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Teaching & Learning

Catch Up with Our Community in Among Friends!

Friday, July 9, 2021

Missing your Friends? Looking for some good summer reading? Then check out the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Among Friends, the biannual digital magazine for the SFFS community, published online just this week! This issue is chock-full of community news and updates, including a deep dive with Claire Coen '15 into her work with The Changemaker Project on issues of environmental justice, reflections from our community on our major takeaways from this year like no other, a celebration of our Class of 2021, and the ways our students began to rediscover and reconnect with our beloved neighborhood and city once they were back on campus, among numerous other stories and contributions. 

This is only the fourth issue of Among Friends, and we are excited to continue to watch it grow. To that end, we want to hear from you! Please, if you have an idea for a story, know of a SFFS alumnus doing interesting and inspiring work out in the world, or have a personal update to share in our Class Notes section, get in touch by reaching out to Alissa at

Thanks, Friends, and Happy Summer! 

Staffing News: Comings and Goings in the Middle School

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

In this year's Middle School coming and goings, we say farewell to two hugely impactful members of our SFFS faculty as they embark upon new adventures. We are also so excited to welcome longtime Lower School lead Amabelle to the Middle School team and a new member to our SFFS community. 

Jenn Rothstein is completing her third year at SFFS as a Middle School humanities teacher. Jenn is well-known for her strong connections with students, her ability to lead meaningful discussions and her capacity as a leader of the 5th Grade team. Jenn’s ability to nurture the strengths of each student, and to manage what is good for the group, has been one of her greatest contributions to our school. Her work as an advocate for all students, her ability to make connections with colleagues, and her courage in challenging situations are all elements of her work that we will miss most. Jenn will be teaching at Prospect Sierra School next year, closer to her East Bay home. Prospect is lucky to have her, but we know that her contributions at SFFS will be felt for years to come. 
Kelsey Barbella will officially be leaving the SFFS faculty after four years as our 5th Grade math teacher. Kelsey is a no-nonsense lover of math and children. A native of New Jersey, Kelsey immediately adapted to SFFS and helped students deepen their love of mathematical thinking, enhancing their capacity for group work and helping students become masters of the Morning Meeting. Kelsey also helped students take personal responsibility in the classroom and on the yard every day. Kelsey’s next projects take her beyond the realm of education and we wish her the best in her next projects! We miss you, Kelsey! 
We welcome Phillip Brettschneider to the Middle School Humanities faculty. Phillip joins us after completing their Secondary Teaching Credential, English with ELD Certification at San Francisco State University and teaching humanities and math at St. John’s School in Glen Park. Phillip has extensive experience with the Quaker community, has attended the SF Quaker meetings, and has been a longtime volunteer at the Quaker food pantry. Phillip brings a range of language skills, a range of teaching experience, and a great sense of humor to the humanities classroom. We are excited to see them in the fall. 

Staffing News: Comings and Goings in the Lower School

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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. 

Developmental Support:
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!


Art Inspired by Data

Monday, March 1, 2021

6th Grade Math students explore how data tells stories.

Recently, 6th Grade math students engaged in a project inspired the Dear Data project. Two award-winning information designers, Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, created this year-long analog data drawing project. Each week for a year, the artists collected and measured a particular type of data from their own lives. They then used this data to make a drawing on a postcard sheet of paper, putting the data art on one side, and a key to reading the data on the other. Then, they mailed each other the data art. Examples of data they collected include: how many times they said or wrote the word “data” in a week, a variety of data about their book collections, data about the kinds of photos they take on their phone, and data about the sounds that surround them. 

After learning about Dear Data, analyzing many examples of visual data, and practicing their art skills, the 6th-Graders at SFFS started their own journey. First, they decided what data they wanted to collect and set about collecting it. Next, they looked at the data and thought about what they found out. They were then challenged to tell that story visually, using what they learned from their experiments, keeping in mind that their final picture had to be understandable (when using the key). 

For their project, our SFFS students focused on two objectives: 1) To Learn to See – as artists and mathematicians, and to learn about using data as a material and 2) To Observe, Acknowledge, Count, and Draw – essentially, to immerse themselves in the world of data. Additionally, students created their postcards while keeping in mind that data artists design data so it is more accessible and does not overload the brain; seeing patterns and creating beauty, data visualization, has become an art form; and that human beings respond intuitively and emotionally to patterns.

