The Good Place | Archive

October 1 Good Vibes

Not too long ago, I was eating a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate. When I opened it up, I read a quote inside of the wrapper from Libby W. in California that said, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” Well, Libby W., that quote changed my life.

I love the word tribe for the social construction. Between religious rituals, family traditions, activities, work, habits, etc, it’s natural for us to gravitate to our “tribes.” When I think of a tribe, I think of community, growth, respect and compassion. I trust my tribe to help me be more creative, funny, smart, loving, and strong. My tribe is made up of family and friends who challenge me to be a better version of myself. But how do I attract “the good ones” into my tribe?

I show off my best self as often as possible! My best self is patient, honest, compassionate, and a great listener. She’s not perfect but she’ll always strive to be. My best self is the one who serves others and changes the world. On the days that I truly own that, I notice that my best is also contagious and I start to attract others like me.

From day to day, my tribe may vary in size but the fact is that tribe members fuel one another to be better…and I’m here for it!

Look at your own vibe today! Are you showing off your best self? Are you sharing your bright and kind spirit? Then that’s what you’ll get in return.

Have fun, be bright, love others, and take risks because your tribe has your back.

Hunter Pierce joined the Mount Vernon Community in August as the Director of Community Impact, aka the School’s parent engagement champion.

In this role, Hunter works to promote a strong sense of community and seeks to engage all families in service, by investing their time and talent in any capacity at the School. Examples include MVXperts, MV Parent Network, MV Serves, Admissions, Mustang Athletic Club, MV Arts Alliance, and a multitude of other opportunities. If you want to get involved – she’s your girl!

Outside of MV, Hunter is passionate about rescuing animals and loves doing yoga, playing with her two children, and singing in the car

September 1, 2021

Welcome to The Good Place! I am your host for the month, Bobby Hayes, and I am excited to kick off the 2021-2022 school year with you.

As we get back into our school year routines, it’s time to focus on physical health. As a strength and conditioning professional, it is my passion to encourage others to build healthy habits in their everyday lives. Mount Vernon provides many different opportunities to its faculty and staff to get active, but first it’s important to know why it’s a crucial part of our routines.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that adults aged 18-65 get at least 30 minutes of moderate to rigorous aerobic activity 5 days a week. This could mean going for a walk, a hike, or cycling. So when building your daily routine, be sure to set aside time to be active. Small actions can add up to big results in improving our physical health.

Mount Vernon has many offerings to support you such as yoga, Pilates, Peloton, walking trails and vaccination clinics. Check all of the September programs below

This is Bobby’s first year at Mount Vernon as our Strength and Conditioning Coach and Head Wrestling Coach. Prior to MV, Bobby served in a similar capacity at The Westminster School for the past 16 years. Bobby and his wife Jessica live in Marietta with son Dalton (8) and daughter Gretchen (6). In his free time, you can find Coach Hayes at the baseball or softball fields with his kids, or out fishing with is german shepherd Blue.

May 24, 2021

Good morning, and welcome back to The Good Place. I’m your final host of the 2020-21 school year, Kevin Day.

As the reality of summer break dawns upon me, I find myself buoyed by a youthful, restless energy that feels… familiar, somehow.

What is this?

I think it’s me, standing before an essential question — “What’s the (hi)story behind my story?” — that I gleefully assigned to my 7th grade Humanities students this past year, only to find it in my playlist.

I think it’s me, that fierce and mediocre competitive distance runner who used to live for summer break. As each spring semester drew to a close, I’d conjure visions of who I could be when the summer arrived. I saw myself rising before dawn to devote myself to preseason cross country training. I saw myself toeing the starting line in November, ready to re-introduce myself to the world as a self-transformed “me”.

I wonder at how my teaching and learning life today rehearses that unfinishable story. Spring unfolds, and Post-It ideas of how I’ll re-invent my teaching life flutter about me. I’m only beginning to see it clearly – self-imposed isolation, the perfectionism, the “more-is-better” urgency, and so many moments of creativity, courage, and connection that I have surely passed by on the other side.

And yet… isn’t there goodness in taking up the struggle to be better? How else do I learn a more authentic way in the world? How else do I become… free? My teacher/pastor/Coach T’s recent chapel message from a couple weeks ago offers a way towards an answer:

May we find our way towards trusting that, after all we’ve seen this past year, this summer could be less about transforming ourselves, and everything about being transformed:
By planning less. By trusting more.
By unlearning the urgency that never makes us brave.
By relearning how to enjoy our own good company, one brave moment at a time.

