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The Aviator

March 18, 2017

In the span of ten days, three 5th graders — Mia, Cia and Evelyn — were tasked with the job of collecting the stories of three elderly residents: Claire, Jim and Jean. They live at the Buena Vista Manor House, which is located in a quiet, serene neighborhood in San Francisco. This project consisted of conducting several interviews, hours of writing, and some seriously devoted afternoons tinkering with sound bytes and voice recordings.

As a group, the storytellers collected youthful narratives, stories of change, stories of success and failure, and accounts of endless experiences, some of pain and joy. Telling the story of what used to be was an opportunity to better understand the past, to integrate with an older generation, and learn how to connect with profoundly wise people who have lost some part of their memory.

What do these senior citizens have to tell AVS middle schoolers? — To read, to explore, to never stop learning, and to develop a love of history. After a...

March 18, 2017

Math in Elizabeth Keleshian’s Middle School classes is all about real world application. She double-majored in philosophy and math/economics at university and focused her graduate thesis in education on financial literacy. “The biggest lesson that my professor wanted us to remember until we die was the beauty of compound interest and how money can grow so fast. If you just save it, compound interest does the work for you,” Keleshian says.

“Financial literacy is very undervalued in secondary education. And, that’s where I felt inspired. I feel like I need to integrate financial literacy in my classes, because students could really get engaged in this and it’s something that they can use forever,” she says, noting that she wasn’t taught anything like this herself when she was in grade school.

So, what does this look like in her classes at Alta Vista? Here’s a fun example: Keleshian isn’t trying to turn students into little stock brokers, but she uses Investopedia’s stock simulator as a too...

December 4, 2016

Kate Parker, History Teacher at AVS middle school,  grew up in New Jersey, just outside of New York City.   She went to boarding school in Connecticut and then college in New York, where she studied Art History and Women’s Studies. Kate has always been a student-athlete. She was tri-varsity captain, played field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse and, like a lot of kids we know, PE was her favorite subject in school. We caught up with Ms. Parker recently and posed a few questions.

 If you weren’t a teacher, what profession would you pursue?

Teaching is actually my second professional pursuit. I used to work within the corporate world of financial services. That said, I’ve always be fascinated by bugs! I’d love to be an entomologist.

What event or activity in the next 4 months are you looking forward to more than anything else?   

Well, I have to say the move to the Mission is pretty exciting. I feel lucky to be one of the first to step foot into this new AVS adventure. I trus...

February 20, 2016

The realms of art and engineering intersect in thought-provoking ways at Alta Vista.   Middle schoolers recently learned about artist Michael Rakowitz’s paraSITE project. Rakowitz creates temporary and transportable shelters for the homeless leveraging the outtake duct of a building’s heating and ventilation system. These functional pieces of art are also a form of social protest against the growing homeless problem in our cities.

In her Design for the Future class, teacher Katherine Stark challenged the middle school students to create an inflatable sculpture with nothing more than garbage bags, tape and a box fan. Working in small groups, students were then asked to look for practical application within our school. They created inflatable study hall rooms and a shade structure for their picnic tables that were both practical and attractive.   Students worked in classrooms, hallways taking over the top floor of the building; some moved their projects outdoors.

This creative gr...

February 13, 2016

We’re excited to share that our first AVS Middle School Garden Cooking classes were a huge success! Students learned how to plan, prepare, and create a healthy and delicious meal from scratch. For their final assignment, students were required to cook an entire meal for their families. Each of our student’s recipes will be compiled into our first AVS Community Cookbook, which will be shared school-wide by Spring 2016.  Here are a couple samples from our recipe book from Noah S. (5th grade) and Isabelle L. (6th grade). Bon appétit!

Noah’s Spring Rolls

Ingredients: (Everything should be organic.)

  • 8 Rice wrappers

  • Lettuce

  • Cucumbers

  • Shredded carrots

  • Ice berg salad

Peanut Sauce (optional)

  • One garlic clove

  • ½ cup peanut butter

  • 2 tablespoons Soy sauce

  • Water (If needed)

  • 1 and a half pieces of Ginger (peeled)

  • ¼ or 12teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


Spring rolls


October 30, 2015

Alex White joined the Alta Vista Middle School faculty this year. He hails from Bethesda MD, but also lived in Paris, France as a young child. He most recently taught at the Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. and he speaks 6 languages, including Elvish. We caught up with Alex recently to pose a few questions:

What is the most exciting thing you’ve learned from a student?

The class I taught on Quenya (Elvish) happened because three passionate students came to me and asked me to teach them. I ended up writing my own textbook and there are YouTube videos of my students performing skits in Elvish That class was an independent study where 13 students gave up lunch periods to learn a new language!

If you weren’t a teacher, what profession would you pursue?

I’d probably still work in IT, but at a non-profit whose mission I care about. I like working in school technology partially because I love working with kids, but partially because I like working in a community where people are passiona...

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