Our Future-Focused Philosophy

Gateway School’s program is designed to inspire our students to work hard and value intrinsic understanding over external rewards. We want them to have a sense of agency and confidently take action to bring their ideas into reality. We hope they learn to act with grace and courtesy, to stand up for those who need help, and to be unafraid to examine the status quo through appropriate intellectual and social risks.

Children are highly capable

A six year old is not half of a twelve year old when it comes to learning. We view children as whole beings no matter their age or learning profile, and celebrate their unquenchable curiosity and astonishing creativity. We have an unfailing belief that they are tireless observers and extraordinary problem solvers. Most kids love learning!

Academic excellence requires a growth mindset

Most people can learn to drive a car; many fewer can change their own oil, and far fewer can do mechanical work on the vehicle. We teach children not only to master academic knowledge and skills, but also to pursue deeper understanding of the ideas. A growth mindset — the view that talents and abilities can be developed, and challenges are the way to do this — is foundational for this.

Relationships play an essential role in child development

The majority of children are intrinsically social and learn many lessons through social interactions. Our small class sizes and low student-to-teacher ratios allow teachers to get to know each child and to encourage each student to work at their own “learning edge.” Teaching children how to relate compassionately is fundamental to their growth.

Character is as important as academics

Integrity, responsibility and discipline come first in the school’s list of core values. Almost all children will make mistakes and poor decisions; they need explicit teaching and practice to learn how to do the right thing even when no one is watching. From emotional intelligence to self-discipline, we teach the personal elements that help kids become good citizens.

Good instruction is based on research…

In a world awash with teaching based on dogma, ideology and pseudo-science, and the marketing departments of for-profit companies distorting the conversation for their own gain, we root our teaching practices in our understanding of the best available research in fields including neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and biology.

…And, there is no single “best” way to teach

Our teachers use a wide variety of instructional strategies to serve our vision of educating students.  This includes direct instruction and collaborative inquiry, workshop methods and project-based learning, independent research and place-based education. Our faculty match their instruction to the curriculum and students on any given day.

Challenge and support are two sides of the same coin

Differentiation allows faculty to vary instructional techniques and address distinct learning needs. When children are ready for challenge, we may take them to areas outside the curriculum, or ask them to go deeper into it, or to produce stronger work. When children need more help, we create scaffolds and structures that support their success.

Curriculum is a reflection of our values

The curriculum includes new and evolving skills and literacies to prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow. Our curriculum map is a starting point for faculty to think about what they will teach students; emergent child interests and opportunities in the community lead to unique projects or in-depth studies. Interdisciplinary curriculum forms a central element of our program. We regularly consult the various standards created by political and professional organizations, and we cherish the freedom to be flexible.

Assessment helps inform instruction

Our program uses a wide variety of assessment tools and techniques including tests and quizzes, public presentations, exhibitions of learning, portfolios, rubrics and much more. Through this array of approaches, our teachers develop insight into students’ growth as measured against developmental norms and our curricular goals.

We must engage with the world outside the school

By connecting children with the world beyond the school’s walls, we give them unparalleled opportunities to learn, reflect, and contribute. Our program integrates field trips (of course), and also authentic service learning and community service, while our school serves the community by hosting trainings, talks and events such as Girls Leadership, the Speaker Series, and the Santa Cruz Mini Maker Faire.

Environmental science is key for a healthy future

Children often have an innate love of animals and the natural world. By incorporating this topic through hands-on experiences in Life Lab, conducting research projects on animals, and learning about the ecosystem of the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz, we prepare children to be informed participants in the conversation about how humans can conserve, utilize and steward the natural world.

We want children to value social justice, equality, diversity and fairness

At Gateway our goal is for students to discover their individual and collective potential to make positive change in the world. We are committed to promoting inclusion, embracing diversity and engaging in social justice work. We recognize that these efforts are complex and ongoing, and adhere to the following guiding principles:

  • Actively question our own biases
  • Promote educational experiences and conversations that deepen our understanding of social justice
  • To honor our authentic selves and commit to holding the space in safety.