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Staffing News: Saying Goodbye at SFFS

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Each year, we receive news that we must say goodbye to some of our beloved staff and faculty. Saying goodbye always reminds us that Friends School is a learning community that encourages a growth mindset in its members, including members of the professional community. Cultivating an active, reflective, and evolving professional practice for teachers is especially important to us. 

It is among our greatest strengths as an institution to encourage risk taking, lifelong learning, and growth in both our students and ourselves; to this end, when teachers or staff decide to move on, we celebrate them and their journeys and thank them for their contributions to the SFFS community, even when we will miss them.

As we begin the season of lifting up the comings and goings of our staff and faculty, we hope you will embrace our spirit of growth and community. We also encourage you to help us honor and celebrate those that may be moving on, while welcoming in full force the new teachers and learners who will soon be joining us.


From Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean: 

Karina Diaz, Lower School Spanish Teacher: On any given day if you were to stroll into Karina Diaz's second floor classroom at around 3:20 you might find her passed out on the floor. Why? You would be too if you just spent the last six hours dancing, singing, and speaking rapid-fire Spanish with kids. No, this is not a Zumba class, this is lower school Spanish—energetic learning filled with joy, movement, and tireless engagement. Karina embodies more energy in her pinky finger than most of us can muster with all of our might. Karina's thoughtful approach to curriculum, her passion for teaching Spanish language and culture to young students, as well as her infectious energy, will be deeply missed by all of us here at Friends. We are grateful for her contributions to our community and for making Spanish a fun, full-body experience for our lower-schoolers. We will be saying adios to Karina Diaz at the end of this school year as she prepares to move back to Peru. Karina is excited to be closer to her family once again, and perhaps start a career as a Zumba instructor (just kidding!). We wish her the best.

From Jennifer Arnest, Lower School Head: 

Jessie Radowitz, Second Grade Teacher: Jessie Radowitz came upon us a few years back, and we all knew immediately that we had to find a way to reel her in to work at Friends. Via Skype from New York, she charmed us with her thoughtful, calm, but clear and authentic approach to thinking about the pedagogy and purpose of education. From her work in the south with Teach for America, and a highly revered career pursuing her Masters degree at Columbia Teachers College, Jessie has brought to us, in spades, more than we could have imagined.

She is kind, connected to children, organized, clear and supportive with parents and colleagues alike. She is a sometimes quiet, but very big thinker; when she has something to say we know it has been considered—she does not waste words. With her eye always leaning towards social justice and Quaker values, she has elevated her work and engaged us all. Jessie has navigated the most difficult passage in losing her mom to cancer so quickly while she has been among us. Now, she has to go back east, with her partner, Jake, to be closer to her father, who lives In D.C. The only single happy news for us with this departure is that Jessie has landed a job at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia teaching first grade. This means we will be in touch and close in our missions across the country, and when we visit Quaker Schools in Philly, and Germantown (which is often), we can see Jessie and share ideas. We are determined to stay connected, and Jessie will always be part of the SFFS community.

From Tracie Mastronicola, Academic Dean:

Kent Jue, Music Teacher: Kent looks like he is 30 years old himself, yet he’s actually finishing up his 30th year of teaching choral, string and general music classes to independent and public school students! From the traditional SFFS kindergarten song “This Little Light of Mine” to the 7th and 8th grade chorus elective group lending spirit and gravitas to our concerts and graduation, Kent has spent his last seven years at Friends imparting energy, focus, and a deep understanding of the language of music to our students.

Join us in acknowledging Kent’s commitment to music education and in celebrating his next step. Kent will assume the Executive Director role for the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, an internationally recognized group with 30 years of experience offering a complete musical education program that's designed to take boys from their first exposure to the art of choral singing through a full course of vocal instruction. Kent has been engaged with Ragazzi for over 15 years, and he will step into his new role in August 2018. Congratulations, Kent!

From Andrew Salverda, Middle School Head:

Raymond Artis, Middle School Humanities Teacher: We’re sad to be saying goodbye to Raymond Artis, who is moving back east with his partner, Lamercie. Raymond arrived at Friends just prior to the 2013-2014 school year, interested in subbing and learning more about our school. We were immediately struck by his ability to serve in a variety of classes and with students of many different ages. He distinguished himself with his demeanor, tone, and curiosity to learn more about Quaker education. Students appreciated his warmth and supportive presence; he quickly became our “go to” sub in the middle school. The following year, Raymond moved into serving as a humanities teacher to one fifth grade section and an assistant to the other teachers at that grade level. In this capacity, he came to know the fifth graders very well and was the person with the perhaps best knowledge of the grade as a community. We were eager to offer Raymond a full time job teaching two fifth grade humanities sections and serving as an advisor.

In the years since, Raymond has made myriad contributions to Friends, and had an immeasurable impact on the students with whom he’s worked. In addition to helping to bring better alignment and articulation to the fifth grade humanities curriculum, Raymond helped reboot Affinity Groups in the middle school, modeled activism and participation in issues of social justice ,and spoke in sessions of the Equity and Inclusion Committee's "At the Table" events about Black Lives Matter and talking with kids about race. Raymond elevated our faculty’s discourse around race by facilitating a book group for faculty around Ta'Nahisi Coates's book Between the World and Me. Raymond co-clerked the Equity and Inclusion Committee at Friends, which has tackled meaningful work because of his leadership.

