I moved out to the East Bay in the fall of 1998 to teach at St. Paul’s. At that time, I thought that I would move to California for just a couple years to teach. Instead, I discovered that I was instantly drawn to this independent K-8 day school, a stone’s throw from Lake Merritt.
What has kept me at St. Paul’s for so long? Quite simply, it is the People, Program, and Place.
The dedication of 74 passionate educators instills in each of our children the desire to be fearless learners. The act of learning can be hard. It takes time and effort. We see a connection between academics and fearless learning. Our teachers know this. Our teachers live this. They have created a supportive community where students approach intellectual and personal challenges with confidence and courage.
Our wealth of different viewpoints, coupled with a compassion for each other, drives the quality of instruction and the depth of the learning. Research has shown that a diverse student population fuels critical thinking skills and results in academic excellence. We require an open and empathic exploration of cultural, spiritual, and individual differences that is imbedded in the program. The lessons can be large and small.
In kindergarten, students learn how to treat one another with respect and kindness through the Kindness Club, known for performing sweet deeds throughout the School.
In second grade, students apply arithmetic and learn about nutrition while partnering with senior citizens as cashiers and baggers in a weekly produce market, a St. Paul’s tradition since 1995.
In third grade, students learn about ornithology, seasonal bird migrations, the history of Lake Merritt, and statistics through their annual, year-long Lake Merritt Bird Census, which has been in the curriculum for 19 years.
In sixth grade, students collaborate with the Lake Merritt Institute and Map Your World, to learn about the connection of watersheds, municipal politics, international health policy, and climate science through a weekly cleanup and trash census of Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park.
Our students understand not only how to learn but why to learn. They see firsthand that what they’re learning is important.
What better place to prepare a student than in Oakland at our unique location, adjacent to Lakeside Park and Lake Merritt. I believe this location is one of our greatest teachers. We have access to the city resources surrounding the lake and the grounds of the park. In addition to our gym on campus, the YMCA is just a few blocks away, allowing our youngest students to swim and oldest students to play racquetball. Students and teachers have access to a variety of organizations for Service Learning partnerships. I can count 10 different partner organizations within a five minute walk from the School.
Our students learn how to actively and safely interact with all kinds of people in a variety of contexts within our local community. In doing so, they develop a sense of place and belonging to a larger whole. We help them understand the importance of serving and being part of the community and caring for the planet. This service and engagement with Oakland itself reinforces lessons from the classroom.
I encourage you to visit and see all of this in action. I’m sure you’ll understand why I am still here and why I am so proud to lead this phenomenal school.
Head of School