In this season's "Coming and Goings," we are particularly grateful to all those departing for the intense faith, love, and commitment they have given, most especially in this incredibly trying and complicated year. We are optimistic for the next professional steps of each of our faculty who are making internal shifts at SFFS, and as well, we are excited to welcome a few new people to our Lower School Friends family in 2021–2022. Here are some of the changes coming as we plan for staffing and program growth next year.
Lower School Lead Teachers:
As a K–8 institution, and when the time is right, we blur the lines of arbitrary divisions, embracing the spirit of professional growth and personal courage. After many years of wondering when the right time to shift might be, Amabelle Sze figured now is as good a time as ever, and she will be moving to teach 6th Grade Math in 2021–2022. In a late search process, we were fortunate to be able to hire up Gavin Odabashian to fill this key role in the Lower School. Gavin returns to SFFS after a stint teaching 4th and 5th Grade at Marin Horizons, and will be teaching 4th Grade alongside Maureen next year. We are so lucky Gavin has agreed to return, and excited about what she will bring as a key thinker and caretaker of Friends educational traditions and innovations.
Rebecca Mallabone jumped in at SFFS with both feet last fall as our Friends@Home, hybrid, and other COVID school needs unfolded. Since then, she’s been an invaluable and successful teacher on the 3rd Grade team. As our program anticipates a return to a more normal structure in 2021–2022, Rebecca will be happily moving to join Frances Dickson and Kim Gitnick full-time in our Developmental Support (DS) Department. This addition to DS will be an incredible one, affording us all the chance to meet our students where they are and push them further, especially as we assess all sorts of needs emerging from our unusual year. Rebecca’s expertise and commitment will be focused on supporting teachers to address a range of learning needs, working across the grades in our ongoing efforts to differentiate instruction for all of our students.
Lower School Music:
Dianne Hurvitz is moving on next year from Friends to pursue her long-growing Summer Maker Camp program. Dianne has been a creative, hard working, mirthful faculty member, whose contributions are widely felt, from curriculum and schedule, to teaching all our kids sign language when they couldn’t sing due to COVID restrictions. She’s been a fearless shifter into virtual teaching, able to deliver warm and engaged programs for our kids online (and in school)! She will be missed, and we hope to hear more as her camp grows. We are thrilled to welcome Jane Rinard, who will join our Arts Department as our new Lower School Music teacher. Jane has a wealth of experience with elementary music instruction and program creation, and we are so lucky she has chosen Friends as her next school home. From her prior position at SF Day, and more recently at the American School in Mumbai, Jane was recommended to us by many folks, including our former LS music teacher, Kent Jue. Jane brings a rich tradition in performance and choral work, as well as a depth of experience working with teachers in project work and integration.
LS Teaching Assistants:
Every year we say goodbye to a few of our beloved teaching assistants, and welcome a new cohort of TAs. This year, these goodbyes hit harder than ever—what these TAs have given this year is indescribable. They each stepped up in ways none of us could ever have anticipated, and did so with grace, courage and commitment to the work with the children that makes me proud to know each of them.
Cale Nickerson (2nd Grade TA) and his partner Amoy will be packing up and moving to New York. We hope that Cale pursues work in schools, because his gift is clear.
Emelia Breen (2nd Grade TA) is already a master teacher in many ways, and is headed to UC Berkeley to go to Graduate School in Education. This is good news for the field, and we are very happy for her and hope that she may return to us one day, if not only as a substitute when she gets a few days off of school!
Marisa Graham (1st Grade TA) has been a devoted K–2 TA for the past several years, and has now taken the courageous step to return to graduate school for her Master's in Early Childhood Education at Mills College. We hope Marisa will also be around to substitute, and we couldn't be more proud of her as she spreads her wings.
Nina Eckoff, our long-serving K and 1st Grade TA, will move into the role of full-time faculty member at Friends, as our onsite Lower School substitute teacher. When she is not subbing, she will support teachers and students, primarily in the K–2 classrooms.
In the Lower School 2021–2022, we anticipate returning to two sections in each grade, five days a week in person, and also a return to our regular classroom spaces and staffing model. As you know, we have always had a full-time TA in each classroom K–2, and part-time in 3 & 4. As part of our efforts to support a robust learning experience when we return to campus in 2021–2022, we will be growing our TA cohort (from eight to ten) to include the addition of two full-time TAs in each section of both 3rd and 4th Grades, as well as our full-time TAs in Grades K–2. Joining the TA cohort officially next year will be many familiar names to some of you—as they are either returning for a second year in the TA role, or moving into this new position from our temporary aide role that served us so well during the height of COVID restrictions.
Our new TA cohort in the lower school next fall will include: Lily Layman, Jeremy Mikush, Amanda Hack, Kaylin Mansley, Salvador Martinez, Sebastian Kleppe, Bekah Puddington, Gracia Garcia, and Angel Cage. Please feel free to congratulate them for this next step in their careers, and thank them for their ongoing service to SFFS. With the Extended Day and Enrichment program most likely re-emerging next year, we will plan to see Liz Peterson (1st Grade Aide) and Selina Rodriguez (2nd Grade Aide) back at it with Marina.
Lower School Spanish:
Since Tanya Cotom will stay on in 1st Grade as a lead teacher next year, we continue to seek the best candidate for an excellent new Lower School Spanish teacher. This key position will help us rebuild and refine our Spanish language instructional program, and we are certainly looking forward to that. We are hot on the trail of a few folks, and will let you know as soon as that wraps up.
Thank you all so much for your ongoing support, and constancy in reading what has been a fire hose of news this year—with even more to come!
Last fall, we launched Among Friends, a biannual, digital magazine for the SFFS community, with an inaugural issue that came out in November. As we began to gear up for the spring issue in February, we decided on "connection" as a theme—and how appropriate that theme became as our campus closed the face of a global pandemic and we found ourselves grappling with both distance learning and maintaining the bonds of our community without having 250 Valencia as a gathering space.
