Skip to main content

Lower School

Music teacher Jennifer Perfilio filling in for Kent this month

Thursday, February 8, 2018
Jennifer Perfilio, music teacher. 

As part of our long-term commitment to the career of educators, Friends School provides an opportunity to apply for what we call our "mini-sabbatical" program. The mini-

sabbatical offers a teacher a short time away to pursue an area of professional inspiration, and to research and practice outside of the footprint of the regular school day.

As many of you may have heard from your children, music teacher Kent Jue is the recipient of a mini-sabbatical this year, and he is currently off on deep dive into choral music for the next three weeks.

Our long time performing arts substitute teacher (and also an SFFS parent), Jennifer Perfilio, will be stepping in during this time to cover Kent's classes. She and Kent have collaborated and planned together, and Jennifer is now serving as a "professional guest teacher," delivering some of the same aspects of Kent's music program in K-8, but also offering a unique experience during this period, focusing on choral movement. Kent returns after February break, on March 2nd. Friends School thanks you, Jennifer!

Fond Farewell to Hilary

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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. 

A reminder about technology use this holiday season

Friday, December 15, 2017

We suspect that many of you are considering technology devices for holiday gifts this season and thought it might be a good time to revisit some of the work around technology at San Francisco Friends School. SFFS continues to adopt a measured approach to rolling out new technology and to be attentive to the usage of the tech we already have. Our hope is to avoid gimmicky gadgets and try to meaningfully use technology as a tool for teaching and learning.

...there is healthy food and there is junk food. We don’t want to get rid of all of the food. We want to keep the nourishing bits.

The Quaker tenet of Simplicity is often at odds with 21st century life. Threshing with the complexity of 21st century distractions and harnessing the core value of a tool is hard work! And, this wrestling is—in many ways—a defining characteristic of this generation students and our school. At school we often describe technology consumption with a food analogy: there is healthy food and there is junk food. We don’t want to get rid of all of the food. We want to keep the nourishing bits. I guess we are all waiting for an Alice Waters ‘California Cuisine’ inspired moment when we can appreciate the tasty wholesome stuff and recognize the junk food for what it is. We all indulge in the occasional sweet, but the whole foods help us thrive.

One of the standout technology (junk food) concerns at school, and probably home, are digital distractions. It is nearly impossible for a classroom teacher or parent to compete with Youtube! We know that media companies exist to captivate our time and attention. To address this we are building on a strong foundation of digital citizenship curriculum that promotes responsible student behavior with technology. We are pleased that our Quaker values translate to the digital realm and we are working hard to leverage them for continued responsible use. Yet, we also recognize that digital devices have an undeniable ability to pull our time and attention in unproductive ways. Admittedly, many of us tech committee members and faculty struggle with efficient use of technology in our professional and personal lives.

Some of you may have heard about “Net-ref.” In order to help our Middle School students focus, we have introduced a pilot of a tool called Net-ref. Our Middle School faculty can use Net-ref to monitor network usage and help students avoid online distractions. If needed, our faculty can temporarily put students in a “Focus” mode which limits access to a few dozen core academic (wholesome food) websites. Students can request to be put into a “Focus” mode or faculty can review their data and nudge them into “Focus” if deemed necessary. So far, we have found that Net-ref works pretty well. A key to the Net-ref pilot’s success has been communicating to our students that we can and will “pull the internet plug”  when it seems helpful.

Perhaps a similar approach could be useful in your home? I have previously tested two consumer products with similar functionality. Several vendors have made tools with parental control features, such as Disney’s “Circle” and Google’s “Wifi” *(both ~$100.00).  They both have a small hardware box that provide a lot of utility. They allow parents to control the type of content (e.g. block hate groups, violence, etc.) and the time that internet is available. This makes it easy to “pull the internet plug” at bedtime for all of the children's devices in the house. Both devices are pretty flexible with time extensions (easy to temporarily extend the cut-off time in 15 minutes increments). And, also worth sharing that the setup is not much more complex than plugging in a wireless router.  

