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Lower School

SFFS Math Faculty Learn about "Lesson Study" from Japanese Expert

Thursday, March 22, 2018
The SFFS math team with Dr. Takahashi (fourth from right)

Established in 2016 with generous support from our community, the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future (CHFF) supports our faculty with transformative professional development experiences at key moments in their careers. Encouraged to think beyond workshops and conferences, teachers submit an application seeking support for a professional development experience that will enrich future programs, our school culture and greater community.

After receiving support from the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future, third grade teacher Amabelle Sze trekked many miles south to Hillsborough to attend the Innovative Learning Conference in the fall of 2017. There, she learned about "Lesson Study," a Japanese method for deepening collaboration, planning and reflection in teaching and learning. The name for Lesson Study in Japanese is “jugyokenkyu.” “Jugyo” meaning “teaching and learning.” “Kenkyu” meaning “study or research.” So, Lesson Study is the study or research of teaching and learning.

When Amabelle gets excited about a new, educative idea, she is unstoppable. Upon her return, Amabelle extolled the value and importance of Lesson Study to anybody who would listen.

Luckily for her, she can typically find a learning partner that is game in fellow third grade teacher Jake Ban. Jake, who had previously engaged in Lesson Study during graduate school, was immediately excited about the opportunity to delve deeper with colleagues in the service of student learning. Jennifer Arnest, who had learned about Lesson Study at Mills College, fanned the fire. Amabelle and Jennifer then presented about Lesson Study at a professional development day this past fall. It was soon clear that Amabelle, Jake, and Jennifer’s enthusiasm about Lesson Study was shared by many colleagues.

A few months later, Jake and Amabelle were sitting in a public library in East Oakland. After Jake’s persistent nagging, a graduate school classmate had arranged for them to attend a public lesson with elementary teachers from Woodland Acorn. For these teachers, this class was the culmination of a months-long Lesson Study process. For Amabelle and Jake, what had felt like a vague, interesting idea now seemed imminently achievable and ever more important. They were impressed by the depth of practice and knowledge the teachers exhibited. The Acorn Woodland staff were reflective and curious while simultaneously deliberate and savvy. Their research proposal, pre- and post-lesson conversations, the lesson itself, and the reflection, demonstrated the deep complexities inherent in teaching and learning.

At Woodland Acorn, it was not only teachers who were deeply engaged. The students were presented with a problem, “Can you write 8/3 as a mixed number?”, and persisted in solving this problem in a variety of ways independently. When asked to explain their thinking, these students, most of whom are English Language Learners, demonstrated a depth of mathematical understanding through conversation, writing, and whole-class presentation. In the teacher reflection of this lesson, Jake and Amabelle heard the letters “TTP” repeated often. They turned to each other and shrugged at this acronym. Afterwards, when one teacher passed by, Amabelle asked, “Excuse me, what is TTP?” The response: “Teaching Through Problem Solving.”

Throughout Japan, this methodology of teaching mathematics is used. Rather than teaching concepts, with a traditional “I do, you do, we do” structure, students engage in a problem for which the solution is not known in advance. Teaching Through Problem Solving is open-ended and thusly often time-consuming, often messy, and often unresolved. A leading Japanese math teacher and strong proponent of Lesson Study, Akihiko Takahashi reflected on this process, “[Math teachers] are too impatient. You expect children to learn a concept by the end of the lesson.”

TTP provides young mathematicians with an opportunity to delve deeply into mathematical practices to develop strong conceptual foundations and problem solving abilities. TPP overlays nicely with the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice, which essentialize the habits of professional mathematicians.

Both Lesson Study and TTP reflect many of our shared Quaker values:

  • Simplicity: teaching math through problem solving encourages narrow and deep mathematical learning
  • Community: working together with colleagues to plan curriculum
  • Reflection: being more mindful of our practice through group reflection
  • Continuous revelation: researching lesson topics, planning and reflecting together provides a greater truth than any one individual teacher could possess

We are very happy to announce that we hosted Dr. Takahashi at San Francisco Friends School on March 19, 2018. He worked closely with a team of our K-8 math teachers on collaborative lesson research and the approach to teaching through problem solving.