To learn more about the project that inspired our 6th Grade Friends, please visit the Dear Data website at You can also see more of our students' work on our Facebook and Instagram pages. 

The Spring/Summer Issue of Among Friends Is Here!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

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 Looking forward to hearing from you! 

SFFS Library/Learning Commons to Start Book Take-Out Program This Week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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 ( and Jason for 5–8 ( 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.

And for more book acquisition options (and to donate!) don't forget the BOOK SWAP, which will be going all summer long! Let's keep our Friends reading! 

Staffing News: Goodbyes and Hellos in the Lower School

Sunday, May 17, 2020

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.



Jake Ban 
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.



Luis Hernandez
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!

Staffing News: Goodbyes and Hellos in the Middle School

Friday, May 15, 2020

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.



Christopher Gonzalez-Crane 
by Clarke Weatherspoon

Christopher departs Friends after two years of teaching in the Middle School Humanities Department and acting as an advisor in both the 6th and 7th Grades. Christopher is a thought leader who cares deeply about people and justice. One colleague notes that “Christopher is passionate about advocating for kids.” Another peer expressed a similar sentiment: “Christopher can be an advocate for the underdog, reaching out to help a student who is troubled or struggling with an issue.” He is currently completing a term as a member of our Steering Committee on Equity and Inclusion, and he has continually pushed the group to thoughtfully consider the details that will allow us to be most effective in reaching our goals. 

Christopher is also known for his critical and incisive academic work. He is deeply committed to creating meaningful content. A fellow faculty member noted that: “Christopher always seeks out resources that help me expand my curriculum—he's always leaving books in my room that support what I am teaching.” His capacity to partner with and lead others is born out of his “intellectual curiosity and passion about language and history. His sensitivity comes across so clearly and engagingly in class and in morning meetings.” Christopher’s presence and dry sense of humor are also notable and appreciated; he is never afraid to speak up, and his contributions are always from the heart.

On Christopher’s leaving, one Friend put it simply: “I got to say, I love the guy and will really miss him.”


David Louis 
by Clarke Weatherspoon

We also say goodbye to David Louis, who came to Friends as a founding member of the Middle School and has played a key role in shaping the math program and overall school culture at SFFS, in addition to being a lead 8th Grade advisor. David is a community leader, SFFS parent and meticulous communicator. He is also a baseball fanatic and master teacher.

David's capacity for leadership seemingly comes from his quiet confidence and understanding of what matters most. A Math Department colleague said of him: “David always brought me back to reality and reminded me that teaching was one of the most challenging and respectable professions out there.” Another collaborator noted that “David is the epitome of the Quaker catchphrase, ‘love and trust.’ With students you can witness this as he crafts class discussions and draws on individuals' strengths in order to create a rich and elegant flow.” “David is generous with his time and heart—always willing to give more time to students and colleagues and offer real praise or tough feedback in a loving way, whichever is needed.” Through years of developing classes, teaching teachers, and supporting students, David has remained humble. “He's willing to help with everything—moving furniture, writing reports, solving math problems—and he is constantly working to make his own practice better.” 

The departure of a teacher like David is an important and pivotal moment in the life of a school. “David’s high standards, coupled with his warmth are part of what makes him such an incredible educator, role model, and friend. David is authentic with students and colleagues alike. He is creative, kind, and trustworthy as they come.” We are all grateful for the time, energy, presence, and wisdom that David has brought to our school. He has inspired a generation of students and teachers (including many SFFS alumni who have decided they wanted to pursue teaching because of David’s influence), and he has helped to make Friends an educational leader in our city. We wish him luck and rest as he moves into retirement. 


Elissa “Lissie” McAlvey 

Lissie will join the SFFS faculty as the 8th Grade math teacher in August. Lissie joins Friends after five years at the Nueva School. A native of Michigan, she brings a host of skills and experiences to Friends. Among her previous responsibilities at Nueva, Lissie served as a grade level dean, scheduler, and equity and inclusion leader. She was also an official Equity and Inclusion Representative for the middle school and the leader of Girls Adventure in Math, which helps young women get more involved in the realm of mathematics and leadership. Lissie is fluent in Spanish and brings experience as a collegiate basketball player to 250 Valencia. We are excited to bring in a curious, mathematical thinker to help us in the next chapter of designing meaningful learning experiences at Friends. We look forward to Lissie joining us in the fall. 