So, if you are adding more digital devices at home this holiday season, please consider a tool to help manage them. Having a similar strategy at school and home may go a long ways in both locations. We hope that having a similar technology conversation and tools at home will be helpful with you managing your family's relationship with the wholesome food version of technology and media. We look forward to continuing this conversation and sharing additional resources in the near future.


New and upcoming STEM events at SFFS

Monday, November 20, 2017

This school year, Friends School has ushered in an array of STEM-related events and, we hope, strong new traditions. Middle school math teachers Kelsey Barbella, Diali Bose-Roy, and David Louis organized our first ever “Taking Chances with Friends,” a series of probability games that connected middle school students of all grade levels. More events are on the horizon through December, with a PA Meeting on Wednesday, Nov 29 that will focus on lower school science and middle school math. More details can be found below.

Taking Chances with Friends 
Last week, middle school students enjoyed a math experience called "Taking Chances with Friends," investigating and exploring probability beyond the normal classroom experience. The event lasted two hours and integrated sports, simulations, science, and technology. In the gym, students calculated experimental probability as fellow students shot hoops on the basketball court or played cornhole. Other games that flooded the halls and classrooms incorporated throwing giant dice and predicting outcomes, such as in the game "horse racing." Another probability game included "catch and release," a simulation of taking random "samples" of fish from a lake. All students had a chance to host games as well as play each other's games. It was a great community building activity for the entire middle school.

Math Mornings
This month we launched our annual series of “Math Mornings” in the lower school. Parents are invited to drop in to join their child’s classroom for math games that reflect some of the problem solving that students have been working on throughout the school year. Up next: Friday, Dec 8, third grade teachers Jake Ban and Amabelle Sze will hold a math morning from 8:30-9am. On Friday, Jan 12, second grade teachers Anhvu Buchanan and Jessie Radowitz will hold a math morning from 8:30-9am; and on Thursday, Jan 18, Kindergarten teachers Noah Bowling and Nick McGrane will hold hold a math morning from 8:30-9am.

PA Meeting: Focus on math and science curriculum
Parents are invited to a special PA meeting on Wednesday, Nov 29, from 6-8pm in the Meeting Room. Lower school teachers Rich Oberman and Courtney Wilde will highlight new lower school science projects and learnings from the year thus far. In addition, the middle school math team will take parents on a tour of the curriculum from blocks to algebra, highlighting a newer approach to teaching mathematics this year.

Hour of Code  
At Friends, we choose to carefully integrate technology as a learning tool that complements our curricular goals. The lower school faculty’s inquiry and constructivist based approaches to teaching have also influenced how technology is used in the curriculum. One example of our evolving technology integration is a national program called the Hour of Code, hosted by Technology Integrator Beth Espinoza and lower school librarian Suzanne Geller. During Computer Science week in December, all K-4 students will take part in the Hour of Code, which gives students exposure to various programs that offer the initial steps of programming and coding: putting together instructions, conditionals, and loops. Students will work with a collaborative partner to troubleshoot commands and strategize mazes. Check out these resources to explore some great coding apps at home.

Parents can experience what it's like to have dyslexia in workshop

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." ~Albert Einstein

On the evening of Tuesday, December 5th, SFFS parents will have a unique opportunity to participate in a free "Experience Dyslexia" workshop. Developed by the International Dyslexia Association, Northern California (IDA Nor Cal), this 90-minute interactive workshop simulates the challenges of reading, writing and listening comprehension that can accompany dyslexia.    

Parents who have done the simulation say it was a helpful experience to get them back in touch with what it's like to learn something new, and how hard it can be! So if your child has a learning difference, or just struggles with learning something new on occasion, this is a wonderful opportunity for parents to both challenge their brains and have an experience that could help deepen their understanding of their child's learning experience.

This workshop may be especially of interest to parents of kindergartners, first and second graders as it is often during these years that learning differences, including dyslexia, are discovered.  

Frances Dickson, SFFS Developmental Support Coordinator and Learning Special for grades K-4, as well as Mitch Neuger, SFFS Learning Specialist for grades 5-8, helped develop the most recently revised workshop for the IDA Northern California. We encourage you to check out this video from the IDA Nor Cal (featuring Frances!) to get a first hand look at what parents say about the workshop and to learn more.

