Golden Pond School: Teacher Training  

Every August, Golden Pond School teachers, assistant teachers and administrators gather for Teacher Training. Returning and new faces eagerly set up their classrooms and become students for the week! Kathie Burrell, owner of GPS for 15 years, always creates an exciting and inspired presentation. One of this year’s training topics will revisit a necessary but favorite theme — a child-centered classroom. Another training will examine the special magic that regular routines give to an early childhood classroom.

Susan Leone, preschool and Stay & Play teacher, says “I enjoy getting tips from my fellow teachers and I always look forward to the fun and creative ways Kathie presents her ideas. One year, to remind us how it is for a child to learn things for the first time, Kathie brought in interesting fruits and vegetables for us to taste that we had never had before. Seeing something new through a child’s eye helps to reinforce our dedication to creating a comfortable learning environment for the children.”

As Susan remembers from a past Teacher Training week, Kathie Burrell used The Golden Pond Way of teaching to imprint the idea of stepping into a child’s point of view to our teachers. Just like in our classrooms, when you engage the senses in an enjoyable activity it makes a lasting memory. The Golden Pond Way of teaching and the high-quality staff is what makes Golden Pond unique and successful!

Kathy Sestak, GPS teacher of 10 years and current Private Kindergarten teacher, always looks forward to Teacher Training. “I learn new concepts each year and find creative ways to apply that to my classroom. My excitement then carries over into my lessons and the students have fun learning!”

Teacher training at Golden Pond School is a time for all of our teachers to broaden their knowledge of early childhood education, exchange ideas and prepare the school for the magic that lies ahead. Mentoring by established GPS teachers is critical to the successful development of new teachers and we are very proud of our meticulously assembled staff. Golden Pond School teachers have unparalleled credentials and a passion for early childhood education.  The support we give our teachers helps them to further develop the skills required to effectively navigate the school year ahead; ensuring a successful classroom for both children and teachers.  Great teachers inspire great students!

GPS Soars High with 2017 PALS Scores AGAIN!

We’re thrilled to report that Golden Pond’s rising kindergarten students (4 year olds and junior kindergarten classes) have AGAIN exceeded the top end of the Virginia development range for the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS).

PALS provides a comprehensive assessment of a young child’s knowledge of important literacy fundamentals. This test is an approved screening tool for the state of Virginia, and is an indicator of early reading success. 99% of all school divisions in the state use this tool on a voluntary basis. Educators are then able to use the information from PALS to plan appropriate instruction for each student and to intervene early to prevent reading problems. All kindergarten students are administered this test as they begin their first year in Loudoun County Public Schools. Golden Pond students have shown outstanding – and improved – scores every year!

“At Golden Pond, we understand that early reading success forecasts later academic success for our children, and we’re proud that our students’ marvelous PALS scores show that,” said owner Kathie Burrell.”

In 2007, Golden Pond School began screening preschoolers who are going on to kindergarten with the PALS – PreK test in the spring.

“We started this process because we felt it would benefit our students to take the test in preschool, administered by someone that they know and trust rather than being exposed to the test for the first time as they begin a new school year at a potentially new school with a new teacher,” said Burrell.

This is just one of the many ways Golden Pond School equips its students with an educational advantage.

“We also knew that this was a way for us to see how well our school had prepared our students to take the next step in their educational journey,” she said.

As can be seen from these results, the median score achieved by Golden Pond School students exceeded the top end of the Virginia development range. In several of the test components, 99% of Golden Pond students scored at or above the top end of the Virginia development range.

Congratulations to all of our students and teachers!

Golden Pond School – The Educator’s Choice

Educators recognize a stellar curriculum and quality teachers. They understand the time and effort required to create strong relationships with children. Educators value the passion it takes to ignite a child’s curiosity and desire to learn, and know that the right balance of academic and social opportunities lays a strong foundation for confidence, independence and joyful learning.  This is why so many of our GPS Families are teachers and school administrators.

Parents express their appreciation in a variety of ways, and we value each and every one. A beautiful, heartfelt letter was recently received from a GP parent who is also a long time educator.  It demonstrates the impact that our teachers and programs can have on students who begin their formal education here.

As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation not only for Golden Pond, but especially for two teachers who have made a world of difference in our daughter’s life. As an LCPS elementary school teacher of 15 years, I know firsthand the incredible amount of work that goes on to create success of this nature.”

Because of her shy and reserved nature, her parents were concerned that teachers would not see her full potential. As they learned, our experienced and loving teachers are able to gently challenge students and help them excel socially, emotionally and academically.

