HEAD OF SCHOOL, Andrew Wooden
Andrew Wooden has been a leader in the independent school world for over thirty years. An English teacher, a tennis, squash, and sailing instructor, Andrew has worked with young people throughout his career. Marymount has a head who is known for transforming schools and understanding the needs of children and families. He began his career at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH where he taught and later transformed their admissions and development departments. In his twelve years at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut he taught and led the admissions and financial aid departments and initiated several scholar and scholarship programs. He also worked as a senior dean and oversaw other major school-wide initiatives.
After earning his Master’s Degree in Religion for Yale Divinity School in 1996 he accepted a position in New Mexico to help build a new independent school in Albuquerque. Under Andrew’s leadership, Bosque School grew to 540 students and is respected as a top independent day school known for academic excellence, community service, and environmental education. Andrew was awarded a Research Fellowship from Yale Divinity School Library in 2002 where he studied leadership and researched “The History of the Moral Purpose of a Yale University.” In 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.
At Marymount Andrew is engaged at every level of daily school life—from leading morning meetings to cheering athletic teams to victory. His passion is helping schools grow and improve and to that end Marymount is engaged in strategic planning and fully devoted to becoming “A School of the Future,” and ensuring that Marymount students are fully prepared with a 21st Century Education and ready to excel at top schools and colleges and a life of committed citizenship. Andrew and Molly Wooden have been married 30 years, live near campus with their two Springer Spaniels, Shout and Doodle. They enjoy beach walking, sailing, reading, and international travel.
A Conversation With Marymount’s Andrew Wooden, Head of School
Q: How would you describe Marymount of Santa Barbara?
AW: We are an amazing community of teachers and learners in a healthy and safe environment on one of the most beautiful school campuses in the country. To be precise, we are a fully accredited, coed, independent school serving boys and girls in Junior Kindergarten through eight grade. A Marymount education prepares young people for the academic challenges of high school, college, and beyond while helping them grow into moral, ethical, and successful citizens who will become contributing members of the society. But more simply put, we are an educational community made up of bright, enthusiastic, curious, and dedicated teachers, students, and parents.
Q: What sets Marymount apart as an independent school?
AW: In my thirty years working in schools I have visited nearly 250 independent schools in 25 states and 15 countries. What brought me to Marymount is the remarkable blend of talented and enthusiast students, highly educated, dedicated, demanding, and caring faculty, a stunning and secure campus, and parents who are devoted to providing the best education for young people. Marymount is a school that has found just the right balance between academic excellence and an ethical and supportive environment.
Q: What is the school’s connection with the past and the vision for the future?
AW: For nearly 75 years, Marymount has prepared students to be highly successful academically and is known for imparting the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in high school, college, and beyond. Our traditional academic preparation is second to none. Marymount’s legacy of religious education has grown into a commitment to moral education and spiritual growth. We believe that a critical part of a 21st Century Education is an expanded worldview and a commitment to a sustainable future. Such a position requires students to develop morally and ethically. We are an independent school with a deep interest in moral and ethical development.
Q: Describe in more detail what you mean by traditional academic preparation with a dedication to 21st Century Education.
AW: From the beginning, the goal of education has been to train youth to learn and master skills so that they can excel at the larger challenges that come later. The foundation for success comes from mastering skills and knowledge. In order to read, write, compute, problem solve, make art and music, and play sports, one must have great teachers, mentors, and coaches. Students must study and practice and there are no shortcuts. Marymount ensures that students learn their work well and go beyond competency. We also know that what will be asked of a person in 2030 is different from the world of 1950. A 21st Century Education allows students to learn in groups, solve problems using new strategies, learn through experience, and find relevant applications linked to the world—not just a textbook learning.
Q: What role does the campus play in the development of young people?
AW: The Marymount campus is not only an awe-inspiring beautiful place, it is also a welcoming and rich environment for young people. We want our school to be a second home for our students and parents. Marymount’s campus is most welcoming and reassuring. Students jump out of their cars in the morning with smiles on their faces because the setting brings all of us joy. It inspires students and faculty to want to be here, and more importantly, to be a member of the community.
Q: How would you describe the faculty of Marymount?
AW: Santa Barbara is a university town and it is not surprising that our teachers are intellectuals. They are experts in their disciplines and they love what they teach. But Marymount is also a “child-centered school,” so teachers put their students first. They know and fulfill their responsibilities to both prepare their students for the most rigorous academic challenges, but also to be positive role models and helpful advisors. The typical Marymount teacher is dedicated, challenging, inspiring, and supportive. The Lower School faculty are experts in elementary education, and the Middle School teachers (Grades 6-8) help provide our older students a kind of “capstone experience” as our students prepare for success in high school and college.
Q: Talk more about Lower School and Middle School and the idea of a “capstone experience?”
AW: The elementary grades, Junior Kindergarten through fifth grade, is what we call Lower School. We focus especially on Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten because those are our first two points of entrance and at those beginnings we nurture and develop our youngest students with a program that will help them develop in healthy ways and begin skill development. Middle School is where our students prepare for their future challenges and in doing so have truly galvanizing experiences with teachers and classmates. They have spent years growing and learning the basics, and now they are cognitively ready to apply those skills in more advanced and relevant ways. It is here that they begin to learn critical thinking skills, acquire leadership skills, and demonstrate their accomplishments on a larger stage. Middle School is where students blossom academically, athletically, artistically, and as leaders. Because our school ends at 8th grade, we make these three years in the Middle School a powerful and culminating experience. Our Middle School program prepares students to be ready for their next challenges and also offers them leadership opportunities for the greater school and the community at-large.
Q: How do Marymount students do in high schools and college?
AW: Our alumni attend and flourish at the most demanding secondary schools and later in college and university. I am impressed by our students’ college matriculation choices. Our alumni are bright, articulate, self-confident, creative, and generous. They are quick to acknowledge the role that Marymount played in their lives, and they are clearly taking advantage of their foundation and are eager for good and interesting challenges. Although my focus is on our students here on campus, seeing what our alumni do later in life is a great satisfaction. This makes me even more proud of Marymount and our students and teachers.