Alumni Spotlight

Photo of Gateway School Alumna


Gateway School’s distinguished alumna, Hannah Sullivan, is a sociolinguist who is working to implement solutions to global communication gaps. Hannah is a Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research program on Islamophobia, where her research centers on analyzing and tracking patterns of hateful speech in online discourse and strategizing actionable solutions for countering them. Through her work at the Bridge Initiative, Hannah also engages in education and outreach on Islamophobia, including an upcoming talk at The Catholic University of America entitled “Challenging Islamophobia: Deconstructing the Everyday Language of anti-Muslim Racism.”

Hannah has three years of work and study experience in the Middle East. Prior to completing her graduate degree in Linguistics at Georgetown University in 2017, Hannah lived and worked in Amman, Jordan, where she first served as a David L. Boren Fellow concentrating on intensive Arabic studies and later as a project manager on Women, Peace and Security at the Jordanian National Commission for Women, a semi-governmental organization dedicated to securing gender equality.

Hannah’s travels, dedication and accomplishments exemplify her success in her career early in life. We are so proud to see our alumna Hannah’s professional and personal missions provide such positive and meaningful contributions.


One World One Earth Day

Photo of children dancing at at Gateway School's 2017 One World One Earth Day celebration
On Friday, April 20, 2018, we will celebrate One World, One Earth Day at Gateway School. Our theme this year is “What is Your Family’s Immigration Story?” We plan to have cultural booths, World Music and dance, a lunchtime speaker, One World Salad, and some tastes from around the world. Throughout the week of April 16 – 20, we are inviting parents and grandparents to share their immigration stories and/or a special cultural food with their child’s class. On Friday, April 20, booths representing countries from our five global continents and planet Earth will be on display.  Bringing the world to our children through experiences like these will create lasting memories, and inspire our children to become conscientious citizens of the world. See you there!


Professional Development News

Photo of children's drawings of the brain

Professional Development is at once inspiring, restorative, and energizing. An ongoing learning for our faculty has an immediate impact on the experiences of students in the classrooms. From courses and workshops to webinars and shared readings, our faculty embrace opportunities to broaden their understanding of the human brain, of best practices of instruction, and of the constantly shifting landscape of educational reforms.

Some of our faculty attended the Learning and the Brain Conference in February in San Francisco, and we’ve asked them to report to you about some of what they learned. We hope you enjoy this edition of our Gateway School Professional Development Newsletter!

Gateway School faculty photo of Amy

Five Dimensions of Curiosity 

Reflections from Learning and the Brain by Amy Schwerdtfeger

“How can we manufacture intriguing moments in the classroom?”

This essential question resonated with me, and I was indeed intrigued throughout psychologist Todd Kashdan’s keynote address at this year’s Learning & the Brain conference. Todd led the room through an exercise in which two-thirds of the audience were told to stand and put their hands in their pockets, while the rest of the room was directed to stand, look at their hands, and examine the ratio of the lengths of their index to ring fingers. He proceeded to tell the one-third group all sorts of interesting facts about this ratio, and how a large versus small ratio has been shown to correlate with different personality traits. Two-thirds of the room was in curious agony, helplessly standing with their hands in their pockets, wondering what their fingers looked like. The one-third group was pleasantly listening to Todd and gazing at their hands.

Todd identified these two groups as curiosity types called “deprivation sensitivity” (hands in pockets) and “joyous exploration” (examining hands). Both states of curiosity can be elicited in the classroom, as even deprivation sensitivity involves seeking to close knowledge gaps. These are just two of the Five Dimensions of Curiosity (all of which could take shape in a classroom!).

In teaching science, curiosity seems particularly important. I believe it is imperative for curiosity to drive student learning in my classes and I look forward to developing new methods to elicit this spark.

Gateway School faculty photo of David Cameron

Renegade Leadership

Reflections from Learning and the Brain by David Cameron

Perhaps the most enlightening talk I attended was that by Brad Gustafson entitled “Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for the Digital Age.”  As can be surmised by the title, the talk was geared towards the ways in which technology can be used in our schools to actually transform the way teaching and learning take place.  Although Dr. Gustafson touched on issues from drones to iPads to Twitter, the real thrust of his talk was the need for schools to change our antiquated ways of thinking about education; namely to move far away from teacher-centered teaching and towards a much more student-centered and student-led approach.  The path forwards, he points out, is through technology.