Because of Mrs. Rocha and Mrs. Culfogienis, our daughter thrived this year and we were delighted to see her grow in ways that we had only dreamed about...We have seen the amazing effect their teaching skills.. have had on our daughter. She has simply soared in their care, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. She talks at home about her teachers frequently.. makes connections between what she’s done at school to what we’re doing at home. Her love of learning is truly evident, and her communication skills continue to grow and astound us. She plays with children in a way we had never seen before and both initiates and engages in conversations with others. She no longer cries or hides when adults talk to her, and she has joined her first ballet class with confidence and enthusiasm”

At Golden Pond School our faculty and staff are meticulously assembled over many years with unparalleled credentials and a passion for early childhood education. Our teachers have an average of 14 years’ experience teaching young children, and many have master’s degrees. Our administrative team also brings a wealth of experience from diverse fields, earning them respect and appreciation from busy parents and teachers alike.

“We know these things have come from her preschool experience, particularly the loving, guiding nature of Mrs. Rocha and Mrs. Culfogienis. We are so grateful our daughter was given the opportunity to be in their class. Many other teachers would have coddled her, asking her only to do what they observed her to be capable of. However, they saw more in her, pushed her out of her comfort zone and consequently, she excelled.”

Golden Pond School is dedicated to teaching the whole child through hands-on learning and play. Our dedicated team, their commitment to children, and the innovative Golden Pond Way curriculum is what makes Golden Pond School a true gem in the Ashburn community.

Additional Educator Testimonials:

“I love the warm and welcoming atmosphere. All of the staff and teachers made my son feel very comfortable. As an educator, I immediately noticed and valued the academic rigor of the KE program and that the curriculum is presented in a very creative, hands-on way. The classes delve deeper into topics and are more challenged than at my son’s morning Kindergarten program. When he came home from school, everything he was excited about and wanted to share with me had happened at Golden Pond!”

 – William, GPS Parent & PWPS Educator

“While searching for a school for my daughter it was extremely important to me to find a learning environment that was as much like the one I sought to provide for the many preschoolers I have taught over the years. I wanted a school that first and foremost saw my child as a unique individual with varied interests and personality traits–and used that knowledge to help her learn and grow in the way that was best for her. I wanted professionals who were informed by developmentally appropriate practice and primarily used a play based learning approach, as children learn so much better through an atmosphere that is fun and engaging with various learning opportunities provided by and amongst their peers. And finally, I wanted a school that put her social emotional development at the forefront, as I believe the preschool years are the most important ones to help our children become the self-aware, kind, independent, and resilient individuals we truly want them to grow to be. I have found Golden Pond to do all this and more in the year we have been at this school. I am continually impressed with the teachers and staff, and my daughter’s excitement while relaying the events of each school day in detail tell me we made the right choice with GPS! We are so happy to be continuing her journey there next year!”

– Holly P., GPS Parent and Educator

“As a former teacher, I recognize how important it is for a teacher to see each child as an individual learner with different strengths and challenges.  I love how GPS tunes in to each child and makes their learning experience rewarding and relevant to them.  It allowed our daughter to grow in her own love of learning and gave her such pride in her accomplishments … I immediately loved how GPS approached learning new things from so many different perspectives.  A child learns faster and retains information longer if they experience it, rather than just hear it.  Golden Pond takes this to new levels.  Learning is hands on.  They build, experiment, touch, taste and create.  Our daughter still points out levers and pulleys and inclined planes from when she got to build them and test them out 3 years ago!  She has carried this over to Elementary School and has an academic confidence that came from being given the opportunity to learn on so many different levels.”

 –  Melissa F., GPS Parent and Educator

Cooking with GPS at Whole Foods!

We are proud to announce our new partnership with Whole Foods Ashburn! GPS will be teaching Seasonal Cooking Classes taught the Golden Pond Way at our local Whole Foods store!

Children and parents loved our Spring Snacks class on May 10th, 2017. The children enjoyed a Spring story and the old saying “April Showers Bring May Flowers” came to life with food! Edible creations of “Showers”, “Suns” and “Flowers” were made with beautiful organic fruits and vegetables. The children snacked on their creations at our Taste Testing table with three different dips and then graphed their favorites. Next we moved to a favorite activity of the day – scrubbing fresh vegetables in water and finding foods in our Sensory Bins! We finished up our class with some creative singing and dancing and our little chefs were all smiles! Child-sized grocery carts, food games, flower puzzles and grocery shopping books were also enjoyed by all!

Mark your calendars for our upcoming Summer Berries Cooking Event!

Wed., July 26th, 10-11am!
Children ages 2-6 are invited with a parent
Please RSVP as space is limited

Each family who attends the event will receive a 1lb. container of Organic Strawberries! (as supplies last)

Visit our Event Listing on Facebook and SHARE the event to be entered to WIN a $25, $15, or $10 Whole Foods Gift Card!

