Carol van Zalingen, the Lower and Middle School dean of student support at Westridge School, died on Tuesday, April 14 just after 4 am in Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena from complications related to COVID–19. 

Carol joined Westridge in 2008 as the 8th grade English teacher and in 2015 transitioned to the role of dean of Lower and Middle School student support. This latter role combined her exquisite talent as an educator and her seemingly bottomless capacity for empathy and caring. In the classroom she was known to connect in a very special way with each of her students. Her colleagues describe her as "a safe space for students and adults." She was known as gentle and wise, always reaching out to help others in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. She never wanted a light shined in her direction, but her ability to listen, be present, and hold time and space for students and friends was uncanny. And Carol was a master at helping girls progress along a path to being independent learners and finding and following a positive personal narrative. Over the years, Westridge Upper School students consistently cited Carol as one of the faculty members who made a significant impact on their lives. She indeed changed lives and made a mark on our hearts.

Carol was born in Kampala, Uganda and lived in Tehran, Iran before moving to the United States. She was a huge animal lover with two dogs, Abby and Sparky. Prior to coming to Westridge, she taught 8th grade language arts at Simmons Middle School in Hoover, Alabama and 7th grade language arts in Hilliard, Ohio at both Weaver Middle School and Memorial Middle School. She held a B.A. in English and Anthropology from Rice University and an M.Ed. from the University of Montevallo. She was also a gifted Young Adult novelist with a passion for writing intelligent young heroines coming into their own; her two books Chiron's Descent and the sequel Crossing Charon (a paranormal romance series) can be read on

As we are currently unable to gather together physically, we have created this space for Carol's Westridge community to leave tributes, stories, photos, videos, etc. to honor and celebrate her. When we are able to return to campus, we will commemorate Carol and the deep impact she made on our community.
Posted by Karlygash Abuova on May 18, 2020
Carol was a dear friend, kind, warm, supportive, creative, talented, feisty, intelligent, understanding, beautiful inside out.
She radiates joy and serene confidence, a deep understanding of life. Her smile lit up the room and melted my frozen heart. She was able to help tremendously with couple of encouraging and meaningful words. She was so dear, so precious, the one and only. I miss you terribly ❤️❤️❤️ I still can’t accept you are gone, that’s unfair. I will always remember you. Love, Karly.
Posted by Sydney Sheldahl on May 4, 2020
Ms. V was one of the sweetest, most loving, thoughtful, and caring person I know. To this day, it still amazes me how kind she was toward me - throughout my entire experience at Westridge so far. From the beginning when I first applied, to the last day I saw her, she treated me with the same kindness and compassion.
Ms. V was such a light in my life, and the lives of so many. She helped me incredibly throughout my first months at Westridge. Whenever she would say ‘Good Morning' at the start of my day, or smile at me throughout it, she would always make me smile.
Thank you, Ms. V, for everything. I miss you so much.
Posted by Michele Hemmings on April 30, 2020
When our daughter needed some extra help in middle school, Ms. V was right there for us. Her commitment to the girls was evident from the first moment we spoke with her and voiced our concerns.  She was helpful, kind and went above and beyond when we needed her. We were deeply grateful. Her passing is such a tragic loss to our community and her friends and family. We will miss her very much.
Posted by Alex Husmann on April 28, 2020
I had the privilege of knowing Carol as a teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend. I first knew her as Ms. V when I was in 8th grade. Like so many have said, you could feel the love and warmth emanate from her when she walked into a room. As her student, she taught me compassion, to believe in myself, and how to think about and care for others. Lessons that she often taught by leading by example. However, these lessons and the love she had for her students didn’t stop once we left her classroom.
I am now a teacher at Westridge and this is all thanks to Carol. After graduating college, I was occasionally substituting at Westridge. One day, Carol stopped me and said, “Hey, Alex. How are you with computers?” She went on to tell me that Westridge was looking for a middle school computer science teacher and she thought that I would be perfect for the job. I was skeptical about my ability to be a full time teacher, but Carol’s belief in me and her generosity and thoughtfulness with that single question that day, spurred me on. And here I am today: finishing up my second year as Westridge’s middle school computer science teacher and am loving it – all thanks to Carol.
Carol’s support and constant willingness to help me didn’t stop there. She continued to offer me guidance, wisdom, and words of encouragement as I navigated my first two years of teaching, from figuring out how to best support my students to treading the sometimes tumultuous waters of parent encounters. It was like she was my personal cheerleader, as she was for so many.
She will be truly missed, but I take comfort in the fact that her light will live on in the countless lives of those she touched and changed. We will continue to pass her light on by being the caring and compassionate people that she taught us to be, just as she would have done. Thank you, Carol, for making the world a brighter place.
Posted by Regina Wang on April 27, 2020