This summer, I’m trying to trade in my unfinishable stories to live towards this one Post-It. May we see our way towards resting in the promise that, sometimes, healing and renewal wants to find us. In the moments when we can, epiphanies and teachable lessons are rarely far behind.

Kevin remains grateful for all he has gotten to share in and learn in his first year in the Middle School. He and his wife (Katie) and their almost four year old adopted son (Elijah) moved to the area from Monterey, California last spring after Katie accepted her current call as Pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church (Duluth).

When he’s not at school, Kevin enjoys getting outside with Elijah and eating more junk food than he probably should. He’s wrapping up his thirteenth year of classroom teaching, with previous stops in Jacksonville, Florida (PACE Center for Girls and Episcopal School of Jacksonville) and Carmel, California (All Saints Day School).

May 10, 2021

Good morning and welcome back to The Good Place. I’m Jenn Lloyd and I’m excited to be your host this week.

The Class of 2021 will graduate on May 22, heading off to destinations like Harvard University, Stanford University, United States Military Academy West Point, Barnard College, American University, Georgetown University, Purdue University, University of Colorado, Arizona State, Belmont University, University of Kentucky, Citadel Academy, Elon University, Auburn University, Swarthmore College, Michigan State University, University of British Columbia, University of South Carolina, Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest University, University of Alabama, Louisiana State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Georgia.

Let’s think back to when we were seniors in high school… For me, the year was 1980, and I was attending my 14th school, West Springfield High School in Virginia. I was into going to concerts and working on the school newspaper, hoping to be the next Katherine Graham.

As we celebrate our Mount Vernon seniors, let’s also celebrate each other and all that we’ve accomplished this year.

Head over to The Good Place on Slack, share a photo of you from your senior year of high school, and a few things you were into (or still might be interested in). I can’t wait to get to know the 18-year-old you.

Jenn Lloyd is a Humanities Learning Architect in the Upper School. He has been a Mount Vernon teacher for five years.

She resides in Chamblee with her wife Karen, their two dogs, and a loft filled with books and memorabilia of their travels.

April 26, 2021

Good morning and welcome back to The Good Place! I’m your host for the week, Jeremy Beckham.

Last year, myself, JP Hogan, and Tarrik “Coach T” Mabon became a Middle School PE team. One of our hopes was to install a program that focused on mindfulness of the mind, body, and soul. As a result, Wind Down Wednesdays was born, a day featuring yoga, courageous conversations, meditation, and rest. This program was even featured in a “Transform School” newsletter this year.

Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment in an accepting, non judgemental way – has been at the forefront this past year and it can look different to each of us. The goal isn’t to stop thinking, but rather hone in on your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions to see them more clearly, without making assumptions or creating cognitive distortions.

Research has shown mindfulness is a reliable method for reducing stress, including at work. In a recent study at Aetna, more than one-quarter of their 50,0000 employees participated in at least one mindfulness class. 28% reported a reduction in their stress levels and 20% had improved sleep quality.

Personally, I use my morning commute to school to center myself and focus on the tasks ahead for that particular day. I have found that starting my day with mindfulness relieves the stress and anxiety that comes with daily responsibilities.

Whether you practice mindfulness with focused breathing, taking a break (without an electronic device), practicing gratitude, yoga, meditation or if you haven’t tried practicing mindfulness, take a moment and just breathe. Choose a method that works for you and wind down.

Jeremy joined Mount Vernon in 2018. In addition to working as a Middle School PE Coach, he is also the Head Varsity Baseball Coach. Outside of MV, he is passionate about using his platform in athletics to help progress the underserved communities in and around greater Atlanta. With this goal in mind, Jeremy founded the nonprofit organization called the “Baseball Genius Academy” in which he served as President for five years. During this time, the organization saw more than 65 student-athletes come through our facility on the southside of Atlanta for tutoring, financial literacy classes, and college internships. Currently, he serves as the VP for a nonprofit organization in Atlanta with a similar mission to develop and promote the game of baseball in inner cities while giving our athletes the skills needed to advance off the field.

April 12, 2021

Good morning! I’m Courtney Stillwagon, this week’s host of The Good Place.

Picture this. It’s a Friday night. The temperature is warm but not yet hot, and there’s not a mosquito in sight. The cul-de-sac is full of kids chasing each other and the adults are all catching up on the week. I’ve just ordered pizza for everyone, and my husband has just mixed up a batch of cocktails for our neighbors. This is my ideal Friday night. One that hasn’t happened in a very long time. But we’re getting close to this again, aren’t we?