Stay in the know and join our quarterly Enrollment Newsletter to learn about our seasonal Cooking Classes at Whole Foods Ashburn!

Raising Successful Children

Research shows that Executive Function skills predict children’s success in life and school more than IQ!

Kathie Burrell, owner of GPS for over 14 years and an expert in Brain Appropriate learning, recently shared with Discovery Elementary School families the importance of Executive Function Skills. The Executive Function skills coordinate the smooth working of 3 areas of the brain: Inhibitory Control; Working Memory; and Cognitive/Mental Flexibility. These skills grow in complexity as the child grows and is often called the Air Traffic Control System of the brain.

Inhibitory Control is the ability to control inappropriate behaviors or responses including focusing, task initiation and self-monitoring skills. Working Memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for short periods of time. As children gain more facts and experiences they must retain or know where to find them. Cognitive/Mental Flexibility is the ability to transition from an activity with ease including planning, prioritizing and organization. These processes allow children to pay attention in class, develop good working habits, plan and complete tasks and think creatively when unexpected outcomes occur.

Children are naturally curious and you have the power to help build their brains and strengthen their Executive Function skills. Proper functioning of these areas is not solely genetic and plasticity of the brains allows for promoting its successful development. Engaging emotions, guiding to make connections, reducing learning stress, creating meaningful experiences and making learning fun all help develop these important skills.

By establishing routines and modeling the behavior you want you will create important habits for your children. Task initiation is developed by establishing routines and avoiding procrastination. Use check lists and calendars! Because the brain is a pleasure seeking organ, follow the GPS Philosophy – make it meaningful and fun! Here are some ideas to develop these areas:

Impulse Control

  • Board and Card Games
  • Red Light/Green Light
  • Tag
  • Sharing Activities


  • Memory/Concentration
  • 20 Questions
  • Freeze Dance
  • Puzzles

Flexibility of Mind

  • Charades
  • Sorting activities
  • Simon Says


  • Competitions
  • Board and Card Games
  • Puzzles

Planning and Prioritizing

  • Parties
  • Sleep-overs


  • Scavenger Hunts with sorting
  • Cooking
    Planning a Lemonade Stand

Working Memory

  • All of the above!
  • Cumulative Songs
  • Cumulative Story Games

Remember – these important skills can be taught behaviors because of the plasticity of the brain. So grab your games of Uno and Connect 4 and let the fun (and Executive Function Skills) begin!

Student Special – August Summer Camp Discount at The Little Gym of Ashburn!

Golden Pond School is proud to provide 8 weeks of Half-Day and Full-Day camp this summer from 7:30am – 6:00pm. We understand families may need some additional camps in August and have partnered with the wonderful team at The Little Gym of Ashburn to give our GPS Families a fantastic Student Special!

Eligible Camps:

8/14-8/18: Hawaiian Hideaway
8/21-8/25: Superheros Unite

Monday – Friday, 9am – 12pm
Tuesday and Thursday, Extended day options available until 1pm and 4pm

Sign up for:
1 Three-Hour Camp/week and receive $10 off!
2 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $20 off!
3 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $30 off!
4 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $35 off!
5 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $45 off!

Sign up for:
1 Full-Day Camp/week and receive $30 off!
1 Full-Day Camp/week and receive $35 off!

The Little Gym of Ashburn
43330 Junction Plaza, Suite 180
Ashburn , VA 20147-3407
Phone: (703) 723-0011

Contact Robert to book your camp adventures today!

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.

Golden Pond School – Read Across AmericaRead Across America is an annual reading and awareness program that encourages and celebrates reading! At Golden Pond School we know that children who are exposed to reading and nursery rhymes are more likely to do well in all areas of academics and develop a love of reading. Our print rich classrooms and daily stories help students master language, communication and speech skills. At GPS the interactive print exposure starts immediately with the daily sign in and exciting Morning Message.
Golden Pond School – Read Across America 2On Dr. Suess’s Birthday the fun begins with teachers wearing red and white striped hats at car line. Then special themed snacks and lots of reading and activities celebrating the beloved Dr. Suess. When children have fun learning – they love to learn!

Our students enthusiastically welcome special guest readers all month long in the classrooms. We strongly encourage friends and family to join the classrooms and read to our students. This is an easy way to be a part of the classroom and see the love of reading build in the children. Watch your child’s vocabulary increase daily – a child under the age of 6 can learn up to 10 new words a day!

Exposure to Nursery Rhymes has been proven to lead to early reading. Mem Fox, writer of children’s books and an educationalist specializing in literacy, states in her book Reading Magic  that “Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time that they are 4 years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.” 