This is a song for her. If I could talk to her I would ask hi how are you? I’m not that ok but good.
Posted by Danae Howe on April 25, 2020
Carol was an amazing soul- We will forever remember her dedication to students, her creativity, smile and laugh. She worked tirelessly to connect with each student individually- to truly listen and support them...a true hero.

This one's for you, Carol!
Posted by Tamara Hernandez on April 23, 2020
One thing I will always remember about Carol is her smile. It was heartwarming! She had the kind of warm gentle smile of reassurance, empathy and understanding that parents need when they come to a school's staff member with a question or problem. She was a true gem at Westridge and my hope is there will be a building or plaque in her honor at the school. She needs to be remembered because she is the kind of person this world needs. 
Posted by Melanie Horn on April 22, 2020
Carol was one of the kindest souls I've ever encountered. She truly cared about the students at Westridge and was a tireless worker on behalf of the faculty and school. Her calm demeanor, even spirit and insightful mind touched us all. She was a true educator, animal lover and deeply genuine. My deepest sympathy. We will all miss her so very much.
Posted by Georgette Awad on April 21, 2020
After reading the beautiful memories and stories about Carol, I thought about a gift she gave away freely each day while interacting with colleagues and students. This was the gift of staying present. No matter how busy she was, Carol would stop and look in your eyes while speaking to you. You knew she was listening attentively because of the way she responded. No matter how busy Carol was, you were the focal point of her attention. Sadness fills my heart thinking about her passing. Undeniably, Carol’s legacy of kindness, gentleness and humility will live on at Westridge in the hearts of our community!!! Yes, Carol will be missed dearly by all of us who had the privilege and honor of knowing her. 

Georgette Awad
Posted by Michele Gardner-Smith on April 20, 2020
Carol helped me understand how my teaching affected my students and how to better understand their needs in a simple, gentle, and loving way. I'm so sorry to hear of her passing and don't doubt her kind words will stay with me and so many others in the Westridge community. Sincere condolences to all her friends and family.
Posted by Jean Lin on April 19, 2020
Carol was kind and made you feel like you were the most important person when you talked to her. Westridge will not be the same without her, and we were so lucky to have had her in our lives.
Posted by Mindy Gustafson on April 18, 2020
It was so clear that Ms. V. loved teaching and all the girls at Westridge. She guided and helped our family coming into Westridge in middle school.  It is impossible to imagine Westridge without her. I believe that she will always be there, that she will inspire all of us to be more empathetic, kind, and gentle, that we will still see her smile and hear her encouraging words. We love you, Ms. V.!
Posted by Alice Chilton on April 17, 2020
Entering Westridge, I had already heard about Ms. V, the amazing woman who helped my older sister so much, and her incredible selflessness. I would really only catch glimpses of her throughout the day when I was in lower school, but she always, always smiled.
When I started 7th grade, I would see her on the way to my locker every single morning, and again I would see her smile, but instead of leaving it at that we would chat for a little bit, exchange the usual "How are you?" and "Have a great day!" I don't think I really appreciated how much those conversations brightened my day. Now I do.
Ms. V. was also always a person we could go to for any worries we had, any problems we encountered, and she would always listen. Many times I would see lines of people, faculty and students alike, waiting outside her office door.

