Welcome to the 2019-20 school year!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dear Gateway School Families,

Welcome to the 2019-20 school year! We’ve been preparing for our campus move for years, and now we get to experience the newness of life on the Natural Bridges campus in the coming year. What an extraordinary opportunity we have to focus on a future that challenges fear, confronts prejudice, and inspires and prepares our children to become engaged citizens and change agents. 

“What language will the young people in your community hear from you? Will you interrupt both the overt and subtle racism that happens around you, or are you gonna let it slide? Our young people are listening.” — Matt Thompson, educator

Living Our Values
In 2015, our Board adopted a revitalized Mission and Vision that has guided our efforts to strengthen the school’s academic and social-emotional program over the last five years. Included in that statement is a list of nine core school values, one of which is “The courage to promote a just society.” In the past few years, Gateway has taken important steps to develop our program in this area, from the implementation of the RULER approach to teaching emotional intelligence in 2015-16, to the work we did with Gender Spectrum to better understand gender identity in 2016-17. I am thrilled that through the efforts of our faculty’s Social Justice & Equity Committee, this coming year will grow our thinking and understanding about the issues of race and oppression in society.

Last year, our Middle School Humanities program piloted the Anti-Bias Framework from Teaching Tolerance; this fall, we will be hosting trainers from Teaching Tolerance for professional development with all faculty and staff. We know that elementary and middle school-age children are not too young to be talking about race. In fact, research has shown that silence about race (whether well-meaning or from discomfort) reinforces racism, as children are left to draw their own conclusions about their observations. As adults, teachers and guardians can help children have healthy and positive attitudes about race, as well as the skills to discuss the topic and promote a more just future. 

“Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks, civil rights activist

This summer, our all-staff read is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. I invite you to read along with us, and to engage with our community as we learn about and discuss concepts such as implicit bias, marginalization, equity, and critical consciousness. For practical suggestions, you may wish to read Bree Ervin’s advice on raising racially conscious children, or Laura Markham’s advice on talking to children about racism.

Examining how concepts of race are expressed in our program is the major focus of our curriculum work this year, but of course there is work to do in other domains as well. In the coming year, our faculty will consolidate and deepen their implementation of recent curriculum and instructional updates, including Writing Workshop and the Bridges math curriculum in the elementary grades, and the Developmental Designs-based advisory program in Middle School. We will continue to implement the same high-quality academic and intellectual curriculum that is the hallmark of our interdisciplinary program even as our teachers continue to innovate with an eye towards what children need for their future — a time that will be as different from the present as the current moment is from our own childhoods.

“Let’s stop believing that our differences make us superior or inferior to one another.”

— Don Miguel Ruiz, author

Our new campus at 255 Swift St
This year will be organizationally unusual in that most years are not the first on a new campus! With over 10,000 square feet of additional space, a gym, four more bathrooms, full ADA compliance, and a long list of upgrades implemented by both Gateway and Santa Cruz City Schools (roofing and lighting and flooring, oh my!), the Swift Street campus will be an incredible platform for supporting our program for many years to come. No doubt there will also be some growing pains as we figure out how to make arrival, dismissal, and daily school routines run smoothly. We appreciate your patience as we ensure the safety of students and adults while developing efficient procedures.

Last year we began the self-study required by our joint accreditation with the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Accreditation is a reflective process designed to help the school know itself better, celebrate its strengths, and identify critical areas for future improvement. We have been gathering data from students, families, faculty, staff, Trustees, alumni, and alumni families, and preparing a report that answers 187 specific questions across sixteen distinct chapters. The Accreditation Visiting Committee will be on site in January 2020, and I invite you to speak with Hannah Wikse or Kaia Huseby, our Self-Study Coordinators, if you are interested in learning more. Gateway is very proud to be the only elementary and K-8 program accredited by CAIS in Santa Cruz!

“Great schools are constantly becoming.” — Ole Jorgenson, educator

Staffing Updates
Please say hello and welcome a few new faces to our staff this year when you have the opportunity. Jen Graham (Parent of Sophie, ‘23) has joined our staff as Director of Advancement, after a long career in advancement and fundraising at UC Santa Cruz and The Nature Conservancy. Gabrielle Carroll is our new First Grade Assistant Teacher. She previously taught at Spring Hill School and holds a Multiple Subjects teaching credential with CLAD certification. Kristin Morrelli has come on board as our Second Grade Assistant Teacher, and Learning Specialist. She holds a Special Education teaching credential and most recently taught at Happy Valley Elementary. And as previously announced this spring, Lynn Flickinger is our new Music Teacher. Lynn, who has a B.A. in Music from Greensboro College and is coming to us from Brandon Hall International School in Atlanta, GA, has been a professional jazz singer, musical theater performer, director, and music teacher for more than 20 years.