"Committing to The Air": An update on our scheduling process

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mike swings by my office a few times a week, busts through the door and yells, “Trace! Coffee?” I used to look at the clock, figure out if I had time to walk to Mission Beach Cafe, look for my wallet—now I just get up and go. The five-minute walk to Mission Beach is not only a fun time to connect about important things like which one of our heroes we will be for the Blue Party, but it’s a time to connect about more challenging things that come up, too. The most important reason to go these days is to connect with our neighborhood community—the crew at Mission Beach. They know that Mike likes a coffee in the morning and a mocha in the afternoon; they know that I require a low-fat tea latte, a drink that I love, but am too embarrassed to order in earshot of others. They offer us high fives and advice that one can only gain from devoting time to human connection.

Recently one of our favorite baristas at Mission Beach, Brian, was telling us that he used to go to circus school. This is where I would normally have tuned out and thought, “I’m way too busy for this.” But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Mike this year, it’s that moments like this are when you need to tune in, not out. Brian goes on to explain circus school and that his trapeze teacher was this inspiring fellow who would always tell his students, “When you are letting go of one trapeze bar and have not yet caught the next, you need to ‘commit to the air.’” Mike and I looked at each other as if to acknowledge silently the golden nugget of advice Brian just delivered to us.

On our walk back to school, we talked about how we might apply this nugget to our day ahead. I figured I’d try to apply it to my biggest challenge—revising our daily school schedule. We know that our schedule, particularly our middle school schedule, does not reflect the way we want to spend our time; it doesn’t support teacher collaboration and it keeps our students moving, too quickly, throughout their day. I dare any of you to shadow a middle schooler through the school day and not fall flat on your face by 3:15pm. At Friends we’ve known we want a less siloed approach to time, but we’ve been unsure how to create exactly that. How could I commit to the air regarding scheduling? I could reach out to Ross Peters.

Ross is a guy who has a really informative and entertaining blog about education, music and travel. He is the Head of School at St. George’s Independent School in Tennessee and in addition to being a great writer, he has also guided a number of independent schools through a very successful schedule redesign.

I emailed Ross Peters and crossed my fingers he’d agree to a phone call. His blog posts and videos all pointed to someone who really understood leadership, community, school life, and time. Ross called me back and offered nugget after nugget of information and advice—take all administrators off of the committee, small change is just as hard as big change, and once the committee puts forth a schedule, close the door to the old schedule—no going back. He might as well quit his job and join the team at Mission Beach. His words not only made me feel confident that we could build a schedule on our own, but he convinced me that doing the work of building the schedule together, as a community, would be the single thing that made the schedule successful. The work is not just about the final product, but it’s about trusting the process and bringing people along.

Nick, Courtney, Amabelle, Jodi, Jason, Jennifer S., and David are leading us in redesigning time at San Francisco Friends School. They’ve been given just two criteria from the administration team:

  • To deepen student engagement and offer more applied experiences in the interest of enriched understanding, the schedule should offer experiences less hurried and fragmented and more robust in coherence, depth, and application in all aspects of learning.
  • In order to create an optimal culture and learning environment for students, the schedule should further support the development and collaborative engagement of the professional community.

The rest is up to them. They will be interviewing teachers, parents, and students, all while visiting schools and companies to look closely at their uses of time. We will implement a new schedule, designed solely by our own team, for the 2019-2020 school year. You’ll be hearing more from all of us in the coming months. And while we don’t exactly know where this work will lead us or what the 2019-2020 schedule will look like, we do know one thing: at this point, we’ve fully committed to the air.

Listen to this year's third grade radio plays

Thursday, March 1, 2018

At the end of last semester, drama teacher Jon Burnett helped a cohort of newly minted third grade voice actors produce their very own radio plays. Each of the 10 total shows, in just under two minutes, contains elements of action, horror, comedy, and the absurd. There’s even a historical drama!

“Discovering our voices” is the theme this year for the third grade drama class, and creating radio plays allowed students to make choices, figure out their theater voice, and create soundscapes. As a fun classroom exercise, students learned how to set the scene or create an environment using only their voices. In groups, students presented scenes like “a forest at midnight” or “downtown San Francisco during the day” and other groups had to guess what the environment was that they were listening to.

Students also worked hard on character voices, utilizing speed, pitch, tempo, volume—no small feat for third graders that just want to make drum sounds with their hands and feet.
For Jon, introducing radio plays in the third grade is a joyous endeavor because it is also something he discovered around that age. Growing up, Jon spent countless hours with his best friend Mark creating their own tape recorded radio shows. They kept it up until junior high.

