Learning from the Experts: Journalism Class Goes to SF Chronicle

A reflection on the Journalism as Literature field trip to The San Francisco Chronicle and KQED. 

by Rosalie Kenward ’19

I arrived in San Francisco at 8:30 am yesterday morning. The air was crisp and cool, and I found myself clutching the edges of my coat together in order to encase my chest in whatever small bit of warmth I had the power to retain. The doorway to the Chronicle was composed of thick glass, which appeared to have stood for perhaps longer than even I had. The panels were encased in a dark wood frame and two curved bronze handles. I wrapped my numb fingers around the left fixture and entered.

As soon we stepped into the cramped elevator, packing ourselves in like matchsticks, I felt the excitement and anticipation accumulate within me as we shot upward.

The hallway we were deposited onto was fairly narrow, opening up into a room lined with cluttered desks and harried workers typing furiously on their computers, papers strewn haphazardly as they drew hurried dregs from their coffee cups, allowing the caffeine to pull the exhaustion from their sunken eyes.

We soon entered the site of the meeting. The room quieted instantly upon our entrance, and I felt that all-too-familiar feeling of “latecomers’ guilt.” We squeezed in as tightly and diminutively as possible, making our way to the small row of chairs set aside for us. The editors sat around a large, ovate wooden table in dark, plush chairs which appeared to recline slightly when met with one’s weight.

Phrases were thrown back and forth from editor to respondent with a kind of furious exasperation. We watched in awe, as tomorrow’s newspaper was outlined before our eyes, created in our stupefied presence.

But none of it compared to talking with Kevin Fagan. His words spilled effortlessly from his throat as if his mind had its own personal team of editors. Each phrase was expertly crafted and unique, as we attempted to peer inside his churning mind and latch onto some understanding for the nature of genius.

Gratitude and Meaningful Contributions

I am particularly grateful for our Athenian community this week. As our neighbors to the north battle unimaginable devastation, Athenians immediately jumped into action, creating supply drives, taking in the displaced, saving animals from shelters, and coordinating a school-wide response. When tragic events happen nearby, Athenian’s founding values of service and community hit home for all of us. I know that it takes a commitment to send your student to Athenian, and I am humbled by how easily and eagerly Athenians extend their commitment to our broader community.

As these events unfold around us, we must remain clear of vision and purpose. Our founder, Dyke Brown, started Athenian on the belief that “intellectual fitness in combination with moral virtue and concern for societal needs and civic responsibilities is the only way to truly educate our young.” I believe in the Athenian mission now more than ever. I see our students and alumni responding to crises in the world by wanting to help, and they know—even the 6th graders—that they can. We must continue to offer an Athenian education because we need young people who believe in goodness, who want to serve society, and who are committed to the well-being of humanity. Brown’s insight from sixty years ago remains true: “This is the kind of person our nation and the world needs, and this is the goal of The Athenian School.”

I am reminded of a poem Dick Bradford often reads in the fall, Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost. Nothing that is beautiful can ever last, as is the devastating case in Napa and Sonoma. Loss is inevitable, and I want to teach our kids that the cycle of life and death reminds us how precious certain moments are, how much we have to be grateful for, and how each one of us can be a shining light in another’s time of darkness.

In the coming weeks, we will be reflecting with our students around many of these themes. We will encourage them to explore their feelings, to investigate life’s injustices, and to lend an able hand. We will leverage the resources of our School to offer aid where we can and to instill a sense of civic responsibility in the young people we educate.

Now, we simply want to ask you to think about what is meaningful in your life and where you can make contributions that support your values. I donate my time and money to humanitarian relief organizations, to support orphans in Uganda, and to Athenian, because I believe in those causes and I want to model for my children how just one family can make a difference. Please join me in reflecting on what is meaningful in your own life and where and how you and your family can make the world better than you found it.

Thank you for being a part of this community. Your children inspire me every day and I am grateful for the energy, joy, and love they add to the world.

With humble gratitude,

Eric F. Niles

Head of School

Athenian’s New Food Services Provider: Epicurean Group

by Dara Goldfein ’19, published in the May 2017 student newspaper, The Pillar

After a long history of relying on the Sodexo food service company as the primary food provider for the Athenian community, the Athenian administration has decided to make changes in the food program and switch food providers to another Bay Area company known as Epicurean Group.

“Epicurean Group is a food-service management company headquartered in Northern California and dedicated to sustainable dining,” the company’s statement said. “Our artisan approach and sustainable practices support local, organic farms and ranches and the sustainable seafood model of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.”

The change in food providers was unknown to many students but fits into the general pattern of change that the Athenian community will experience over these next few years with the Master Plan, new classes, and new faculty.

“Sometimes it’s really a good time for a change and to get some fresh blood and fresh ideas. Our contract was coming to an end with Sodexo so it seemed like a good time for a change,” Chief Operating Officer Leslie Lucas said. “We’re looking at a change, a change in our master plan and our Main Hall, etc.”

The decision to use Epicurean was based on a few factors, one of which was the necessity of finding a provider that can accommodate a boarding program.

“It’s key that we found a service provider that can handle boarding programs because there are a lot of service providers that just do lunch,” Lucas said.

A main factor of choosing to leave Sodexo for Epicurean Group was Athenian’s interest in companies with progressive values that are more suited to the mission and image of The Athenian School.

“One of the the things that was really important for us was to make sure that our food service provider was really in line with our mission, ordering from local vendors, and managing environmentally sustainable purchasing programs as well as providing some educational programs in nutrition,” Lucas said.

Epicurean’s website makes sure that their clients know that their top priority is invested in more progressive, forward-thinking ideas.

“Epicurean Group follows environmentally and socially responsible management practices. Everything is made from scratch, not from cans delivered from a warehouse,” a statement from the Epicurean Group said.

Epicurean is also invested in the wellbeing of their clients and alters their agenda to fit the specific considerations of their clients.

