What was your journey after you graduated from Hamlin?
After Hamlin, I attended UHS, and then headed to the east coast for college. I have spent most of my adult life in the Greater Boston area teaching middle school science in both public and independent schools.
What made you decide to come back and teach at Hamlin?
Coming back and teaching at Hamlin was an opportunity to come home (home to Hamlin and home to family and San Francisco where I grew up). I taught at an all-girls school in Boston and have really enjoyed working in this type of school environment. By returning to Hamlin, I have an opportunity to give back, to pass on my love of science to the girls, and to foster a love of learning, which is what I received as a Hamlin student.
What has changed the most at Hamlin since you were a student?
Hamlin was a lot smaller when I was a student, as my 8th grade graduating class had 19 students, so that is one big difference. I would also say the integration of technology in every class is very different. I remember the first computer lab at Hamlin on the second floor, and now Hamlin has a 1-to-1 iPad program where the students are using technology to demonstrate their learning and teachers are learning new platforms to teach in innovative ways.
What has changed the least at Hamlin since you were a student?
The traditions, the mission and the creed of the school – they were and still are the guiding principles of Hamlin.
What are you most excited about being back at Hamlin?
Teaching the girls science, making it relevant to their lives, and when we are back on campus being able to teach in the (updated) science labs that I was taught in by Danny Meyer and Fran Dorais. Also, service learning opportunities and outdoor education adventures – I can’t wait until we can travel with students again – hiking, backpacking, and experiencing the outdoors together. Those were some of my best memories from Hamlin.
The Hamlin Middle School has temporarily moved its campus from Broadway to historic Fort Mason. Perched right above the Bay, the space is enormous, allowing our whole student body to be at school at the same time and still maintain social distancing protocols. The cavernous hall has primarily been used for art shows and artist studios and, with paintings from students in Ms. Feldman’s classes now adorning the walls, Hamlin Middle Schoolers are continuing that artistic legacy!
Although we miss our beloved Stanwood Hall, having all members of the Middle School together makes it more than worth the move. This transition, along with all the changes that have been required since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have certainly illustrated how flexible and resilient Hamlin girls can be. We knew this year would be an adventure and we are excited to start the next chapter of this journey in such a beautiful new space.
On Wednesday, December 16th, Hamlin welcomed San Francisco Mayor London Breed to our all-school assembly. Mayor Breed talked about being raised by her grandmother, who was a strong and fierce woman and taught her the value of taking care of your community. Mayor Breed also learned from her grandmother how important it is to be resilient, hopeful and to stand strong in your values. Talking about her experiences as a student and about the teachers that inspired her, Mayor Breed reminded all the Hamlin girls to listen to their parents and teachers and told us that it’s ok to make mistakes–it just matters how we learn and grow from those mistakes. Mayor Breed thoughtfully answered some questions from our community and told us about how she takes care of herself: long walks in the city, drinking plenty of water, getting exercise, and hanging out with her new plant friends. We are so honored to have been able to hear from such a strong, caring leader!
PLAID held a celebratory Jewish Cultural Night on Tuesday, October 6th and, even though it was online, it was an evening filled with singing, dancing, and eating! The MC’s for the evening, Grade 8 students Ella Kowal, Bennett Wintroub and Laney Segal, taught the 80+ participants about all kinds of Jewish New Year traditions. We played trivia about famous Jewish women, watched videos of Hamlin girls dancing, blowing the shofar, making a delicious looking honey cake and so much more! Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf, Hamlin alum and K parent, invited us into her sukkah and explained the story behind this temporary structure that is built during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
In breakout rooms, participants reflected on the past year and shared with each other goals for this new year. We enjoyed eating apples and honey and all wished each other a “Happy and Sweet New Year!” Clearly, even online, the Hamlin community knows how to have fun!
Get to know Hamlin’s Middle School Teaching Fellow, Mx. Westley!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Mx. Westley (Syd Westley), and I graduated from Hamlin in 2013. For high school, I attended The Branson School in Ross, where I was captain of the soccer team and student body co-president. After graduating from Branson in 2017, I went to Stanford University. I just completed my third year at Stanford where I am majoring in Comparative Literature and minoring in Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity. I am currently taking the year off of school in order to teach at Hamlin, and next year I will return to Stanford to graduate! After that, I plan on pursuing an MFA in creative writing in order to become a poetry professor at the college level.
What made you decide to return to Hamlin, this time in a teaching role?
Because of COVID-19, I was not very excited about beginning my senior year of college in distance learning, so I decided to look for teaching opportunities for the year and was lucky enough to stumble upon this alumni fellowship! Because I want to pursue teaching after college, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some more experience and professional development skills in the field, and I also just thought it would be very fun to return to my alma mater (which it has been). I am teaching alongside many of my old teachers and, although it has been a bizarre adjustment to start calling them by their first names, it has been really fun and interesting and fulfilling.
Tell us a little about your role as Middle School Teaching Fellow:
In my new role, I mostly support fifth grade students in math, language arts, and Spanish. I am also one of the faculty co-sponsors for the Middle School GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) which has been my favorite part of the job. As a queer and non-binary person who had none of these resources when I was in middle school, I am so excited to share my experience/resources with students and to begin normalizing they/them pronouns as well as the gender neutral title, Mx. (pronounced Mix). Distance learning has proven challenging for everyone (I now have experienced it both as a student and as a teacher), so I’m very happy to provide the extra support. The students are so lovely, and I’ve never held a job I loved this much before.
Hamlin’s Opening Assembly looked a little different this year. Even though over 600 students, teachers, and parents logged in to a virtual version, you could still feel the excitement of the start of a new year and a deep love of Hamlin coming through the screen. Student body president, Audrey Spaly, introduced this year’s theme: “I Am Changing.” Ms. Holland-Greene beautifully sang the lines from a song in Broadway’s Dreamgirls that inspires our theme:
“Look at me, I am changing. I am trying every way I can. I am changing–I’ll be better than I am.”
At a moment in history that requires all of us to be willing to change, to adapt, and truly to meet the challenges of our times, the girls of Hamlin are ready to begin.