In the Spring/Summer issue of Among Friends, which you can read here, you'll find an inspiring first-hand account of faculty collaboration, a treasure trove of book recommendations from Friends and colleagues, reflections on how we've endeavored to stay connected to one another throughout this strange time, and a Q&A from one of our recent Class of 2020 graduates who recently won an award for his first foray into documentary filmmaking, among other stories.
We hope you enjoy, and that you get involved with this publication, which has the power to become an important point of connection for our SFFS community! If you have an idea for a story, an alumnus we should profile, or a class note to submit (we always welcome more class notes!), please reach out to Alissa (director of communications) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to hearing from you!
This summer we are honoring your children's love of books by bringing you some TLLC: Take-Out from the Library Learning Commons! The program will start THIS Friday, June 26!
Here's how it will work:
- Select books, either from the summer resource reading lists we provided at the end of the school year OR from our Friends School LLC catalog, and search for books you and your child(ren) would like to read. See something you want but it is out? We can put it on hold for you.
- Email Suzanne for K–4 (email@example.com) and Jason for 5–8 (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your "orders" by midnight on Thursday.
- We will pack up your bag of books (up to 10!) on Friday morning.*
- Pull up in the carpool lane or park and come to the gate at the yard between 12:00–2:00 p.m. on Friday for pick-up! (Due to COVID-19 restraints on building access and hours, the Friday 12:00–2:00 p.m. window is the only available pick-up time.)
- You may also return books from the past few months (as well as summertime checkouts) during the Friday pick-up time.
TLLC will be available every Friday through the summer (unless otherwise noted). It is important for families to note that things were a bit rushed during COVID closure, and we handed out books to some people without checking them out. Because of this, the catalog may say that a title is available, but it may actually be checked out; we'll let you know if it turns out that one of your requests is not actually on the shelves.
Each year, we learn that we will be saying goodbye to colleagues who are moving on or retiring from their positions at SFFS. As we encourage risk-taking, lifelong learning, and growth in both our students and ourselves, we celebrate our Friends as they continue their adventures and journeys outside of 250 Valencia, and we thank them for their contributions to our community. This year, I reached out to colleagues for some insight about our departures. The quotes you will read below are from unnamed faculty members who have years and decades of collaborative experience with our departing colleagues. I hope their words help convey a fraction of the debt we owe them as instructional leaders and community members. We encourage you to help us honor and celebrate those who are departing, while also welcoming those who will soon be joining this special community of learners and Friends.
LOWER SCHOOL GOODBYE:
by Jennifer Arnest
Jake Ban is going to Boston!
When we first met almost five years ago, I knew right away that we had to have Jake Ban on our teaching team. Jake exudes a vibrant energy and a commitment to professionalism that is contagious. Our team and our whole school has been influenced by his clear attention to curriculum, and his work ethic and endurance is admirable. He’s a driver of ideas, a cheerleader, and a positive thinker on the team, and I am among his biggest fans. Jake will be leaving the San Francisco Friends School to pursue graduate education in school leadership at Harvard. He and his husband will be relocating to Cambridge in July. We know we will stay in touch, as Jake’s future is something we all want to keep an eye on. Jake has found his calling in the field to be sure, and Harvard is the luckiest to receive him. We are so sad, and also, very, very proud of him.
LOWER SCHOOL WELCOME:
by Jennifer Arnest
In the 3rd Grade position, working alongside Andrea Green next year, we are thrilled to welcome Luis Hernandez to our Lower School team. Luis is currently busy wrapping up the Distance Learning for his current 3rd Grade class at Prospect Sierra School, but will be joining us for our end of year rituals, and an important part of our planning this summer, too. When the hiring committee met Luis we all just crossed our fingers and thanked our lucky stars when he accepted our offer. His resonance to our Quaker mission, his experience in independent schools, his love of the city, and his good humor and graces make us all very sure he will be a wonderful addition to the team.
Even though he’s just finished the BATTI Masters and Credential program, Luis is no stranger to independent school communities. He’s been in the education field for over 20 years, starting as an independent school student to transitions to roles such as Development Manager at the Katherine Delmar Burke School, to an Admissions Officer for the Nueva School, and most recently, as a 3rd grade associate teacher at Prospect Sierra. Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Luis brings a sense of confidence about how schools work and comes with the ability to effectively connect and collaborate with administrators and families as easily as he does with students. When not creating his latest video lesson, Luis enjoys staying fit, healthy cooking, and playing music, preferably all outside. It is clear that this New Yorker has fully embraced Bay Area life!
I have been speaking to many parents, colleagues, and often Mike, about how challenging—and sometimes exhausting—it has been in the last few years to be in the field of education. It’s noisy out there, and every parent is wondering and worried about how the tone and the onslaught of media and global events are impacting our children—and how these factors should inform their education. I’m grateful in those moments to be part of a community that insists on infusing the practice of deep reflection, heart, and reason into decision-making on behalf of our children. It’s a blessing to work at Friends for this, among many other wonderful reasons.
4th Grade Lead Teacher Amabelle, upon her return from a Quaker education workshop a few years ago, reminded us that the SPICES (the six testimonies we’ve adopted in Friends schools) are among the core Quaker values—but they are not finite, not things that we check off a grocery list. One of the testimonies we reflect on is the continuous revelation of Truth. Kindness is another. We can also lift up personal testimonies that might guide us for particular reasons at particular times. They can become helpful, reflective guideposts for our lives and learning, both in our school and the outside world. With these two thoughts in mind—the times we live in and the idea that the testimonies are more than 6 finite terms known as the SPICES—I invite you all to muster a new personal testimony for yourself this year. As for me, I offer you two that I’ve been mulling over: the testimonies of CHILDHOOD and COURAGE.
