Skip Navigation


What It Means to Be Grateful

November 18, 2021
By Steven Vanderpool

Ten years ago this spring, my son, Parker, graduated from The Gooden School. We were, of course, grateful for the education he received that prepared him for his next step, which was heading to St. Francis High School. We were actively involved with the Gooden Family Association, volunteered for events and in our son’s classes, donated to the Annual Fund, provided auction items, and purchased tickets whenever it was a gala year. Dozens of students were also involved in raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (where I was working at the time) at its annual Walk-For-Wishes. After Parker was handed his diploma, we honestly thought our days at The Gooden School, as part of our daily lives, were over. Little did we know.

Parker developed a deep connection to the community and the importance of giving very early in his kindergarten journey at Gooden. The Gooden School cultivates a sense of gratitude within its community by providing opportunities for students and parents alike to participate in ways that go beyond a single act of kindness, and that philosophy is echoed in how we appreciate others in our lives. Being involved in your community is a wonderful way to express gratitude. 

As I’m sure parents in the upper grades can attest, and those in the Lower School are just discovering, being a Gooden School parent comes with some perks: meeting like-minded – and extremely fun - parents who discovered that this school – this Gooden School community - was not only the right place for our children, but for our family as well. We still get together socially with other parents we met at Gooden and consider them among our best friends. I promise as you move to the next phase, this will be the case for you. Those relationships are something for which I am incredibly grateful. I am also reminded of this special connection daily as “once a part of Gooden, always a part of Gooden” rings true as Matthew Brennan’s mom, Cathy, works in our finance office, Grace Miller’s mom, Leslie, prepares hot lunches for our students, and all the beautiful building renovations on our campus were done by Courtney Construction, aka Claire Courtney’s parents, Tom and MaryRose. We were all part of the incoming kindergarten class in 2003. Whether we come here as a student or a family member, we live by the 3 R’s - Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for the World.

Shortly after my son graduated, my wife, Jennifer, was invited to join the school’s board of trustees. She planned to do one term, but stayed for two. When she finally rolled off, it was only a few weeks before I was contacted about my interest in coming to work at the school. Strangely, my wife and I had just had dinner in Sierra Madre the weekend before, and we talked about how much we missed that adorable downtown. I guess God was listening. 

So instead of being done in 2012, we are now in 2021, still here after 18 years, and grateful to have the chance to meet all the wonderful children and families who care as much for this place as we did. Until I started here, the last image I had of Parker as a Gooden student was as an eighth-grader. But the memories of him as a Lower School student, especially as a kindergartner and first-grader, now come rushing back each time I see our current little ones on campus. Each day, I see Miss Davis, Mrs. Tortell, Mrs. Woolner, Mr. Williamson, and Mrs. Ewen, all teachers my son had. Their memories of Parker are as fond as the ones he has for them. Recently, I had the honor of reading “Dragons Love Tacos” to the kindergarten class, and it brought back fond imagery of volunteering each week in my son’s class from kindergarten through fifth grade.

I am grateful for everything that The Gooden School has provided my family and excited about the future that awaits and the opportunities we each have to make a difference. At the recent Autumn Tea, it struck me that, while the faces and names have changed, the commitment to give back to The Gooden School by its community has not. 

Steven Vanderpool, who helped organize two of the largest international sporting events held in the United States in recent years, and also worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Special Olympics, joined the Gooden School staff in July 2021.

Steven helped launch Major League Soccer as the league's first director of public relations and then served as the lead press officer for the organizing committee of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup soccer tournament. He then spent eight years as operations director with STATS LLC, helping build the company's successful television sports research business that counts FOX Sports, NFL Network and CBS Sports among its clients.

More recently, Steven served as senior vice president for the Special Olympics World Games (LA2015), the single largest event held in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics. Before joining LA2015, Steven spent three years as chief communications officer with the second-largest chapter of Make-A-Wish and still serves as a wish-granting volunteer.