Gustafson defines “renegade leadership” as ‘leadership from the heart’ and goes to great lengths to show that using technology does not mean burying one’s head in a device.  In fact, he points out that when students use devices such as iPads or phones to communicate and express themselves, they can usually be found clustered around one device, sharing and creating face-to-face while using tech as a tool, not an escape.   I’ve noticed our students doing the same here at Gateway!

Gateway School faculty photo of Kaia Huseby

Education for the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Reflections from Learning and the Brain by Kaia Huseby

At this year’s Learning & the Brain conference, one particular presentation stood out for me: “Education for the Age of Artificial Intelligence.” Charles Fadel, the speaker, is an author, inventor, and thought leader for global education. As a teacher, I believe that children are capable of complex problem solving and astounding creativity. I admit that when I learn about some of the rapid advances in artificial intelligence, I feel simultaneously intrigued and somewhat skeptical. I wonder: which skills should we emphasize in education?

Fadel explained that AI is best at working with great volumes of data and it works through algorithms; repetitive tasks, classification, and computation are its strengths. But algorithms can be very rigid and that’s when human intelligence – and creativity – are important. The human brain is incredibly complex, with many types of nerve cells and connections. While AI tries to imitate this, the subtlety of human thought is truly not replicable.

So what does this mean for education? Fadel argues that children should be regularly engaged in meta-learning and metacognition; they should develop growth mindsets in many areas. These ways of thinking will help this generation to be creative and innovative in the workplace. Fadel emphasizes that humans are unique in the way that they experience authentic emotions, build relationships, ask questions and give nuanced explanations. Now that we can access and process information so easily through AI, some of the skills that are most important to emphasize in education are flexibility and versatility.

Gateway School faculty photo of Mary D Geyer

The Gardener And The Carpenter

Reflections from Learning and the Brain by Mary D. Geyer

Do you ever feel like if you could just help your kids avoid making the same mistakes you did growing up then they will be so much better off?  Perhaps you think that after all of your schooling, if you just show your kids what you learned, they will reach their brilliant understanding so much faster than you did.

We all fall into misconceptions of what it means to “parent”.  Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist at U.C. Berkeley, challenges this notion of trying to mold our children to be a certain way so they will grow in a specific direction.   She draws from the field of developmental psychology and evolutionary biology to explore how children learn. Gopnik states that, “Our most distinctive and important human abilities – our capacities for learning, invention, and innovation; and for tradition, culture, and morality – are rooted in relations between parents and children.”

Although she contends that these connections are important for human evolution, Gopnik also challenges an oft-held view of what it means to “parent.” She states, “Parents are not designed to shape their children’s lives.  Instead, parents and other caregivers are designed to provide the next generation with a protected space in which they can produce new ways of thinking and acting, for better or worse, that are entirely unlike any that we would have anticipated beforehand.”

The analogy she provides of parenting is that it is not carpentry, building towards a specific goal, but more like gardening, “providing a rich, stable, safe environment that allows many different kinds of flowers to bloom.”  Hence, the title of her book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, which I highly recommend.

Gateway School faculty photo of Patricia Lucas

Play and Improv in the Classroom

Reflections from Learning and the Brain by Patricia Lucas

Four of the six Gateway teachers in attendance at the Learning & the Brain conference chose to attend Dr. Katharine McKnight’s compelling and entertaining session on the use of improvisation and play to boost brain friendly learning.  It’s safe to say that we all love fun, laughter and creative play — students and teachers alike. Combining these human delights with learning is not only substantiated by brain research, but also something many World Language teachers have known and implemented for many years.

Dr. McKnight actively demonstrated how improvisational learning activities support and meet specific learning goals, including the development of skills of focus, comprehensive listening, oral communication, critical and creative problem solving, and idea generation. In addition, improv learning games can physicalize content information and specific terms within the subject area. Examples in specific content areas might be improv math games, scientific structures, and storytelling sequence, plot and character development.  Social Emotional learning skills such as relationship building, give and take, reading social cues, and verbal and non-verbal communication development may also be furthered using the improv and play learning models.

