Skip Navigation


Make Memories This Summer!

July 14, 2022
By Jo-Anne Woolner, Head of School

Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things. - Cicero 

Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future. - Elie Wiesel 

We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun. - Winnie the Pooh 

Recently I journeyed to see my youngest graduate from the University of Toronto. The visit was joyful and bittersweet, not only because her siblings gathered and we were able to visit with her friends, but also because after two years we were finally able to reconnect with our extended Canadian family.

Everyone we met, no matter their age, happily described how busy they are this summer attending celebratory ceremonies, including promotions and graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, retirements, weddings, baby showers, baptisms, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, communions, house-warmings, barn-buildings, and memorial services, many of which were long delayed because of COVID.

As we reminisced and shared stories about family relationships and events, it struck me that these memories were overwhelmingly “good.” In some way, they were comforting, meaningful, fun, happy, crazy, hilarious, spontaneous, unexpected, awkward, costly, sad, revealing, and even educational. Notably, most seemed to have been created during holidays or other times when regular schedules, expectations, and pressures are exhilaratingly abandoned.  

Memories shared, especially over generations, ground us, teach us, and prepare us for the future. That is the essence of the musings by Cicero and Wiesel and they are right. However, it is Milne’s alter ego, Winnie the Pooh, who captures the idea that this is possible only when we are comfortable in the moment with beloved or important companions. It is especially likely when we are happy and enjoying these moments.

At every elementary, middle, high school, college, and graduate school ceremony during the last two years, teachers and administrators have acknowledged the unique circumstances and trials students have experienced. While this is true, these students have also moved on; just like everyone else, they revel in their aspirations and plans about the future, while simultaneously they worry about what comes next. That at least has not changed.

We (older and - sometimes wiser) adults need to support them as they create their futures, and we need to provide them with comfortable, joyous moments with beloved or important companions so that they can create such memories. It doesn’t have to cost anything, but this summer, provide students opportunities to have fun, learn and make memories.

See below for a few ideas about how to create memories with your families this summer. 

New Beginnings: What You Can Take Away From Your Time at Gooden

June 16, 2022
By Sam Christopher

Some of my most potent memories of my time at Gooden are of its special events. I remember how excited I was to sing a solo in Lessons and Carols. I remember the fierce competitions we had on Orchard Day; my team—green—rarely won an event, but that did little to stop our unyielding determination to win. I remember sitting next to my best friend at a school tea and learning that it is, in fact, possible to eat too much sugar. I remember Mrs. Ewen surprising me with a birthday cake during our spring music concert, and needing three tries to blow out all the candles. After that day, my grandpa has never let me forget there is a reason I play a string, not a wind, instrument. These are just a few, among many, of my fond memories at Gooden, and it was in these special events that Gooden transcended its role as a school and became much more—a family and community. 

I believe Gooden’s small, family-like community is its greatest asset, and a student’s experience as part of the Gooden community can be crucial in their development as a young adult. Growing up, we students find ourselves members of increasingly bigger and more diverse communities, with high schools of several hundred students, colleges of several thousand students, and working communities of even greater sizes. It is easy to get lost along the way and start looking out only for ourselves, especially in a culture that so often misinterprets self-care to mean putting ourselves before all others. Because of this, familial communities that emphasize love for others are incredibly rare, and must be actively cultivated. But because Gooden teachers, staff, and administrators have already done the work to cultivate this love in their community, any student at Gooden can learn to be vulnerable and to accept and give help. As we alumni navigate an increasingly diverse and complex world, this experience serves as a beacon to guide us in our own networks of communities. 

But why should we care about cultivating these types of communities for our students? After all, independence and self-sufficiency are usually considered to be signs of strength and healthy development. Let me share a piece of advice my college dean, Sarah Mahurin, once gave me: it takes real strength to be independent, but it takes even more courage to be vulnerable and care for somebody else. After all, this is what a Gooden education is all about—Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for the World. To truly respect others and the world, we need to move beyond the fallacy that success is measured in individual achievement, and instead value the bonds of love and trust we build with others along the way.