I am so grateful that I had someone like Ms. V in my life, because her love for others was so evident in everything she did, and I know we could all be a little more like her. Thank you for all the memories of laughter and love, ones I carry close to my heart, and will continue to for a long time.
Posted by Lisa Vandergriff on April 17, 2020
I've heard so many heartfelt reflections about Carol this week, and the one that really stays with me is from a student who recalled how powerful three small words of Carol's had been: How are you? It's something so many ask in passing, and sometimes don't even bother to wait for an answer. But those three words are the essence of Carol -- always caring about others, and genuinely interested in the answer. To say she will be missed is an understatement. She will be remembered by so many students and colleagues whom she inspired to be stronger writers, better listeners, and more thoughtful about their comments and actions. I'd like to think she'd be comforted to see our community supporting one another as we try to process this heartbreaking loss.
Posted by Tuesday Stern on April 17, 2020
Ms. V made a such a difference in my life at Westridge, and I was only one of hundreds of students that she helped. While we are all sad she died way too young, we can all feel good about the positive impact she had on Westridge and the world. Thank you Ms. V and we will all miss you.
Posted by Maria Guenther- Iannotti on April 17, 2020
In my first two years at Westridge, I was never super close to Ms. V, but I always noticed that she had a radiant smile that would light up the campus. When I walked to my locker each morning, she would be sitting on the bench on Ranney Court. Every day when I would be walking to Spanish class, she would greet me with a smile and say, "Hi Maria. How are you?" This made each of my days at Westridge happier and brighter. Ms. V truly cared about each of her students and she knew all of our strengths and weaknesses and was always there to help us grow. I remember she had asked me to help another student in a certain subject. This made me feel good because it showed me that Ms.V recognized my strengths and knew what I was capable of. It made me feel recognized and cared for at Westridge. Ms. V, Your kind heart and bright smile will genuinely be missed and Westridge will never be the same without you.
Posted by Lisa Gallo on April 16, 2020
The Gallo family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the lovely Ms. V. She had a special touch with all students and we’ll never forget the support that she gave Our family during Jamie’s challenging recovery from a concussion in the 8th grade. Ms. V left us too soon.
Posted by Mary McCloud on April 16, 2020
Ms. V was a bright spot during a difficult transition for our daughter when she joined Westridge in 7th grade. She was always available, always warm, keenly observant and always had constructive ideas for our daughter and for us as parents. She was a calm spot in the middle school storm. I remember being sad when we moved onto high school that we would no longer have Ms V to consult and rely on. I hope she knew how valued she was by so many of us. Sending love and peace to her family, friends and colleagues.
Posted by Jennie Bulow on April 16, 2020
What a terrible loss for our community. Mrs. V was such an important fixture at Westridge, especially for those girls in lower and middle school. She was so helpful and kind to our family when we needed her assistance. She was so responsive, thoughtful and compassionate. She will be so missed. Love, The Bulow Family
Posted by Donna Dretzka on April 16, 2020

I am an 8th grade English teacher at Pasadena's Chandler School. When our faculty was told of the death of a Westridge teacher and dean, I looked up the announcement and realized that I remember Carol Van Zelingen. Years ago in order to increase my understanding of neighboring middle and high school curriculums, I visited Westridge, among others, to observe a few English classes, one 8th grade and one 9th grade. I had the pleasure of sitting in on an 8th grade class taught by Ms. Van Zelingen who was supervising her students doing independent literary research of assigned poems. I was impressed by the depth of analysis she required and the guidance/questioning she offered as each student came to grips with the meaning of each line that ultimately led to a comprehensive understanding of the poem. The class demonstrated strong intellectual engagement between teacher and student. Ms. Van Zelingen was so gracious to me during that class period.

It was wonderful to read that she also projected admirable qualities in her role as a dean.

