Carol Nordgaarden

When alumni return to campus and are asked how Laguna prepared them for college, they frequently credit Carol Nordgaarden with teaching them how to write. Her roles are many including Modes of Writing teacher, English Department Chair, International Student Coordinator and Writing Center Supervisor.

Julia Guglielmo, Writer

Q: What have been some of your most memorable moments while working at Laguna?

A: Probably seeing the three MS CSI Days unfold: collaborating with my colleagues, arranging the Sheriff’s detective and Bomb Squad team to visit, taking the students to the National Search Dog Foundation to watch the rescue dogs being trained to find missing people, and seeing my fellow teachers dressed as zombies during the zombie apocalypse crime. I wish we didn’t have to cancel our 7th Grade CSI Day this year.

Q: Is there a colleague or student from Laguna who has inspired you?

A: Two for the ‘price’ of one: Brooke Green and Blake Dorfman, both former students and current colleagues.

Q: What will you miss most about working at Laguna?

A: I will miss being a part of such a close community. The teachers are great; the students are inspiring; the administration is supportive.

Q: How have you evolved as a person during your time at Laguna?

A: I think I have become stronger in that I have learned to let some things go that used to worry me as a newer teacher. I have learned what’s really important about teaching and learning.

Q: Can you describe your time working at Laguna in one word?

A: Rewarding.

Q: What are your most noteworthy achievements at Laguna?

A: Three awards (not bragging!): Service to the Board, Teacher of the Year, and Faculty Excellence Award; Four-time Chair of Steering Committee of Laguna’s Accreditation processes; and contributing what I did for as long as I did. As one of my former students wrote when I told her I was retiring: Thank you for getting those of us who went into the communication field started!”

Q: What are your plans for retirement? What are you most looking forward to?

A:  don’t have any specific things planned yet, but I hope to maybe still teach a class or keep the Writing Center open. I look forward to sleeping in a bit later (no more 4:30 mornings – yay!- ) going for my long sunrise hikes, and taking care of my husband and cats!

Q: How have you evolved as a person during your time at Laguna?

A:  think I have become stronger in that I have learned to let some things go that used to worry me as a newer teacher. I have learned what’s really important about teaching and learning.

Q: If you had the power to implement something new at Laguna, what would that be?

A: Keep the Writing Center running. It has been the most productive for students and most fulfilling for me.



Third Grade Instructor Brooke Green ‘97

“When I reflect on what I gained from being a student at Laguna, one of the first teachers I think about is Ms. Nordgaarden. I distinctly remember receiving my writing back covered in corrections.

However, Ms. Nordgaarden never made me feel like my work was of poor quality. Instead, she encouraged me and made me feel like I could always do better. Because of her attention to detail, rigorous assignments, high expectations, and compassionate guidance, I am the confident writer I am today because of her.

When I returned to Laguna Blanca School as Ms. Nordgaarden’s colleague, I was thrilled to be able to work together with her on an extraordinary collaborative writing project that we developed for our ninth-grade and third-grade students.

Collaborating with Ms. Nordgaarden was an experience I will always treasure throughout my teaching career. I am appreciative of her continued mentorship, encouragement, and friendship. Not only has she made me a better writer (because she knew I could be), but she has continued to help me develop and grow as an educator, collaborator.”         


Director of Student Life Blake Dorfman ‘02

“Students typically leave Laguna as competent and clean writers who have a “leg-up” as they head into college. For 35 years, Ms. Nordgaarden’s work has played a crucial role in providing that advantage.

She has worked tirelessly to take all of her students through the intricacies of grammar while journeying through immensely meaningful literature.

I’ll never forget watching “Roots” in her 8th grade class while reading “The Glory Field” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Making connections between these key works that look at some of the darkest aspects of American history, we learned to create valid thesis statements and present them effectively using her “Perfect Paragraph.”

The scaffolding she provided us allowed us to succeed as writers and critical thinkers in future years.

She is always at school before the sun rises, planning ahead and grading thoughtfully.

Forever humble, she is as reliable a colleague as there is and she seeks no credit or recognition, although she deserves it. Thank you, Carol, for teaching hundreds (thousands?) of Laguna students to be thoughtful, clear writers.”