Newport Beach officials help Carden Hall celebrate its 60th anniversary
Christy Jones Kalthoff joked that her conscious memory mirrors the history of Carden Hall, a Newport Beach private school now celebrating 60 years with the local community.
The daughter of school founders Jane and Albert Jones, Kalthoff said she remembers when Carden Hall was first getting built. She remembers standing behind her mother at assemblies, playing in the buildings as they worked to improve them and coming to the site on Monrovia Avenue. She remembers playing on the campus as her father finished up with the classrooms and was part of the first kindergarten class on campus when the school officially opened in 1963.
“I remember nothing before Carden Hall in my life,” Kalthoff, who is now executive director, said in a recent interview. “It’s kind of like having a sibling.”
The school was founded on the principles of Mae Carden and her methodology called the Carden Method, which the school describes as one that “[has] a complete curriculum in which all subjects are interrelated and reinforced both within and among grade levels” and focuses on a holistic approach to teaching children by creating a positive school environment to learn in.
Kalthoff said she was taught by Carden, who died in 1977.
“There were other remarkable teachers and leaders who gave their lives to serving the vision of Carden Hall, and this year’s been just a wonderful opportunity to remember those early workers and heroes whose legacy we still honor today,” Kalthoff said.
Celebrations and events have been ongoing since the start of the school year last fall, but the assembly held on campus Friday was one that welcomed Newport Beach Mayor Noah Blom and Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill to deliver a proclamation that declared March 31, 2023, as “Carden Hall Day” and to honor Jane Jones.
Her husband and school co-founder, Albert, died in 2014.
“On behalf of the City Council, I commend Carden Hall for achieving this important milestone, with 60 years in our community. Congratulations to past and present faculty, staff, students and the Jones family on your many achievements,” said Blom.
The school currently teaches about 461 students from prekindergarten through eighth grade and will be graduating its 58th class this June.
Elizabeth McRoberts has been teaching at Carden Hall for almost 40 years now, switching between kindergarten and first grade, though most of her tenure has been with the latter. McRoberts said she was a third-generation teacher and always knew she wanted to teach. She said she chose Carden Hall because she liked the energy that Albert Jones brought, the beauty of the location and the school‘s focus on character development first and foremost.
Her own two children went to Carden Hall, she said.
“I think children have changed over the years, but what I love about this school is that our core values have remained consistent. That’s an important part of our mission,” McRoberts said. “We still expect and build the same values in our students no matter who walks through the door.
“Children have changed, parents have changed, but our core values and our method of teaching stays consistent and has been tried and true for 60 years.”
McRoberts joked that she’s said every year she’s on the five-year plan to retire, but she’s probably two years past that already because she gets choked up every time she thinks about leaving.
A highlight for French teacher Carol Sutton, who’s been at Carden Hall for 41 years now, is the yearly Thanksgiving assembly, where she feels that students sing from a place of gratitude that can make her cry. She also loves the Cotton Cotillion on campus and seeing students’ enthusiasm.
Sutton said she only planned on staying for a couple of years but has now spent most of her career at the private school. She said she felt all the teachers and staff were on the same page and has heard many good comments about Carden Hall students as they head to high schools in and around the area.
“When we run into students, I run into students and parents and it feels wonderful to know the impact we’ve had on the community when years later kids are still grateful for the lessons they’ve learned and the happy memories,” said Sutton.
Kalthoff said the campus, through all these years, has preserved what she feels is an old school character while also not staying in the past. And in reviewing some of the pictures taken from the start of Carden Hall until now, she joked that the most significant differences were in the hairstyles of the parents and teachers, though big bows in little girls’ hair have stayed in vogue throughout the decades.
“[The anniversary] really struck me as a chance to do two things: to celebrate our past, the rich story of Carden Hall, and we have a lot of young students, young families, young staff, and we don’t always have a chance to tell that story. If you’re a part of this community, it’s your story,” Kalthoff said. “We get to tell that story and take time to celebrate the legacy of the Joneses ... and all of who’ve had a part in that story.
“I want to bring that story to life, that past to life and wrap it together with what we’re doing now and launch us into the future because connecting that past and that future is my job at Carden Hall.”
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