CHILDHOOD: I have deep faith in the process of childhood. It’s messy and weird and full of as many joys as mistakes. It’s uncomfortable, too—much of the time. In fact, learning is supposed to be a little uncomfortable; that’s how change happens in the brain. And it works if you have faith and allow the time and space to let it happen. Adults sometimes show wavering faith in our children’s ability to dig themselves out of challenges—we aim to protect them and to right the wrongs we see. Instead of letting them experience things on their own terms, to muddle through and give them time to reflect and make sense of the world, we rush to rescue them with our solutions, solutions that are based on our own experiences, knowledge, and adult minds. My favorite poet Emily Dickinson expressed it more beautifully: Experience is the Angled Road, Preferred against the Mind. We often say here that it is better to be a curious parent, rather than a “fixer.” When your child is struggling through any social or academic experience, listen more, be genuinely curious, deliver them a sense of agency, and aim to give a little less advice. Through this kind of support, children sense we believe in them and their ability to get through. That’s how autonomy works: by having faith in the messy process of childhood and experience.
Sometimes, of course, we must step in—when they are crossing the carpool bike lane, for example. Good idea. Other times, we do not and should not. We ought not tell them what to think or how to act on their convictions. When we do, we make them fearful of what they wonder, think, or believe; they will always on the look-out for what is expected or acceptable. The development of an educated voice comes from within and requires mistakes and reflection on experiences. This takes time—a lot of time—to light up. Adults can’t steamroll this, no matter the urgency we feel. Have faith in the process of childhood—it is much bigger than any one of your answers. It’s why we sing “This Little Light of Mine” every year, over and over. And why you all hold back tears every time your children sing it. Don’t let anyone snuff it out.
COURAGE: This one really has me going. Some days, it can take an awful lot of armor to get up in the morning. Complex ideas are relegated to sound bites and they go viral—it’s easy when someone else has already done the thinking for you! Educating our children to grapple with complex ideas requires that they become accustomed to sifting through lots of experiences and opinions—and confident enough to challenge commonly-held beliefs. At Friends, we aim to deepen their commitment and habit of being curious and to remain open to new ideas. Being truly engaged, vocal, and innovative requires not just creativity, but courage. We want our students to know how to push beyond the bubble and ask what more is out there. It requires courage to make our way down roads less traveled, even more to allow our children to, but it’s up to us to help them become confident enough to do so.
One wise Quaker educator once reminded me that “for the privilege of attending our Friends School, we hope our children will go out and do some good in the world.” What or how they might do that may be as unique and diverse as each of our children and families are. All of us here at Friends are committed to providing our children with robust, joyful, and even provocative experiences. As they cultivate curiosity and open their perspectives, hearts, and minds to possibility—and even to doubt—we have armed them with self-knowledge and the courage of their convictions, and we’ve aimed them in the right direction to bring reason and heart to their educational experiences and the world beyond.
Each year, we learn that we will be saying goodbye to colleagues who are moving on or retiring from their positions at SFFS. As we encourage risk-taking, lifelong learning, and growth in both our students and ourselves, we celebrate our Friends as they continue their adventures and journeys outside of 250 Valencia, and we thank them for their contributions to our community. We encourage you to help us honor and celebrate those who are departing, while also welcoming those who will soon be joining this special community of learners and Friends.
by Andrew Salverda
Few people in the world could make middle school students appreciate Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and their grandparents tap their toes to Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train. For 11 years, music emissary Garth Applegate has helped students as Friends find their groove and resuscitated many tunes adults in the community thought they’d never hear again. Garth always seemed to have time for students (and adults) who wanted to learn how to play something, or to play something better.
While Garth was not the first music teacher hired at Friends, he has been the program’s key architect over the years, and his vision for the program has shaped what it is today. Beginning with instrumental lessons with 4th Grade students and then various groups (orchestra, jazz, world band) throughout Middle School, Garth has worked with every single Friends student who has moved through Middle School in the last decade. Offering donuts as encouragement, Garth has steadily gathered middle-schoolers for morning jazz-making before school over the years, doing (again) what few others could—getting willing 12-year-olds out of bed early.
In addition to his engagement with students in the music studio, Garth has served as go-to accompanist for everything from Lower School plays to the Middle School Variety Show. Garth also championed a sing-along at the end of Meeting for Worship, often sitting in to play Simple Gifts or This Land Is Your Land. Serving as a basketball coach during his tenure, Garth’s teams were disciplined and played with the joy and creative spirit only a jazz musician could cultivate. This academic year, Garth has served as co-clerk of Friends professional community, facilitating meetings with an admirable blend of humor and seriousness of purpose.
Along with all the roles Garth has leaned into during his tenure at Friends, the songs he’s adapted and written for departing colleagues has showcased his talent, kindness, and humor as well as anything else. Over the years, these songs have conveyed the love and appreciation of the entire faculty and have built a community tradition like no other. Among all the songs Garth has written, juiced-up, and transcribed, there are none finer than the Friends School song Simple Joys (below), which he wrote with colleague Jodi Pickering in 2011:
A small school in the Castro
Into the Mission grew
All along Committed
To the SPICES through and through
We honor one another
And serve all with respect
We may not all be Quakers
But as Friends we do connect
Simple joys and peacefulness
Humility and pride
We speak into the silence
Our voices not denied
When we find ourselves in the place just right
We've found we've done our best
'Tis a gift to be a part of
Good 'ol S-F-F-S
The lyrics of Spirit of the Radio, by Rush, Garth’s favorite band, who he’s seen in concert at least once a year for much of his adult life, remind us that “modern music/Can still be open-hearted”... “It's really just a question/Of your honesty, yeah your honesty.” Honesty and open-heartedness have never been in doubt during Garth’s time with us at Friends, and we wish him and Katie, his partner, all the best as they head to Seattle, where, once again, Garth will create a stellar music program for a small progressive school. Thank you, Garth. Rock on.
by Guybe Slangen
This year, Clarissa took the reigns of our K–8 dance program. From dancing with our neighbors at the Francis of Assisi Community to an integrated K–MS production of Beatrice’s Goat, to an all-school assembly that featured a dance troupe that performed with hard boiled eggs, Clarissa has brought new energy, ideas, and strengths to our program. When we gather on our last day of school she’ll also carry on the lovely Friends School tradition of our end-of-the-year buddy dance with Kindergartners and our graduating 8th-Graders. A passionate dancer and educator, Clarissa has helped our program grow and flourish. She is also one of the few that works with nearly every student in our school! We’re immensely grateful for her collaboration in working with multiple teams and teachers, her flexibility with a variety of spaces and schedules, and her deep commitment to bringing out the dancer in all of us.
