First Art Project of the year! Visual Charters: Showing How We Want to Feel At School.

To begin the year students, along with their teachers, collaborate to develop Class Charters which are living documents that describe how we want to feel at school, what actions to take to achieve that, and what we do when we make a mistake or misstep.

This year, our student artists had the opportunity to ground themselves in the new space through a collaborative Visual Charter activity based on concepts from the RULER program.

Each class began by reflecting on the question, “how do we want to feel at school?”. They came up with some amazing and thoughtful answers including happy, challenged, excited, included, and ‘like myself!’ Keeping these emotions in mind, the students were asked to visualize what makes them feel that specific way: a certain person, place, pet, activity. This was the jumping off point for our explorations. The older classes also began exploring the subject of mandalas, reflecting on the concepts of impermanence (chalk washes away, things change), grounding themselves within the “universe” (new campus), and “meditating on” (consciously considering) their emotions as they worked to cultivate a sense of positivity.

Students utilized symbols, images, and words to express how they would like to feel at school this year and how they wanted to represent the school to others. This process required a lot of compromise, collaboration, and personal reflection as students shared space and materials, worked together on their imagery, and experimented with and investigated the material. Together, each class utilized their section of “canvas” (blacktop) to express their hopes, emotions, and personalities.

Through this process, students had the opportunity to ‘make their mark’ and bring what makes them comfortable to this new site, while providing valuable social-emotional study opportunities and self reflection: How do I want to feel? What makes me feel that way? Does thinking about that thing make me feel good?

Savoring This Moment, Preparing For The Next

Dear Gateway Families,

What an extraordinary day! My heart is overflowing. From watching families take pictures in front of the school at arrival, to hearing the children cheer for faculty and new students during our brief opening assembly, our school hummed with a spirit of joy and excitement far beyond the typical first day of school feeling. I am sure you will hear all about it from your children this evening.

Today was the culmination of ten years of work by Trustees, administrators, faculty, and families to find a new home for Gateway. As former Trustee told me this morning, “It’s better than anything we ever dreamed we could have.” I am truly and deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed their time, energy, talent, finances, and passion to help Gateway arrive at this moment; it is truly one to savor.

We are here today because of the work of all those who came before us, and the sacrifices they made. And that goes far beyond the people who have worked to help Gateway itself. 56 years ago today, almost 250,000 people gathered for The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Delivered that day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech captured the hopes of a generation of visionaries who believed in a better, more just, and more equitable society.

As I mentioned in the August welcome-back letter, this year our faculty and staff will be doing essential work to understand how white supremacy and racism (and oppression more generally) have impacted our program, and the work we must do to confront and dismantle invisible biases and prejudices. Doing this will elevate the social and emotional curriculum to the same level of excellence as our transformational academic program. And it is what our children deserve — just like this wonderful campus.

Last year our community talked a lot about kindness; this year, inclusion and impact are the key ideals that set our direction. I look forward to sharing this journey with you in the months to come. Thank you for all you do for Gateway School.


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

First day scenes

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

Faculty minds at work

Islamic tiling

Read on to learn about the great professional development experiences our faculty have done in the first few weeks of summer.

Exploring the Richness of Middle School Math

From June 17-19, Alli Birkhead, MaryD Geyer and Michael Matthews attended the Monterey Bay Area Math Project (MBAMP) 2019 Summer Institute, hosted by UCSC. Our team of Middle School math teachers joined 60+ other teachers in grades K-16 for three days of deep thinking about how children learn math, and how to use a range of strategies, from collaboration to patterning, to solve problems and discover the underlying. 

Each morning featured a speaker who introduced a problem and facilitated a two hour session focused on discovering the mathematical thinking that could be applied while solving the problem. Teachers formed and worked in groups across grade levels, and then debriefed and discussed strategies and student experiences. For example, one morning period featured the famed “Locker problem”, in which a simple question about students opening and closing lockers is used to explore factoring, prime factorization, number sense and pattern recognition:

One way to visualize mathematical thinking for the locker problem

Imagine a hallway with 1000 lockers, all closed. 1000 students are sent down the hall as follows: student 1 opens all the lockers; student 2 closes every other locker, beginning with the second; student 3 changes the state of every third locker, beginning with the third; and so on. After all the students have marched, which lockers remain open? Which students visit Locker 24 and Locker 36? Why? Which students visit Locker 18 and 54 and 72? Why? Which Lockers are visited by only two students?