Sam Christopher '14, a student and teacher in training, graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and mathematics from Yale University. This fall, he will begin a teaching residency with the Pasadena Unified School District while pursuing a Master of Arts in teaching from the Alder Graduate School of Education. While Sam’s ultimate goal is to teach middle school or high school math, he also enjoys playing, composing, and producing music at home. 

STEAMing Up With Innovation and Discovery

May 19, 2022
By Alka Kumar

Having been a teacher for several years, lesson planning is sometimes time-consuming yet, as an educator, one has to keep students engaged through curiosity, exploration, and discovery. I believe a teacher must be excited about teaching a topic - especially if it’s about making real-life connections to knowledge and learning. I have spent hours searching through books, curricula, teacher resources, websites, and lesson plans for my students. My main objective has always been to have fun, innovative, hands-on, and challenging activities for my students.

STEAM Education is an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. STEAM is enriching, skill-building, and makes real-life career-infused connections. It is all about project-based learning, that is innovative and student-centered. Lessons involve addressing a  dynamic question with problem-solving and critical thinking skills collaboratively, then brainstorming,  planning, designing, building, and testing, ending with a presentation and reflection. 

Project-based learning provides an opportunity for students to interact, share, think, plan, create, and present. Students get inspired, and motivated and take pride and ownership of their creativity, imagination, and solutions. STEAM projects are all about, “learning by doing” which has allowed me to learn and grow with my students. Students are consistently inspiring me with their outstanding skills and creativity. It is a beautiful feeling to witness a young scientist, a creative problem solver, a designer, or an engineer in the making! It’s been an amazing journey of exploration and discovery indeed! STEAM activities also bring about and highlight a student's potential in different areas of interest, for example in technology or building or app designing, or forensics. They get to learn about their own strengths and areas of improvement. So, at an early age, they learn about their future subjects of interest in high school or college.

Many teachers use projects as a means of student assessment, but a project is not the same as project-based learning. A project is typically an application phase at the end of a learned lesson, whereas project-based learning IS THE LEARNING and an ongoing process. In the STEAM Lab at The Gooden School, students built ecosystem dioramas, hurricane-proof houses, space debris robots, houses on Mars, bridges for animals, and straw roller coasters. They learned to create with scratch programming, and coding languages and experimented with circuits using biodegradable items and testing acidity levels in various liquids. These activities encourage students to develop problem-solving skills while growing their public speaking and presentation abilities. 

Watching my students grow in confidence is incredibly satisfying. It’s a joy to watch them build their creativity and leadership skills. Students are introduced to STEAM/STEM careers in the real world, and they are inspired to make connections to explore their passions. Project-based learning teaches students accountability and time management, builds confidence, and teaches them to take creative risks. I am thrilled to be able to share as a co-curricular teacher and it brings me the joy of teaching and developing natural curiosity in students. I encourage you to try some STEAM/STEM challenges at home with your families, so you can see their creativity flourish too!  It’s all about taking risks, making mistakes, and learning. There’s nothing right or wrong until you experiment and explore! 

Alka Kumar joined Gooden in 2021 as the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Teacher. Ms. Kumar is a nature lover and a compassionate science educator who believes that every student has their own special gifts.

Holding a master’s degree in life science and microbiology, she’s worked as a STEM teacher at Sierra Madre Elementary and through her own Curious Kids Science enrichment program, offering fun, hands-on science/STEAM classes/camps and workshops for K-12 school students at Barnhart, the Los Angeles Arboretum and Pasadena Rosebud Academy. Dedicated to inspiring young girls who have a passion, talent, and aptitude in the STEAM field, Ms. Kumar has also brought her love of teaching to Project Scientist Academy as a STEAM coach.

She also teaches as an independent instructor with the Institute for Educational Advancement. She has taught classes in environmental defense, kitchen chemistry, microbiology, botany, general science, and special sessions for gifted students. A nature lover at heart, she enjoys visiting national parks in her leisure time with her family and her energetic border collie, Nyra.