Since the conference I have put improv into practice first with my family, secondly with my 8th grade class and, most recently, with the entire GWS staff at our recent in-service day.  Dr. McKnight’s book “The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom” is the “go-to” resource I intend to consult as these fun and fruitful techniques continue to unfold in my classes.



Gateway School students standing in silence during the National School Walkout

Dear Gateway families,

How do you teach a child to lead?
How do you get a child to care passionately about a subject?
How do you inspire a child to believe in their ability to make a difference?

Almost 40 of our middle school students participated in the National School Walkout, in which tens of thousands of students across the country walked out of class to honor the lives lost in the recent school shooting in Parkland, FL, and also those of earlier shootings.

In order to be eligible to participate in the walkout, Gateway middle school students were required to attend at least two of three preparation meetings. A group of five student leaders met separately to craft a permission slip, which required each participant to explain to their parents why they felt it was important to be part of the walkout. Each student then wrote their personal call to action on a sandwich board, which the students wore during the walkout.

Our students walked down West Cliff to the Lighthouse, where they formed a line facing the street. At the mark of one of the student leaders, they began 17 minutes of silence. Many passing drivers and pedestrians showed their support; for example, a woman jogging with her baby stopped and asked to take a picture, while a driver pulled over and told the students they were heros.

Those students who did not participate in the walkout also had important learning experiences. In small groups they discussed their choices to stay at school, their feelings and comfort with the idea of direct action, and the responsibility they each carry for finding the right ways to advocate for the issues about which they are passionate.

Hearing and seeing our middle schoolers choose to take their time to learn about the Second Amendment, how gun control and mental health issues are depicted in the media, think through their own views on these and related subjects, and then take action, was inspiring and uplifting. Our school goal is for children to discover their individual and collective potential to make a positive change in the world.  Truly, today, our Middle School students showed they are ready to be agents for positive change.

This past weekend, over 200 schools from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) published a signed letter in both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times (click the link to read the full text of the statement). This is an exceptional step of public activism on behalf of our school, and I’m proud that through Gateway’s participation in this publication, our Board, employees and community are beginning to take a more active role in promoting a safe, peaceful, and just society. On behalf of all children, we have much more work do to.


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

April School Day Tours

Gateway is an academically challenging K-8 school using neuroscience to transform teaching and learning.

Tuesday, April 17th, 9am-11am. RSVP HERE.

We hope you will join us for our April School Day Tours to experience first hand our dynamic classrooms in action. Tour our K-8th grade and specialist classes in action. Come and learn how our teachers use innovative teaching informed by research to inspire a love of learning. Meet parent ambassadors, students and Head of School.



29th Annual National Service-Learning Conference

Photo of Gateway School teachers Sarah Hernandez and Kim Lenz - Service-learning at Gateway School


We are so thrilled to announce that two teachers from Gateway School’s Service Learning Committee have been recognized for their incorporation of service learning work in their classrooms. Kindergarten teacher Sarah Hernandez and 8th Grade Humanities teacher Kim Lenz will be giving presentations at the 29th Annual National Service-Learning Conference in Saint Paul, Minnesota on March 11 – 13, 2018.

Sarah and Kim begin their service learning instruction with a question: What are the needs of your community? Students are encouraged to spend time considering different needs and identifying people who have those needs in the community. The groups who are identified are asked if they will share their stories. Students also conduct interviews to learn more about the groups and their needs, which leads to deeper understandings and strengthens the relationships of everyone involved. Afterwards, they collectively decide how they would like to move forward.

During service learning projects Sarah and Kim’s classes plan, reflect on, and refine their activities, making it a true learning experience. They choose to serve a specific group or cause that fosters an enriching, hands-on experience that they feel connected to. The result is a deeper, more personal understanding of, and connection to, people in the community and the needs they have. Kim’s class has been working with the Walnut Avenue Family and Children’s Center. Sarah’s class is still exploring the community, her last class chose to work with the SPCA.