Earlier this year she completed her Master’s degree in Learning Design and Technology. Next year Clarissa is looking to build upon this work through her own practice and company, as well as explore new opportunities with dance organizations, schools, and students. “I am so grateful to the SFFS community who have welcomed me,” shared Clarissa. “I feel proud of the challenges the students and I have overcome and inspired by all the new things we've tried together. After my year at SFFS, I am hopeful for the future and the young people who will change the world because of their education and experiences here. I am sad to leave, but, I am never too far away in a city like San Francisco! See you around.” This is a bittersweet goodbye. We too are sad to see her go, but excited about this new journey. We wish her the best in her next chapter.
by Andrew Salverda
Beth arrived at Friends in 2015 by way of New York City, where she previously taught middle school English and science for over a decade and received her Master’s from Teachers College at Columbia University. While at Friends, Beth served as a 5th Grade advisor and taught 5th and 6th Grade Humanities, where she was known for her willingness to experiment with innovative teaching methods in order to discover new and inspiring ways to connect her students to the curriculum. Evelyn Florin, one of Beth’s colleagues in the Middle School Humanities Department, says: “It’s a rare teacher who cares so deeply about their students as Beth does. She sees the best in them and helps cultivate their potential. Beth lives the belief that all children are learners, and she helps make that a reality.”
Beth has also worked to help our Middle School TAs find their footing while at SFFS, documenting effective strategies and practices for those new to the Friends faculty. She has also been a dedicated partner with the Admissions Office, partnering with Middle School applicants and their families throughout her tenure here. Over the course of the past year, Beth has developed an inspiring methodology to help Middle School students facilitate their own meaningful collaboration and book talks. Perhaps most importantly, she is beloved by both her students and colleagues at San Francisco Friends School, and she will be truly missed. We wish her lots of global travel, good books, and time for both writing and adventures as she strikes out to discover what’s next.
[excerpted from Mike Hanas and Andrew Salverda’s letter announcing Andrew’s departure this past fall]
… Gratitude is very much on my mind, but it is a bittersweet version I feel as I write to inform you that Andrew Salverda has decided it is time to begin a new chapter in his life and in that of the San Francisco Friends School Middle School.
Andrew will continue to serve in his role as head of our Middle School through this 2018–19 school year, and I consider it a singular gift to have had Andrew at my side as I have made my way into the SFFS community over the past two and a half years. We have been mistaken for one another and for one another’s brother, and I have felt honored by each of those “misreads.” In fact, I now think of Andrew as the brother I long wished I had, and I look forward to celebrating his unique role in founding the SFFS Middle School and his opportunity to claim time for his decision about how best to apply his gifts, so many and varied, next.
Many of you have known Andrew for all or part of the 10+ years he has dedicated to Friends. If, as the prophet Khalil Gibran notes, “Work is love made visible,” then we are among the many students, alums, colleagues, parents, and friends who have benefitted from Andrew’s love and labor. He has played an extraordinary role in building the SFFS Middle School: its program; team; and culture of high, hopeful expectations. In doing so—and in partnership with his colleagues in the administration, faculty, and staff—he has contributed mightily to the cultivation of an unparalleled sense of identity and purpose that Friends enjoys, unique strengths on which we will build....
… I have been honored to serve in this position and to be a member of this community over the last decade. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from two gracious, humble, and wise heads of school, and with an inspiring administrative team. I’ve had the opportunity to lead and be led by a thoughtful, hard-working, and passionate middle school faculty. And I’ve enjoyed working with and learning from (both as an educator and as a parent) my lower school colleagues.
During my time at Friends, I’ve been inspired and humbled by more than 500 middle school students, many of whom I taught, advised, coached, and/or traveled with. And I’ve been fortunate to get to know so many generous and supportive parents, without whom Friends would not be the school it is today. I’ve grown as an educator, a parent, and a person...
I will miss walking into school every morning, being around bright and thoughtful students, and working with such wonderful people. With my own kids going into middle school next year, the timing feels right for me to step aside (and out of their way), to make room for someone new to serve in this role and to explore another path for myself….
We are also saying goodbye to beloved teaching assistants Vicky Bui (2nd Grade), Adam Macalister (Middle School), Jessie Mitchell (Middle School), Max Raynard (1st Grade), Jasmine Redmond (Middle School), and Ami Sciarillo (3rd Grade), as well as our Horizons / Americorps VISTA associate Blackberrie Eddins.
Frances Elsberry, Middle School Math
Frances is an experienced Bay Area educator who has worked extensively with Middle School-aged students, most recently teaching fifth- and sixth-grade math at Children’s Day School, where she also advocated for students in the admissions process; collaborated with colleagues on the creation of a 5th grade advisory program; and helped to organize student social justice events, including a climate strike. She previously taught 5th grade at San Francisco Day School, was a head instructional coach at the Breakthrough Collaborative, and received her Master’s of Education and California Certification from the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI).
Andrea Green, 3rd Grade Lead
Andrea has taught in lower schools, both public and independent, for over 20 years. Most recently, she was a lead 1st-Grade teacher at San Francisco Day School, where she collaborated on curriculum design, mentored new lead and co-teachers, and imagined innovative ways of incorporating technology into her teaching practice. Andrea also taught at Live Oak and received her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and teaching credential from the University of San Francisco. She is trained in Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) and Universal Design Thinking, and has attended numerous conferences on teaching math and integrating technology in elementary classrooms.
Liam McCarthy, Americorps VISTA 2019–20
by Abby Rovner
Liam McCarthy was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He graduated from Boston College last May with a BA in English and Secondary Education. While in college, Liam worked on a number of research projects studying youth basketball coaching and emergent bilingual curriculum. Through these projects, Liam developed a passion for positive youth development and social justice through education. He previously worked as a Teaching Fellow for Citizen Schools, an after-school program for middle-schoolers located in Redwood City. With Citizen Schools, Liam helped volunteers teach their passions like coding and yoga. Outside of work, Liam loves music and reading. He is looking forward to working with Horizons to bring quality educational opportunities to children in San Francisco!