Gabby Miller 

Gabby returns for a second tenure as the interim middle school art teacher. Gabby was last with us in the 2014–2015 school year and returns to rekindle and deepen meaningful bonds with the community. Gabby holds a MFA from UC Irvine and has extensive experience in youth arts education, advocacy, and engagement. Gabby has taught at UC Irvine, the Oxbow School, and Millennium School, and has served as a Board member of Dhamma Dena Mediation Center since 2018. In addition, Gabby served as a Board member and as Program and Outreach Coordinator for Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. Gabby brings experience as an independent artist, lecturer, published author, and inspiring leader back(!) to SFFS. Welcome home, Gabby!

Though Campus Is Closed, Our Friends Stay Connected

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

When the Friends campus closed nearly five weeks ago due to the global COVID-19 outbreak, the shift was monumental for everyone. Faculty, staff, students, and families all needed to learn to adjust–within days—to innovative methods of teaching and learning, as well as to new ways of keeping our community connections strong. Safe to say, as we head into this Spring Break week, that our blue fire burns brighter than ever these days—and we couldn't be more grateful to everyone who's made this possible.

Faculty and staff quickly came together to begin planning a distance learning program that kept Quaker values at the center, with a gradual roll-out of increasingly interactive video lessons and synchronous online gatherings and class time. Our educational technology and integration staff built out both our Lower and Middle School Distance Learning Portals with access to class material, schedules, and distance learning tips for parents and students. Fortifying our online community-building, both Jennifer and Clarke have offered weekly support meetings for parents and we have also implemented advisory Meetings for Worship and meditation sessions to try to protect time to come together and reflect as we would at 250 Valencia. This week, our wonderful ED/A3 staff are offering a virtual Spring Break camp, with offerings ranging from origami to fitness classes for all of our Friends—you can check out the full schedule on the Portals. 

The school closure and shelter-in-place order in San Francisco also meant that our beloved annual fundraiser, the Blue Party, needed to be re-imagined, and we took the celebration digital with an online auction, virtual cocktail party toolkit, and the establishment of our SFFS Emergency Relief Fund. In anticipation of far greater financial need among our families in the coming school year, we hoped that our community would come through—and did they ever. We far surpassed our goal for the event and the emergency fund, and the strength of this community in our efforts to support one another has been truly inspiring. Though the next couple of years may be financially challenging, we are so grateful to have Friends like you who continue to lift the community up, time and time again.

We continue to miss our colleagues, students, and community greatly; we miss our building and the communal silence of all-school Meetings for Worship. We miss the all-day laughter and shouts from the Front Yard, and we miss the buzz and excitement of our classrooms and assemblies. But we know we will be together again; and in the meantime, we remain undoubtedly connected in spirit.

Friends Forever! 


To see some "Friendly Faces" or check out some of the cool ways our school has embraced distance learning, please check out our Facebook and Instagram accounts. And to learn more about our school's communications and response to COVID, as well as resources for families and ideas on how you can help—and take care of yourself—please check out our COVID-19 webpage, as well as our Wellness & Values page, both located on our SFFS website. Be well, Friends! 

"I Consider Myself American": Screening "Waking Dream" at SFFS

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

“I love this country. I consider myself American even though America doesn’t consider me that.” This is one of the many powerful quotes from a subject in the immigration documentary, Waking Dream.

The Spanish Committee of the San Francisco Friends School Parents Association hosted our first event on the evening of Friday, January 31, in the Black Box Theater at Friends. Waking Dream follows multiple college and graduate students around the nation fighting for their education in the midst of uncertainty under the DACA program. The majority of young adults in DACA were brought to the USA at a young age, and their futures currently hang in the balance—with the current political climate, DACA’s existence will be decided by the Supreme Court in the coming months. If these students are returned to their countries of origin, they will not be returning home, but to the places of their birth. 

In showing this film, the PA Committee's purpose was to bring awareness to a topic so dear to the heart of many immigrants; something that we don’t talk much about is the fact that a change in DACA status would affect many members of the SFFS community. 

At the end of the screening, we held a panel discussion. The guests on the panel were DACA students; parents of DACA students; and Theo Rigby P'27, the creator of the documentary and also a parent here at Friends. Some questions that were lifted up by the audience were:

  • How can the community of parents at Friends support these families?
  • Can we share this video with students at Friends and talk about this topic with them?
  • How can we make space for more of these conversations at Friends?

This was a really powerful evening. The Spanish PA hopes to host more events like these, and we hope to see more of our community join us as we continue this important conversation and begin others.