K-8 Open House

Please join us for an Interactive Open House to experience the exciting things going on at Gateway School. You will meet faculty, co-curricular specialist teachers and our Head of School. You will be treated to a musical performance, interactive lessons, a guided tour and lunch.

Gateway School provides an environment in which students develop strong academic skills, learn to take appropriate intellectual and emotional risks, elevate their critical and abstract thinking to a high level of complexity, and create enduring relationships with their teachers and peers. Our students build confidence and gain skills of communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration that prepare them for life in the modern world. 

We look forward to meeting you and sharing all that our community has to offer your family.

The Gateway Gazette

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Gateway School Newspaper! We are very excited to be publishing our second issue of the Gateway Gazette and are excited to continue making more. There will be two new sections in the newspaper in this edition. One is Video News where we will talk about upcoming events for the school. The second addition is bringing back the Teacher Feature, which is where students interview teachers and create articles based on the teachers answers. This way, readers will get an inside scoop on cool facts about the teachers at this school. For our production team, we have 8th graders taking on different jobs, which include the WordPress designers, editors, photographers, advertisers, podcasts, and live media. We have the 7th graders talking about current events and answering questions about the new campus. The 6th graders are writing reviews of things such as books, movies, restaurants, video games, TV shows, and places to travel. We hope you enjoy the Gateway Gazette!

Thank you for reading,

Phoebe Liermann and Jesse Wolkstein

Social Justice


Dear Gateway families,

I was very pleased that many of you were able to join our students and faculty at last week’s First Friday. We were all struck by the facts about food insecurity and hunger issues that affect the local and global community presented by our 6th graders, and inspired by their desire to make a difference through the canned food drive. Similarly, while the faculty dramatization of Can I Play Too? presented by David, Kurt and Sari brought out lots of laughs, the reflective conversation afterwards highlighted the complexity of creating an inclusive environment, and the challenge of navigating our inner feelings as we come to recognize, accept, and celebrate the uniqueness of each person and our own identities. And of course it was joyous to close the assembly with an all-school sing-along featuring an integrated performance by the 2nd Grade, 4th Grade, and Middle School Advanced Band (you can see the performance on our Facebook page!).
 At Gateway we have nine core values, and the courage to promote a just society is one that inspires our faculty to reach beyond the core curriculum of academic knowledge and skills. As Sydney Chaffee eloquently said in her 2017 TedXBeaconStreet talkTeachers don’t just teach subjects, we teach people. When our students walk into their classrooms, they bring their identities with them. Everything they experience in our rooms is bound up in historical context, and so if we insist that education happens in a vacuum, we do our students a disservice. Fostering these conversations is challenging, because it means surfacing hidden assumptions that we don’t even know we hold.
Our Social Justice & Equity Committee, comprised of faculty and administrators, continues to lead our school-wide efforts to deepen our practice of effective social justice education. With a commitment to actively question our biases, promote educational experiences and conversations that deepen our understanding of social justice, and honor our authentic selves and hold the space in safety, we have begun to examine how subjects and content are taught across grades. In prior years we have focused on the areas of gender identity and neurological profiles; this year, our work has focused on adopting the Anti-Bias framework from Teaching Tolerance into the Middle School Humanities curriculum, and piloting relevant and developmentally aligned content across grades as appropriate.
As we head into the holiday season, with so much to be thankful for, we hope that this critical work will enable us to translate our empathy for others — that is, feeling with them — into compassion, and directly towards taking action to relieve their suffering and improve their lives. Thank you for all you do to model this for our children.
Prior 2018-19 Head of School blog posts on Gateway’s core values:

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Exploring the overlap between engineering and science




Gateway 8th graders have been exploring the overlap between engineering and science as they worked on building circuits.

To prepare for a few of the conceptual pieces involved, students built basic circuits with small motors, AA batteries, bulky telegraph-like contact keys, insulated wires with alligator jaws, and plenty of little incandescent light bulbs. Despite the humble nature of the equipment, students were exposed to many important ideas about circuits, especially when they ran into problems.

Students and teachers together set small goals for everyone. Then, the students take steps towards those goals, having to adjust their thinking and fiddle with things to make it over the hurdles. Once students start to make sense of some of the science behind the components, they are able to tackle more complex goals.

The sophistication of the project increased when the class collaborated with Krissie from our Discovery Center. She brought her knowledge of Arduino to the room, giving kids a chance to apply their previous circuitry sessions in a new context.

Over the course of the week, the students tried their hands at a number of projects using the SparkFun Redboard. These challenges combined students’ knowledge of the hardware with exposure to software that they were able to manipulate to make changes to their circuits.

After a few days of orientation with the new gear, students were tasked with building an autonomous car.

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

Did you know 1 in 4 children face the reality of hunger in Santa Cruz County?

Did you know 1 in 4 children and 1 in 5 adults face the reality of hunger in Santa Cruz County? Second Harvest Food Bank provides meals for 55,000 people each month. This includes children, seniors, veterans, homeless, working poor, and those who need help making it through a tough time. (Source: www.thefoodbank.org)
You can support those who are hungry here in Santa Cruz County in two ways:
DONATE FOOD by giving non-perishable boxed, canned, or bagged (no glass, and please check the expiration date.) We have bins in the lobby and bags/boxes in the classrooms.
DONATE FUNDS by clicking on this link: https://give.thefoodbank.org/teams/10246-gateway-school (No amount is to little!) $1 provides FOUR meals.
All food will be picked up December 21st! Thanks for your support!
~ the Gateway Sixth Grade Class


Sixth grade put together this video on food insecurity facts. Please support their donation drive.

