Christina Kaighan-Broderick ’85
Head of School / Marymount of Santa Barbara
In 1985, alumna Chris Kaighan-Broderick ’85 was voted by her classmates as ‘most likely to return to BMHS as a teacher’. Turns out, her classmates were spot on. She returned to campus in 1998 and taught for three years before taking another job. Today, she brings close to 30 years of educational experience to her role as the Head of School at Marymount of Santa Barbara, an independent school for children age 4 through Grade 8. As the head of the school, she is, primarily, the CEO and the Chief Advancement Officer charged with fundraising and running the finances. “It’s like being the producer or director of a musical,” she says. “Just add some zeros to the budget.” It is an appropriate analogy. In addition to her many years as a school administrator, she also has an extensive background in music and musical theater, and her wealth of experience, from high school to the present, has made her the leader she is today.
In your opinion, what is the most important quality a leader must have? How would you describe your leadership style?
“I have always said that self-reflection leads to self-correction. If we can self-correct, look at what works and what doesn’t work, and be honest with ourselves, then we can be great leaders. I know this sounds clichè, but listening and having empathy is important. The best thing a leader can do is be a good listener. That includes listening to yourself during self-reflection. Most recently, I think our world and community have been traumatized by both the effects of the global pandemic and the civil unrest, and it has called all leaders to really listen. Empathy starts with listening with no planned response. Hearing others’ fears and anxieties, as well as their joys and aspirations, even when it may differ from our own experiences and understanding, is vital to thoughtful leadership. Right now, great leadership is required, but thoughtful leadership is vital to all of the communities we are a part of.”
How do you try to inspire others and what qualities are important for you to instill in your students?
“It goes back to self-reflection. I try to teach my students that they need to own what they do. Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Concentrate on what it is you are best at. Be who you are. Own that. We often use the hashtag #happykidslearn. If I can give students a safe platform to be comfortable with who they are, then they will be happy and they will learn and thrive. I realized that my greatest impact can be on reaching students at a younger age, to teach children to be emotionally and mentally stable and have their mental health be at a level that it needs to be for them to be successful. If they can be self-reflective and happy with who they are, then they will be able to carry that on to high school and pass that thinking on to others.”
How were BMHS educators like Karen Adamik, Mary Fournier, and Tammy Martinez an inspiration to you? What lessons did you learn from them, and others, that you use today at Marymount?
“They allowed me, and others, to take ownership in everything. In high school, [the students] planned everything — graduation, prom, Baccalaureate. For Baccalaureate Mass, I organized about 50 classmates to sing ‘We Are The World’ with each person taking a different part of the song. I got athletes, academics, surfers, and thrashers to sing. It was the most random group of people, but we got together and practiced together. If you can get people excited about something, to feel a part of something, that is leadership.”
“What I remember about being a student leader at BMHS was that our human hearts come first. I was not the perfect student, nor was I always happy or comfortable, but I always felt the teachers wanted the best for me even when I was getting in my own way. I struggled with some challenging classes and even harder family dynamics as a teenager, and when it got really hard I always had someone to talk to, who raised my spirits, inspired me, and reminded me that I was loved. I literally “found my voice” at Bishop and although I was barely scratching the surface of becoming the person I am today, I was always encouraged to keep going. From literally knowing no one as a freshman, having to be tutored in Geometry as a sophomore, to serving as a Senior Class Senator and singing the National Anthem at my Graduation in 1985, I look back at my time at Bishop with gratitude, humor and a sense of duty to pay it forward. Lastly, hopefully with a little bit of humor, I add this; I thought being voted ‘most likely to return as a teacher’ in 1985 was horrifying. I was sure I was destined to be something better than ‘just a teacher’. But as I enter what will be my 30th year in education, I am so grateful my fellow BMHS classmates came to know me, maybe better than I knew myself. I am extraordinarily honored today for the career and life I was inspired to become a part of. My students and fellow faculty inspire me every day to keep learning, keep growing, keep leading. I am never bored, and always have something to work on or people to work on behalf of. What a joy it is.”