The Learning Support Alliance (a PA Committee) and the SFFS Developmental Support Department are excited to bring this opportunity to you and we hope you will join us on December 5, from 6-8pm in Room 234 for this exciting opportunity of the "Experience Dyslexia" simulation workshop. 

Unfortunately, we can only accommodate 30 people, so please reserve your spot on the parent wiki soon. This event is only for adults; free childcare will be provided for SFFS students.


Staffing News - New Faces At SFFS

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We're delighted to welcome a number of new faces to our team for the 2017-2018 school year. We hope you'll enjoy reading about these unique new members of our faculty and staff, and we encourage you to help us in welcoming in full force these new teachers and learners who will soon be joining us! 

Kelsey Barbella, Middle School Math Teacher: Kelsey Barbella is a New Jersey native who followed her heart and moved to the city four years ago. While living on the east coast, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut. She then volunteered with AmeriCorps, where she not only served as an ambassador for the watersheds of New Jersey, but also educated over 2,500 students, pushing them to explore, analyze, and solve water issues themselves. This work sparked a love of teaching and a hunger for adventure outside of the program. As soon as the program ended, Kelsey moved to SF to begin teaching middle school math at Convent Elementary School. Kelsey strives to bring real-world, 21st century math into her classroom and integrates play as much as possible. She believes all students are able to learn math at the highest levels and views collaboration and values exploration as fundamental to learning. Kelsey lives in the Sunset with her boyfriend Shaun and two cats, Harrison and Patty Cake.

Anhvu Buchanan, Second Grade Teacher: Anhvu served for two years as a Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI) intern in both 2nd and 3rd grades at Friends before spending two years in the lead teaching position at The Berkeley School (TBS), where he has thrived in a combination 1st and 2nd grade classroom. Hailing from Virginia, Anvhu has two master’s degrees, one in Education from UoP, and one in Creative Writing from SF State. A published writer, he spent several years as a Writer’s Corps volunteer in the Juvenile Justice Center teaching poetry. Anhvu has been drawn to Quaker education for some time; while he was here, he committed himself to the ideals of the school by working with Horizons. While Anhvu has truly enjoyed his time at TBS, he describes Friends as a pull he could not deny. We are so happy to welcome him back to the team.

Victoria Bui, Teaching Assistant: Victoria was born and raised in Pennsylvania. She received her bachelor’s in international relations in 2012 from the University of Texas at Austin and her master’s in international studies in 2015 from the University of San Francisco. Most recently, she worked at the University of San Francisco as a grants assistant where she assisted professors funding their research projects as well as funding scholarships for students. Victoria is passionate about increasing educational opportunities for women and ethnic minorities. She has worked for two summers at the Summer Institute for the Gifted as a teaching assistant and resident counselor. In her free time, she works as clue staff in escape puzzle rooms; she also enjoys traveling, practicing improv and spending time with her family.

Nina Eckoff, Teaching Assistant: Nina started working with children in 2010, when she become part of the Glenridge Cooperative Nursery School community. Since then, she has worked at Pacific Primary School, and in 2016 joined SF Friends as a substitute teacher in the lower school. Nina lives in San Francisco with her husband and son, and enjoys camping and baking with her family. Most weekends, you can find Nina attempting new moves in a big dance class.

Eliza Kingsley-Ma, Teaching Assistant: Eliza is thrilled to join the SFFS community as the 5th grade Middle School Teaching Assistant. Eliza spent the summer working as the Program Coordinator at Horizons at SFFS, supporting students, faculty and program staff. For the past two years, Eliza taught at Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito as the 5th Grade Assistant Teacher. Before teaching at Prospect Sierra, Eliza gardened with students at Slide Ranch, taught writing at Breakthrough Collaborative and produced youth radio at WESU Middletown. Eliza earned her B.A. in American Studies and Latin American Studies from Wesleyan University. Born and raised in San Francisco, Eliza finds great pleasure in thick fog and hidden city trails.

