School Day Tours

December 5, 9-11am. RSVP HERE. Prospective families are invited to tour our dynamic classrooms in action. Come and see how children thrive with our innovative learning techniques under the care of our experienced teachers.  Meet students, parents and our Head of School. Learn about our application process and our financial assistance program.

PE teacher Kirsten embodies Arete

Our adored Kirsten Mehl was invited to speak to an audience of K-12 teachers with the California Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAPHERD) last weekend.

Kirsten’s presentation focused on her integration of social and emotional learning into her Physical Education curriculum, nurturing the whole child. Kirsten describes her personal inspiration with the term, Arete; the pursuit of excellence in oneself through the mind, the body and the spirit.

While Kirsten’s process seems intuitive to her, it is a novel approach to what has been and still is considered Physical Education to so many. If you have ever experienced one of Kirsten’s classes it is apparent that the program is deeper than what you might have expected. For example, the students (and Kirsten) will play an athletic game, pause to share inspirations or ask “what would integrity or sportsmanship look like in this game?” Then they resume playing integrating their new ideas into the game. By realizing how they want to perform, and accepting mistakes as an opportunity for growth, students are actively stretching themselves. During her presentation she employed her methods by having her audience stand up, stretch themselves and participate in her lecture, bringing to life what she teaches.

Kirsten reaches people and her teaching method resonates with everyone around her. We are very proud of her for sharing her personal approach with all of us, with CAPHERD, and for being invited to speak at the Elementary Physical Education Workshop (EPEW) national conference next summer.

Alumna Kristin Fauske (’08) wins Global Design Challenge

Kristin Fauske, Architecture Major, and her two team members from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, won first place in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, with their project CO2 extrACTION.

CO2 extrACTION is a multi-functional panel system that works to capture and isolate airborne carbon dioxide in dense urban areas.

Kristin and her team researched 40 biological examples capturing carbon dioxide and identified overarching patterns among the researched biological strategies which inspired them to design a panel system that can be applied on multiple scales to buildings and other existing infrastructure along freeways and main streets. Their design creates a way to facilitate the extraction of airborne carbon dioxide by drawing it through reed-like entrances and exits. Each inlet uses the venturi effect to increase air speed coming into the system. The air then passes through a carbon scrubber, which contains polymer strips coated with anionic exchange resin. The resin reacts with atmospheric carbon dioxide, converting it to bicarbonate. The carbon dioxide is stored on the strips until they are rinsed with water or moist air, which occurs naturally around dawn when atmospheric water condensation accumulates on multiple components of the structure. The carbon dioxide is then released and drawn into the chamber below, where it is stored and transported via a tube to another location for further use.

They have been invited to continue working on their project in the Biomimicry Institute’s Accelerator Program. Kristin also received a department award from California Polytechnic State University for this project.

Congratulations Kristin, on all of your accomplishments!

Watch the video of their project (scroll down to Student Category Winners, First Place: extrACTION)


Middle School Information Night

December 7 6pm RSVP HERE. Come and learn about our exceptional Middle School.  Experience demo lessons, learn about our academic and service learning program, hear from students and alumni and enjoy a music performance by our Not-Rock Band. Join us to discover how your child will thrive and be challenged at Gateway Middle School. Don’t miss this once-a-year event! Discover why Gateway School students are articulate, confident and well prepared for high school and beyond.

Teaching Teachers

Using Mindfulness to Access Creativity and Peace


Gateway School’s art teacher, Ilana Ingber, is in NYC for several days to lead 40 public school art teachers in a workshop that infuses mindfulness and social emotional learning into their art curriculum.

Ilana is excited about this opportunity to reach thousands of children in her home stomping grounds of Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and other neighborhoods of New York City. She has created a meaningful workshop that will empower teachers to begin practicing mindfulness for themselves and with their students within their art classes, as well to begin to weave the concept of “growth mindset” into teaching about art.  The science behind this approach is solid.  Mindfulness and fostering a growth mindset have consistently been correlated with improved academic performance of students.