Even though I did not know her personally, I am writing about Carol, I guess, to honor and extend a memory of a fellow educator whose investment in students and professional kindness is worth sharing in some small way.
Posted by Tracy Hoffman on April 16, 2020
I was deeply saddened to learn of Carol's passing. In my three years at Westridge, Carol always was a compassionate and vibrant advocate for students and colleagues. She was one of the most empathetic and caring individuals, always willing to lend a helping hand and a kind word. Carol not only consistently looked for the positive, but she celebrated the humorous. Carol's laughter was infectious; I can still picture her taking her glasses off to wipe away the tears rolling down her cheeks as she was swept up in someone's silly story. I cannot imagine Westridge Lower and Middle School without her. And, although I am no longer at Westridge, it is unimaginable to realize that I will never get to share a story or laugh with her again. Nonetheless, I am filled with gratitude for having had her as a valued friend and colleague for the time that I did. Rest in peace, Carol. You are sorely missed.
Posted by Lindsay Chu on April 16, 2020
Ms. V. was the best teacher you could have had for eighth grade. Aside from making me a better writer and properly teaching me basic grammar I had yet to learn, Ms. V. also pushed me to be a better person. One day, when our class was acting particularly awful, Ms. V. sat us down, and told us a personal story. Her story made us realize the horrors that can occur when we refuse to see each other as humans. During a time like middle school, where it was easy to be cruel and hurtful, Ms. V. always pushed us to be kind and compassionate. Ms. V. will be missed dearly.
Posted by Danielle Pugliese on April 16, 2020
I have been thinking a lot about Carol's legacy and the IMPACT she had on students' lives , which is on full display in these magnificent tributes . The way Carol lived her life ( no judgement zone , warmth , empathy ) causes me to want to be a better teacher .
Gigi mentioned a wonderful story with the question " what would Carol do " in any tough situation . That will be my new mantra in my work with young people .
-Danielle Houser
Posted by Tiffany Chang on April 16, 2020
Ms. V became an essential part of not only my Westridge experience but also my life. Ms. V helped and protected me in countless ways through thick and thin. She always believed the best in me and told me to never give up when I didn't even believe in myself. Regardless of whether I needed some support in my academics or social life, Ms. V never hesitated to do everything she could to help me and I will never forget how special she was to me. She taught me to believe that I could always achieve my dreams through hard work and perseverance. Ms. V mentioned to me near the end of 8th grade that she admired my determination and to never lose that special quality because it will never go unnoticed and will always pay off. At that time I was ready to give up on myself but she encouraged me to continue to push myself and believe that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. There are so many more stories where she has supported and lifted me up during difficult times. I remember going into her office so many times to just get some advice from her or talk to her about life. Even as a moved onto high school, Ms. V made me feel so safe and comfortable at Westridge. I will always remember her warm smile that she would give me every time I saw her. Despite her busy life, she always made time for me and never made me feel unnoticed. She made Westridge a comfortable and safe environment for me and for many other students. I wish there was a way I could repay her for everything she has done for me and for all the other students at Westridge that deeply appreciated her. Thank you, Ms. V, for always being my role model, for always cheering me up and supporting me ever since I came to Westridge in 6th grade. You had the biggest and most beautiful heart I have ever known. You will be deeply missed by me and everyone else who had the great opportunity of even receiving a glimpse of your sunshine. ❤️
Posted by Sabrina Cheung on April 15, 2020
I entered Westridge this year in 6th grade. Starting at the new school without many friends was tough, and I ran into social problems. I went to Ms. V's office to talk things through. It felt good to talk to Ms. V, because she always tried to listen. She reached to understand both sides of a problem. She comforted me and helped me feel better about my situation. 

Ms. V was very generous and wanted everyone to be included. During a water warriors festival, she saw that I didn't have money and gave me some, so that I could get something. 