Grecia Lacayo, Admissions and Lower School Assistant: Grecia was born and raised in Los Angeles. She initially moved to San Francisco to attend the University of San Francisco and majored in Biology where she discovered a passion for conservation biology. After working as a marine research assistant in Thailand, she went on to receive an MSc in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. It was during this time that she worked in Colombia on her MSc thesis and realized that she had a passion for both conservation biology and education. For nearly 10 years now, Grecia has worked as a tutor and as site coordinator for an afterschool program. She is excited to work in a school that teaches its students to engage the world with kindness and one that teaches the importance of an environmentally aware, just society. Grecia loves traveling, reading crime and science fiction novels, spending time outdoors, and is a film enthusiast.

Ben Lopez, Teaching Assistant: Ben is a Bay Area Teacher Training Institute student. He earned his B.A. in English at San Francisco State University. Ben was the caretaker of his grandparents for ten years, helping him to develop compassion, empathy, and patience. More recently Ben worked for six years as a bookseller at Christopher’s Books, where he found joy in community and art. Ben strives for balance within himself and the outside world, practicing mindfulness and meditation regularly. An avid reader and Giants fan, Ben lives with his partner Ema and their daughter Mika in Potrero Hill.

Adam Macalister, Teaching Assistant: Adam is a New England native, having spent most of his life living in the Boston suburbs before deciding to move to the West Coast at the opportunity to work at the San Francisco Friends School. After studying film photography in New York City, Adam transferred to Wesleyan University in Connecticut where he graduated with a degree in Government. In his free time Adam enjoys running, cooking, hiking, kayaking, photography, and gardening. In the past he has worked on a variety of different farms around the country, and he periodically packs up his bags to go camping in the wilderness. Adam first fell in love with teaching while working as an English language teacher in a fifth grade Dutch classroom during a semester abroad and hopes to one day lead his own classroom.

Nick McGrane, Kindergarten Teacher: Nick has been an independent school teacher for more than 12 years. He began in the early childhood classroom for grades K through second in Colorado at Stanley British Primary School, then taught a mixed age second and third grade class at The Friends School in Boulder. For the past six years, he has been serving as lead second grade teacher at the Live Oak School here in SF. Nick’s reputation among some of our faculty precedes him; he has practiced Clearness Committees, participated in Harvard’s Project Zero workshops, and dove into Structured Word Inquiry. Nick has been eager to return to the early childhood kindergarten classroom experience and has been drawn to our Quaker pedagogy and community for some time. He is a bright, progressive educator full of ideas and committed to developing a coherent program from it’s roots. He is also a Spanish speaker who is proficient in Japanese.

Sara Melman, Middle School Science Teacher: Sara is a native San Franciscan and graduate from University High School. She attended Cornell University and graduated in 2006 with a degree in geological sciences, teaching middle school science in NYC while earning her master’s in secondary science from City College of New York. In 2008, Sara took a teaching position at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning High School (WHEELS), where she taught high school earth science, started a drama program, a student government program, and developed an outdoor education program. Sara moved back to SF in 2015 and began teaching high school biology; recently, she’s been focused on integrating technology into science labs and projects as a vehicle for student thinking and problem solving. We are delighted to have Sara on our team here at SFFS teaching middle school science. Sara lives in the city with her partner and 8-month old son.

Veronica Oberholzer, Horizons at SFFS AmeriCorps VISTA member: Veronica was born and raised in Oakland, California. She has recently returned from a four-year sojourn on the East Coast where she earned her B.A. in Economics with a minor in Philosophy from Smith College. Volunteer work, especially in the fields of food justice and education, has always been her passion, and she enjoyed serving on the Student Executive Board of the Community Service Office at Smith. She has volunteered with children on both coasts and is excited to continue helping students realize their dreams as Horizons at SFFS’ first ever AmeriCorps VISTA Associate. When not at work you can find her reading, swimming, or playing the violin.

Max Raynard, Teaching Assistant: A native of San Francisco, Max grew up in the Mission and Sunset Districts. After receiving a degree in history from San Francisco State University, he moved to Japan where he worked as an English teacher in rural Japanese public elementary  schools for two years.  Later he moved to work at an international school with a heavy arts and project based learning focus, teaching at the kindergarten level.  He is passionate about a career in education and returned to San Francisco in 2017 to pursue this dream.  Max's interests include Japanese culture and history, baseball, and music.