Steven holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Idaho State and started his career working for the sports information offices of Boise State, Illinois and USC. Raised in San Pedro, Calif., he and his wife, Jennifer, live in Pasadena and have one son, Parker, who is a Gooden School graduate.

Fostering Responsiblity in Our Students

October 14, 2021
By Emily Keezer

As a mother and teacher, I am constantly thinking about things for which I am responsible. Packing lunches for my kids, making sure that I have everything I need for work each day, and thinking about what I need from the market for dinner that night! Our day becomes consumed with managing all of the things for which we are responsible in order to make the day run smoothly. Knowing how important it is to be responsible and be able to manage all of the things for which we are responsible, it is imperative we begin teaching these skills to our children at an early age.

As the second grade teacher at Gooden, I teach my students the importance of taking academic responsibility as well as social responsibility. By this age, the students are old enough to begin being responsible for their own class materials and assignments. We have a binder called our "S.T.A.R. Binder" which stands for students taking academic responsibility. This binder has separate sections for homework, spelling words, class schedule, and extra activity challenges. The students are responsible for keeping their binder organized and it must be brought home and brought back to school each day. It should no longer be their parent’s responsibility to make sure their school items are in their backpacks, it is now their turn to take control of what they need for the day. Practicing these skills early on helps prepare them for future grades when they will have more work and will need to know how to manage their assignments and supplies.

They also learn about their social responsibilities. In the classroom and the playground, we focus on playing kindly with others, helping each other, and understanding others’ feelings. We also begin to learn our social responsibility beyond the classroom and playground. By working with organizations like Friends In Deed, the Pasadena Humane Society, and Episcopal Relief and Development, the students understand the importance of being active members of their community and our responsibility to help others, not because we can, but because we should.

As a parent, I regularly help my own children learn responsibility. During the school year, our mornings are busy, so having them take responsibility for themselves helps us all to be prepared. My children are learning to lay out their school clothes the night before, make sure their backpacks are packed and ready the night before and have a regular routine in the morning. Having routines helps them learn how to manage their responsibilities on a smaller scale. As they get older, I am hopeful they will use the skills I have taught them as they continue to grow as responsible and respectful students and community members.

Emily Keezer has been at The Gooden School since 2010 and has been a parishioner of the Church of the Ascension since 1985. With sixteen years of teaching experience and her experience as an active member of the Episcopal church, she teaches second grade and serves as the religious life and community engagement coordinator. She attended California State University, Fresno, receiving a bachelor’s degree in general family and consumer sciences.  She received her Multi-Subject Teaching Credential, CLAD (Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development) certification, and a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University.  She has a passion for service to others and empowering her students to become lifelong learners.

When Mrs. Keezer is not in her classroom working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. They love to travel, go to Disneyland, and cook meals together at home.  She also enjoys reading, watching movies, cooking, and going to the gym.  She feels honored to be part of the Gooden community.

Fostering Kindness at School and at Home

September 16, 2021
By Meredith Paz

The first day of school in September is my favorite school day of the year.  We set the tone for our learners and introduce them to our classroom family. “Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for the World” is what we pride ourselves on at The Gooden School. Our students begin their educational journey with this motto as the foundation for all they do. Their education goes beyond academics and intellectual challenge and is focused on enriching the whole child, and includes arts, character building, and community service. 

In our “Peace, Love, Kindergarten” class we focus on kindness. We have daily morning meetings as a whole group to set our focus for the day. We have “family meetings” after recess and at the end of the day to share “kind” acts we witnessed on the playground, either done by us or a friend.  We have a weekly class “Peacemaker” who serves as a teacher’s assistant and classroom helper. At the end of the week, we make a poster and each student says a kind statement about their Peacemaker friend. We are a class family and there are so many learning opportunities that focus on the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”  

Communication is the key component and our morning meetings, family class circles, and one-on-one interaction. We hold each other accountable for how we treat one another. We are kind and respectful when speaking to one another and use good manners. I catch my students in the act of being kind by acknowledging their good deeds. This validation and praise set the tone every day, and the students all rise to the occasion. This positive management of our students has a direct impact on their behavior. Children want to please and are kind by nature. I send “happy” emails home so parents can continue this at home. 