Maureen Ray, 4th Grade Lead
Maureen arrives at Friends with over two decades of experience working with children as a camp counselor, volunteer mentor, teaching assistant, and lead teacher in public schools throughout California, as well as Black Pine Circle School in Berkeley. She has taught grades 3–6 over the course of her career, and for 18 years served as the director of Contra Costa Civic Theatre Summer Drama Camp. Maureen has also served as a member of numerous committees and professional organizations, including the Common Sense Media Professional Learning Network and Black Pine Circle’s Staff Diversity Committee.
Jesse Scott, Middle School Music
A Bay Area native, Jesse pursued an education in music at the Boston and New England Conservatories, where he received both Bachelor’s and graduate degrees in Bass Performance and Music Education. For the past 20 years, he has served as the music director at Brandeis Marin in the North Bay, where he founded and built the music program there from the ground up. At Brandeis Marin, Jesse conducted seven different choral and instrumental ensembles and also taught a general music course.
Clarke Weatherspoon, Middle School Head
[excerpted from Mike Hanas’s letter announcing Clarke’s hiring]
… I am delighted to announce that, after an extensive national search and consideration of nearly 40 applications, Clarke Weatherspoon has been selected and has accepted the invitation to serve as the next head of the San Francisco Friends School Middle School...
Clarke brings nearly two decades of experience working with 5th–12th grade students. His professional wellspring includes teaching courses in Comparative Religion and Middle Eastern, US, and World History. He has taught at schools including Phillips Exeter Academy, Marin Academy, Sacred Heart Preparatory School, and the Urban School of San Francisco since 2006. At the Urban School, Clarke has maintained classroom responsibilities and more recently served for five years as a 9th & 10th grade class dean before assuming the role of dean of equity and inclusion in 2016. He is a graduate of Phillips Exeter, earned his undergraduate degree with honors in History and Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara, and then his master’s degree in Computing in Education at Columbia University. A devoted coach, Clarke has also served as a program director for the Stanford Water Polo Club. He also identifies as special interests photography, film-making, yoga, meditation, and cycling.
What the content above (and more from Clarke’s résumé) does not convey is the combination of warmth, wisdom, and commitment he brings to his work in schools. In his own words: “My goal is to continue working in a progressive school that values life and the struggles that make our personal and communal journeys valuable. I strive to co-create school communities that are willing to walk with students and families as they push themselves to be more powerful, engaged, capable, and caring.” We are thrilled to lean into those struggles, and to walk through and celebrate life with Clarke at SFFS…
We are also thrilled to welcome new Lower School TAs Cale Nickerson and Sydney Shannon, as well as Middle School TAs Marcell DeBarros, Marc Kim and Patrick Smith; we will share bios and photos of all of the new Friends joining our professional community this summer.
Mark your calendars early this year for the Lower School Portfolio Celebrations on Friday, June 8th, 2018 (schedule below). Lower School parents—no extended family, please—join your children here at school so that they can share selected portfolio work with you in a community of their classroom peers.
Students and teachers have collected work all year long, selecting samples that represent both processes and finished products. Students have reflected on their work over time in each grade and will sit down with you informally, in hallways and in classrooms, walking you through a timeline of their work. They may even take you on a tour of their favorite reading nook, or teach you a game they love to play with their friends. These portfolios will go home with students at the end of the day, and you may find yourself perusing them all summer, and into the future.
Children at different ages and stages will have a range of abilities to sit and share this work with you with focus. Stay present, meet your child where they are, and take what you can from the moment. Come ready to spend quality, focused time with your child—it is always best not to have siblings or grandparents for this event. The lower school portfolio years will culminate, a few years from now, in a middle school student-led conference experience that will bring it all into keen and purposeful focus for students, and for you. We have the long arc in mind; in the lower school years we are laying the foundations for a self-reflective practice that will help all of our students thrive with emerging confidence, demonstrate strong self-knowledge, and lean in to challenge with a ‘growth mindset’ that will last a lifetime.
If you find your time split between two or more children and events and you are not sure what to do, contact your child(ren)’s teachers (if they haven’t already contacted you). They have been proactive in making arrangements to accommodate any complex overlaps, and can help you plan the morning. Some families choose to split the scheduled time in half between two classes; others may be able to send one parent in one direction and focus on one child for the entire time.
Below are a few reminders to guide you when looking at work with your children, in support of their self assessment, celebration and learning.
Sample of reflection prompts used by students:
I chose this piece because...
I used to, but now I...
The hardest part was...
This piece shows improvement because...
I felt proud...
This is a good memory because....
Tips for portfolio viewing for adults—try questions like:
Was this hard for you?
What do you like about this piece?
Did you do this work in a group or on your own?
Did you have to work through frustration on this work?
What about this piece are you proud of?
Make comments that are descriptive/specific rather than judgmental:
This looks like it took a long time.
Tell me about this part.
Looks like you had fun with this.
- 8:30-9:00am: kindergarten and first grade Parent Coffee with Mike/Jennifer in the Meeting Room
- 9:00am: kindergarten Spanish song share (K parents stay in the Meeting Room)
- 9:00-9:30am: first grade portfolios
- 9:15-9:45 am: kindergarten portfolios
- 10:00-10:45am: second and third grade portfolios
- 11:00-11:30am: second grade play "Tall Tales" with Hilary/Kent in the Black Box
- 11:00-11:30am: fourth grade band with Garth in the Meeting Room
- 11:30am-12:10pm: fourth grade portfolios
- 12:15-12:45pm: fourth grade parent meeting with Andrew Salverda and fifth grade team in the Meeting Room
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. So the unknown, the mysterious is where art and science meet.”
