I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of becoming your next Head of School in July 2018. I would like to thank all of the students, teachers, staff, parents and board members that took the time to meet with me during my visit to school and with whom I have interacted over the last few weeks. I especially appreciated the time I spent in Chinese answering the most challenging questions of all – from the PKS third graders!
Chris Livaccari, a distinguished language immersion educator, Mandarin scholar, Mandarin speaker, and author, has been named our next Head of School by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees. Among the highly talented candidates who visited the school in recent months, Chris stood out for his commitment to educational excellence and his deep knowledge of and involvement in Mandarin language learning on an international scale. Chris’s bright vision for PKS’s future and his inquisitive, warm, down-to-earth style made him the ideal match for our school.
After only a year, the Orsini Library has doubled its previous collection and now holds almost 3000 Chinese and English titles! This was made possible by the powerhouse team of volunteers at Presidio Knolls, led by parents Vivian Looi and James Huff. Their efforts have made it possible for all children level P2 to Grade 4 to regularly borrow books and integrate library time into their weekly curricula.
For Kyle, a clear highlight has been the Wonder Works project in 3rd grade. She found a topic (how to stop child mining) that she was really passionate about and pursued it independently. The support from the school and the community in this has also been terrific and has empowered her tremendously as she pursued this project.
Teachers weave in opportunities to integrate service learning into the units of exploration that they develop with their students. For example, as a part of the first grade’s work learning about habitats, they partnered with the San Francisco Parks and Rec department to work on a habitat restoration project in Golden Gate Park. Learning matters more when we get to apply and extend our knowledge and have a positive impact on our community.
One topic on many parents’ minds as their children end another school year is, “How am I going to help my kid hold their progress over the summer?” It’s true that students lose academic ground during the summer months, and even the strongest students can make a small summer backslide. For students in the early grades or for students whose learning is fragile, maintaining ground is even more important. I am writing to share some ideas about how to help your child stay connected to learning during the months when their teachers aren’t providing daily academic nourishment.
In this engaging unit, teachers helped children answer a few essential questions: Where does food come from? How and why do we grow our own food? How do people organize the environment to produce and distribute food? How does knowing about our food help us make healthy choices? The unit was based on four basic premises: First, all living things have basic needs. Second, plants and animals have life cycles. Third, some foods are regional and/or seasonal. And fourth, gardens require care and attention. Through these lenses, students dove deep into lessons about geography, environmental science, math, and non-fiction vs. fiction.
There is no instruction manual on how to teach children. Children don’t need to follow anyone to explore the world. Instead, we focus on children’s learning processes and experiences, not on pushing children to remember all the academic material. Teachers and children observe, find questions, search for the result and solve issues together; building knowledge and gaining new experiences while learning from each other.
The first grade blue class is in their third week of their building unit. There is tension in the air as students fly around the classroom putting the finishing touches on their projects before the final exhibition on Friday. Some projects boast tall towers made of cardboard, while others are short, squat structures secured by wooden columns, but they all have one thing in common: they were handmade and designed by a first grade student with the intent of learning about buildings.
We’re a global family. My wife grew up in Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese and Mandarin. My brother is a Judaic Studies professor in Norway. I studied in the U.S. and Israel and served as a Peace Corp volunteer in China (I taught at Guizhou University in the southwest of the country). My wife and I met at Cornell. Ines is a Wall Street banker—I’m a Panda dad. Our daughter will start preschool at PKS in the fall, and we have a one-year-old son and a rat terrier named Tudou. He’s very handsome.
We are delighted to share some exciting news -- PKS now has a Head of Middle School! Our Middle School will open for 6th grade students in August 2018. Mike Levy has recently accepted our offer to join PKS as the founding Head of Middle School, starting in July 2017.
This kind of natural evolution is a planned accident. “We don’t have a curriculum for the whole school year planned out,” says Daisy. “We have basic skills and goals that we want to develop, and we follow the children’s interests.”