“Our clients benefit from eating fresh, healthy ingredients – and they assure us that our food tastes better!” said Mary Clark Bartlett, Founder and CEO of Epicurean Group.

While Epicurean maintains progressive ideals, some hope that the tradition of Athenian’s food is still honored.

“I’m hoping that they are able to take in some of the old tradition and cultures [of the food] and bring in even more cultures to our food” Jennifer S. ’19 said.

Currently, the Athenian students are comfortable and happy with the employees of Sodexo that make and serve students and faculty food everyday.

“I think that they [Sodexo’s employees] are doing a really good job having them help out and everything I really think that they are taking good management and they take safety as a priority” Jennifer said.

Even with the new food company, the Athenian administration made sure to implement a course of action in order to retain the Sodexo employees that have been a part of the Athenian community.

“They are all going to be interviewed….and Epicurean has talked about looking at the employees that are currently here and seeing who is going to be a good fit for us,” Lucas said.

Epicurean Group is the main provider to many other schools in the bay area, including Sacred Heart Prep in Menlo Park. The students at these private schools seem to enjoy the staff and management that Epicurean provides for them.

“I love the staff. They are all very nice and helpful, and they keep the cafeteria running smoothly,” Gabrielle I., a sophomore at Sacred Heart Prep High School, said.

However, while the current Athenian food system connects the students very well with the employees, at other schools where Epicurean is provided, the process strays away from the same environment that is fostered at The Athenian School.

“We don’t get to interact with the cooks very often but the servers and cashiers are always nice,” Daphne C.. a sophomore at Sacred Heart Prep High School, said.

Bathroom Signs Changed

by Dylan Ratner ’17, originally published in the January 2017 student newspaper, The Pillar

When returning Athenian students arrived on campus this year, they may have noticed that some of the signs on single occupancy restrooms have been changed. An image of a toilet has replaced the stick figures previously used to indicate the gender for which the bathroom’s use was intended. The change came out of the work of a recently graduated student, David Meier ’16, who, upon returning from a visit to a college where all the bathrooms were gender-neutral, suggested to Dean of Equity and Inclusion Kalyan Balaven that the same system be implemented at Athenian.

“I put [David] in touch with [Head of School Eric Niles], and David and Eric went back and forth to dialogue on that and ultimately decided to change all 11image2 of the single-use bathrooms to be gender-neutral,” Balaven said of the process that led to the switch.

To gauge the receptiveness of the community to the change, an UNCENSORED discussion was held in the 2015-2016 Spring Semester on the topic of gendered bathroom signs. There, a significant majority of students voiced their support for a change and so, following the meeting, Meier, Niles, and Balaven worked to select a design for the bathroom symbol, ultimately choosing the image of a toilet.

“Originally there were some people who wanted to use the bifurcated, dress and no-dress stick figures, but then I asked, ‘Well who is wearing the dress? What assumption are we making here?’” Balaven said. “And so we settled on the toilet because it was the simplest to understand.”

According to Dean of Upper School Curriculum Gabe Del Real, the change is also important in that it

reflects Athenian’s values.

“It certainly speaks to the development of moral virtue, the height of which is justice, which is rendering what is due to someone to help them be more complete,” said Del Real. “In terms of the Pillars, this speaks specifically to International and Multicultural Understanding, with an emphasis on ‘multicultural.’”

Del Real also noted that in addition to mirroring Athenian’s values, changing the bathroom signs was also a move that kept our school aligned with current information about gender politics and thus was a natural complement to our forward-looking curriculum.

“I think this change shows the School’s continued commitment to the personal development of individual students informed by the most recent scholarship regarding the distinctions among the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality,” Del Real said.

That view of the change as respecting the multiplicity of people who are part of the Athenian community and evolving attitudes in the modern world is something felt among students as well.

“I think it has been a long time coming with this change,” Zoe Kusnick ’17 said. “We already have students for whom this change is really necessary and important for their comfort at school and I am glad to see we have finally implemented it to a degree.”

Concussed: Learning for Living


The moment the soccer ball slammed into my head, everything went white and then black. When I first opened my eyes, a blurry, light, and dizzy world surrounded me. I will never forget that view of the world. – Emma Cottrill ’17

At Athenian, we believe the best way to master academic subjects is to experience their application firsthand. Our academic program resonates and sticks with students because we all learn by doing, by applying what is learned to real world situations. Whether in or out of the classroom, this approach allows our students to incorporate their learning with their living, laying a strong foundation for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.

Inspired by a freshmen Interim trip where Emma Cottrill ’17 bonded with classmates and teachers over photography, she continued to study photography throughout her Athenian experience.  Emma’s final photography project created a digital gallery of photographs and reflections on her recovery from a traumatic concussion. Emma begins her piece with the following:

My life changed forever the night I was hit in the back of the head with an over-inflated soccer ball. The impact from the ball caused my head to whip forward. Simultaneously, the momentum forced me to the ground, where my head violently slammed into the turf. Concussion was the immediate diagnosis, but the two-week normal recovery morphed into months. Isolated. Bored. Angry. Initially, I hated that this happened to me, but eventually, I recognized that I could resent the accident or embrace it.

My approach to the world altered after I got hurt. Before my injury, my life was black and white. Numbers and science drove my beliefs, and I required proof for acceptance. However, after my injury, the gray areas became more interesting to me. Less rigid, more whimsical, I embraced the magic in the daily simplicities. I found energy and inspiration in the imperfect.

In Concussed, I photograph all aspects associated with my concussion: the way I see the world, my view of soccer, the doctors, the medicine, my brain, and who I became.

Emma describes herself on her project’s website, “In addition to the creativity that comes with photography, I also enjoy structure and procedure and a rigid schedule. I love my Chemistry and Math classes, and I am a competitive swimmer who is training intensely with a goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.” Emma’s work reveals a mastery of photographic theory, a comprehensive understanding of concussion science and medicine, a facility with meaning-making, and a great capacity for self-reflection. As a senior, Emma applied her many skills learned through years of scaffolded Athenian experiences to conceptualize an independent, self-expressive project, applying her usual rigorous and creative approach.