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

Teaching Students to Take Charge of Their Learning

Dear Gateway families,

How do we effectively prepare children for the world to come?

Curriculum and education defined by historical facts and contemporary skills will always struggle to prepare children for their future. The challenges they will face are different from the ones we faced growing up; just look at how the pace of human knowledge creation has accelerated, and the impending automation of many traditional jobs. It’s a scary, humbling task we face!

A recent article by Greg Satell posits that the skills children will need for their future are the ability to understand systems, to apply empathy and design skills, to communicate complex ideas, and to collaborate and work in teams. Already we see this driving elite universities as they look for intellectual curiosity among their undergraduate applicants, and in graduate programs that conduct group interviews to check for social cognition and communication skills.

To this excellent list, Gateway adds another critical element: metacognition and self-reflection.

Metacognition is the ability to think about one’s own thoughts and learn from them. It is also the key skill that helps students improve their learning process. Through metacognition, students become aware of their strengths and challenges as learners, and begin to monitor their use of learning strategies. They learn that their own learning processes can change, that they can iteratively use goal-setting and planning to achieve their objectives, and how to self-monitor and adapt. Through this process, students become confident scholars who develop inner standards of success and achievement, and learn to transfer their abilities to new tasks and contexts.

We build students’ metacognition at Gateway by teaching them about the concept, by incorporating their authentic voices and choices into their learning, by explicitly articulating and modeling it in the work of faculty, and by regularly guiding children to engage in reflection. In grades fourth through eighth, families will see this driving force during the upcoming School/Family conferences, in which the students participate to present examples of their work, discuss their learning experiences, and review goals for their academic growth.

Being metacognitive means being more aware of one’s journey on the path of learning. How much more pleasurable and intentional it feels for our children to be agents of their own scholarship, rather than perceive school as something outside of their control that happens to them!


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Design

Dear Gateway Families,

What does it mean to “be good at math”?

Most of us grew up in school environments that emphasized speed and accuracy using specific algorithms to solve discrete problems. If you didn’t go fast, or you weren’t accurate, then likely you didn’t think of yourself as good at math; deep understanding wasn’t necessarily considered part of the equation. Far too many children developed math anxiety during their elementary years because of this focus on a narrow definition of mathematical excellence, and as adults, their relationship with math continuous to be fraught.

Fortunately, there’s a better way to help children develop both strong skills and lasting confidence in math, and last week our Bridges trainer, Alison Mazzola, helped families understand how the math curriculum here at Gateway does that. It starts with redefining the goals and outcomes we have for students’ math learning:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  4. Model with mathematics
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically
  6. Attend to precision
  7. Look for and make use of structure
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Of course we still want students to be efficient and accurate, but a broader view of math outcomes explains why our program looks so different from traditional, rote approaches. An experienced elementary grades teacher, Allison peppered her talk with hilarious anecdotes drawn from her time in the classroom, while helping the audience understand why our faculty is so excited about Bridges. It fits directly into our view that academic excellence means working both hard and smart, and that’s done by learning and then applying strategies. We also recognize that selecting the right strategy for the situation is an essential aspect of academic success. For example, counting on fingers is typically viewed as an appropriate strategy for younger children, but we often expect children to have quick recall of so-called “math facts” that are simply computation. However, Stanford Professor Jo Boaler’s important work with Youcubed.org explains why finger-counting can be an effective go-to strategy with older students who are tired, stressed, or struggling to integrate new concepts.

Bridges is based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a set of academic knowledge and skills in math and language arts that has been adopted by 45 states.  CCSS were developed by the National Governors Association (they are not federal standards), which believes that one way the U.S. can catch up to other countries in test scores is to have a more consistent curriculum across the states, rather than every state having its own. Though the pre-existing California State standards were already very good, the CCSS has had a positive impact on public education in some ways, such as increasing the emphasis on critical thinking and reasoning, rather than rote learning and regurgitation.

However, we feel that the CCSS leave out so many wonderful elements; for example, the language arts over-emphasizes reading informational texts, and misses out on novels, poetry, drama, lyric and other forms of creative writing. It also doesn’t fully attend to all five strands of mathematical thinking that are important in a curriculum, as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: numbers and operations, data and measurement, statistics and probability, geometry, and patterns and algebraic thinking.

Gateway is proud to be members of the Independent Curriculum Group, a consortium of 200+ leading independent schools from around the country (York School, in Monterey, is another member). We keep a close eye on the trends and standards in national curriculum, and we also pay attention to child development, psychology, neuroscience, and our core institutional values to build curriculum with authentic and engaging student experiences. From science labs studying the movement of seismic waves to calculating compounding interest based on holiday shopping, our academic program weaves areas of high student interest into the curriculum to teach key knowledge and skills.

I encourage you to contact your child(ren)’s teacher with any questions you have about our curriculum, and to enjoy and participate in the curriculum celebrations that mark our year, from the Starlight sing in Kindergarten to Author Parties in the Elementary grades and the Science Fair presentations in Middle School.

Recommended reading on math and curriculum:

Jo Boaler: Youcubed.org

Alfie Kohn: Punished by Rewards

Cathy Seeley: Faster Isn’t Smarter

Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher: Neuroteach


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Poetry contest winner!

Sofia Donaldson-Zurita’s poem, Crow, won first place in the Scotts Valley Arts Commission’s annual Verse in the Valley Poetry Contest. Sofia was invited to share her poem at a Scotts Valley City Council meeting and received a book with her poem printed inside. Congratulations Sofia!


By Olga Sofia Donaldson-Zurita

Crow flies so high- soars

Crow’s silky feathers ink black

Regal – Beautiful