I am deeply grateful for your partnership in pursuit of changing the world for the better by giving our students and children a unique and transformative educational experience. I look forward to seeing you during our Open Campus on Tuesday, August 27th, and at the Welcome Back Coffee on the first day of school, and in the months to come.

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” — Fred Rogers, television personality

With warm regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

20 Articles on Teaching & Learning

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Dear Gateway families,

Every day my inbox fills with dozens of emails, many of which include links to articles, research and perspectives on all aspects of education and schools, from the neuroscience of learning to the politics of school funding. From these I curate a reading list to share with faculty; here are twenty that I forwarded along last year.

Association for Psychological Science: Heavily decorated classrooms disrupt attention and learning in young children

Jill Barshay via Hechinger Report: Using test scores as measurements, most educational innovations aren’t effective

Julie Beck via The Atlantic: Raising boys with a broader definition of masculinity

Amber Chandler via NPBTS: Yes, creativity can be taught (but watch out for neuromyths like “left brain, right brain”)

Curtis Chandler via MiddleWeb: How to help students remember things

Anya Kamenetz via KQED: Reading aloud to children is good for their brains

Chris Lee via ArsTechnica: A study on systems vs empathy, math, and gender, with a link to autism

Trevor Mackenzie via KQED: Inquiry is at the heart of student-centered teaching

Nina Parrish via Edutopia: Teaching self-regulation to students

Jenny Pieratt via ACDS: Five myths about Project Based Learning

Kelly Puente via Long Beach Post: Researchers now studying teachers’ brains

Dian Schiffhauser via THE Journal: K-3 STEM experience leads to better STEM skills later

Katrina Schwartz via KQED: Teach students to ask better questions

Sarah Sparks via EdWeek: Research shows that teaching kids about the brain helps them develop growth mindset

Valerie Strauss via Washington Post: Don’t keep students sitting at their desks the entire class

Youki Terada via Edutopia: Drawing helps students remember

Stephanie Toro via NAIS: How to increase the effectiveness of study sessions

Dana Weeks via Edutopia: Silence can be an effective instructional strategy

Kandi Wiens and Darin Rowell via Harvard Business Review: Emotional intelligence can help you embrace change

Ashliegh Ziehmke via ESchoolNews: How to establish a growth mindset in math

I love how intellectually curious and engaged our faculty are, and the opportunity to grow our thinking as educators together. I hope you enjoy these articles, and welcome your comments or conversation on any of the ideas they discuss.

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Campus Safety at Natural Bridges

Dear Gateway families,

We’ve had great fun taking our K-5 students to the new campus over the last several weeks. Their excitement while exploring the new classrooms, common areas and open spaces of the site has been nothing short of joyous! It’s gratifying to see the vision of the new campus slowly become a reality as we get closer to our move date.

The Natural Bridges campus is significantly larger than our current site, and as we’ve moved through the design and construction process, we’ve thought carefully about how we will ensure the safety of our students and faculty while on the campus. I’m pleased to let you know about several ways we are addressing this topic.

To begin changing the neighborhood’s relationship with the campus, we have installed and activated a multi-camera security system that feeds to a staffed, overnight command center. The cameras alert the control room when they sense movement, and are equipped with two-way communication that allows the security agent to alert trespassers that the campus is closed. This system has proven very effective at reducing overnight transience at Harbor High School over the past three months, and in just a few short weeks we are seeing a positive impact.

We are also addressing a variety of physical campus items to improve site safety. For example, we’ve removed and reset some concrete sidewalks that presented tripping hazards, and installed windows into certain doors and walls to improve visibility and sightlines. We will also be installing fencing in a variety of places, including the sloped lawn that borders Swift Street, to create a “front yard” for our elementary program, and ensuring the fencing around the entire campus is appropriate and secure.

Finally, we have signed a contract with Joffe Emergency Services, the state-wide leaders in independent school safety, to conduct a complete safety audit of the new campus. Joffe will identify security concerns; develop emergency plans, a comprehensive safety manual, and new safety drills; review and update our communication and notification systems; and provide onsite training for staff, additional crisis response training for the administration, and even a parent education event. We are looking forward to having their expertise guide us on the new campus.

We are still on time and on target with both our construction process and moving our materials to the new campus. I hope you can join us while we start the packing process here at the Eucalyptus campus on June 1st, and at the new campus for some hands-on construction efforts on June 8th. Please rsvp to Jeremy King or stop by the front desk to sign up.


Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School

Parenting as a Community Pt.3

Dear families,

I blogged about some parenting articles back in October and again in February, in response to the wonderful parent education event we held with Sheri Glucoft-Wong (which you can still watch on our Youtube page) and feedback from families eager to continue the conversation about how we come together as a community to raise children. With that in mind, here are a few more thought-provocative articles related to parenting that have come through my inbox in the last several months.

What impact does social media have on middle school girls? 60 percent of elementary-age girls said they were happy the way they were; 67 percent of boys said the same thing. By middle school, those numbers had dropped for both genders, but significantly for girls overall: to 37 percent, with 56 percent for boys.” Whatever your child’s gender, Lory Hough’s article Girlhood in the Harvard Ed Magazine is compelling reading.

How can boys experience greater emotional diversity? Recent work by psychologists reveals the once-hidden benefits of experiencing a diversity of emotions, both positive and negative…And yet the research suggests we are not fostering emotional diversity from a young age, especially when it comes to raising young boys.Jane Gruber and Jessica Borelli’s short piece in Scientific American speaks strongly to the developmental need to allow boys to experience, identify, and understand a wide range of emotions.

What’s the best way to ensure my child’s happiness?  Our results demonstrate that not all pursuits of happiness are equally successful and corroborate the great importance of social relationships for human well-being.” Jenny Anderson’s piece in Quartz weaves science and personal narrative to make a compelling argument that “The thing that makes us happiest in life is other people”, and that our greatest and most important work as parents is to teach our children how to be good friends and compassionate peers.

Should my child be doing more homework? Joe Pinsker’s article in The Atlantic summarizes the research (the short answer is no), explores the benefits and drawbacks of homework (it can create a home-school connection if one doesn’t exist, and there’s a correlation between in-class test performance and homework in secondary education), and defines good homework as meaningful, relevant, timely, and furthering student learning.

A few more quick,  interesting links:

I welcome your thoughts on these articles, or any other resources you’ve found helpful in your own journey as a parent. Our whole community benefits from this dialogue. And I hope to see many of you on Friday for the parent education event Ending the Silence: Supporting Mental Health immediately following the First Friday assembly.


Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School

Aligning Our Values, Words, and Actions

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Dear Gateway families,

In February, we posted a link on our Facebook page to an article in the Atlantic about how elite college admissions processes are broken. How extraordinary to have news of a national college admission bribery scandal break last week! If you aren’t already inundated with various takes on this distressing news, I recommend Alexandra Robbins excellent piece Kids are the Victims of the Elite-College Obsession (and you may want to check out her great 2006 book, The Overachievers).

Who do we want our children to become? If we want them to learn to act with integrity, and to hold that in high value, we adults must do the same; as one of my colleagues wrote to his community, “I find one of the saddest elements to be that much of this illegal activity was done by parents without their children’s knowledge.”

Likewise, if we want them to be reflective, we must consider other perspectives on our behaviors, and become aware of our own bias and assumptions. If we want them to be creative and playful, we should take the time to play with them. If we want them to be curious, we can ourselves be constantly asking new questions and seeking to learn new skills. If we want them to be collaborative, we must show them to work respectfully, respond to differing perspectives, compromise in order to achieve shared goals, and assume shared responsibility.

If we want them to stand up for justice and equity, then we need to realize that using all of our resources to give them every advantage may not give them every advantage. How terrible for those children not to be given the chance to achieve to the best of their own abilities. Sometimes acting in the best interests of our children means not acting!  As hard as it is to sit on our hands as adults, our children need to make mistakes and struggle — the path to developing deep resilience and persistence is filled with obstacles and failures. By being cold, wet, and hungry, they learn to truly appreciate being warm, dry, and fed.

In our community, though attending an “elite” school is not often viewed as the only way to achieve adult success, we all face difficult choices in parenting and supporting our children. When your child has challenges in academic or social relationships, how will you react? There will be choices to be made about which activities to pursue; will you support your child’s passions, and listen to their voices if they start to lose interest or burn out?  I encourage you to take this opportunity reflect on the ways in which your family might approach the path of your child’s education in future years. It is a great pleasure to be partners with you in this work.


Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School

“Education for Hearts, Minds, and Souls” with Jim McManus

We are pleased to welcome a guest blog written by Jennifer Ellis, Vice President of the Gateway Board of Trustees.

Last weekend, I had the privilege to attend the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) annual conference that is held for Board Trustees and Heads of School, representing Gateway in a crowd of over 600 attendees. Because we are accredited through CAIS and therefore members of the organization, we have access to the incredible resources and support, educational opportunities, and recruiting network it provides.

