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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.

Summertime Learning

July 15, 2021
By Jo-Anne Woolner

Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. -Plato

These weeks of summer are ideal for discovering and nurturing what amuses the minds of our individual children. While many educators and officials are worried about traditional “summer losses” and, this year uniquely, about “pandemic losses” brought on by months of remote learning and social isolation, summer is not the time to demand children master lists of facts, numbers, or formulas. 

Rather, summer should be a model for the “Learning Labs” and “Innovation Centers” that exist on many school campuses. These centers provide educators, environments, and materials that encourage learning through imaginative play, innovation through positive collaboration and cooperation, and the discovery of solutions by motivating curiosity and determination.

We are excited about undertaking the building of our own innovation center in the coming years but have have also discovered that inspiring educators, imaginative play, collaboration and cooperation, and curiosity and determination, are not confined to specific people, places, or times.  

Take, for instance, the annual Fourth of July Parade in Sierra Madre, which Gooden participates in yearly. Parade officials, teachers, parents and guardians (alumni, current, and new), students (alumni, current, and new) cooperatively solved problems and learned a great deal about marching, timing, playing, shouting, and staying safe all while having exhausting fun.

Some of these participants had never met, some had not seen one another for months. As the situation was fluid, the intended plans of many adults and children had to be abandoned, and people of all ages stepped up to collaborate and suggest solutions. First and second-grade students carried a heavy banner and led the Gooden entourage (with adult help); they learned to wave, weave, and walk in step, and to stop and slow when vehicles ahead of them did so. The cheer squad marched behind them, modulating the distance between themselves and the students in front and behind, and on the fly learned how and when to perform their routines so that the crowds could hear them (during those moments when the band was not playing). Behind the cheer squad, the students and teachers on percussion and winds marched, played, and kept time together; they did not step on one another or on the heels of the students in front of them. 

The adults learned just as much! Adults mastered walking backward to film and take pictures; one drove the school van filled with water bottles, and others pulled wagons for tired little ones. Some even walked alongside the entourage, encouraging students to do their best. Others, whose children had stepped up to help and perform, rode their children’s scooters to ensure they caught up with their performers. All the adults modeled good-humored, collaborative, and inclusive problem-solving, and they assumed - and celebrated - the successes of the students. The students observed this, and as they were invited to collaborate too, they learned that this is how innovation occurs and problems are solved and that their curiosity, opinions and unique gifts are appreciated and contribute to the creation and success of a solution. 

Students should experience such learning every day, and it is up to adults to ensure that it happens and that student voices are heard. No doubt teachers have recommended reading and math review over the break; it is good advice but is not intended to be cumbersome or take the joy out of summer fun. As you think about what your student should do over the summer, be sure that you find activities or programs that provide rich opportunities for imaginative play, positive and inclusive collaboration and cooperation, and adults who are intentional in providing such experiences for students.   

Jo-Anne Woolner is the head of school at Gooden.  She has served the school as interim head of school, director of the Middle School, registrar, and teacher of English, social studies, and Latin after originally joining the school community as a parent of four Gooden students. She received her Bachelor of Arts/Science in English from the University of Calgary (Canada) and Master of Arts in medieval history and languages and Master of Philosophy in Catholic Church history from New York University. In addition to teaching at NYU before moving to California, she has been a presenter at regional independent school conferences and has been a volunteer and board member at several community-based nonprofits in Pasadena.  

How Gooden Students Learn through Community Engagement

April 15, 2021
By Emily Keezer

How Giving and Service to Others Leads to Caring and Involved Students.

The Gooden School inspires students to be intellectually curious and resilient while preparing them to lead lives of kindness, integrity, and respect.

This is Gooden’s mission statement and this philosophy is what drew me to the school initially as a teacher and later, as a parent. Both as a teacher and as a parent at the school, I want my students and my children to leave Gooden as kind, respectful, and active members of their community. 

One way the students learn this is through living our Episcopal identity. As an Episcopal school we emphasize the importance of service to others and bettering the world. Community engagement is a significant part of our Episcopal identity. Thinking beyond ourselves, getting the students to think beyond themselves and to think of themselves as part of a community, working, and helping each other so the community can thrive, is a central tenet of Gooden’s core values.  

Community engagement is different from community service. Community service is just doing a service for the community. It is a one-time contribution. Community engagement is continual learning about the wants and needs of a community and how we can be actively involved, contributing members of that community. The majority of the learning takes place in the classroom and school environment, then throughout the year we go out into the surrounding community and engage in different activities.

At Gooden, there are two ways we incorporate community engagement: by coming together and working as a whole school community and through the exploration of important issues and topics within individual grades

As a whole school, we learn about and work with two organizations in the surrounding community: Friends In Deed in Pasadena and Episcopal Relief and Development. The students learn about these organizations during our chapel times together and then join together at least three times a year to gather donations for these organizations.

We also incorporate community engagement into the classroom academic curriculum. Each grade focuses on specific issues/topics such as hunger, homelessness, animal wellness, and caring for the environment to name a few. These topics are woven into the core subjects to help the students more deeply understand that community engagement is not a separate subject. Understanding that our part in a community needs math, science, reading, and writing to function is an important part of our curriculum. 

Showing the students that community engagement is just as important as their academics creates young people who not only respect themselves and do their best academically but leave the school as responsible and respectful citizens in their communities.

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 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.

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