As Michael said afterwards, “I love how this pushed us to think about how math teachers can ask compelling problems that stoke everyone’s curiosity and are inclusive of everyone’s skills.”

Islamic tiling
Islamic tiling by Alli

In the afternoons, teachers got to choose which 90-minute breakout sessions to attend such as Geometry in Motion, Pentagon Construction of the 10 Petal Rose, and Math Running records and Number Sense Routines. In Discovering Geometry through the Art of Islamic Tiling, the participants used the simple tools of a straight-edge and compass, learning the techniques for making designs that are found in mosques and other examples of Islamic architecture. “One of my take-aways from this session was how fun it can be to do math, and the links between art and math, and to help students see those and be excited. Most students probably haven’t explored these connections before,” said Alli.

Writing, Revising and Editing, Oh My!

This was the fourth year we’ve been able to send teachers to attend the Writer’s Workshop Summer Institute at Teachers College at Columbia University, and from June 17-21 it was Sari Mundon and Julie Foster’s turn to attend. By investing in this world-class training for our faculty, we’ve transformed the experience our students have as they develop knowledge and skills and become effective writers.

“One big highlight was getting to revisit writing, both my own and as a teacher of writing,” shared Julie.  “We did a lot of our own writing during the week, and I watched my own writing grow during the week — we applied it to different frameworks, and I watched it grow through that process and felt so excited about it by the end of the week.” Julie also noted that being in a small group of 20 other Third Grade teachers was a special experience, and helped her build her professional network. “Other teachers were there alone from their school, or hoping to bring Writer’s Workshop to their school, so this was a good opportunity for me to take perspective on how supportive the school has been to our team.”

For Sari, an exciting take-away was diving deeply into the role of the revision process in student writing. “Revising is an essential part of writing, and students often want to skip over it. I have more strategies now, such as “fast and furious drafting” in which a student writer takes no more than one day for the first draft, to help them learn skills and strategies for improving their writing by coming back to it.”

Both teachers are excited about working with mentor texts, and pulling them into the curriculum. “This is such an effective tool, and I already float them into the classroom, and now I have a new idea of digging in more deeply with these, especially for poetry,” said Julie. “I’m thinking about how to bring this to life for students.” 

For years our teachers have reported that Lucy Calkins, founder of the Writing Workshop model, has a great sense of humor and so much passion about writing. We’ve been inspired by her belief in building a community about writers, and being around like-minded people who want to have discussions about education is exciting and rejuvenating.

Learning the Skills of Leadership

On June 26-27, Kris Broek, our Resource Support Coordinator attended Professional Development That Changes Practice, hosted by U.C. Berkeley and presented in collaboration by the California Reading and Literature Project and Elana Aguilar of Bright Morning Consulting. Kris joined almost two dozen other participants, ranging from instructional coaches to public school district superintendents, to explore how they lead and facilitate meetings and professional development, and develop new skills and tools for coaching and mentoring teachers.

The workshop began with a homework assignment to self-assess as a provider of professional development, posing questions about how often the participants invite questions, confrontation, and challenging discourse in our professional discussions; to evaluate themselves as listeners and how they do/not listen to faculty; and also examine meeting leadership through the lens of justice and equity to assess how to ensure everyone feels safe and has equal access to participation and acknowledgement.

Kris reported that the program moved at a rapid pace and covered topics from theoretical to practical. It was structured by modeling effective routines for providing professional development, from setting community agreements to assessing emotional intelligence to understanding adult learners. “I especially enjoyed looking at the Consultancy Protocol, in which teams’ minds are expanded on how to approach a situation, rather than trying to solve it,” Kris said. Other topics included decision making and how teams make decisions; how to create an effective agenda and stick to it; how to use routines for adult learners and how to structure professional development experiences; and how to evaluate the effectiveness of a session through evidence.

“We also spent time looking at ways to engage in team building through play,” said Kris. “At first this felt almost cheesy, but it got us in touch with our vulnerability as adult learners, and being vulnerable leads to trust — the work is brilliant because it’s hard to walk the walk of emotional intelligence as an adult, and that’s what’s needed to transform teaching and learning.”

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.