This is just one example of what is possible here. Each one of Emma’s 83 senior classmates could tell their own Athenian story revealing how they have discovered “there is more in you than you know.” We could not be more proud of our students.


When My Teachers See Me as a Whole Person

Originally published in the spring 2017 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper by Jenna H. ’19


Ginger and Jenna

As I embark on the second semester of my sophomore year at Athenian, I have had time to reflect on my educational experiences. At my public middle school, although I was successful academically, something left me feeling unfulfilled and, frankly, upset from time to time. To my surprise, I couldn’t pinpoint a moment in which I was honestly excited to go to school or felt as though I was part of a larger community. It was an environment in which no efforts were made to know me on a personal level. No teacher went out of their way to talk to me; if I wasn’t getting into trouble, why bother?

Amongst the 1,200 students in the whole school, I was not seen as anything more than a grade, simply a student you didn’t need to worry about because you knew I’d graduate. For three years, I simply went through the motions, becoming more accustomed to the lack of communication and genuine connection.

At Athenian, I feel as though I have come to be appreciated as a whole person. I think students at our school might not always realize it, but the kinAmanda.5d rapport between teachers and students on our campus is a remarkable blessing. Meeting with a teacher to receive extra help on an assignment, or simply having a teacher check in with me about my well-being was something I had previously never experienced from an adult at school. Here, I feel that teachers not only celebrate their students’ successes but help them navigate challenges and overcome their failures. Occasionally, I am still surprised when I see a student being treated as an equal, even a friend by an adult on campus.

From my experiences, thus far, the relationships I am able to have wPhoebe_1576ith my teachers has positively impacted my communication skills, further contributing to my academic success and overall enjoyment of learning. In a way, I think this is an homage to the wonderful faculty and staff on our campus, the heroes who aren’t always recognized for everything that they do, as well as their efforts to foster a community of mutual respect and well-being.

Round Square Service Trip in India: Update from Afar

by Mark Friedman, Director of Round Square and Community Service

Read the first post from the trip here.

We finished up our time at the Pathways School and are now in Delhi. The three Athenian girls on the trip and the three Pathways World School girls that were their hosts really bonded. They said it felt like they had known each other for months, not four days. They couldn’t get enough of each other during our last hours at the school, sharing all manner of contact information and strategizing about ways to see each other in the future. But eventually it was time for Yukti, Maansi, and Anya to go back to being regular Pathways’ students and for Malia, Isabella, and Olivia to head off for other parts of India. Our luggage loaded into our vehicle, we waved goodbye to our new friends at Pathways. It was also goodbye to the calm of rural India. Good-bye to horse-drawn carts, fields of blooming mustard plants, and piles of cow pies. Our next stop was the Delhi, home to over 45,000,000 people, and the boisterous cacophony of Old Delhi.

While the distance isn’t so far from Pathways to the heart of Delhi, the number of cars in the way made it a two-hour journey. On our way into the city, we picked up our tour guide, Dolly. She talked about her 37 years as a guide and showed us pictures of her daughter’s wedding, which included seven events. Dolly told us that her daughter had an arranged marriage. Her daughter is very committed to animal rights and the one thing they checked before approving the marriage was that the potential husband would allow her to continue this work.

That afternoon, we visited the Jama Masjid, one of India’s largest mosques. It was built by Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who also built the Taj Mahal. The people visiting the mosque—faithful, entrepreneurial, or curious—were almost as interesting as the structure. Then it was off for a rickshaw ride, a great way to travel the crowded streets of Old Delhi. Even getting to dinner that evening was an adventure: a 20-minute walk through the darkness along crumbling sidewalks with car headlights and beeping horns rushing past.  Gratefully, the inside of the restaurant was a calm retreat.

The next day we visited the government buildings left by the British and taken over by India, such as the Parliament and President’s House.  They’re built in a style that combines European and Indian architecture.  The President’s House is on a long axis with India Gate, a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in World War I.  The sightlines to the India Gate weren’t worth much however, as it was barely visible through the thick soup of Delhi’s air pollution.

We visited the first Mughal mausoleum, Humayun’s Tomb. The Taj Mahal is the most famous Mughal mausoleum and was built by Humayun’s great-grandson Shah Jahan. Humanyun’s Tomb is gorgeous, but just as important are the grounds. Our word for “paradise” comes from the Farsi word for “walled garden.”  Qutb Minar is another UNESCO World Heritage site and commissioned by the first Muslim ruler of Delhi.  Finally, it was off to Akshardham Temple, which is only five years old.

Today, we get up early for the 3½ hour drive to Agra, once the capital of the Mughal Empire. Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal and also for the Agra Fort, which was once the home of the Mughal emperors. I have been to the Taj Mahal before, but the experience was still astounding. We all know what it looks like, but it is breathtaking to have it standing there in front of you. Our guide, Ashish, was very knowledgeable. Part of what is great about the Taj Mahal is the stone work. There’s amazing stone inlay throughout the building. And the famous white marble on the outside is translucent, which means the building looks different as the light in the sky shifts. We couldn’t help taking tons of photographs. And one of our favorite parts of visiting the Agra Fort was looking upriver to the Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna River.

Tomorrow we have to head out at 6:00 AM to the Genesis Global School, another Round Square school near Delhi. We need to get there in time for a 10:00 AM all-school assembly.  I hope we’re not expected to make a presentation! After a full d
ay of activities at the school, the Athenian students head off with Genesis families to do homestays over the weekend.

Faculty Love Stories

Originally published in the winter 2015 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper

by Priya Canzius ’16

You may not know it, but there are currently eight untold faculty love stories just waiting to be revealed!

Lisa Haney and Mark Friedman (P= Priya, M= Mark, L= Lisa):


P: How did you meet?