I feel that Ms. V genuinely cared about me and the other girls at Westridge. I'm really going to miss her.
Posted by Barbra Chabot on April 15, 2020
Carol was an educator in all the best senses of the word. Young people were always at the forefront of her mind and heart, and they felt that from her, no question. She believed in each and every one of her students, and she fought for them in the best way - by giving them the tools to fight for themselves. She did this for her colleagues and our school, too. She had a gift for being able to sense what a person was needing: a laugh, a cry, a pep talk, a critique, a compliment. I loved laughing with Carol - she had the best laugh! Thank you, Carol, for sharing your laughter, your wisdom, and your heart with all of us.
Posted by Olive Siegel on April 15, 2020
Ms. Van Zalingen was one of the kindest and most helpful people I have ever met. Her bright smile and kind words helped me to feel happier every day. Her departure is so tragic and as a former member of the Westridge community, I grieve for and with them. Ms. V was an emotionally strong and level headed person, and always there and available to talk to. She was one of the people who helped me to understand myself and provided a judgement and bias-free zone where I felt free to express my feelings and thoughts. She was vulnerable, always leaning in and trying to help me throughout any issues I had. She always went wholeheartedly into everything she did and ensured that everyone she interacted with came out having a better day. I haven't seen Ms. V for a few years, but she holds a special place in my heart as an example of how to be as a person, and what actions one can take to be truly and genuinely loved by everyone they come across. Ms. V will be remembered by all who knew her, and her impact on me will stay strong throughout my whole life. I offer my deepest condolences to Ms. V's family and friends and hope that the Westridge community keeps her spirit strong.
-Olive Siegel
Posted by Serena Lee on April 15, 2020
Ms. V’s kindness was so unique. She was kind to every student who she interacted with, never judging only lending a helping hand. She had such a profound impact on me during my eight grade year at Westridge. After our weekly student council meetings, I would give Ms. V a run down of new projects that we wanted to try. They were admittedly very out there, but she never told us that we had a bad idea. She always told us what she liked about each idea, even if we couldn’t make it happen. She became someone that so many of us could trust, and I am so grateful I was luck enough to have her in my life. She made sure I knew she believed in me and wanted to help me. I am truly grateful for all of her support. May she rest peacefully.
Posted by Claudia Rodriguez on April 15, 2020
Our family lived through the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico; we had to leave our world behind until we thought circumstances would allow us to pick up life where we left off. In the meantime, we were taken in by what we now call, “our Westridge family” and Ms. V. was one of the pillars that helped us, but especially my daughters, find a safe-heaven and an opportunity to continue to thrive. She was their light at the end of the tunnel, their hope in knowing everything was going to be alright, their North Star guiding them through the ordeal at their most vulnerable moment in life. She was incredibly kind, loving, and generous. We will always keep Ms. V. in our hearts.
Posted by Samantha Chaffin on April 15, 2020
Before Carol and I met three years ago, I had almost given up on being a writer. And then she sat next to me at a Westridge staff lunch and said, "I heard you write Young Adult novels," like it was a fact and not a nearly-dead dream. I was so nervous at my new job, determined not to screw it all up, and on top of that, I don't normally talk about my writing with people I don't know very well (I guess I have a hard time trusting people)... but something about Carol and how gently she said it made me open up to her. And then, it was like we were suddenly friends. That day in 2017 was the start of three years of laughter and tears and jokes and encouragement. She'd be teasing one second, then would surprise me with vulnerability out of nowhere, but I'd just go along with it because it was Carol. She was a soft place to land, and I was constantly amazed by her kindness. I will never forget the day she told me that she was working on something, a new book that was unlike anything she'd written before. And I'll never forget the look on her face when she read the first pages of that new story to me out loud. So brave. Braver than I have ever been. And she trusted in people like no one I knew.

Watching Carol go through life with radical kindness and empathy made me want to be like that, in life and in writing. She was a good, Good human. I have been so blessed to share some (though too few) years of life with her.