“I am so grateful to be at Gateway, a school that deeply cares about mindfulness and social emotional learning across all the grades and all the disciplines. I am deeply inspired by what we do at Gateway and excited to share our work with 40 NYC public schools! The teachers and students I will be working with in NYC may have had little to no exposure to mindfulness. This is a chance to really impact a community that is not as privileged as Gateway and I believe it is part of our social justice efforts for me to do this work.”  -Ilana Ingber

Thank you for your important work Ilana!


Our Innovative Approach to Education


Nowadays it’s cheap and easy to stream music and video using the internet, but you probably remember making copies of albums using cassette decks, or recording TV shows on a VCR — and your glee at being able to do so. My own beloved collection of several hundred bootleg concert cassettes lingered in my garage for many years before I overcame my emotional attachment to them (and wanted the space for something else).

Some types of technology are impactful for many years (laptops) and others are not (iPods and DVD-Rs, anyone?). Unfortunately, digital technology is often conflated with innovation, or used as a simple shorthand in its place, especially in school contexts.

So what is innovation, if not technology?

A quick internet search turns up many definitions for “innovation”, but I am drawn to the one that proposes three elements: 1) new ideas that 2) create value when 3) they are implemented, whether through updates to existing systems or the creation of new ones. Some innovations are incremental, while others are radical, but all three components are essential to innovation.

I hope you can join me in marvelling at how our faculty continually integrate new innovations into our classrooms that have direct benefit to students.

One area in which we think about innovation are the outcomes for students. Krissie Olsen’s work this year teaching digital citizenship and digital literacy helps our students be prepared to navigate the complexities of the online world — a reality that did not exist when we were children. We also want students to learn to act with grace and courtesy in real life, which shows up in instances such as an author party where older students share tea and muffins with younger students while reading their original work.

Another key space where we try to innovate is in what students actually do in the classroom. Rather than simply memorize addition facts, our youngest students are asked to build their own understanding of what numbers mean and how they work — in mathematics, this is formally called “number sense” — from counting the seeds in a pumpkin to measuring the circumference of an apple. The work is meaningful to them, not rote.

Across all areas of our program, teachers help students learn agency; the capacity to take action independently, while holding awareness and purpose of the world around them. Last year’s 8th grade Humanities program culminated in the “Museum of Exclusion”, in which students worked in small groups and designed museum exhibits about marginalized peoples in American society, which they presented both on campus and at the MAH.

We apply the innovation approach to the instructional practices of faculty. We’ve begun using new types of collaborative assessments in the middle school, while teachers are now implementing literature circles and “morning blast” across upper elementary grades. We’ve built upon the school’s history of integrating art into academic projects by adding Spanish, music and Disco collaboration to classroom projects, such as the fifth grade year-end performance piece.

In the last two years, we’ve also begun innovating in the design of classroom environments. Our flexible classrooms in grades 2-4 and in the middle school are easily reconfigured for whole class discussion, small group collaboration, and individual work, while promoting student choice and health through a variety of seating options.

Beneath this all, the burgeoning field of neuroscience has been especially useful in driving our understanding of how to effectively innovate the teaching and learning that happens at Gateway. This is a far cry from goals of “college and career readiness” or “high school preparation” that don’t put students’ actual lives at the center of the academic and social program.

Though educational innovation is much more than just computers and other devices, and technology is not necessarily innovation in and of itself, technology can “add value” in some schooling circumstances across the above areas. At their best, these tools increase communication and networking, promote the faster flow of ideas, and spark creativity and imagination.

Educational innovations can present intellectual and emotional challenges to teachers and families. They need to be supported with time, energy, money and other resources to have lasting impact. At Gateway, by using innovation to add value to the child’s learning, the teacher’s instruction, and the family experience, we put students in the best position to thrive in the future.