L: We were both working at an international youth program in Virginia; he was the world’s global studies programmer, and I was the English as a second language teacher. One of the things about this camp and this program is that there were kids there from all over the world, and everybody had to sign a statement that said ‘I will not seek exclusive relationships with anyone.’ And, that’s so that the parents from more conservative countries can feel comfortable sending their kids to these [places] where American kids [are]. So both of us signed that, too; all of the adults had to sign it. You know how at camps sometimes there are summer romances? We couldn’t have a summer romance because of [what we had signed]. But we were kind of watching each other, looking at each other at the corner of our eye… At the end of camp we were all leaving in a van, and Mark said to me ‘Lisa, do you want to drive down with me in my car?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I kind of do… But I already paid money and should go with the guys in the van.’ Then about ten minutes later, he drove up his car and he looked at me and said, ‘Lisa, what do I have to say to have you drive in the car with me?’ And I said, ‘Ok, that’s good enough! I’ll drive with you!’ So we fell in love in Washington DC and then we had a long distance relationship [for a year] because I was coming back to the Bay Area and he was living in Boston, but we got together after that! He moved out to the Bay Area, and we’ve been together ever since!

P: Was it love at first sight?

M: I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight; Lisa came mid-summer and when she arrived, I was actually in DC taking four students from around the world to explore DC. So I came back to the program, and the evening program was late. So, everyone was standing, milling around- I think for about an hour- waiting for this program to start. And, most of us had been there for a month, but Lisa had only been there for a couple of days; she was new. And what struck me was how Lisa seemed to be the most connected person there even though she was the most recent arrival. That seemed remarkable; I noticed her right away.

P: Where was your first date?

M: Our relationship developed in the context of living together in this program, so there was a little lounge where the adult employees could eat popcorn and hang out after the participants went to bed and things like that. It was an interesting way to have our relationship develop because we were sort of living and working together, and it sort of developed in that context as opposed to one of us asking the other out on a date.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

L: I could not even tell you, because I’ve been on so many amazing, fun, dates with Mark. He’s such a good planner and he’s so thoughtful that we get along so well and like so many of the same things. Every time we go out it’s just really fun. [However, for Mark’s] birthday, I planned a trip to Alcatraz Island to see the artwork of Ai Wei Wei, a wonderful Chinese artist.  We walked from the Ferry to Green’s Restaurant- a great Vegetarian restaurant-also overlooking the water.  We met a dear friend there who also had a birthday around the same time, and had a great evening.

P: Favorite couple memory?

L: Honestly, the birth of our child; I wasn’t drugged out or anything, so I was very present and he was very present; it was a beautiful moment for the two of us.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

M: I’ll share an embarrassing story from [the beginning of our relationship]. We were up in DC, and we were sitting on the front steps of the house of this person. And we were talking about the summer and we were talking about ‘well, if you were going to be involved with anyone at camp, who would it be?’ And so I asked Lisa, and she gave the name of some other guy. Then Lisa asked me, and I said, ‘well, it would’ve been you!’ And she said, ‘I meant to say you! I was going to say you!’

P: How did you get engaged?

It’s kind of interesting because a lot of people get engaged and get married and then decide to have children together, and that was a big discussion for us, whether we wanted to have children or not. Once we made that decision, we decided to get married. There wasn’t one of those moments of Mark on his knee with an engagement ring; it was very practical, in some ways. We knew we loved each other, we knew we wanted to be together. Interestingly, at the time, gay marriage still wasn’t legal, and we decided that we would have just a commitment ceremony to be in solidarity with our gay and lesbian friends who couldn’t get married. But then, all of our friends said, ‘you’re crazy! Get married; you can, so do it!’ So we actually had a wedding ceremony.

P: What’s the best thing about working together and what’s the worst thing about working together?

M: We don’t really work together; if we worked together we would drive each other batty. Or, at least I would drive her batty; she’s more graceful than I am. There are lots of advantages to working at the same place: [commuting] takes a half an hour each direction, so there’s time to talk or reflect about the day, our vacation schedules are identical, there’s lots of shared information and experience. And, we even get to lead international trips together.

L: The hardest thing is that sometimes it’s just all work all the time. We don’t shut off the spigot in terms of talking about work… It doesn’t really bother him, talking about work, but for me, I need a little bit of more down time… I think it’s just because work sort of encroaches into our whole life. But because for [both of us, our jobs are] not just a job- it’s connected to our values and to who we are as human beings- that it seems natural, in some ways.

P: How did you both start working at Athenian?

L: I started working here before him; I heard about the job… And he was working in San Francisco at the volunteer center. I took a year off when my daughter was four, and a [community service position opened up]. I decided to come back to Athenian, and [Mark became] a community service director, and he took over the parenting position because he was part time… I had already been working here about seven years before he started. I started in 1991 and he started working in 200 or 2001.

Amy Wintermeyer and Bobby Henshel:


P: How did you meet?

We met teaching at The Archer School for Girls, a 6-12 independent girls’ school in Los Angeles.

P: Was it love at first sight?

Hard to say… we were friends first and started dating after we had known each other for 3 ½ years. But we both admitted to liking each other at various points before we officially started dating.

P: Where was your first date?

Divino’s, a nice Italian restaurant in Los Angeles

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

When we were spotted by some of our students while we were out for frozen yogurt. We had been trying to keep it quiet at school and our secret was out after that!

P: Favorite couple memory?

Cheering on Stephen Curry in Las Vegas during March Madness back when he was playing for Davidson.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

We try to stay away from those kinds of things.

P: How did you get engaged?

Bobby proposed when we were in Palm Springs visiting his family for Thanksgiving.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

It’s great to have the same schedule and work calendar and to see your spouse in a professional atmosphere. The challenge is that it’s easy to talk about work all of the time, but we’ve learned to work around that. It helps that we started out as work colleagues!

Nancy Nagramada and Charlie Raymond: (P= Priya, N= Nancy, C= Charlie)


P: How did you meet?