“So much is visual today, so to focus on sounds is a unique experience,” says Jon. “It’s nice to say ‘cover your eyes or turn away, and just listen.’ But beyond that, many important 20th century playwrights grew up listening to radio and cite that in their development of story. So it is important to think about how words are used first to convey story.”

Jon notes that there was “some really nice creativity this year” with plays like “The Orchard Ghost,” a “cute, but very haunting” tale. “The Sacred Dungeon” is also a good use of voice with its creepy echo effects.

We hope you haven’t missed out on these very special radio plays, some of which lead with “Our story takes place at an office desk” and some with clever commercials like “Taco Burgers: only in New York!”

And you may never know “The Real Reason Why the HMS Titanic Sunk” unless you listen to the story below!

The Big Pencil Sharpener - Cooper, Henry, Margaret, Xochi

The Cursed Lollipop - Cassidy, Della, Leithian, Minjae, Theo

The Day the Sheriff Went Missing - Aman, Lea, Lucas, Nora, Selimah

Donkey Death - Kiran, Moses, Nathan, Ruby

The Fire Demon - Ava, Benji, Bram, Eliza

The Orchard Ghost - Francesca, Hazel, Jackson, Lev

The Real Reason Why the HMS Titanic Sunk - Cole, Lela, Marc, Mira, Oliver

The Sacred Dungeon - Bridger, Ryder, Tenley, Xavier

Train of Horror - August, Clay, Lucia, Lucy, Santi

Where Is the Hamster? - Juny, Maddy, Minyoung, Riley


At The Table: Talking with our kids about race & the need for diverse books

Friday, March 2, 2018

The SFFS Equity and Inclusion Committee (E&I Committee) is a parent led committee comprised of members from various constituencies of the school community. The group meets monthly and provides input and feedback on a variety of initiatives intended to enhance our school's equity and inclusion efforts, with particular focus on parent education.

At the Table (ATT), a sub-committee of E&I, hosts a handful of Thursday morning parent ed events throughout the year. Over coffee, ATT aims to provide opportunities for parents to discuss how we talk to our children about topics that may be challenging to discuss. The hope is to have a chance for parents to connect to both build and sustain a school community that is inclusive, safe, and nurturing for all.  

On February 1st, ATT had a parent gathering facilitated by parents Andrea Hartsough and SFFS Mental Health Specialist Katherine Preston to ponder the question of how we talk to our kids about race. Guest teachers Robelene Novero (fourth grade lead teacher) and Jasmine Redmond (middle school teaching assistant) shared about some of their recent classwork that turned a critical lens towards race and racial bias.

In the fourth grade classroom, Robelene shared the most successful conversations about race. These came about organically, initiated by the students themselves and fueled by their genuine curiosity. At this age, noticing differences between yourself and your peers is natural and developmentally appropriate. These differences are something to be celebrated, Robelene insists.

To steer such young students towards healthy and positive identity development, everyone is encouraged to look within themselves and  consider: “What makes us look at the world through a different lens?” To support this introspection, Robelene stocks a diverse bookshelf that features perspectives from around the world. Particularly popular this year is The Hijab Boutique by Michelle Khan.

Jasmine recently held a guest lesson in eighth grade humanities that asked students a complex, potentially discomforting question: Can African-Americans appropriate African culture? Further, how do we recognize instances of cultural appropriation? What differentiates appropriation from appreciation? Students explored cultural symbolism within the novel This Side of Home, paying particularly close attention to the image of the Sankofa, a Ghanian bird representing the idea of return.

Parents shared many thoughts and strategies for speaking with our kids about race. What follows is some wisdom that was shared:

  • If conversation with your child doesn’t go the way you had hoped, other opportunities will come up. When a parent wants to have a talk with their child, it is often more effective to ask a guiding question, rather than attempting to inform them of something.
  • Engaging a child in what they notice or observe may actually open space for a conversation. With your guidance, students learn that conversations about race do not need to be burdensome or scary - it can be a discovery of who they are and what makes them special.
  • We try not to create a sense of fear; we have fun with conversations about race. Students don’t need to have the same ties to conversations about race that we do, especially the negative connotations.

Our next ATT will be Thursday, March 8th, from 8:30-9:30am in the Meeting Room, facilitated by SFFS parent Andrea Hartsough and SFFS Mental Health Specialist Katherine Preston, LMFT. We will be facilitating a follow up to the February 1st conversation. We welcome newcomers, so please join us!

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.