At the Annual National Service-Learning Conference Sarah and Kim will be facilitating conversations about how to include young learners in this rich and unique learning method. They will speak about implementing service learning and social justice through a developmentally appropriate lens responsive to the grade levels of implementation. Sarah’s workshop will specifically address the unique challenges of integrating service learning into the K-2 classroom, while Kim’s workshop will cover incorporating service learning in middle schools. Their presentations will also include the constraints, challenges, and successes they have experienced. We are so proud of Sarah and Kim’s meaningful contributions to our community here in Santa Cruz, at Gateway School, and now at the national level!

Napping Really Is Good For You

Design image for Head of School Blog

Dear families,

Dr. Mark Rosekind’s presentation on the science of sleep at last week’s annual Speaker Series event was anything but soporific! As the former head of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in addition to his work at NASA and the National Transportation Safety Board, Dr. Rosekind has conducted extensive research on the effects of sleep and fatigue on the human condition over the last 30 years, and his expertise and command of the material — as well as his great sense of humor — was on full display.

From the start, Dr. Rosekind argued that sleep, like air, food and water, is an intrinsic and essential component of healthy existence, not an optional one that can or should be manipulated. Forget the idea of “sleeping when you are dead”; if you follow that rule, you’ll die much sooner!

Dr. Rosekind explained the neuroscience of sleep cycles, including why the body experiences temporary paralysis during dreaming, and our natural circadian rhythms of greatest sleepiness and wakefulness. He also spoke about the effective way to use naps — either short naps of 20-45 minutes, or longer naps of around two hours — and why society is short-sighted to look down on people who take naps.

From his studies with Army tank crews firing hundreds of rounds a day, to long-haul pilots flying 777s from Hawaii to Tokyo, Dr. Rosekind definitely demonstrated that adequate sleep is closely tied to performance, as well as mood, safety and health. Sacrificing sleep for work may give an immediate benefit, but by day two of reduced sleep that benefit has disappeared, and it gets worse from there.

Dr. Rosekind provided great insight into the sleep needs of children and adolescents, and how they vary across stages of development. While adults need 8 hours of sleep per day, children need 9.25 or even more. Dr. Rosekind had a very direct piece of advice for parents to ensure this happens: “Parents, be the parents, and set bedtimes for your children.”

I was heartened to hear that sleep deficits can be remediated, and found the eight-point list of good sleep habits that Dr. Rosekind recommends succinct and helpful. These include:

Protect sleep time
Keep regular bed/wake times
Use a regular pre-sleep routine (15 minutes)
Avoid work and worry in the bedroom
Use relaxation techniques
Light snack or drink if needed
No alcohol or caffeine
Don’t toss or turn for more than 30 minutes

Dr. Rosekind closed by pointing out that American culture and society have taken an unhealthy view towards sleep. If we are going to guide our children to live healthy lives, we adults need to model good attitudes and habits towards sleep. So the next time you feel drowsy, give yourself permission to take a nap!

Interested in more? Here are a few great books on the subject recommended by Dr. Rosekind.

The Science of Sleep by William Dement

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker


Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School


Alumni Spotlight

Gateway School alumni student


Former Gateway student, Gus Samios, is now an aerospace engineer at Edwards Air Force Base for the 412th Test Wing. Gus received his BS in Aerospace Engineering from Cal Poly in 2015, and is currently working as a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base, while also pursuing a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering at UCLA. Since being at Gateway, Gus has always dreamed about designing and working “hands on” with aircraft, and exclaims that, “Edwards couldn’t be a more fun and rewarding place to do it.” Since starting in July 2015, he has been able to support nearly 100 flight test missions and has lead just over 40 of them. He spends his days in the world’s most advanced fighter cockpits for ground tests and mission prep, engineering and analyzing system efficiency and safety, and interfacing with world class pilots. His goal is to push aircraft to their limits. Most importantly, this is what Gus has always wanted to do, and relishes the fact that, “Gateway set the foundation for me to get here.”

The 412th Test Wing conducts, analyzes, and reports on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapons systems, software and simulation for the U.S. Air Force. There are three core components for this mission: flying operations, maintenance and engineering.  The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, also part of the test wing, is where the Air Force’s top pilots, navigators and engineers learn how to conduct flight tests and generate the data needed to carry out test missions. The comprehensive curriculum of Test Pilot School is fundamental to the success of flight test and evaluation.

Congratulations Gus on pursuing your dreams!