N: Here at Athenian, [as] teachers. When we “met”, met was when I started working here back in 2003, but we weren’t going out.

P: Was it love at first sight?

N: Ha! No.

P: Where was your first date?

N: You could argue that we started dating [when] we were teaching 8th grade; but it wasn’t really dating, we were just working a lot together.

C: We started dating in Rome!

N: Sure, Rome. But then you have to be like-

P: -Why were you in Rome?

N: See? (laughs) And then you have more questions!

N: Why were we in Rome? We both were teaching seventh grade, and neither of us had been to Rome and there was an opportunity to do some study there.

C: I wanted to do professional development (PD) in the Mediterranean, and I learned that she wanted to do PD in the Mediterranean somewhere else. So we said, ‘lets try to find a class that we can take together somewhere because we’re both teaching the same group’.

N: For the record, the school did not pay for us to go to Rome, they paid for the class!

C: … Nobody knew after that for a long time; It was not public [knowledge].

P: What did you do on your first date?

N: I don’t even consider that; I consider the mundane; …He’d be working and I’d come over with coffee, and then [we’d be] hanging out. And that’s not an official date, but-

C: Actually, as Middle School faculty, we all supported each other like that, so it’s not separate from our collegial group. A lot of us worked together very strongly in those years: we were starting new programs, we were pushing [new curriculum]-

N: …And we were communicating all summer; deciding what texts [the students should read] and while we were apart, we were communicating… A lot of our stories are centered around work.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

N: Relatively recently, [we went on the] the catamaran that went under the Golden Gate; we’ve both lived here our whole lives and had never been under the Golden Gate… It was actually in honor of our anniversary. It was really cool, being out on the Bay.

C: For the longest time we’d go to hear Bulgarian music in Berkeley, which is not funny, but really cool.

N: That was our routine on New Year’s Eve; go to dinner and then go hear a crazy band. [But] a lot of our regular dates [involve] going to the theater.

P: Favorite couple memory?

N: Oh, I think it has to be around the kids.

C: I mean, any moment from Milo’s first year beats everything else-

N: As a couple; we had our families come together and that was really good, and the kids handled that really well. But I think that when you add Milo into the mix, it was such a clear link for Sidney, Sam, and Sebastian. And Milo was so pleasant from the get-go; pretty much anything that kid does is hilarious.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

C: We have so many because we’ve both been Middle School teachers for so long; by definition to be a Middle School teacher you have to set aside your sense of dignity!

N: [My most embarrassing story] is being Popeye and Olive Oyl [while being] pregnant with Milo. Halloween couple costumes are hilarious to us.

C: The best one was Jack and Jill! …We had already fallen down the hill.

N: We’d walk around yelling, ‘you pushed me!’ ‘I did not!’ Anytime we walked out we had to act like [we were mad at each other].

C: We were dragging a bucket at our ankles [from the well].

P: How did you get engaged?

N: He proposed on my birthday! My birthday is in January, so there was no school. It was nothing associated with school.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

N: (laughs) The best thing is that you get to see each other all the time and the worst thing is you get to see each other all the time! No, you have to ask ‘what is the best thing about working together and living together.

C: And the answer to both questions is togetherness! (laughs)

N: Obviously, it’s so easy to have family life flow into school life and it’s really positive for our family, but because we teach similar things, and we can cover for each other- well, I can cover for him- really well. Being a family here, it’s just like, different generations of things; when alum come back, they’re like oh my god, is that Sebastian?’ because they knew him when he was Milo’s age. I think that the hard part about being together and being on campus is you can’t have an argument and then walk out and go to class. It’s very difficult and you have to compartmentalize your brain.

C: And to add to that, you have kids on campus and kids in the classroom. It adds to the totalizing feeling of being a married couple with family embedded into the community.

Leah Webb and Ted Webb (L= Leah, T= Ted, P= Priya)


P: How did you meet?

L: We met because [Ted] was already teaching at Athenian and had been for a year, and I got hired. But when we first worked together with the Middle School, almost all teachers were full-time; there were a lot less teachers… But he taught eighth grade and I taught sixth and seventh grade. So I never saw him-

T: Until-

L: Until I asked you if I could do your interim and you said no. I had never talked to him, and I said, ‘I heard you have a surf interim, could I do that with you?’ and he said, ‘I already have a partner.’

P: Was it Sven?

T: In my defense, she was so beautiful that I had to play it cool. All of the other guys wanted to ask her out; I had to be aloof. I couldn’t be overly eager.

L: That’s how we met. Well, the real way it happened was that I was living over on the peninsula, and it took an hour to commute and get here. I’d be worried that I’d get caught in traffic, so I’d always leave very early and I would get here at 7 or 7:15 and sit in the faculty room and do work. Ted showed up one day and said ‘I work out every morning,’ so then he started coming in every morning, and it was probably October or November when every morning we would talk for an hour before class. Before we even went on a date, we talked for like three months for an hour every morning.

P: Where was your first date?

T: Well, we were supposed to go on a date after Open House, and Leah stood me up.

L: Actually, [Ted] stood me up, but we won’t [go into that]. But, I did not stand you up. Not one human being agrees with you on this. He said, ‘let’s go out this weekend,’ so wouldn’t you assume–since he asked me–that he would call or leave a note or something. So at that point, I checked my work voicemail, checked my email, I checked my mailbox, and mycell phone and there were no messages. So I’m like, ‘obviously he asked me out, but it’s just casual.’

T: But our real first date happened after a faculty meeting; we went to dinner and went to see a movie.

P: What movie?

L: Beautiful Mind.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

L: [Ted] took me to the beach to look at the tidal pools, and I thought [he] wanted to hold my hand or look at the sunset, but he kept going, ‘look at the sea urchin!’ or ‘look at the sea cucumber!’ He was not paying attention to me at all! He was all into looking at the tidal pools; as a science teacher, I appreciate it and I should be excited, but this was the guy I liked; I thought he was going to be like, ‘look at the beautiful sunset in your eyes’. But no.

