Alumnae Anicia Timberlake and Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

Alumnae Anicia Timberlake and Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn started their lifelong friendship when they met in Patricia Skowrup’s Kindergarten class 32 years ago. After graduating from Gateway, their strong friendship continued over the years as they attended the York School and Harvard University together. They even lived together for a year in Berlin after college. 

Anicia, Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, uses the “Talk-It-Out” conflict resolution method she learned in Patricia’s Kindergarten class where all students have the opportunity to express their feelings. This has helped her find common ground with colleagues over the years. She is especially grateful for the “Talk-It-Out” method as she navigates different ideas and opinions about how to manage things in her department during the Covid pandemic. Anicia appreciates the musical education she received at Gateway. The Orff Schulwerk method of teaching music that Gateway uses is popular with many of her students at the Peabody Institute. She plays the viola, violin, guitar, piano and the french horn. She even played the viola in the German World Cup with Toni Braxton! The all-Gateway School Sings with former Head of School, Peter Lewis, are some of her favorite memories. 

Deirdre is currently the deputy editor at The New Yorker Magazine and over the years she has worked for Harper’s, Paris Review, and California Sunday Magazine. At Gateway she was encouraged to be creative and imaginative, especially in her writing and she wrote several children’s books, survival books, and short stories during her time at Gateway. She was on the editorial staff of Gateway’s Dead Seaweed, a student published magazine. She was taught to believe in herself and this gave her the confidence to pursue a career as an editor. Recently she played an integral part in publishing the stories about Harvey Weinstein

Deirdre was part of the editorial staff of Gateway’s student published magazine Dead Seaweed.

Anicia and Deirdre have many fond memories of their time at Gateway: Friday nature walks, exploring tide pools, and making sun tea and tinctures in Gateway’s Life Lab. They both recalled the many experiential learning activities while at Gateway. The overnight field trips in Middle School introduced Anicia to camping, and Deirdre remembers grinding acorns into a mash and starting a fire by rubbing sticks together as they embodied the characters they were learning about, as well as panning for gold during their overnight field trip to Sacramento.

Deirdre fondly remembered a 5th-grade class Anthropology assignment. They were tasked with inventing a society, including creating a language using code letters, symbols, and a Rosetta Stone. They then buried the evidence in Lighthouse Field for the students of another school to find. Deirdre and Anicia became fluent in the language they developed and wrote letters to each other in code. They continued to do this when Anicia went to Ireland a year later. 

Both women appreciated Discovery Based Learning and collaborative projects and they credit Gateway for their love of learning! Anicia shared how learning at Gateway wasn’t just memorization – “everything was discovery”. History was personal, not the “dry past”. This helped to lay the foundation for Anicia to become a music historian. 

The relationships she formed with teachers inspired Anicia to become a professor. Their teachers cared, inspired, loved, and believed in them. They encouraged Deirdre to reach beyond herself and gave her the confidence to pursue a career she loves. Deirdre appreciated “the freedom to explore and not just the pressure to achieve”. She has rarely experienced that again after Gateway. 

L to R: 1995-96 Deirdre and Anicia

Anicia and Deirdre are so grateful for their experiences at Gateway. The Social Emotional Learning program at Gateway encouraged them to express themselves and lean into their feelings and not to be discouraged by them. In their adult lives, they are grateful they had the opportunity to learn these skills at a young age. 

The fact that Anicia and Deirdre remain close to this day is a testament to Gateway’s core values. Anicia is the godmother to Deirdre’s young daughter. Although Anicia lives in Baltimore and Deirdre in New York, Deirdre said Anicia is the only person she has seen in her home during the quarantine. They joked that they are podding across state lines. Talk about a lasting sense of community!

Celebrating Deirdre’s wedding.

Alumna Stephanie Miller

Alumna Stephanie Miller (Class of 2006) never dreamed she would be a teacher when she was a Gateway School elementary student. She remembers struggling in all of her subjects. She credits Gateway’s Resource Support Coordinator Joan Saia for being the person who taught her how to read and to become an engaged student.

“Joan is dear to my heart. She took the time to work with me many times a week for several years and reached that part of me that wanted to learn, that quite frankly, I didn’t know was there because I struggled so much.”