Carol, you made me want to be a writer again. But I have to say that you did make me hate my job yesterday, because writing your tribute posts on behalf of the school you loved so much was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I hope I did it half as well as you would have. I miss you.
Posted by Tanvi Chawla on April 15, 2020
Ms. V was the kindest, sweetest, soul on campus. From the moment I walked in school early mornings, Ms. V was always there to greet everyone walking towards their classes. Her bright smile started the day on a positive note, and she was always there when we needed her most. It is so sad to see her depart so quickly. Ms. V put others needs before herself, always and didn't ever forget to look at a bad situation without a positive outlook or go without teaching some lesson from it. She was a mentor with a great moral compass, and an attitude that never failed to amaze me. She valued self advocacy and kindness, and made sure to instill that in everyone she met, in, and outside of campus. We have lost a true angel. Ms. V, your legacy is indelible, and Westridge is so proud to have had you in our lives for twelve years. We miss you.
Posted by Monica Oller on April 15, 2020
This is such devastating news. Carol was one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever met. She had joy in her eyes and her infectious smile, and she spoke with wisdom and genuine caring. Her presence at Westridge was invaluable and I just can't imagine her not being there. I am so sorry for her family and those who loved her, this will certainly leave a large hole in our community and theirs.
Posted by Lorri Deyer on April 15, 2020
Carol had a warmth and a wonderful laugh and a love for the students that was unparalleled and well documented here. She was always there - with a dedication to Westridge and the students that I really admired as a colleague. But her true gift that I will miss the most was her uncanny ability to give a person space--to look at you like you were the only one that mattered in the room at that moment, with kindness and without interruption. She made every little one (and adult) feel special, seen, heard and loved. She is missed.
Posted by Adriane Rothstein on April 15, 2020
Carol not only made a deep impact on her students, she did so with parents, as well. I am forever grateful to have met Carol, and to have known her as an excellent and inspiring teacher. My deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues, and especially all the students who were graced by her presence in their lives. I will miss her sweet smile and soul.
Posted by Scarlett Coombes on April 15, 2020
Ms. V, you were someone I never wanted to miss seeing every morning, the sound of your wheelie backpack on the concrete always reminded me to say hello to you, for you to say hello to me, to make small talk, and continue with our day. That one minute with you every school day, made me fell hopeful of what the day could bring. Rain or shine you would greet us, and remember all of our names. No one knows how you did it, and I only realize now how much you meant to me, to all of us. I really hope that you know how much you were loved at Westridge.
Posted by Olivia Wright on April 15, 2020
I first met Ms V at summer camp. She would check us in every single day and always have a welcoming smile. She used to bring her dog every day of summer camp. That made me feel welcome into Westridge campus. Little did I know that she would help me get through the 5th graded drama. Thank you for all the support you gave me.
-Olivia (AKA Puppy)
Posted by Leah Dahl on April 15, 2020
Carol was one of the most kind and generous people I've ever known. She would hunt out the good in colleagues and students, even on our worst days. I think my last in-person interaction with her was right after I'd run a meeting that was frankly disastrous, and she just thanked me sincerely and told me that she really admired how I'd handled the situation. I was feeling down about it and instantly felt a bit better. That was Carol through and through -- finding the best in every person and situation, and making people feel known and appreciated in every way possible.
Posted by John Cross on April 15, 2020
   The first time I met Carol, she was observing my class while enduring the interview process. The kids were reading Shakespeare, and we meandered out to the quad so they could play with scenes from The Tempest. As the 7th graders frolicked and goofed with the play, Carol giggled, her eyes shining with a touch of mischief and a lot of glee. She seemed never to be without those gifts. Carol embodied Einstein's claim that we're not separate, from our universe or from one another; the belief that we are separate is "a kind of optical delusion of consciousness." Carol was a Bodhisattva, a wise and compassionate spirit who had evolved beyond ego.
   To know and learn from one or two such beings in a lifetime is a rare blessing, and just look at how many of us have been blessed by one, in knowing Carol. Wow. She will always be present in our lives, always a guiding conscience, a gentle and wise compass.
   The last time I heard Carol's radiant laugh, I had barged into the office, chatted with her, then turned to visit Farrell. When I turned back to Carol, there she sat, wearing a clown nose! I leapt back, and Carol was so tickled her laughter flowed and sparkled throughout Mudd.
   Carol, thank you for the extraordinary gifts you have given to us.
Posted by Grace Peacore on April 15, 2020
Ms. V was the Dumbledore of Westridge. She was gentle, wise, honest, and always put students first. I had 8th grade English class with her the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, and her strength on that day is still etched in my memory.
She gave us the most important message of all by canceling her lesson in order to talk about the power of love. She described the absence of love in the situation, and employed us to look around at those who might feel forgotten or alone. She pushed us to reach out to those peers and to make all feel welcome and included, as she explained that love could have prevented the tragedy.
Her words that day have stuck with me. Each time I see someone on the sidelines, I remember Ms. V and the way she treated everyone with the utmost love. That is what she would want now, for us to lean on each other and gather around those who are excluded more than ever. Ms. V would remind us, as she has done unknowingly for me throughout my life, that the most powerful tool for good is unconditional love.
I will sorely miss her, but just as Dumbledore, she left an impact that has changed the lives of so many young women and inspires us to be better.
Posted by Maris Bronson on April 15, 2020
I started Westridge in 7th grade, though I really got to know Ms. V during my 8th grade year. She’d requested to meet with me to go over math—a subject that I was having a lot of difficulty with that year. I walked into her office with low expectations, based on working with previous tutors, and was relieved when Ms. V immediately sat me down and gave me a warm smile. Rather than giving me some general advice, she took some time to understand what my challenges were. Not only did Ms. V’s recommendations help me improve my Algebra I skills, they gave me ideas as to how I could approach any problem. Ms. V told me something that I had never heard before from a teacher—she told me that she believed in me. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to hear that. I was going through a particularly difficult time of my life outside of school, and that message made me feel happier and stronger than I had since starting middle school. From that point on, Ms. V was the person that I would turn to when I was struggling and didn’t know what to do, even in 9th grade. She was a comfort to me and everyone else who went to her, and I want to remember her as the teacher whose door was always open, and who was never too busy to listen. I miss her more than I can say, and I send my heartfelt condolences to her family.
Posted by Jennifer Marcus on April 15, 2020
Carol and I were hired together at Westridge and part of the same cohort. We both lived in Houston, so we instantly bonded over our common path. As a 9th grade teacher, my students always remarked that she taught them be good people, to be kind to each other, and live one’s truth. Carol’s lessons will always be with us, and those lessons will not fade. May her memory be a blessing.
Posted by Alisa Hale on April 15, 2020
Ms. V was a kind person with a gentle spirit. I was always impressed with how she handled situations between the girls. We will miss her smile, wisdom, and guidance. 
Posted by Anna Billy on April 15, 2020
Ms. V holds a very special place in my heart. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to learn from her and grow into a better person because of my time with her.

