05/10/2017 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

“Lean On” Spotlight: Beth and Karen

CS&A's inaugural Women's Institute will be held on June 16 in Boston.

Beth Beckmann Karen Bradberry Headshots Lean On Logo

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be shining the spotlight on the incredible individuals who will be speakers and panel leaders at our Women’s Institute, the theme of which is “Lean On: Strengthening One Another Through Mentorship and Collective Wisdom.”


Beth BeckmanBeth Beckmann

-Lower School Head, Bancroft School
-Held roles at independent schools in six different states including teacher, Middle School Head, Assistant Head of School, Acting Director of Technology, and Dean of Faculty
-Has been a part of over 25 visiting accreditation teams for schools nationally and internationally

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that compare to where you are now?

I always wanted to be a classroom teacher and thought I would stay in my hometown. I spent four years in the classroom and have spent the next 41 years in administrative roles. I never imagined I would be an administrator and that I would have the opportunity to work in six different schools in six different states!

What is your favorite book?

Currently, my favorite book is Mean Jean 4, written by Tyler, a first grader at Bancroft. Last year, I read The Recess Queen to our first graders. It is about Mean Jean who was not nice until a new girl came to school and became her friend. Tyler, a quiet student who is not a strong reader or writer, decided to write Mean Jean 2. We published it and he distributed it to all the grades. He has now published and distributed Mean Jean 3 and Mean Jean 4. I love how he had the creativity to do his Mean Jean series, how he is still pursuing it, and how the other grades enjoy it. To me, that is an example of the difference we can make for students.

What about the Institute are you most excited about?

I am excited to be with and among women in our field. I am looking forward to the discussions, to being mentored, and to being a mentor to others.

Why would you recommend the Institute to a colleague?

Building or adding to a network of women, whether one is starting a career or had been working for decades, is one of the strongest supports we can have.

Karen Bradberry, Greenhill

Karen Bradberry

-Director of Equity & Inclusion, Greenhill School
-Former Director of the Future Leaders Program at the Bickel & Brewer Foundation
-Former Director of Multicultural Programs, Greenhill School

Describe a key moment, person, or other event that was critical in getting you to where you are now, whether personally or professionally.

I missed an opportunity to move into a leadership position because I didn’t know “how to play the game.” I didn’t know the “rules,” and I obviously did not know the players. While this episode serves as one of the most humiliating, painful moments in my life, it simultaneously is one of the best, most transformative moments I have ever experienced. The lessons I learned about systems and those who are players within them have been invaluable tools that I have used to my advantage every day since hearing, “I’m sorry; we’re just not going to be able to make it work.” It is ironic; these seemingly detrimental words actually paved a new road that led to immeasurable growth and development for me, both personally and professionally. So much so that this has become a key moment that was critical in getting me to where I am now and where I am headed next.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

The best professional advice I’ve ever received was from my mentor, Pam Jordan, when I was in the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring Heads program. When discussing leadership opportunities with her, I was lamenting over my lack of leadership skills in the lower school division and really operating from a deficit model perspective. In essence, I was talking myself out of applying for the position. That’s when Pam said, “Karen. STOP!” She told me, “You have the skills set and the talent. Stop saying you don’t; leadership skills are transferable.” There was more to the conversation, but I have never forgotten the valuable lesson I learned from her. As women, research indicates that while men readily promote themselves even when they lack skills, we tend to offer an honest assessment of our skills based on our actual experience. We actually work against our own selves. Since that conversation, I have been mindful about operating from a growth mindset, particularly as it relates to how I see myself as a leader in a male-dominated profession.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that compare to where you are now?

I have wanted to be an educator for as long as I can remember. As the daughter of two teachers with a host of relatives and family friends who are educators, I truly believe that the “education gene” is just part of my DNA. I remember “playing school” in my mom’s classroom when I was a little girl. With dolls and stuffed animals as my students, I would stand at the chalkboard and teach all sorts of topics. Today, even though SmartBoards and PowerPoint presentations have replaced the chalkboards, I am still that same teacher. Regardless of my position or title, I am always working to create a space where we can all maximize our potential to learn and be successful.

Why would you recommend the Institute to a colleague?

As a social justice practitioner, I know that women have a professional and personal road map that is quite different from the dominant group. The sociological constructs our society has created around gender guarantee that the roads we must travel are not always as smooth and accessible as those reserved for males. That being said, to have the opportunity to grow, challenge, process, laugh, cry, or simply ‘just be’ as a woman in the company of other women who are on the same journey offers the ultimate learning experience. I have found that these safe spaces, which are specifically created by and reserved for us, are the ideal setting in which transformative experiences readily occur. The Women’s Institute provides that opportunity and that space.


Check back as we share more about the fantastic and talented Honorary Faculty members who will be joining us in June.

Want to learn more about the Women’s Institute or register now? Click here!

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