Growing Leaders at The Gooden School

April 21, 2022
By John Williamson and Middle School Students

Working at The Gooden School for the past twelve years has been an incredible experience. My primary source of joy is working with our students and encouraging them to grow and become leaders. This month, I discussed leadership with the seventh-grade class, and encouraged them to reflect on what they have learned about leadership during their time at The Gooden School. Students wrote about their transformative experiences as admissions ambassadors, student council, chapel, and their involvement in group projects, debates, sports, and drama. Some students feel like leaders, and others feel like they are learning about leadership from the leaders around them.

One student wrote very personally about leadership, including these specifics about The Gooden School experience, “My kindergarten teachers taught me to express my thoughts and be bolder. My first-grade teacher helped me be more creative and less shy. My second-grade teacher taught me a lot about helping others. My third-grade teacher taught me to be more social with others. My fourth-grade teacher taught me to be proud of my education. I am no longer scared to raise my hand in class, and I don’t hold back in writing assignments. My fifth-grade teacher taught me how to be a leader. We worked on group projects often and I used a lot of the skills I learned before and put them together. I became less bossy and a better leader. When the pandemic came, and we were learning remotely, my newfound leadership skills faded to the back of my mind. When in-person learning began again, I remembered to be bossy but nothing else. I liked taking charge and organizing things, but I realized that I didn’t like when others bossed me around—especially without asking for my thoughts or opinions. I thought about how I would overpower others’ opinions and felt bad. Growing up in an environment like that of The Gooden School taught me many things, but it also taught me to be myself. I learned that my personality is bossy and always will be, but I also managed to tone down that bossiness and become a leader.”

Another student wrote, “An understanding, caring leader is one who is interested in and respectful of the lives of the group members. Being a leader is not just about being in charge; it's about making others feel happy.” This student understands the mindset of a leader and how leadership is connected to respect for others.

This student reflected on how courage and wisdom are part of the leadership process, “The school teaches students not just to get the right answer, but to understand and really know the concept. This ties into leadership, since being a leader requires knowledge and the bravery to answer and lead.”

One student reflected on how a leader must also be humble, “A leader who directs a team must be prepared to take the blame for any mistakes.” Another student noticed how leaders must “take responsibility, speak their thoughts clearly and give instructions and feedback in a way that is understandable and constructive.” “Being a leader isn’t just giving orders, it is making others feel motivated.”

 Students also recognize the importance of being organized. These skills can help leaders achieve their goals. “I have learned to manage assignments and to get them done. I have learned to communicate, use my resources, seek out help when needed, and ask if someone needs help.”

 Teachers at The Gooden School give our students many opportunities to mature as leaders through their years with us. We also know that students have many other opportunities to see leadership models in their families and the world around them.  Our task is to be positive and humble as we seek to lead by example and encourage them to see positive examples of leadership all around them.  

John Williamson joined The Gooden School in 2010. Born on Wright Patterson Air Force base in Fairborn, Ohio, Mr. Williamson grew up as the son of a journalist-turned Episcopal priest and a schoolteacher-turned homemaker-turned schoolteacher. He attended Azusa Pacific University, where he earned both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. He has also taught in Shandong, People’s Republic of China.  When he isn’t teaching, he enjoys writing, playing family games with his wife and two children, hiking, cooking, reading books and student-written work, and recording original songs.

Mr. Williamson believes that reading and ruminating over literature is how we understand what it means to be human. He approaches every English class with rich anticipation, knowing that his students are all in the process of growth and discovery. 

Recent Posts

7/14/22 - By Jo-Anne Woolner, Head of School
6/16/22 - By Sam Christopher
5/19/22 - By Alka Kumar
4/21/22 - By John Williamson and Middle School Students
3/17/22 - By Juaneeq Kim
2/17/22 - By Aisling Valle
1/20/22 - By Tricia Xavier
12/16/21 - By David Kitch
11/18/21 - By Steven Vanderpool
10/14/21 - By Emily Keezer