The need for fellowship is at the core of who we are. For some, that may be with a couple close friends, while others thrive on the energy of a larger crowd. This past year has demonstrated how significantly the quality of life can be impacted when isolated from others.

We are social beings meant to be in a community with one another. We crave connection and belonging. Studies have shown the health benefits of socialization can drastically improve our lives by: decreasing depression, boosting self-esteem, reducing blood pressure, increasing brain health and overall just improving the quality of life. With the fellowship of others, we can turn our attention outward. We have the ability—the call—to love and support others, and we’re blessed when we receive the same.

As we slowly start to socialize with more people outdoors, may we take the opportunity to connect deeply with those we call friends. To make it past the surface-level pleasantries and to understand how they’re really doing. To “have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

Over the next two weeks, reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while, or perhaps invite a neighbor over for an outdoor cocktail. If you don’t know what to make for them, here’s our most favorite summer cocktail (and an equally yummy mocktail version). Cheers!

Courtney joined Mount Vernon in November 2019, having previously worked in finance at The Coca-Cola Company and as an auditor in public accounting. Her first 18 months in a school setting have been a whirlwind.

Despite navigating a pandemic in a new role, Courtney is incredibly grateful to be able to invest herself and her career in Mount Vernon. Her two children, Collin (2nd Grade) and Madelyn (Kindergarten), are loving their first year at MV!

March 29, 2021

Welcome back to The Good Place! I’m Shakura Conoly, your host for this week.

Over the next two weeks, leading up to and following Easter we will be focusing on service. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Small acts of kindness towards others or larger acts-volunteering in your community-can give a sense of purpose and make you feel happier and satisfied about life. Shifting your focus on others and going out of your way to serve is scientifically shown to have a meaningful impact on our own mental health and wellbeing-reducing stress, increase feelings of calm, improves self-worth, undermines the thinking patterns of depression and anxiety and can bring a greater social connectedness with others in your community.

I serve because we need each other – for some, it’s for friendship, a smile, advice. For others, it’s a warm place to sleep, a meal, a sense of belonging. As easily as we can send a card to a friend feeling down, we can send a meal to a neighbor going without. All are essential and all are deserving.

I serve by packing, preparing, and delivering meals; I keep 2-3 emergency meal and hygiene kits in my car for our neighbors that ask for help at street corners. I also visit an elderly neighbor every few months to make sure he’s okay and has what he needs.

Most often, I serve at Hope Atlanta, Women’s Community Kitchen, Drew Charter, and frankly, wherever I’m asked.

Now, I invite you to head over to The Good Place on Slack and share why you serve, how you serve, and where you serve.

This is Shakura’s first year at Mount Vernon. She is the Director of Community Impact, where she partners closely with parent volunteers and external partners of the School. Before coming to MV, she led a team of fundraisers and volunteer coordinators that helped resource Atlanta’s most fragile communities.

Shakura is a mom of two girls – 19 and 14. She says she can’t manage to adult without fries, tacos, and Netflix. She has been married for 18 years and the only secret they have is to keep laughing… life’s way too hard.

March 15, 2021

Welcome back to The Good Place! I’m Ryan May, dog dad to two chihuahuas, Coco and Hugo, and your host for this week.

I have always been drawn to animals who have trouble finding homes. I adopted Coco from the Humane Society two years ago and Hugo from Fur Kids.

Hugo spent most of his life in a cage and has no teeth, although I don’t think he realizes it. Coco is neurotic, like me. I love rescue animals because I feel profoundly whole watching them become dogs again. I will likely hoard chihuahuas when I retire…something I am greatly looking forward to.

My fur kids bring me joy on a daily basis and studies show there are many additional health benefits of owning a pet. The bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, improve cardiovascular health, help manage depression and just bring overall happiness (when not chewing on items they shouldn’t be).

Did you know that over 68% of Americans own a pet?! Let’s share our furry family members virtually.

Head over to The Good Place in Slack and introduce the rest of our faculty and staff to the pets who make you happy.

This is Ryan’s fourth year at Mount Vernon as a college counselor. He has more than 15 years of experience working in college admissions and college counseling. Prior to joining the MV team, he spent a decade in international and domestic admissions at The New School in New York.

Before finding his passion in college admissions and counseling, Ryan was a phone psychic!

March 1, 2021

Welcome back to The Good Place! I’m Ben Hendry, Grade 5 teacher and your host for the week.

I love being active. From riding my bike to hitting the trails and coaching Cross Country, I’m always moving. Because I try to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to me to stay hydrated.