Stephanie graduated from Santa Catalina High School in Monterey and earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from Santa Clara University in 2010. After college Stephanie was involved in special education in the Hawaii public school system until 2014 when she moved back to the Bay Area to teach 4th and 5th-grade humanities at a Title 1 school in East San Jose. 95% of her students were English language learners and were struggling to learn how to read English. Stephanie could empathize with her struggling students and applied many of the same methods Joan did when reaching Stephanie all those years ago. 

Stephanie clearly remembers one thrilling moment when one of her students read a complete sentence out loud for the first time in a small guided reading group. She said the look of accomplishment on his face was amazing. He was nervous, but not scared, and his excitement at achieving his goal was invigorating to Stephanie as well as to the other students. 

Last year Stephanie was looking for a new challenge. She accepted a position as a 5th-grade math teacher at the Charter School of Morgan Hill (CSMH) though math was Stephanie’s least favorite subject when she was a young student. 

“I struggled in ALL school subjects when I was a young child, and math just happened to be my least favorite. But nothing in school came easy for me. Joan Saia taught me how to read, and how to be a better student in all subjects. And that’s where the other Gateway teachers dovetailed with Joan’s efforts and taught me that all learning could be fun, even areas that were extra challenging, like math. And it’s because of my unique learning challenges, and the dedication of all the Gateway teachers who helped me, that I can now teach other children how to learn.” 

Stephanie’s most poignant Gateway memory was the 8th grade trip to Washington, DC. Her class was the first 8th-grade class to go on the DC trip, so it was very special. She distinctly remembers her classmates’ reactions at the Holocaust Museum, and how the experience brought them even closer together as a class. 

Her favorite memories from Gateway are times spent with former classmates and their families. She still sees many of them to this day, and also has enduring relationships with many of her Gateway teachers. Stephanie says that she takes the Gateway community with her into every experience she has as an adult. 

In the spirit of giving back, Stephanie is currently serving as a Gateway School Trustee. She has been on the board for three years and is a key link to the alumni community. 

Thank you, Stephanie, for passing along your love of learning to future generations, for reaching struggling learners, for acting with grace, and for advocating for those who need extra help.

Alumnus Doug Leonard

Gateway School Alum, Doug Leonard, returned to Gateway to perform for current students. Doug’s honest, warm-hearted sentiments were as inspiring as his voice. He shared his music and talked with students about the impact music has had on his life.

Doug graduated from Gateway in 2010. He fondly remembers Gateway School talent shows, the Harvest Festival, and playing flag football.

Doug is a talented guitarist, pianist, and storyteller currently living in Boston, Massachusetts, studying at Berklee College of Music. He is writing, performing, and composing the works of his upcoming album “In the Open”.

Alumna Hannah Sullivan

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.

Alumnus Gus Samios

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!

Alumna Kristin Fauske 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 in 2017.

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.

Alumna Alexa Shoemaker Brooks

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 the innate characteristics of that animal. She also has prints of her collage work depicting animals in whimsical, playful environments.

You can view her work at Whimsy Spot.

Spring Alumni Gathering

We had so much fun welcoming our alumni back to campus on May 18. Our faculty loved seeing each and every one of these truly remarkable young adults (and only a few faces were hard to recognize)! Hope to see the rest of you at Graduation!

Gateway Alumna Hila Mehr (’02) Earns Fellowship

Congratulations to Gateway alumna Hila Mehr (Class of 2002) who was just chosen as one of the Technology and Democracy Fellows at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. “This year’s Fellows are especially passionate about building the capacity and new tools needed by civic activists, community organizers, local government officials, and journalists who are so critical to making democracy work.” We are so proud of you, Hila, for your hard work and determination!

Alumni Spotlight: Sierra Tobin

Each summer, Gateway School graduate and avid traveler Sierra Tobin, makes her way back to the playgrounds and classrooms of her childhood. This is her third year working at Camp Gateway, and the last summer before she graduates from Vassar College in 2017. And yet Sierra has already accomplished a laudable amount before walking the stage. Not only is she a talented athlete, but she is also a passionate scholar, keenly interested in the connection between climate change and social systems, which is why she studies Geography at Vassar.

“I’m very interested in the environment and climate change, but also in social systems and interactions,” Sierra explained. “Geography enables me to look at the intersection between these two in both global and local contexts.”

Fresh from a semester abroad, Sierra recently had the opportunity to participate in an International Honors Program called “Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water and Energy.” The program lasted a little over four months, and allowed Sierra to see first-hand the global systems and impacts of climate change that she studies at Vassar. Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: Sierra Tobin”