Teacher’s Pet: Whipple & Winston win hearts


Addison Hwang '24

Social Science teacher Vance Whipple and his dog Winston have won over the hearts of all Crusaders, students and teachers alike.

Addison Hwang '24, Girls Sports Editor

Among the new faculty members this year at Riordan is a unique pair. 

Besides seeing Van Whipple around as the new House of Russi provincial, economics teacher, or history teacher, students have also seen his one-year-old goldendoodle, Winston.

A German native, Whipple is not completely new to the Riordan community, or to teaching. Previously, he taught pre-secondary school for about three years and continued as a professor at the University of Texas. 

“I have always enjoyed and had an interest in teaching, so when I had the opportunity to switch careers entirely, after moving to the Bay Area, I decided to go full time into it,” said Whipple.

“I initially thought it was cool to have Winston in the classroom. He is not distracting, and instead makes class more fun.

— Ethan Vargas ’23, AP Economics student

Additionally, after subbing at Riordan last year, he decided to take a full time position after noticing Riordan’s “really good vibe, along with great admins,” he remarked. 

This year, Whipple is excited to get more involved in all the lesser known activities and change the dynamic of Russi. “I want to change the competition to be more holistic from academics to athletics and have more opportunities to earn points and compete against each other. As far for the Russi vibe, the togetherness.”

As for his fun-loving smart puppy, Winston has already pawed his way into the hearts of the Riordan community. 

Ethan Vargas ’23, an AP economics student in Whipple’s class, recalls, “I initially thought it was cool to have Winston in the classroom. He is not distracting, and instead makes class more fun.” 

Nha Thi ’23, another AP economics student, similarly added, “He is not distracting at all. Everyone loves petting him, it’s like a routine; we pet him and then class starts.”

This was one aspect Whipple knew was going to be an issue, as people typically don’t pet service dogs because they have a job to do.

“Being in this environment, it’s almost impossible. So we modified it so he can engage with students and in this way it’s also a good way to provide people with understanding service animals,” he said. 

On the other hand, this was not such a big issue for Winston, a hypoallergenic dog, considering he loves attention.

As some may have noticed, Winston is not a typical puppy. When he is not “very opinionated and in puppy mode, or vest off,” as Whipple put it, Winston plays a big role in assisting him as his service dog.

Serving in the U.S. military for six years, Whipple was left with epilepsy and traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by an explosion while on duty. This has resulted in Whipple being prone to seizures for 20 years now.

However, having Winston always around for just over a year has been a life-changing experience. 

“He spends his life making sure I get to spend mine.

— Vance Whipple

“He has freed me up quite a bit,” Whipple said. “When I am out and having a seizure, that’s the biggest bit he has provided, that freedom I didn’t have beforehand.”  

“He spends his life making sure I get to spend mine.”

Not only has Winston been  life-changing for Whipple, but by being in school, he has already provided students and faculty with a better understanding of service animals. 

“He acts like an ambassador, and I like him to play that role,” said Whipple.

Kevin Estrada ’00, English teacher, explained how amazing it is to have Winston and Whipple as his co-workers, saying,  “Most mornings, Mr. Whipple and Winston greet us, and it sets the tone for the day. Seeing the two of them immediately brings a smile to my face.” 

He contently added, “Winston’s presence makes the school better. With a dog, it’s hard not to feel like a family. He really just puts us all in a good mood.”