T: We ran into April Smock’s husband one time [when we were on a date]. We thought that our cover was blown, but he seemed fine with it.

L: We would do all of our dates down in Palo Alto, Menlo Park or in Fremont because we didn’t want to run into anybody.

P: Favorite couple memory?

T: So many!

L: We do have so many; how do we limit it?

T: What about when you broke your arm when you were eight months pregnant?

L: That’s not your favorite; that’s the worst! Going to South Africa, that was awesome-

T: -Or the time when we told the school we were engaged and they didn’t believe us.

L: That’s true, they didn’t. They thought it was a fake diamond ring, and they wanted me to cut glass with it to prove that it was real.

T: And then in Morning Meeting, I went in and said, ‘we’re getting engaged!’ and I thought that there would be applause; dead silence.

L: No one said a word! It was super awkward. We thought it was going to be cute, and it was super awkward.

P: How did you get engaged?

L: It was before school started, so it was [during] faculty meetings in August. I was in a super grumpy mood, and Ted [was] in his classroom, which [was] classroom L. I was in a grumpy mood because [he] wasn’t around; I was moving around, I was moving apartments, and I would call him and he wouldn’t answer. I was just super frustrated with him. And I came in the classroom and he was there sitting on his desk, and I was just really annoyed. And he walks over, and he gets on his knee and says ‘will you marry me?’ I say, ‘stop kidding!’ and he goes, ‘look down’, and I look down and he has the ring. And then I start crying so hard stuff comes out of my nose, it was super embarrassing… And so he gives me the ring, and he let’s me wear it, and then he goes, ‘wait, we can’t tell any of the teachers yet because we haven’t told our families. So you have to take the ring off’. So I got to wear it for like 10 seconds. All the students say that he proposed in classroom L because it stands for love, but the reason that it was cute was that he had bought the ring that morning, and he was supposed to have a big dinner kind of thing, but he said that he saw me, and couldn’t wait another minute to ask me to marry him, so he just asked me right then.

T: Another good Athenian connection is that Sven married us.

L: He was our officiant.

P: What’s the best thing about working together and the worst thing?

T: First off, there is no worst thing in my mind. I think that the best thing

L: The worst thing is because we’ve worked together for so long, everywhere he goes he runs into people he knows so it always takes him an hour to get anywhere.

T: Another thing is that our entire relationship has been in the time that we’ve worked here; we’ve never not been together or not taught together. [When you tell people that you work with your spouse,] a lot of people say ‘oh, that’s just too much! I couldn’t do that’. It makes me sad; working here without working with Leah would be less-

L: It’s fun, because we know teachers here, we know students. It’s cool when we hear good things about y’all, and we both know who we’re talking about. Because of our grades, we almost always teach every kid…

T: Teaching … with Leah is so much more rewarding, because it is all encompassing.

Phoebe Dameron and Jason Hamm (Ph= Phoebe, J=Jason, P= Priya)


P: How did you meet?

Ph: I was running adult programs for UC Berkeley and his friend Jennifer was running youth programs [for UC Berkeley]. I wanted to run a program for our guides, but I couldn’t anyone qualified to run it with me, and so Jennifer recommended Jason. Jason came out and I told him my vision for what [the program] would look like, and he left and came back the next day with the vision complete, basically. He did all the legwork for creating a curriculum our reader for the course and plans, which we then filled the details of. I think he brought bread and yogurt to eat, which I’d never had in combination before, so it was interesting to me. We ran this course together and we had a person who attended the course who was very ill right from the beginning of the course. So we got as far as San Jose leaving from Berkeley, and had to deposit her to a brother that lived down there because she was too sick to continue. Subsequently, Jason got violently ill in the same way and I got violently ill during this three-day backpacking Wilderness First Aid program we were running. But, the cool thing this [was that it was a] Wilderness First Aid field-based course, so everyone had gotten their Wilderness First Aid certifications… We were giving them scenarios to do in the wilderness to properly educate people, and at the very end, I was in the way back because I was sick and this person came running back saying ‘Phoebe, Phoebe, there’s been an incident!’ and Jason and I had said we were done with all of our scenarios, so I was really [annoyed] with him and was thinking, ‘why is he doing another scenario? I’m not in the mood to do another scenario. I’m sick, I don’t want to hear this right now!’[However,] it turns out that there was a real incident involving other people- not from our course- of a woman rolling a long ways down a very steep hill and being wrapped around a tree with broken ribs and possible spinal concerns. All of our 10 participants were there assisting and doing all the right things and helping the paramedics extricate her. It was really sad for this woman, but really perfect for the end of our course!

P: Was it love at first sight?

J: I think that it was interest at first sight, because I still lived in Texas full-time, and she lived in California full-time. It took a while to really pursue a relationship; I moved to California and worked temporarily over a summer, and that’s when we started dating. Then, I moved back to Texas because I had a contract that I needed to fill, and that year Phoebe moved to Texas, and that’s when we really started dating.

P: Where was your first date?

J: I would say Donner Pass-

Ph: That’s what I was going to say! We went on a climbing trip together to Donner Pass.

P: Favorite couple memory?

J: For me, an old time memory is when I proposed to Phoebe…

Ph: We had just finished this ice climb-

J: And it was something that we had seen kind of far away, and thought ‘oh, that looks really beautiful we should go there’! It took us about half a day to get there, and it was just really nice. I was pretty excited that Phoebe would do all of the things that it took to get there, and… It was a good day.

P: Did you have the ring with you the entire time?

J: No… It was a matter of asking the question.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

J: Maybe when people are on campus and don’t know that we’re married or think that we’re brother and sister…

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

J: The best thing about working together is the worst thing: forgetting not to talk about work, stressing each other out lying in bed at night at talking about work. Also, getting to spend time outside, we had to spend an extra week in DV scouting new routes and that was very fun. We’re lucky to have a job where we can work together and spend time together; it doesn’t feel like work.