In mid-march, we attended the National Art Educators Association (NAEA) conference hosted in Seattle, WA. This is the ninth year that we attended, and the third time that we co-presented at the conference, which has been an amazing opportunity not just to share the unique approach to the arts at SFFS with independent schools from across the country, but to gain inspiration from other visual art instructors as well. While at the conference, we celebrated ten years of collaborative work at SFFS by presenting a hands-on workshop that illuminates how the visual arts and scientific inquiry are intertwined by sharing two interdisciplinary units—one third grade, the other seventh and eighth grade.
Integration is a natural way in which we experience the world. True integration in the classroom serves all of the disciplines involved and makes connections to ‘real life’ experience outside of the walls of our school. As in our classroom/studios, participants in our (sold out) workshop were introduced to a series of artmaking routines to investigate a question that is relevant to both scientists and artists. Those attending the workshop came away with a clearer sense of how this approach builds understanding in both disciplines while providing experiences that invigorate a spirit of inquiry, connecting to the real world of artists and scientists.
Here is a small sample of the brilliant student work that we showcased at the conference:
As we begin the season of lifting up the comings and goings of our staff and faculty, we hope you will embrace our spirit of growth and community. We encourage you to help us in welcoming in full force the new teachers and learners who will soon be joining us:
Clarissa Ko, K-8 dance and drama: Clarissa comes to Friends with a depth and breadth of experiences in the dance world. Clarissa has been teaching within Pre K-12 schools in the Bay Area since 2014. She’s a graduate of University of San Francisco where she studied Performing Arts and Social Justice. It was this focus that drew her to SFFS where she’s eager to explore opportunities to promote social change via critical thinking and reflection, and build community through empathy and action. Clarissa is also a MSEd Learning Design and Technology candidate at Purdue University. She currently teaches with ODC’s Youth and Teen Program and HeartBeat Dance Academy. In 2016 Clarissa founded Five Feet Dance, a modern dance company. She is excited to join the Friends School community to build upon the firm foundation laid by Hilary, as well as find innovative ways for curriculum integration, movement exploration, and work collaboratively with colleagues.
Tanya Cotom, LS Spanish: We are happy to report that after an unexpected departure of our beloved Karina (we are losing her to Peru!) we made haste in our search for a new spanish teacher in the lower school. After several applicants were considered, lessons shared and conversations had, we have are thrilled to report that Tanya Cotom will be staying on in this new role and responsibility. We are all typically very discerning about why or when a new teacher might be considered, but Tanya simple rose to the top among our contenders. We see such potential to grow a gifted young teacher who has proven herself in several realms; over summers teaching with Horizons, three years on our lower school team, as someone who knows our school community deeply, who is familiar with our programs widely, and our spanish program in LS particularly. Tanya is a native speaker, with a self expressed and confident passion to take this next step in her career. She is an incredibly hard working and bright community member, with a masters degree in elementary education. She has been our lead TA lead clerk for two years, showing leadership, and high emotional intelligence as well. She feels drawn to using what she has learned, and teaching the language she loves, as an expression of her true voice as a teacher. We are lucky in so many ways, and are currently planning her on-boarding and summer professional development and transition with Karina; we are quite sure she will enhance the wonderful work the spanish department has been doing, and sustain, enhance and honor the program. I have such faith in this team.
Please welcome her into her new role when you can this week, hopefully in person.
Jenn Cusworth, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Jenn is excited to move to the Bay Area and join the SFFS community! After living most of her life on the East Coast, she's looking forward to more sunshine and less snow. Jenn graduated with a BA in Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011, and went on to receive an MS in Education from Bank Street College of Education in NYC. It was here that she developed her passion for teaching project-based, progressive pedagogy. After graduate school, Jenn moved back to Western Massachusetts, where she worked as a 5th and 6th grade teacher at the Greenfield Center School (the birthplace of Responsive Classroom) and grew her skills and appreciation for socially and emotionally responsive learning environments. Surrounded by the valleys and mountains of New England, Jenn loved the opportunities for outdoor education: hiking, rock climbing, and just playing in the woods! For the past year, Jenn has been back in NYC, teaching 6th grade history at Brooklyn Friends School. Here, she was able to grow her passions for social justice-based learning opportunities. Jenn sees education as a form of activism and loves connecting history with our world today. Soon, she will live in the Bay with her partner and two dogs, and she can't wait to continue on in a Quaker school at SFFS.
Neal Donovan, Middle School TA: Neal was first introduced to Quaker pedagogy at Brooklyn Friends School, where he spent a year as a substitute and after school teacher. Upon returning home to the Bay Area in 2015, he sought out a school with similar values and found SFFS, which he has grown to love for its emphasis on teaching empathy and conflict resolution. He has worked at SFFS as an ED teacher, substitute, and spent a year as a kindergarten TA. He is a graduate of Oberlin College. When he isn’t at school, Neal spends his time playing guitar and making ambient electronic music. He also enjoys hiking and camping in California’s many beautiful landscapes.
Christopher Gonzalez-Crane, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Christopher is a native of San Francisco. After graduating from The Urban School, Christopher moved to Minnesota to attend Carleton College. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in English and American literature. After working for a year in New York City in publishing, Christopher began teaching middle and high school English at The Thomas Jefferson School in Concepcion, Chile. After moving back to San Francisco in 2004, Christopher was a middle school teacher at The Children’s Day School where he taught traditional black and white photography, assisted with the high school application process and developed the middle school study hall program. For the last nine years, Christopher has been teaching and studying in London. In 2010, he received a Masters of Research from The London Consortium. He is currently in the final stages of his PhD in Humanities and Cultural studies. While in London, he taught BA level humanities and critical studies at The University of London. Christopher has specialist knowledge in English and American Literature, photography, cultural studies and social history. His own academic work is concerned with the historical origins of self-help culture in the American West. He has a particular interest in the construction of the responsible, ethical self. Christopher is excited to bring digital archives alive in his classroom. Christopher is delighted to be returning to San Francisco and joining the SFFS community.