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Alumna in Open Studios Santa Cruz

Gateway School is proud to see alumna, Alexa Shoemaker Brooks, owner of Whimsy Spot, participating in Open Studios Santa Cruz. We love seeing our former students active in the community.

Since Gateway, Alexa studied printmaking and bookbinding with poet, printmaker and Shelley Memorial Award winner, Gary Young, for 3 years.  During her studies at Washington University, she designed for the Performing Arts Department and worked at The Muny designing their summer playbills.  In 2011, she studied graphic design at Pasadena Art Center College of Design.

Alexa, fondly, remembers each of her teachers and projects from Gateway vividly. She feels the lasting impression Gateway left on her is, “indicative of the amount of individualized attention she was given.” When she was younger she did not see herself as an artistic person (Yet!). “We all have all of these things in us all the time, failing is fine.” Her personal philosophies reflect Gateway School’s growth mindset.

At Open Studios, Alexa is showing a beautiful collection of hand cut greeting cards and art prints. Her greeting cards feature different animal silhouettes cut out of vibrant papers that reflect innate characteristics of that animal. She also has prints of her collage work depicting animals in whimsical, playful environments.

You can visit Whimsy Spot’s open studio this coming weekend, October 21st and 22nd from 11am-5pm, artist #111

Parent Ed: Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Assistant Head Of  School, Sherri Helvie, hosted a workshop for parents last week entitled, “Mind Your P’s and Q’s.”

Using the article, “25 Manners Kids Should Know By Age Nine” the parents in attendance discussed and expanded on the list of recommended manners and shared the ways they are being implemented at home. Among the group’s favorites; asking their child the eye color of the person they were speaking with, as a reminder to make eye contact.

Parents shared how they not only teach their children to use polite words and phrases, but also ask their children to recognize another person’s context and to be considerate. The balance of being considerate of others while staying true to your self was discussed. This led one parent to ask, “ When does being polite become being passive?”

Gender roles and safety issues were explored regarding being polite. The group concluded that while teaching our children to be respectful and polite we must also teach them to listen to their instincts, evaluate each situation and make exceptions to “the rules” depending on individual circumstances.

Sherri’s Mind Your P’s and Q’s brought together the different perspectives of what manners should look like in our community.

Kindergarten Visit Day

Saturday, Nov 4th, 10am-12pm. RSVP HERE. Looking for an exceptional kindergarten? Come to our Kindergarten Visit Day!  Come and talk with our kindergarten faculty and explore our classrooms in a relaxed environment. Interactive activities for children on hand. You will meet students, parents and our Head of School.  Learn about our application process and financial assistance.

13 Years Old is Closer to 3 than to 23

Back-to-School-Night is often used as a time to share classroom curriculum, explain routines and expectations, and make sure families see prettily completed work — all so that they are reassured that the children are learning effectively. After all, aren’t parents most interested in the academic content their children are going to be taught?

My experience is that the answer to that question is “no”.

What parents crave most of all is connection — just like children in the classroom. Research clearly shows that for adults and children alike, emotional safety and social connection come before engaged learning and a growth mindset. Wendy Mogul, psychologist and author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus, speaks about this very compellingly (or go back further to Abraham Maslow and the hierarchy of needs).

This is true even — and especially — as children enter middle school. Adolescence is a natural time of distancing and redefining by children. Parents have to learn to navigate their own feelings and experiences at the same time that their children begin developing more individualized identities. What guardians really want is to be emotionally and socially connected with the teachers, with each other, and with the ideas and values that underlie the program. They want to know that their children will be prepared for the future not just academically, but also as good people with strong character and integrity.

This year I offered four distinct pieces of advice to middle school families at Back to School Night. My hope is that all of our families engage in an ongoing conversation about our beliefs and values as families, think carefully about the parenting choices we make, and don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees when it comes to the hard work of raising children. Continue reading “13 Years Old is Closer to 3 than to 23”