Meet Gordon’s Head of School
Hello! My name is Noni Thomas López, and I am proud to welcome you to the Gordon School.
Our tagline: Courageous Learners and Compassionate Leaders is a reflection of our deepest hopes for our young people and the sober understanding of what our world is in need of right now.
We believe the world is in need of empathetic young people with the commitment and compassion to direct their learning both inward and outward. We need young people who know their values and use their knowledge, skills, and expertise to serve others. What is learning for? In school, in our jobs, in the world, if not to make it a better place?
So how do we cultivate courage in Gordon students?
When a child knows that a teacher or a coach or an advisor sees them and respects who they are now, not some predetermined image of who they might be in the future, it provides that child a sense of what is possible and allows them to be able to create their own vision of who they can be and what they can do in the world.
One of our goals for your children not only when they are here at Gordon but for when they go on from here is that they love learning for learning’s sake and not because of extrinsic motivators. We do that by creating a dynamic academic program where students from the earliest ages see the relevance of learning in their daily lives. They don’t just study science from a textbook; they walk out of their classroom doors and explore the ponds and plant in the soil. They have the courage to learn by doing.
When I talk about “learning by doing” - that is a progressive school. Progressive education is a pedagogy, not a political point of view. For those of you who are new to progressive schools, what we hope you’ll appreciate as you learn more about us, is how Gordon’s approach to teaching and learning is actually the most rigorous education your children can experience.
Why? Because we are not teaching your children what to think, we are teaching them HOW to think. While it’s important for students to be able to answer questions on a test, we believe that it’s more important for your child to develop the habits of mind and critical thinking skills that foster the courage to do the thing many leaders like me find ourselves being called to do right now: which is to answer questions we have never seen before.
And what about compassion?
Here, at Gordon, we talk about learning through “mirrors and windows,” teachers trained and skilled in multicultural practice provide curricular content that reflects—like a mirror—students’ unique identities, backgrounds and life experiences, and provides a window into the identities and experiences of others.In this way, we cultivate empathetic learners who have the confidence to form and defend their own ideas and opinions while demonstrating respect for the views of others.
What we hear most often from parents about why they have chosen Gordon is that they want their children to love learning AND they want them to be good people. They believe a strong academic program is important AND they want their children to be motivated by more than a desire for good grades.
Our families want a meaningful and purposeful education for their child. And they believe that Gordon is the place to find just that.
Gordon was founded in 1910 by Dr. Helen West Cooke, a pediatrician, because she was seeking a better education for her child. Her first student was her son. And you can probably guess his name! I share this because most schools are named after their founders, or their location, or even their academic program. Gordon is named after a child. So, we here at Gordon approach the education of your child with the same seriousness, urgency, love, and hope that our founder did.
Our commitment at Gordon is that our mission is lived out in our program every day, child by child. And whether you’re exploring our school for the first time or have been a member of our community for years—I am confident that you will feel that commitment in every interaction you have at Gordon School.
We look forward to connecting with you soon.
Noni Thomas López was appointed the Head of School of the Gordon School in East Providence, RI on July 1, 2018.
Before joining Gordon, Dr. Thomas López worked for twenty years as a teacher and administrator in independent schools in New York City. From 2014 to 2018, she was the Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning at Ethical Culture Fieldston School where she was responsible for overseeing curriculum, instruction, faculty development, and strategic academic initiatives, from Pre-K to twelfth grade. Previous to this appointment, Dr. Thomas López served as the Head of Middle School at the Nightingale-Bamford School and Middle School Director of the Calhoun School. In addition to her work in New York, her classroom career included time at Greensboro Day School and Ravenscroft School in North Carolina, as well as eight years at the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York.
Dr. Thomas López was a trustee of the Caedmon School in New York City from 2010 to 2013 and the Bronx Charter School for the Arts from 2014 to 2019. She currently serves on multiple national and regional boards, including the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of Independent Schools of New England, the Headmistresses Association of the East, Community Preparatory School in South Providence, and Inspiring Minds, a not-for-profit organization that prepares Providence elementary school students for success in school and life by supporting them with trusted relationships, tutoring, and mentoring from local community members.
In 2013, Dr. Thomas López founded the Interschool Leadership Institute for Educators of Color, a weeklong program designed to support the next generation of leaders of independent schools. During the institute, participants engage in dialogue with each other and experts in the fields of education, psychology, and organizational leadership to develop the social and emotional competencies that are key to transformational leadership.
Dr. Thomas López has presented at multiple national and regional conferences and consulted at universities as well as public and private schools on curriculum, diversity, equity and inclusion, board governance, and organizational leadership. She also served as a script consultant with Sesame Workshop on issues of adolescent development and racial and social justice for the Emmy-award winning television show Ghost Writer, and with Sinking Ship Productions for the YouTube series Locked Down.
Dr. Thomas López holds a BA in English from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, an MA in Education Leadership with a concentration in Private School Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she was awarded a Joseph Klingenstein Fellowship, and an Ed.D in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Our families want a meaningful and purposeful education for their child. And they believe that Gordon is the place to find just that.” Above, hear Dr. Noni Thomas López explain what makes the Gordon experience unique.