Dianne Hurvitz, Lower School Music Specialist: Dianne is thrilled to be joining the SFFS community! She is a New England native; she has lived and taught in the Midwest, the Rockies, and the Northeast, and is now having a wonderful time settling here in California. After earning a BA in music from Oberlin College, where she played any and all musical instruments she could get her hands on, Dianne then spent time in the worlds of musical theater production and filmmaking. A love of working with students, from working as a ski instructor to conducting the local town band, inspired Dianne to return to Oberlin to earn a Masters in Education. She began her classroom teaching experience as a kindergarten teacher in Boston, MA. Dianne was then able to combine her love of teaching and music as the founding music teacher for a K-8 charter school. She was drawn to the Bay Area by friends and family, and the opportunity to help build the Khan Lab School as the music and wellness teacher. Dianne is passionate about coaching students to embrace their curiosity, wonder, and imagination, and to foster a lifelong love of learning. She is so excited to join the music department at SFFS, and eagerly looking forward to meeting students as well as the community!
Alissa Kinney-Moe, Director of Communications: On June 6, we'll welcome Alissa Kinney-Moe as our new Director of Communications. Alissa is no stranger to schools: she started her career as a high school history teacher at Emma Willard School in upstate NY, and later found her true calling in school communications, first at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York and later at University High School here in San Francisco. After a brief stint in Atlanta, Alissa is looking forward to returning to the Bay Area with her husband and two young sons.
Andrea Snyder, Second Grade Teacher: We are very excited to be welcoming Andrea Snyder to our SFFS community, and to the Lower School team as our new second grade lead teacher. Andrea will be working alongside Anhvu Buchanan next year as they build on the great work that the team has developed. Andrea is a seasoned educator, having taught many grades from fifth to kindergarten. She has been working at international schools for the past seven years in London and most recently Hanoi, where she further developed ways of bringing peaceful conflict resolution, global perspectives, stewardship, and responsibility to the classroom, which ties in beautifully with Quaker values. Originally from Philadelphia, she has also lived in Nashville and Atlanta, and taught for several years at Packer Collegiate School in NYC. Andrea was really searching for the “right next step” for her career, and a home in San Francisco and at Friends felt right, almost right away. She sees herself as an advocate for children, and we know that her deep pedagogical background will contribute so much to our team. Andrea loves fresh air, hiking and baking, so we are confident she has made the best choice in coming to SF. Moving here from Hanoi this summer is no small feat, so we are already working on helping her land on her feet once she arrives. We know she will be a great addition to our school and community.
Each year, we receive news that we must say goodbye to some of our beloved staff and faculty. Saying goodbye always reminds us that Friends School is a learning community that encourages a growth mindset in its members, including members of the professional community. Cultivating an active, reflective, and evolving professional practice for teachers is especially important to us.
It is among our greatest strengths as an institution to encourage risk taking, lifelong learning, and growth in both our students and ourselves; to this end, when teachers or staff decide to move on, we celebrate them and their journeys and thank them for their contributions to the SFFS community, even when we will miss them.
As we begin the season of lifting up the comings and goings of our staff and faculty, we hope you will embrace our spirit of growth and community. We also encourage you to help us honor and celebrate those that may be moving on, while welcoming in full force the new teachers and learners who will soon be joining us.
From Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean:
Karina Diaz, Lower School Spanish Teacher: On any given day if you were to stroll into Karina Diaz's second floor classroom at around 3:20 you might find her passed out on the floor. Why? You would be too if you just spent the last six hours dancing, singing, and speaking rapid-fire Spanish with kids. No, this is not a Zumba class, this is lower school Spanish—energetic learning filled with joy, movement, and tireless engagement. Karina embodies more energy in her pinky finger than most of us can muster with all of our might. Karina's thoughtful approach to curriculum, her passion for teaching Spanish language and culture to young students, as well as her infectious energy, will be deeply missed by all of us here at Friends. We are grateful for her contributions to our community and for making Spanish a fun, full-body experience for our lower-schoolers. We will be saying adios to Karina Diaz at the end of this school year as she prepares to move back to Peru. Karina is excited to be closer to her family once again, and perhaps start a career as a Zumba instructor (just kidding!). We wish her the best.
From Jennifer Arnest, Lower School Head:
Jessie Radowitz, Second Grade Teacher: Jessie Radowitz came upon us a few years back, and we all knew immediately that we had to find a way to reel her in to work at Friends. Via Skype from New York, she charmed us with her thoughtful, calm, but clear and authentic approach to thinking about the pedagogy and purpose of education. From her work in the south with Teach for America, and a highly revered career pursuing her Masters degree at Columbia Teachers College, Jessie has brought to us, in spades, more than we could have imagined.
She is kind, connected to children, organized, clear and supportive with parents and colleagues alike. She is a sometimes quiet, but very big thinker; when she has something to say we know it has been considered—she does not waste words. With her eye always leaning towards social justice and Quaker values, she has elevated her work and engaged us all. Jessie has navigated the most difficult passage in losing her mom to cancer so quickly while she has been among us. Now, she has to go back east, with her partner, Jake, to be closer to her father, who lives In D.C. The only single happy news for us with this departure is that Jessie has landed a job at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia teaching first grade. This means we will be in touch and close in our missions across the country, and when we visit Quaker Schools in Philly, and Germantown (which is often), we can see Jessie and share ideas. We are determined to stay connected, and Jessie will always be part of the SFFS community.
From Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean:
Kent Jue, Music Teacher: Kent looks like he is 30 years old himself, yet he’s actually finishing up his 30th year of teaching choral, string and general music classes to independent and public school students! From the traditional SFFS kindergarten song “This Little Light of Mine” to the 7th and 8th grade chorus elective group lending spirit and gravitas to our concerts and graduation, Kent has spent his last seven years at Friends imparting energy, focus, and a deep understanding of the language of music to our students.
Join us in acknowledging Kent’s commitment to music education and in celebrating his next step. Kent will assume the Executive Director role for the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, an internationally recognized group with 30 years of experience offering a complete musical education program that's designed to take boys from their first exposure to the art of choral singing through a full course of vocal instruction. Kent has been engaged with Ragazzi for over 15 years, and he will step into his new role in August 2018. Congratulations, Kent!