In recent years, being hydrated has become trendy, with many people choosing to carry around a reusable water bottle and putting forth extra effort to drink their recommended ounces each day. We even encourage our students at Mount Vernon to stay hydrated by bringing their own bottles to school.

Drinking water has many health benefits from deterring headaches, increasing brain function, and even curbing exhaustion. A study of 2,000 Americans showed that you’re three times more likely to feel very happy if you drink enough water.

There’s also sustainability benefits from choosing to drink from a reusable water bottle.

Think of using reusable bottles from a math perspective with me… If I am consuming one and a half 16.9 ounce bottles per day, then in one year I am probably consuming about 550 bottles, which would be enough bottles to fill the back seat or trunk of a sedan. Multiply that by the staff at Mount Vernon, maybe 121,000 bottles per year, and then we are talking about a trailer full of bottles every year.

So this week, I challenge you to stay healthy, environmentally friendly, and hydrated.

Stop by the front desk in your building and pick up a MV Hydrates water bottle, provided by The Good Place, then head to one of the 30 bottle filling stations on campus (which saves 240,000 bottles per year!!) and drink up!

This is Ben’s sixth year at Mount Vernon, and he’s spent his entire time as a Mustang in Grade 5. In addition to his work in the classroom, Ben is also the Head Middle School Cross Country Coach and has put in time working with young athletes through Girls on the Run.

Before his days as a teacher, Ben once managed a paper recycling plant. He learned how to operate all of the equipment and vehicles, including even the tractor trailers!

February 15, 2021

Good morning and welcome back to The Good Place! I’m Mavi Kier, and I am honored and grateful to be your host for the week.

In my classroom, we share a lot about gratitude, finding different ways to show appreciation for those who help us. Nothing is more gratifying than watching my students express gratitude towards teachers, each other, and community helpers.

Through expressing gratitude, we’ve been learning about unsung heroes – every day individuals who do what needs to be done without fanfare or praise, making their community – and world – a better place.

Leading up to this week’s #thegoodplace adventure, my students celebrated an unsung hero at Mount Vernon – Sheldon Staples. This year, Sheldon is the School’s behind-the-scenes point person handling all COVID-19 details and connecting with families and students around contact tracing, keeping us safe as we continue to learn both virtually and in-person.

Now it’s your turn to spread some gratitude! Tell someone how grateful you are for them, start each day by writing down something you are grateful for, or simply say thank you. Be specific and sincere – you never know who’s day you just made!

Head over to Slack and share in #thegoodplace how you like to show gratitude.

Mavi is a second-year Pre-K teacher at Mount Vernon. She is Nigerian and has lived on three different continents. Mavi came to Georgia 20 years ago to work with at-risk youth in the city’s government housing communities and fell in love with Atlanta.

She loves all things art – singing, dancing, visual art, etc. – and also enjoys Sukudo and doing jigsaw puzzles (the more pieces the better!). When she’s not at the School, she spends time with her family – husband Justin and sons Kayin and Akin – and at her church where she serves as the Praise and Worship Leader.

February 2, 2021

Hi, I’m Spencer Stephens, your first host of The Good Place. Welcome! We’re so glad you’re here.

Beginning today, The Good Place will send you on a bi-weekly adventure to be part of something to help with new ideas, comfort, and a stronger sense of community.

Living in a pandemic world, we all need a little comfort these days, and for me, that is music. There’s no doubt that music can affect your mood by provoking happiness, which has been more beneficial than ever over the last 11 months.

Music runs through my head constantly. It is my life force. Over the past year, Dua Lipa has been my “get up and dance” artist, and she’s still at the top of my list. Currently, my favorite song is “Don’t Stop Now.” This song has a throwback disco vibe (I’m a child of the 70s!) that makes me want to move. Every time I hear it, I have to belt out the melody. Just ask my students, it pumps me up!

I hope my favorite song helps you get up and dance!

Now, head over to #thegoodplace channel on Slack and share your favorite music with me. Who knows, there might even be a Mount Vernon playlist in our future. Don’t forget, this is The Good Place, so keep it clean!

Spencer is the Middle School Performing Arts Instructor, and this is his first year at Mount Vernon.

He is a multi-talented performer and educator with experience as an actor, singer, puppeteer, improvisor, composer, theatre technician, and director. Spencer is an award-winning music director, actor, and composer who is well connected in the Atlanta theatre industry.

Lois Reitzes from Atlanta NPR once recorded a voicemail message for Spencer, and later discussed the experience on one of her broadcasts!