Like many Westridge teachers, she cultivated the learner in me. She challenged me, pushed me, and made me my best bold self. Her heart was big, open, and always full of love. She ensured students were prepared for high school, making us fill blank composition notebooks to the brim with grammar rules (which I still have to this day). She challenged us to think harder and analyze deeper. Because of her sage advice to annotate with two pens, one for class and one for initial read throughs, I abide by this rule today. She saw us for who we really were and took the time to appreciate, love, and support our shortcomings and our successes. She made us feel special and recognized our individuality, our talents, and our growth.

I will always remember an in class workshop period where each student went to her big oak stained desk at the front of the room to edit our most recent poetry assignment. I had written a piece on the Damascus Gates accompanied with my own abstract representation of the gates themselves. I remember sitting there, to the right of her desk, bouncing my leg nervously feeling ashamed about the horrible job I had done. I knew nothing about these gates or what they symbolized but was just trying my best to complete an assignment. Nervously looking up, I watched a small tear roll down from her eye and rest on her cheek. She swiftly swiped it away and turned her attention from the paper in front of her to me. Her praise caught me by surprise. I was stunned. I thought to myself, “why is she crying? It is just a poem? It can’t be that good I’m in 8th grade.” And, I probably was right, it most likely wasn’t that good. But, I think the growth from my first draft to final draft moved her. She saw how much time and effort I put into my work and did not let that effort go unnoticed.

I think about this moment from time to time when I am stuck writing and feel lost in a world of swirling words and uncontrollable thoughts. I remember how much faith she had in all of her students and I’m comforted by memories of her kind smile, her soft-spoken nature, and her big laugh.

Ms. V, thank you for everything. You will be missed.
Posted by Sara Tammen on April 15, 2020
I taught American Studies with Carol for several years. I can honestly say, I have never known such a talented and devoted teacher as her. Her heart and soul was in everything she did; she worked tirelessly for her students and her colleagues. She used literature to inspire, inform, and teach. She used her gentle nature, love, and wisdom to nurture us all. The world has lost a wonderful human being. May we all try to live on in that memory by doing the best we can for others. You will be missed.
Posted by Kari Doyle on April 15, 2020
Carol and were co-pilots for our first 2 years teaching at Westridge. Everyday we carpooled together and during those 30 minute rides we shared a lot. She is kind, warm, sharply intelligent and critically minded. I loved our conversations and the times when she would read bits of her novel to me. We all will miss her, but she lives on in us. Enjoy your life as Carol would have wanted you to.
Posted by Madison Young on April 15, 2020
Ms. V was one of my favorite teachers of all time, and it is safe to say that is a common statement among all Westridge girls.

Her English class was so much more than teaching her students how to read and write effectively. Not only did this remarkable woman give us an outstanding foundation in English, she taught us life lessons, empathy, and how to be good people through literature.

She accepted each of her students for the people they were, and nurtured each of our unique talents and abilities. Ms. V understood that middle school can often be a tumultuous time in a young woman’s development, so she made sure to weave in lessons that would help us survive and thrive in the coming years.

Ms. V, I am happy to report that your teachings have stayed with me to this day. I am now 20 years old. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for what you have done for our small corner of the world. You have positively impacted so many people in the Westridge community, and as your students, we promise to spread your teachings with us wherever we go. Rest easy knowing your legacy of compassion lives on in all of us. We won’t let you down.