From Andrew Salverda, Middle School Head:
Raymond Artis, Middle School Humanities Teacher: We’re sad to be saying goodbye to Raymond Artis, who is moving back east with his partner, Lamercie. Raymond arrived at Friends just prior to the 2013-2014 school year, interested in subbing and learning more about our school. We were immediately struck by his ability to serve in a variety of classes and with students of many different ages. He distinguished himself with his demeanor, tone, and curiosity to learn more about Quaker education. Students appreciated his warmth and supportive presence; he quickly became our “go to” sub in the middle school. The following year, Raymond moved into serving as a humanities teacher to one fifth grade section and an assistant to the other teachers at that grade level. In this capacity, he came to know the fifth graders very well and was the person with the perhaps best knowledge of the grade as a community. We were eager to offer Raymond a full time job teaching two fifth grade humanities sections and serving as an advisor.
In the years since, Raymond has made myriad contributions to Friends, and had an immeasurable impact on the students with whom he’s worked. In addition to helping to bring better alignment and articulation to the fifth grade humanities curriculum, Raymond helped reboot Affinity Groups in the middle school, modeled activism and participation in issues of social justice ,and spoke in sessions of the Equity and Inclusion Committee's "At the Table" events about Black Lives Matter and talking with kids about race. Raymond elevated our faculty’s discourse around race by facilitating a book group for faculty around Ta'Nahisi Coates's book Between the World and Me. Raymond co-clerked the Equity and Inclusion Committee at Friends, which has tackled meaningful work because of his leadership.
Raymond has proven to be a vital voice of Quaker integrity. He often asked the question everyone was thinking in a meeting, and became a trusted sounding board for colleagues, especially adults of color, in our professional community. He traveled to China with Friends students and will forever be the all-time Pirate Waiter champion on the Pinnacles trip.
We are deeply grateful for all Raymond has done and been at Friends. We wish him well and hope he visits often.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jodi Pickering, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Jodi Pickering is moving on after eleven years at Friends. She was one of the first two teachers in the SFFS middle school and during her time at Friends has devoted herself fully to her work with students, parents and her colleagues. Jodi was a key architect in the creation of the Friends middle school, and has served in a variety of different roles and posts during her tenure: humanities teacher, advisory coordinator, learning specialist, admissions associate, futsal coach, trip leader, double dutch rope turner, lyricist, listener, and Friend.
Jodi has designed curricula for every middle schooler at Friends and co-taught with numerous colleagues as our middle school took off and grew. She has been a trusted voice of pedagogical and Quaker wisdom, consistently keeping students and their growth at the center of her work. Jodi was an early pioneer on the Nicaragua trip, and has accompanied students on the trip for eight consecutive years.
Jodi embodies the values we hold dear at Friends in the way she approaches her work and relationships with students and colleagues, and she models the importance of living one’s ideals. She created an annual “Let your Life Speak Symposium” in 2013 and was the first recipient of the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future in 2015, during which time she made pilgrimages to the Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Pennsylvania and its namesake in England, where George Fox, founder of Quakerism, said he was called by the voice of God. She began writing a young adult novel during this time, which she finished during a mini-sabbatical the following year. Jodi’s energy and flashes of insight encourage us to trust ourselves and to manifest our visions. As a co-developer of the Professional Growth program for teachers at Friends, Jodi took many classes at Stanford during her summers, and developed a fruitful letter exchange for our middle school students with their peers in Oklahoma City in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Always one to galvanize the group, Jodi helped to start the faculty softball team (named “George” in honor of George Fox) and co-wrote the SF Friends School song (below) with music teacher Garth Applegate.
Jodi has taught us to rally and to reflect, to jump in and to wait at the edge; to listen and to find the courage to speak. For all of her seriousness of purpose and the way that she has undeniably walked the Quaker talk, Jodi is a child at heart. She has demonstrated that humor and a love of laughter can build an understanding beyond words. Her encouragement of her students and colleagues to “choose joy” will be one of her many abiding legacies. Jodi’s impact on Friends has been significant and her absence will felt by the students, parents and colleagues who know her. We hope that she stays in our orbit.
A small school in the Castro
Into the Mission grew
All along Committed
To the SPICES through and through
We honor one another
And serve all with respect
We may not all be Quakers
But as Friends we do connect
Simple joys and peacefulness
Humility and pride
We speak into the silence
Our voices not denied
When we find ourselves in the place just right
We've found we've done our best
'Tis a gift to be a part of
Good 'ol S-F-F-S
From Guybe Slangen, Director of Community Engagement:
Hilary Palanza, Dance/Drama Teacher: For the past four years Hilary Palanza has led our K-8 dance program. From first graders dancing with our neighbors at the Francis of Assisi Community to seventh graders choreographing their own dance creations, Hilary has taught a broad range of students and styles. She carried on the lovely Friends School tradition of our end-of-the-year buddy dance with Kindergartners and our graduating eighth graders. Hilary has also been one of the few that works with every student in our school! She adopted a program that was still young, and has added her own flare and energy to it, helping it grow and flourish.
We’re deeply grateful for her collaboration in working with multiple teams and teachers, her flexibility with spaces and schedules, and her commitment to bringing out the dancer in all of us.
For the past year she has also been pursuing a Masters in public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, focusing particularly on how to support and advocate for the arts. This passion has evolved into her next project where she’ll be working on her long-held dream to develop and open the first ever interactive dance museum! Hilary shared, “I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the San Francisco Friends School. The opportunity to articulate and grow the dance program and teach such a wide range of abilities and ages continues to help me grow as an artist, teacher, and friend.”
This is a bittersweet good bye. We’re sad to see her leave Friends School after this school year ends, but excited to hear about her big plans. We wish her the best in her next chapter, and have launched a search to fill her dancing shoes.
From Marlene Sloger, Director of Development:
Amity Bacon, Director of Communications: As many of you know, Amity joined us in the summer of 2016, and has been the primary point of contact for all school communications. In addition to helping families stay up to date on school events and happenings, Amity also played a central role in revamping our school website, streamlining our Circle Back newsletter, and launching the Friends blog. She will be heeding the siren call of Portland, OR later this summer.