So, when your child hops in the car after a long day and they are exhausted, focus on the positive. What is something kind that you did for your teacher or classmate today? Did you have fun? If we focus on the positive aspects of the day and not the negative, your child and you will be much happier!  

We know, as adults, that a kind word or praise on the job goes a long way.  Imagine the impact we can have on our children by seeking out the good.  

Meredith Paz has been at the Gooden School since 2010 as a parent, and since 2011 as a teacher. With almost twenty years of teaching experience, she teaches kindergarten and serves as the Lower Elementary Division Director. She attended the University of San Francisco, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English literature.  She got her Multi-Subject Teaching Credential and CLAD (Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development) certification through the Los Angeles Unified School District Intern Program.  She has a passion for reading and inspiring young learners to read.  

When Mrs. Paz is not in her classroom working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. They love to travel, try new foods, and go on family adventures.  She also enjoys reading, writing, crafting, and exercising with her dog, Quinn. She feels blessed to be a part of the Gooden School community. 

Getting Involved in Your School Community

August 19, 2021
By Angie Post

I recall being overwhelmed as a new parent in the independent school world. Overwhelmed with what to expect from the school, for my child, and how best to connect with the school community. The families that we met at Gooden were welcoming and inclusive. However, I soon began to understand that there were two ways I felt I needed more connection: there was engaging with my daughter’s class, but then also connecting with the school as a whole. At first, I thought I only needed to engage with my daughter’s class because that’s where I would be most affected - and effective. Soon, though, I realized that only kept our experience and familiarity with the school very limited. I was really short-changing my daughter’s and my family’s experiences. 

It was then that I volunteered to help out with one of the school’s parent-run tea events. After that opportunity to be involved, I became more comfortable at the school, not just on the lower school campus, but the campus as a whole - I didn’t feel so overwhelmed anymore.  The experience gave me the opportunity to meet other parents from other grades and I was able to form friendships beyond my daughter’s classroom, which gave me a window into what other parents were experiencing with their growing students. It enriched my daughter’s experience as well, because just as I became more familiar with other families outside of her grade, so did she.  She grew to become more comfortable and confident moving around the school because she was able to meet other kids, older kids, to whom she was introduced through my volunteering. I also realized volunteering for school events was just as important as volunteering for the classroom. If I didn’t volunteer to help out with the tea (and other parents didn’t do the same), beautiful events such as these teas, a Gooden tradition, would cease to exist. I learned that I was just as affected by and effective for school events as I was for classroom events. It also meant that I could serve as a familiar face for another parent looking to get involved.

Prior to my volunteering, I thought it was “just help.” I quickly learned it’s much more than that, it’s enriching our kids’ school experiences and our own. Just as with anything in life, we only get out of an experience what we put into it. I already had good friends prior to my daughter attending Gooden, but there is something quite significant and extremely special when you make a school parent friend. You walk arm-and-arm and shoulder-to-shoulder through your child’s educational experiences and I have to say, after this most recent year, it was a lifeline and only makes me that much more excited for the upcoming school years as part of the Gooden family.

Angela Post is a mother of two Gooden students, Ava and Audrey (in fifth and second grades) and both children have attended Gooden since kindergarten. After serving on the Gooden Family Association’s (GFA) executive committee for the past three years, this year Angela will be serving as the GFA President. She has a Bachelor's Degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix and a law degree from Trinity Law School. She is thrilled to have most recently passed the California bar exam and is looking forward to being sworn in as a licensed attorney. She enjoys being a full-time mom and spending time with her husband Rob and their family in Monrovia. When she is not helping out at Gooden, she can be found on her Peloton, on RV trips with her family, or sailing to Catalina Island.

Recent Posts

11/18/21 - By Steven Vanderpool
10/14/21 - By Emily Keezer
9/16/21 - By Meredith Paz
8/19/21 - By Angie Post
7/15/21 - By Jo-Anne Woolner
4/15/21 - By Emily Keezer