We love you. We miss you.
Posted by Valerie Jinnette on April 14, 2020
Thank you being there to check us in every morning. We always felt welcomed and happy. We all will miss you.
Liv Chen 4th grade
Posted by Catherine Wood on April 14, 2020
In addition to Ms. V's family, her colleagues, and her students, I'm grieving today for all the future Westridge girls who will never be taught, challenged, emboldened and truly seen by her.
Posted by Lilian Maldonado on April 14, 2020
Today they will learn English, Math, and too many other things in heaven, a very special person has made there, for sure we will miss her. Her kindness, love for others and selflessness will have an especial place in our hearts, as a person and community. The best way to remember her it will be trying to imitate her gentle way of always be present, to hear with no judgment, always unconditional. Thank you for open the door for me every day, and for work with tremendous love for this community. We will remember you with the same love you planted.
Posted by Scarlett Kirschenbaum on April 14, 2020
Ms. V,
Thank you for being the person in the morning who always made me smile. You knew every single person's name in the lower school. No matter what you were doing, you would would always stop for a second to say, "Good morning Scarlett" with a huge smile on your face. I am realizing now that I will never get to hear those three words from you again, but whenever i walk past the bench you sat on every morning, I will think of you.
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Recent Tributes
Posted by Karlygash Abuova on May 18, 2020
Carol was a dear friend, kind, warm, supportive, creative, talented, feisty, intelligent, understanding, beautiful inside out.
She radiates joy and serene confidence, a deep understanding of life. Her smile lit up the room and melted my frozen heart. She was able to help tremendously with couple of encouraging and meaningful words. She was so dear, so precious, the one and only. I miss you terribly ❤️❤️❤️ I still can’t accept you are gone, that’s unfair. I will always remember you. Love, Karly.
Posted by Sydney Sheldahl on May 4, 2020
Ms. V was one of the sweetest, most loving, thoughtful, and caring person I know. To this day, it still amazes me how kind she was toward me - throughout my entire experience at Westridge so far. From the beginning when I first applied, to the last day I saw her, she treated me with the same kindness and compassion.
Ms. V was such a light in my life, and the lives of so many. She helped me incredibly throughout my first months at Westridge. Whenever she would say ‘Good Morning' at the start of my day, or smile at me throughout it, she would always make me smile.
Thank you, Ms. V, for everything. I miss you so much.
Posted by Michele Hemmings on April 30, 2020
When our daughter needed some extra help in middle school, Ms. V was right there for us. Her commitment to the girls was evident from the first moment we spoke with her and voiced our concerns.  She was helpful, kind and went above and beyond when we needed her. We were deeply grateful. Her passing is such a tragic loss to our community and her friends and family. We will miss her very much.
Recent stories

Ms. V

Shared by Micaela Randolph on April 15, 2020
I remember in fourth grade I was struggling with all my work.She knew that it was a little hard for me to adjust to everything. Then one day I was in mudd and she told me that she could find a way to help me. She gave me a tutor and ideas how to stay on track. Almost every other day she asked how things were going. Ms. V was always there for me when things got tough. I will miss her so much. She was the greatest. Also, my whole class and teachers loved her sign that said. 

                                     " Let's eat grandpa.
                                         Let's eat, grandpa.
                                    Commas save lives."

Shared by Atalanta Carrig-Braun on April 14, 2020
Ms. V was always there for me. She was the most patient person I ha e ever met. When I had to turn in my course registration for high school I couldn't decide which classes would be best to take and she helped me and was so patient even when I missed the deadline by two weeks. She also, though it wasn't her job, helped me arrange my extra time accommodations with all of my teachers and taught me to speak up for myself and the things that I needed. She has meant so much to my friends, my family, and I. I hope that she knows how important she was to all of our lives and I wish I could thank her for everything she has done for me.

Ms. V

Shared by Ada Newton on April 14, 2020
Even if you didn't go in to chat with Ms. V, you always knew she was there. Just knowing her warm presence filled her office every day without fail made each day at school just a little bit better. I will always remember how she went to such lengths to make sure we all knew her door was open. Last year, when I was just a little too disruptive in class, she wanted to talk to me about it. She didn't act at all like I was in trouble. She instructed my study hall teacher to send me to her office for a flash drive. Yes, the whole thing was staged, so I didn't feel bad, and I wasn't in the spotlight. When I set foot in her office, she smiled and invited me to sit down. I never felt like I was in trouble. She made sure that every day, everyone knew they belonged at Westridge; everyone knew they were loved. There was never a bad day at Westridge because if it started bad, Ms. V was always there to make it end well. She will always hold a special place close to my heart.