Emily Shinkle and Andy Shinkle (E= Emily, A= Andy, P= Priya) 


P: How did you meet?

A: We met in New York.

E: Andy’s twin brother is married to one of my close friends from grad school [who is also a music teacher], and at the time they were dating, I was student-teaching with her. Andy was interested in teaching and he came to visit her classroom and met there, at a high school in New York.

A: I was living in TX, and so I flew up to hang out with my brother in New York, and I had just gotten into grad school and I was going to start that semester. I just wanted to go observe classes before I started school again and I went to go watch her class, and [Emily] was playing piano there. We went out for lunch after that. I was also there because some friends of mine were going to do a video art piece in an apartment there, and so Emily came to that.

P: Was it love at first sight?

A: No, but it was definitely like at first sight.

E: That’s true. I’ll tell you what, though; we had lunch at the diner- he was observing us when it was lunchtime- and I [saw that] he had ordered a cheesecake for lunch and that just got me. He ordered a cheesecake for lunch; what guy does that? That made me go, ‘hmm, interesting! I like him!’

A: I liked her because she would come to this weird art project thing that we videotaped, and she was just like, jumping around everywhere and was very high energy and cute.

P: Where was your first date?

A: Our first date was supposed to be to Mexico.

E: We were supposed to take a road trip to Mexico right after the New Year after we met- early December of ’04-

A: And I was only in New York for one more day. I flew home back to Texas.

E: We were corresponding by email and text after that. Then, we thought we would be crazy and I would fly to Texas and drive to Mexico. We just got as far as Corpus Christi… The Gulf of Texas.

A: Our first date was probably like San Antonio.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

E: We had a long-distance relationship from the get-go, so we would meet and travel. We met in Puerto Rico, in Texas, out here in the West Coast. We didn’t really date; we just had these very long periods of time together.

P: Favorite couple memory?

E: I loved living in Austin; when we lived in Austin we had a little house and rode our bikes everywhere. It was really fun and nice.

A: Emily would throw really good parties. One time we had a Bollywood cover band play at my surprise birthday party. There are all of the ‘children’ moments-

E: Which are all awesome, but a blur. I’m so tired, I can’t remember.

A: And all of the births were pretty amazing.

P: How did you get engaged?

E: I got pregnant with Scarlett.

A: I was really sick and I was lying on the couch, and Emily grabbed me by my robe and said ‘I’m pregnant!’

E: It was a shock-

A: But then we kind of stared at each other for a couple days-

E: But a couple of weeks later, we got engaged!

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

A: I like knowing that we can relate on all things that [Emily] talks about. We can totally connect over students and we can relate to that kind of stuff.

E: That’s kind of the worst thing, because sometimes that’s all we talk about, so we have to really turn that off and talk about other things. It’s like a blessing and a curse.

A: Also, I’m not allowed to put my arm around her anywhere on campus, so I’ve had to adjust to that!

E: Oh my gosh (laughs)

A: I’m more affectionate to Matt; Coach Z gets more hugs than my wife!

Lydia Aguilar and Miguel Aguilar: (L= Lydia, P= Priya) 


P: How did you meet?

L: Miguel and I met at a restaurant we worked at together, called The Pleasanton Hotel (named so because it used to be a hotel in the 1800’s).We worked in the kitchen preparing and cooking food for the weekend crowd.

P: Was it love at first sight?

L: I thought he was a cutie pie and so I waited patiently for him to ask me out. Finally, he asked me to go to a concert with him to see his favorite Mexican band, Los Bukis. We dressed up and had a really nice time dancing the night away.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

I can’t think of the funniest date, but one of our funnest dates was a trip to Disneyland together.

P: Favorite couple memory?

L: A favorite couple memory of mine- pre kids- is spending a weekend in Napa together. Another of one of our best dates was when we dined at The French Laundry restaurant; probably the best meal we will ever eat in our lifetime! And of course, experiencing the births of our kids together were the most blessed moments of our life together!

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

L: The most embarrassing time that I’m almost too embarrassed to tell you about is when, on our wedding night, my mother stayed the night in the same condo in an effort to save her money on a room of her own.

P: How did you get engaged?

L: It wasn’t very romantic – we decided we wanted to start a family and we weren’t engaged yet. I ended up getting pregnant before we became engaged and so after we decided to officially become engaged. There was no bended knee or fairy tale proposal, but that’s okay! We were so excited to have our first child, the proposal was unimportant.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

L: The best thing about working together is that we can always be here for each other, usually immediately, when one of us needs extra support from the other.The worst thing about working together is: there really aren’t any disadvantages. Miguel is my soulmate and he keeps me sane and happy! He truly is my rock.

Jim Sternberg and Kathleen Huntington:


P: How did you meet?

A Whitewater rafting trip on the American River.  Kathleen was the river guide and Jim was in charge of an inner city youth group.

P: Was it love at first sight?”

Sparks flew…

P: Where was your first date?

La Mediteranee on College Ave in Berkeley- a nice intimate setting where Jim bared his soul.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

Rafting the Rogue River for one week with a small group of goofy friends, eating gourmet meals, and laughing ourselves silly every day.

P: Favorite couple memory?

Traveling around the world for one year after we got married.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

Can’t think of anything at the moment….

P: How did you get engaged?

We proposed to each other at the summit of Wildcat Peak… watching the sunset and the moonrise.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

[The worst thing is that it’s] hard to get away from work or talking about work-related issues, [and the] best thing [is that] we get to share our passion for living and working together in an amazing progressive school environment with smart and creative adults and students.

Round Square Service Trip 2017: Athenian Delegation Reports from India

by Mark Friedman, Director of Round Square and Community Service

Greetings from Pathways World School, located in a rural area south of Delhi.  It was a long journey here. Our three hours in the Amsterdam airport were an unexpected pleasure, though—we wandered through shops full of wooden shoes and tulips and ate our last fresh vegetables for two weeks. Landing at 3:00 AM, the Delhi airport was thronged with people. Thousands stood in long queues to enter the country. Every shop was open. Usually, I do one big currency exchange for everyone in the group because you get a better rate exchanging more money, but not in India.  Because of India’s demonetization policy, you can only exchange US$85 per passport.