Jasmine Redmond, Teaching Assistant: Jasmine is a San Francisco native beginning her first year with Friends as a Middle School TA. Jasmine graduated from International High School in San Francisco and went on to attend Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Her academic interests include African-American literature, social-emotional development in early childhood, and contemporary social justice movements. In her free time she enjoys listening to podcasts and exploring local farmer's markets.

Carrie (Caro) Spring, Middle School Spanish Teacher: Caro grew up in SF and earned her bachelor’s degree in history at Dartmouth College. During a stint as a National Park Ranger guiding tours at the Statue of Liberty, she realized that she wanted to be an educator. Caro got her master’s degree in Spanish at Middlebury College School in Spain and taught Spanish for the next 12 years at the Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland. While there, she engineered a more robust Spanish program and shifted the pedagogy toward Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) and started a flamenco dance program and a salsa dance team. For fun, Caro listens to podcasts, cooks (poorly), and teaches salsa rueda to adults in the Mission. Caro lives in the city with her favorite people: her partner Camilo (also a middle school Spanish teacher), her son Roque, and her daughter Belén. They love to spend summers at the beach and visiting relatives in Argentina, Spain, and Hungary, but during the school year they can be found most afternoons playing soccer in Golden Gate Park.

Courtney Wilde, First Grade Teacher: Courtney grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Tulane University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree. She began teaching elementary school in the New Orleans charter school system as a Teach for America corps member. Courtney then grew as an educator, union organizer, comedian, and meditator. A spiritual calling to focus on her meditation practice brought her to Green Gulch Farm in Marin for a year and a half of Zen practice. Courtney really impressed us with her intellect, intuition, pure joy, thoughtfulness, and her way with the children in her teaching practice. We a re thrilled that she has decided to join us and the first grade team at SFFS this fall, and she is excited to be of service to our school community and home.


A Year-End Development Update

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

With just days left in the school year, I wanted to take a moment to share with you our enormous gratitude for your support in raising critical funds for Friends this year. As you well know, tuition alone does not cover the cost of operating our school, and each year we look to our families and the larger Friends school community to support the teachers and programs that are critical to our mission and curriculum. Once again our community responded, joining together to steward our shared investment in Friends.

I’m thrilled to say that we’ve reached our financial goal for this year’s Annual Fund, to date raising more than $753,000. Parent participation in our Annual Fund this year is at 98%, a great showing of community support. With just days to go, we hope to make it to 100%.

This year, we were lucky to have an anonymous 8th grade family issue a Giving Challenge to their fellow 8th grade families and the Board of Trustees. This Giving Challenge raised more than $20,000 for the Annual Fund, and we hope it may be the first in a new tradition. We could not be more grateful for the generosity of all the families involved.

In addition to general support for operations, raising money for adjustable tuition remains at the forefront of our efforts. This year, we raised $186,863for adjustable tuition, including direct donations and money raised in the 2017 Blue Party. Equal parts fundraiser and community builder, this year’s Blue Party was only possible with the enormous efforts of a handful of creative, committed, and indefatigable volunteers:  Beth Dye, Aggie Gettys, Jen Aldrich, Kevin Seidel, Soledad Alzaga-Gray, Chandra and Erich Ippen, Merritt Richmond, and many, many more. If you came to the Blue Party, you know the food and drinks scaled new heights—and how could it not, with so many amazingly talented food families in our midst! We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the families involved with BiRite, Cala, Franny’s Kitchen, Indian Bento, Jackrabbit, Kasa, Nopa, Nopalito, Outerlands, Pacific Catch, and Spruce/Saratoga.

A few weeks ago, members of the Development and Finance Committees of the Board of Trustees hosted an event called “Stewardship and the Financial Health of Friends.” If you were not able to attend the event, you can view it by visiting our Vimeo account (password: steward). While it may not be the most exciting 50 minutes of viewing you’ve ever had, it will give you helpful information about the board, our finances, and how the board functions in its role as financial steward of our school.

Thank you for your generosity to San Francisco Friends School, and your investment in the future of our students, teachers and school as a whole.