your office, what’s playing?
I have very eclectic taste in music so on any given day, it can range from Mozart to Motown to Mumford. And of course, I love our house band, Edith Jamilton, named in honor of Bryn Mawr’s first headmistress, Edith Hamilton :).
This article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about Bryn Mawr School, visit their profile in our independent school directory. Photos by Laura Black.