Jim McManus is the long-time executive director of CAIS, and he delivered a speech to start the conference in which he shared excerpts from letters between the original presidents of Stanford University and the University of California. In their correspondence, these civic-minded educators spoke about their joint missions of educating for moral character, so that our children learn to be good citizens of a democracy, and contribute to society in meaningful ways. Jim went on to then share the current mission of UC, which now focuses on the “transmission of knowledge” and is absent of anything that speaks to the building of character as part of meaningful education.

This is where independent schools come in, is the point Jim was making. Schools like ours have the liberty to hold onto other ideals; we exist to do more than simply transmit knowledge. Jim then shared the current mission statements of a handful of schools across the state, and prominently displayed among them was Gateway’s mission statement, which our faculty, administration, and Board worked hard to articulate several years ago, and which continues to guide all of the decisions we make as a school: To inspire children to lead lives of purpose and compassion through scholarship and citizenship.

The weekend filled me with a sense of pride and excitement about the work we are doing at Gateway, and a sense of solidarity with other independent schools in California. Indeed, it was exciting to have Gateway recognized as a model and a vanguard among these schools, and I am confident that our reputation will only grow, as the decisions that we make at Gateway continue to be guided by this meaningful mission.

Parenting As A Community Pt. 2

In October I put a list of parenting links on my blog, in response to the wonderful parent education event we held with Sheri Glucoft-Wong (which you can still watch on our  Youtube page). To continue that community conversation, next Tuesday at 6:00 we will be hosting a screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a recent documentary about the life and career of Fred Rogers. In the meantime, here are some provocative articles about parenting and child raising that have come through my inbox in the last three months.

How do we recognize our children’s authentic selves? Jessica Lahey’s perspective on Why parents need to be patient with their school-age kids is a great reminder that trying to mold children to our goals can cloud our vision of who they really are. “We offer the “shoulds” because we want the best possible lives for our children, but when we focus all of our effort on who they should be, we inadvertently invalidate who they are.”

How do we raise children to be grounded, not spoiled? Joe Pinsker believes that The Way American Parents Think About Chores Is Bizarre, because “the chores-for-allowance agreement…can give kids the sense that they’re entitled to rewards for fulfilling basic responsibilities.” Instead, he proposes we recognize that children are eager to help, and find fulfillment by serving a useful role in the family.

How do we strength our connection as a family? In  Raising the Mindful Family,  Elise Goldstein and Stefanie Goldstein explore how individual, couple and family practices of mindfulness can lead to connection that transcends the busy schedules, long commutes and digital lives that create distance in many families.

What’s my role in my middle schooler’s social conflict? Psychologist Lisa Damour offers three keys to parents. First, don’t confuse conflict (which is common) with bullying (which is rare); second, teach skills for healthy conflict; and third, let them pick their battles. Read about the the thinking behind these three key parenting skills in How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict.

How do we help children understand consent? In I’ve Talked With Teenage Boys About Sexual Assault for 20 Years. This Is What They Still Don’t Know, Laurie Halse Anderson offers a wake-up call to parents of all children, regardless of gender. “We need to ask our boys questions so that we understand what they think they know about sex and intimacy. Sharing books, movies and TV shows are a great way to open these conversations. Discussing the choices made by fictional characters paves the way for more personal conversations. We need to tell our own stories to make sure our boys understand that these things happen to people they know and love.”

A few more quick, interesting links:

I welcome your thoughts on these articles, or any other resources you’ve found helpful in your own journey as a parent. Our whole community benefits from this dialogue. And I hope to see many of you on Tuesday at the screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor!


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

The Value of Gateway

Dear families,

This time of year tends to provoke more than the usual portion of gratitude, and I’d like to take this space to express how profoundly grateful I am for Gateway School.

I am thrilled at the way our program can face the unknown future with eager anticipation. We have the flexibility and innovation to consider the world students will be living in as adults, and to design educational experiences to prepare our children for that future.  

I am impassioned by the rich education that we deliver to students. On one hand, we have a great emphasis on the lived experience of being a child, on valuing childhood and creating a joyful and secure school experience. On the other, we ensure our students are well-rounded individuals equipped with excellent academic, co-curricular, and social/emotional skills, as well as personal character, integrity, courage, and empathy.

I cherish our faculty and staff. Rare it is to have a school where teachers are so committed to their own professional growth, to supporting each other’s success, and to knowing every child as a unique, complex, nuanced individual. From our custodians to our business office, everyone is here with one purpose in mind, and that is to create the best possible learning environment for the children.