I love the first taste of the air in a new place. Leaving the airport, we drank in the pungent and smoky air of Delhi. Arvinash, a stylishly-dressed history teacher from Pathways was waiting for us. Despite the fact that our flight from Amsterdam had been delayed, our group was unified in wanting to stick to the day’s schedule, which meant getting to breakfast by 9:00 AM after only a couple hours of sleep.  We are all staying on the Pathways campus, the girls in a dorm and me in the guest house.  The dorms here have a guard on duty 24/7, a woman in front of each girl’s dorm and a man in front of the boy’s.  As I said good night to the three Athenian students and the security guard at their dorm, the sounds of singing and chanting from a nearby temple filled the early morning air.

A few hours later, we arrived at the cafeteria.  The school’s 500+ boarders had finished long before. We surveyed the food, looking to see what we could eat to follow the rules of only eating foods that were “cooked, bottled or peeled.” Toast and cereal were our main breakfast fare.

We met three girls—Yukti, Maansi and Anya—who would be our hosts for the next four days.  They made a presentation about the school’s ongoing work supporting government schools in local villages and then we were off to a school 20 minutes away. The drive itself was fascinating. Women wearing bright colors with huge bundles of wood branches balanced on their heads.  Thin cows wandering and sitting alongside the road.  Hundreds of cow pies drying in the sun, to be burned later as fuel. The village school is located less than a mile from the city of Gurgaon in a village called Parla.  It seemed incongruous to be in rural India and have dozens of 20+ story apartment towers looming nearby. The school we were working at was founded in 1931 by the grandfather of the current service director at Pathways, Sunil.  What a treat to be there working with him! As we drove to the school, Sunil pointed out a plot of land that he said belonged to his family for “thousands of years.”

Our first day at the village school, we started painted murals.  It was Friday, but a school holiday. There were dozens of boys from the village there to play cricket and watch—or occasionally help—us. Not a single girl. One of the school’s art teachers was there, Druvswamini, and she helped sketch the original designs for the murals. The village only has electricity in the evening, so Pathways is putting in a solar system at the school as that is the only way to have electricity during the daytime—and without electricity there can be no computers at the school. Some of the equipment for the solar system arrived that day.

The full moon was that night. The village’s temple is across the street from the school. As the morning wore on, more local women arrived at the temple to drum, sing, and chant. Sunil and I went to visit and then brought the six girls over. The first time the girls sat with the women, but the second time our girls danced with the local women. Lord Shiva is the local god and the song that the women sang was about him.

Part of the temple structure was the old well for the village where the women all used to come for their water. Most of the local water is from the ground. The water table used to be 30 feet down but is now 200 feet, and dropping 10 feet each year.

We headed back to school for a late lunch. The students have physical education and sports every day and the Athenian girls chose to go horseback riding. Before dinner was a cultural event about slam poetry and spoken word. There were also a number of songs performed, all accompanied by guitar. Interestingly, it seemed like something that could have happened at Athenian. Indeed, Isabella performed a song with one of the Indian girls serving as our host. The three Pathways’ girls joined us for our post-dinner debrief.  We had an interesting conversation about how women are treated in Indian society.

The next day was Saturday and we headed back to the school at Parla. In addition to finishing the murals, we also helped install some new wash stations for the students. Good hygiene and washing before each meal is part of our strategy for staying healthy in India, but it’s also important and challenging for the locals.  Pathways supports many local schools with new wash stations. Pathways not only installs the hand washing stations at 17 local schools—in partnership with Rotary International who donated US$60,000 to the Pathways for this work—but the Pathways maintenance staff visits the local schools to do ongoing maintenance on the donated items.

After lunch, our group of six students and a few Pathways teachers headed off to go camping.  A short ten-minute ride from school, we came to an outdoor adventure facility.  We had fun going down the zip line and were challenged by things like a climbing wall and cargo net. While warm during the day, it does get cold at night. We ate dinner around a big fire. At 10:00 PM, the Athenian students retired to our tents, though the cold meant that most of us slept poorly.

We were up at 6:00 AM for trekking, or hiking.  A red sun rose over foggy fields.  Cow pies dried alongside the path. We scampered up two rocky outcroppings for views of the surrounding countryside. Then we headed off to the Surajkund International Crafts Mela. This featured over 1,000 booths with crafts from all over India and many other parts of the world. We were joined by several faculty families on this outing, which made it extra special. The crafts were amazing, if overwhelming in their profusion. Olivia attracted a lot of attention and many people wanted to have their picture taken with her.

On our last day at Pathways, we began with a visit to Prakashpuri Temple, which is set in a peaceful valley. We visited a meditation case in the nearby cliffs and were served chai. Then it was off to visit two government schools that Pathways supports. We wandered amongst classes high-fiving students and admiring their school work. Finally, we arrived back at the Parla School and finished the murals we had been painting.

Sunil, Pathways’ community service director, is the one teacher from the area.  He invited us to his home in the late afternoon.  We got to meet his wife, daughter and parents, tour his home, explore his village, and go on a 90-minute hike in the countryside. What a treat! Then his wife made homemade curry and poori.  The wheat is grown in the family’s fields and ground at his house. We were so well fed that we skipped dinner in the cafeteria.

The three Athenian girls and the three girls from Pathways have grown very close. It’s astounding to think that they didn’t know each other four days ago. When they’re together, it’s a riot of animated talking and laughter. We depart Pathways tomorrow for Old Delhi and the farewells will be sad. All three of the Pathways girls are interested in coming on exchange to Athenian, so one way or another I expect these relationships to continue.

That’s all for now! I’ll check back in with more in a couple of days.