The integrated curriculum at Golden Pond School provides constant exposure to nursery rhymes monthly in all of our programs with a special emphasis in our 3’s and 4’s programs. The children are playing games and having fun while learning these important rhymes. The Humpty Dumpty Egg Drop experiment and the Jack Be Nimble Candlestick Jump game are some of the students favorite activities.

Books are a powerful tool for young children. Reading helps children acclimate to new experiences, strengthens their ability to focus and develops critical thinking skills. Reading to children is one of the most important steps in providing a foundation for academic excellence.

Grab a book, snuggle in and start reading!

5 Great Reasons to Send Your Child to Summer Camp!

Golden Pond School – Summer CampThere are so many great reasons to send your child to summer camp! At Golden Pond School, our Preschool Summer Camp includes ages 3-4, while our School Age Camp is for Rising Kindergartners through Third Graders. In both our half-day and full-day options, our campers look forward to art, stories, science, in-house field trips, water fun, games and daily hands-on excitement!

Below are our staff’s top 5 reasons to send your child to camp!

Keep Those Neurons Pumping

Participation in intentional programs, such as camp, helps promote learning during the summer months. GPS Summer Camp helps children avoid the “Summer Slide” by providing engaging experiences that enable the students to maintain skills they acquired during the school year. It also provides excellent opportunities for developmental growth, which help build the necessary foundation for future academic achievement. The hands-on nature of our quality camp program often helps children who struggle in conventional education settings.
Ready, Set, Go!

Outdoor time enriches a child’s perception of the natural world and helps foster the development of their senses. At GPS Summer Camp, children can unplug from technology and participate in a variety of active challenges. Our program will provide a balance of planned outdoor activities with periods of child-directed, unstructured play.
Try It, You Might Like It!

Camp is the perfect place to try new activities and pursue new interests. According to recent research from the American Camp Association (ACA), 74% of campers reported trying new endeavors that they were initially reluctant to attempt. The campers who experimented with new activities at camp were also often left with lasting impressions. In the same ACA survey, 63% of parents reported their child continued new activities following camp.
Learning Life-Long Lessons!

GPS Summer Camp is much more than arts and crafts, entertaining songs, and water play. Our entire summer camp experience is full of teachable moments. Children strengthen their communication skills and learn how to navigate relationships. They also become more independent as they develop new skills and grow in self-confidence. Camp provides many wonderful opportunities for teamwork, collaboration and problem-solving.
Making Forever Friends!

GPS Summer Camp is the perfect place to strengthen existing friendships and meet new people. Summer camp offers a special type of community – it’s a place of learning, laughing, growing, and celebrating. The relaxed nature of summer camp often makes it easier for children to feel comfortable and form new friendships. It is also a fantastic time to reconnect with old friends and create special memories. An old scouting song may have said it best, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”


Golden Pond School – GamesParents often ask us what activities they can do at home to compliment the skills their children are learning at Golden Pond School. Playing games is a wonderful way to spend time together and games have excellent learning opportunities. You are helping your child become more self-confident, strengthen executive functioning skills and how to enjoy playing with others.

Check our our GPS teacher-approved games for your next Family Game Night!


  • Skills: Fine Motor Skills, Colors, Counting, Shapes
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Thinkfun Roll
    • Play, Move and Groove
  • No purchase required:
    • Numbers Laundry Sort (find 2 items then toss in the basket)
    • Color Scavenger Hunt (find an item in your house of each color)


  • Skills: Three Step Directions, Focus
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
    • Tell Me a Story
    • Spot It Jr.
    • Kids On Stage
  • No purchase required!:
    • Follow the Leader (2 Hand Claps, 3 Shoulder Shrugs, 1 Eye Blink)
    • What’s Missing? (arrange 4-6 objects on a tray, cover eyes, take one away, ask What’s Missing?!)


  • Skills: Executive Functioning, Flexibility of Mind
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Zingo
    • Zingo 1-2-3
    • The Ladybug Game
    • Hiss
    • Memory
  • No purchase required:
    • Red Light, Green Light (switch the meaning of Red to Go and Green to Stop to keep the game challenging)
    • Tic-Tac-Toe
    • Create your own Scavenger Hunt

AGE 5:

  • Skills: Problem Solving, Extending the length of an activity with continued success.
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Jenga
    • Kerplunk
    • Sequence
    • Qwirkle
    • Rat a Tat Cat
    • Zip Zap
  • No purchase required: 
    • Number Obstacle Course – Use yarn and secure to chairs to create a “laser effect” obstacle course. Clip number cards on the strings. Find matching numbers, find specific number bonds like all of the ways to make 9 or come up with your own math obstacle fun!
    • Grocery Store Memory – “I went to the store and bought…” Each person names something beginning with the next letter of the alphabet while also remembering all of the items said before.