Mayfield’s Dean of Students knows first-hand what it means to educate ‘the whole child’

Steve Bergen supervises 7 a.m. detention sessions—and knows the intricacies of sponsoring a successful pie eating contest. He can spot an out-of-uniform student from across the driveway—and can see the leadership potential in a freshman.
At Mayfield Senior School Mr. Bergen has two seemingly disparate titles. He is Dean of Students, responsible for ensuring Mayfield’s rules and policies are followed, and he is also Activities Director, guiding all the fun stuff of students’ high school years.

A deeply experienced Catholic high school educator and administrator, Mr. Bergen said his job at Mayfield is somewhat unique in secondary education, combining responsibilities typically parsed out to separate administrators. Yet, as he begins his second year at Mayfield, he has found fulfillment in the dual roles of disciplinarian and nurturer.   

“It really calls on me to experience what it means to be a Holy Child educator,” Mr. Bergen said. “In my roles I can see and guide the whole child. I have more understanding when a student makes a mistake. And I have great pride in helping her define success.”

At the heart of his job, Mr. Bergen said his role is to help guide students to become joyful young women leaders of faith. He took a moment to reflect on what it means to work at Holy Child School.

How would you describe the essence of student life at Mayfield?
There is so much more to Mayfield than stellar academics. A big part of what students learn about life they learn in activities outside the classroom, outside of textbooks. I tell girls if you come to school at 7:30 a.m. and leave right at three everyday and don’t get involved you are going to be bored out of your mind. The reason girls fall in love with Mayfield is that they are so happy to be involved. They have shared experiences with friends. They love the school’s traditions and are eager to make their own. They laugh, they joke, they are OK being teenagers. They can scream and laugh and play silly spirit games. When you see how they totally get into having fun at pep rallies you see what it it means to have fun at Mayfield.

Why do you think there is such a strong tradition in organizing clubs at Mayfield?
When I started last year and saw that 30-plus girls wanted to start clubs, I admit that I thought many of them were probably resume building for college. But the longer I am here and the more I interact with the girls, I know they have been inspired by the incredible legacy of students who have gone before them. They see how effective our older students are and they want to emulate that, they appreciate that. They see the leaders that upperclassmen become in high school and later in college and find inspiration in fellow students. It really creates a sense of respect for one another that is constantly renewing itself.

How does Mayfield foster leadership opportunities?
Leadership is an attribute Mayfield definitely cultivates. The lion’s share of girls all find meaningful leadership opportunities. It could be Campus Ministry, Student Council, the Athletic Leadership Team, Arts Council. And like I said, we have more than 30 clubs. Each conservatory has leaders who emerge. This yearning to discover themselves truly comes from within and from great parents who nurture their girls. Mayfield cultivates them, gives them the avenue to reach their potential. What I’ve really come to believe is that our “Actions Not Words” theme is not just a motto hanging on the wall.

Mayfield takes pride in requiring every club to have a service component to its mission. How do you see that taking hold?
Service is what distinguishes our clubs and our leadership. At Mayfield, service it not something you just perform to fulfill a requirement. It’s at the heart of everything we do at the school. The girls are constantly looking for opportunities to help others—it’s natural, it’s organic. If we dropped the requirement, I feel nothing would change. The freshman class service project is the first thing they do when they walk through the gates and the senior service week is the last thing they do before graduating.

Tell us about the kind of good work that speaks to student life at Mayfield?
We have this “Red Hearts, Gold Stars” clubs. And the sole purpose of the club is to randomly tag little inspirational sayings written on a red heart or a gold star on anything—lockers, chairs, desks, the wall, a door.The only reason this club exists it to make people feel better, to brighten a day with a good wish. The cool thing is that club members are stealthy about it. They don’t want anyone to know who they are or when they will strike. It just speaks so much about our students—caring, loving, supportive young women.

How do you manage the disciplinarian role that comes with your job?
The best piece of advice I ever received when I first became a dean was from a mentor of mine who told me that no matter how angry or disappointed you may be, just imagine that the student’s parents are standing behind them when I speak.  I now have three-year-old daughter and I also think about her and how I would want a teacher to talk to my daughter. That really guides me, too.

But I really think my role at Mayfield as dean and activities director is inspired. I know I have to be the bad cop sometimes because I’m dealing with the ins and outs of their daily lives, but I also get to be the good cop. I know them in all their strengths and sometimes weaknesses. And it just makes me understand them better. It really is a remarkable experience at Mayfield for me to be able to educate the whole child.
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.