I am humbled by our families. From putting their trust in our faculty and staff, to prioritizing the family budget to pay tuition, to volunteering in the classroom and playground and with the Family Association and Board of Trustees, you do and give so much to make this shared dream a reality. We are very fortunate to be partners with you in raising your children.

And of course, I am inspired by our children. Our student community radiates compassion and warmth. They are so full of curiosity and imagination, constantly revealing and revelling in new worlds and discoveries. Year after year, I see that our graduates possess a lifelong love of learning, and the confidence and skills necessary to thrive in high school, college and life beyond.

Thank you for being part of this very special project, and happy holidays.

Warm regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School

Civil Discourse is not Dead

“Who really killed Bob?”
“Should the children have stayed there and taken consequences?”

“Johnny was doomed from the start.”

On Monday morning, you could have heard these phrases spoken in our 7th grade Humanities classroom. The culmination of a literature study of S.E. Hinton’s beloved book The Outsiders, the students assumed costumes and characters to debate topics such as whether killing someone is ever justified, and the intersection of personal and social responsibility in conflict situations. Using the Anti-Bias Framework from Teaching Tolerance, this project succeeded in challenging our children’s preconceived ideas (and developed their public speaking skills): by the end, they were looking past what the “Greasers” wore and where they lived to think more deeply about the perspectives and experiences of those characters.

Teaching students to truly listen closely to each other is just one of many ways that our Middle School pursues the part of Gateway’s mission statement focused on developing citizenship in our students. But it is not easy. At a young age — and even more so in early adolescence — children begin to listen defensively, to seize on perceived weaknesses, and to respond selectively.  We believe it is very important to teach the skill of listening without judgement, and with an open mind that is willing to change its views based on new information.

Educating the next generation of citizens for participation in our society means teaching children to sort through a wash of competing information to arrive at well-reasoned conclusions and decisions about how they will participate and the issues for which they will advocate. At Gateway we explicitly promote the ideas of environmental sustainability, economic security, and social justice, which requires teaching students to be self-reflective about our own privileges, and develop an ability to see multiple sides of an issue. Unfortunately, many of the visible models in the public arena available don’t reflect these behaviors in positive ways. As Bay Area school leader Dr. Barbara Gereboff puts it, “How unfortunate that politicians currently refer to this so cavalierly as ‘flipflopping’ rather than the careful reconsideration of ideas that it often is.”

In our middle school, students apply critical thinking and problem solving skills in highly engaging and thought-provoking curriculum that often interdisciplinary. Through both academic curriculum and the Advisory program, our faculty create strong classroom communities where students see inclusion in action as a lived experience, and further conversations that move children and adults alike towards thoughtful anti-bias attitudes. Citizenship is an ongoing process that relies on self-reflection in pursuit of better self-knowledge, and it’s one of the many ways our Middle School supports our students on their journey to citizenship.

I do hope to see you at tomorrow night’s Middle School Information Night, where you can experience the magic of our Middle School classrooms for yourselves.


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Play Is a State of Mind

Dear Gateway families,

Of our school’s nine core values, play, creativity and innovation are perhaps the most natural and instinctive to human experience. We are born with an innate ability to play that continues throughout our lifespan — a trait shared only by a very few other species — and it has the ability to bring joy and balance to our daily lives.

At Gateway, we embrace the idea that “play is a state of mind” advanced by the National Institute for Play. Children enter into lasting learning through their play, be it social, artistic, or intellectual. Through innovation and iteration, through making and tinkering with our hands and minds, we build connections within and between ideas and each other. The act of imagination is a unique neurological moment that activates emotion, memory and organization, and it can be applied with individuals, through collaboration, and to problem solving. Only when a child is rooted in play can her individual agency to make ideas into reality flower.

You can see this value deeply intertwined everywhere you look in our program. Our daily schedule protects free time because that is one of the many types of play that is beneficial for children’s growth — recess is a wonderful “SEL classroom” where children learn how to be good friends and playmates. And from our specialist classes in studio art, music and the Discovery Center, to interdisciplinary projects and classroom activities, we ensure that children have access to many different types of playful engagement with content acquisition and skill building.

Indeed, the Gateway education not only protects children’s love of learning, it teaches them to engage with ideas in an intellectually playful manner. Thinking deeply and critically might be serious, but it can also be serious fun! This questioning, creative spirit is a key part of our school’s mission to develop children to be scholars who can make positive change in the world. We know that as they move into high school, college, and life beyond, their ability to be playful and creative is a crucial element of their future success in work and relationships.

Here’s some recommended reading on this topic, if you are interested in exploring more:

The Book of Joy, by HH the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown

Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer



Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School