Raymond has proven to be a vital voice of Quaker integrity. He often asked the question everyone was thinking in a meeting, and became a trusted sounding board for colleagues, especially adults of color, in our professional community. He traveled to China with Friends students and will forever be the all-time Pirate Waiter champion on the Pinnacles trip.

We are deeply grateful for all Raymond has done and been at Friends. We wish him well and hope he visits often.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Jodi Pickering, Middle School Humanities Teacher: Jodi Pickering is moving on after eleven years at Friends. She was one of the first two teachers in the SFFS middle school and during her time at Friends has devoted herself fully to her work with students, parents and her colleagues. Jodi was a key architect in the creation of the Friends middle school, and has served in a variety of different roles and posts during her tenure: humanities teacher, advisory coordinator, learning specialist, admissions associate, futsal coach, trip leader, double dutch rope turner, lyricist, listener, and Friend.

Jodi has designed curricula for every middle schooler at Friends and co-taught with numerous colleagues as our middle school took off and grew. She has been a trusted voice of pedagogical and Quaker wisdom, consistently keeping students and their growth at the center of her work. Jodi was an early pioneer on the Nicaragua trip, and has accompanied students on the trip for eight consecutive years.

Jodi embodies the values we hold dear at Friends in the way she approaches her work and relationships with students and colleagues, and she models the importance of living one’s ideals.  She created an annual “Let your Life Speak Symposium” in 2013 and was the first recipient of the Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future in 2015, during which time she made pilgrimages to the Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Pennsylvania and its namesake in England, where George Fox, founder of Quakerism, said he was called by the voice of God. She began writing a young adult novel during this time, which she finished during a mini-sabbatical the following year. Jodi’s energy and flashes of insight encourage us to trust ourselves and to manifest our visions. As a co-developer of the Professional Growth program for teachers at Friends, Jodi took many classes at Stanford during her summers, and developed a fruitful letter exchange for our middle school students with their peers in Oklahoma City in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Always one to galvanize the group, Jodi helped to start the faculty softball team (named “George” in honor of George Fox) and co-wrote the SF Friends School song (below) with music teacher Garth Applegate.

Jodi has taught us to rally and to reflect, to jump in and to wait at the edge; to listen and to find the courage to speak. For all of her seriousness of purpose and the way that she has undeniably walked the Quaker talk, Jodi is a child at heart. She has demonstrated that humor and a love of laughter can build an understanding beyond words. Her encouragement of her students and colleagues to “choose joy” will be one of her many abiding legacies. Jodi’s impact on Friends has been significant and her absence will felt by the students, parents and colleagues who know her.  We hope that she stays in our orbit.

"Simple Joys"
A small school in the Castro
Into the Mission grew
All along Committed
To the SPICES through and through

We honor one another
And serve all with respect
We may not all be Quakers
But as Friends we do connect
Simple joys and peacefulness
Humility and pride
We speak into the silence
Our voices not denied

When we find ourselves in the place just right
We've found we've done our best
'Tis a gift to be a part of
Good 'ol S-F-F-S

From Guybe Slangen, Director of Community Engagement:

Hilary Palanza, Dance/Drama Teacher: For the past four years Hilary Palanza has led our K-8 dance program. From first graders dancing with our neighbors at the Francis of Assisi Community to seventh graders choreographing their own dance creations, Hilary has taught a broad range of students and styles. She carried on the lovely Friends School tradition of our end-of-the-year buddy dance with Kindergartners and our graduating eighth graders. Hilary has also been one of the few that works with every student in our school! She adopted a program that was still young, and has added her own flare and energy to it, helping it grow and flourish.

We’re deeply grateful for her collaboration in working with multiple teams and teachers, her flexibility with spaces and schedules, and her commitment to bringing out the dancer in all of us.

For the past year she has also been pursuing a Masters in public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, focusing particularly on how to support and advocate for the arts. This passion has evolved into her next project where she’ll be working on her long-held dream to develop and open the first ever interactive dance museum!  Hilary shared, “I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the San Francisco Friends School. The opportunity to articulate and grow the dance program and teach such a wide range of abilities and ages continues to help me grow as an artist, teacher, and friend.”  

This is a bittersweet good bye. We’re sad to see her leave Friends School after this school year ends, but excited to hear about her big plans. We wish her the best in her next chapter, and have launched a search to fill her dancing shoes. 

From Marlene Sloger, Director of Development: 

Amity Bacon, Director of Communications: As many of you know, Amity joined us in the summer of 2016, and has been the primary point of contact for all school communications. In addition to helping families stay up to date on school events and happenings, Amity also played a central role in revamping our school website, streamlining our Circle Back newsletter, and launching the Friends blog. She will be heeding the siren call of Portland, OR later this summer.