Category Archives: Faculty

Farewell: An Interview with Jane Hillegas-Stommel

Beloved Grade 4 teacher Jane Hillegas-Stommel is retiring this June. We had the opportunity to interview her.

How long have you been teaching at Hamlin? What has changed and what has remained constant in terms of our program?

21 years.  Coreen Hester hired me.  Judy Ching and I started the same year!

Our commitment to excellence has remained constant.  When I started, a published scope and sequence did not exist.  I am proud to have been a part of that work. In the Lower School, we adopted a language arts and a math curriculum.  The teaching of reading and writing is now standardized across grade levels. All grades utilize the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project materials. Math continues to get stronger and stronger. K-4 uses the Bridges in Math program. Most recently, we have been integrating the work of Jo Boaler and Cathy Fosnot into the Bridges curriculum.  We also adopted a social and emotional curriculum called “ToolBox.” I am glad that we send girls better equipped socially and emotionally to navigate the challenges of Middle School.

Share a favorite memory from your earlier days working at Hamlin.

I have fond memories of all the National Maritime Marine Association “Age of Sail” overnight field trips on the C.A. Thayer and Balclutha ships at the Hyde Street Pier.  I remember waking up before dawn and watching the sun rise over the City, as I stood on board the Thayer. On another trip, the girls were remarkably resilient, doing the work of their respective crews in drenching rain!

What have you most enjoyed during your time teaching at Hamlin?

I am proud that there are girls who can say, “I have been changed for the better.” Differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all kinds of learners has given me great satisfaction.  I have loved providing appropriate levels of challenge, as well as accommodating and supporting a variety of learning styles.

What advice to you have for a newer teacher arriving to Hamlin?

Life at Hamlin goes at a fast pace.  Don’t get so caught up in the pace that you forget the things that really matter.  Build authentic connections with your colleagues and the girls. Take care of your own wellness.  Advocate for change that helps Hamlin just get better and better.

How would you define a Hamlin girl?

Having put my own daughters, who are now 23 and 24, through Hamlin, I can speak personally about the definition of a Hamlin girl.  Hamlin girls are smart and think critically. They are good public speakers and know how to advocate for themselves. Hamlin girls start high school ahead.  They are organized and know how to study. Hamlin girls see themselves as global citizens and care about social justice.

What are your plans for next year and beyond?

I am working right now with a career counselor, identifying skills I have honed at Hamlin.  I plan to use these skills in a new sphere, possibly doing nonprofit or public policy work. I am going to mix things up for the last few years of my work life.

San Francisco Storytellers Visit With Grade 2

Monday morning seven vibrant San Francisco natives gathered to speak with Grade 2 students. Our girls are learning about the history of San Francisco as part of their social studies curriculum. Speakers shared fond memories, describing how various neighborhoods have both changed and stayed the same.

Madeline Hancock, West Portal:

Ms. Hancock spoke about her parents buying their house for $26,000 in 1958, riding streetcars for 10 cents, and Shaw’s Ice Cream and Candy Shop (which is still there!).

Natalie Holland ’98, Bayview, Excelsior, Mt. Davidson, Outer Sunset, Lakeview, Inner Mission:

Ms. Holland spoke about taking ballet at the Bayview Opera House, gardening in the Sunset, and the murals in the Mission.

Helen Ortiz ’03, The Castro:

Ms. Ortiz spoke about how her neighbors were like family, going to the Castro Theatre for sing-alongs, and riding on the Seward Street Slides.

Judy Ching, Chinatown, The Richmond:

Ms. Ching spoke about the construction of the Broadway Tunnel, the Chinatown telephone company with switchboard operators (where her mother worked), and how Chinese people weren’t always welcome to purchase homes outside of the Chinatown area.

Charlee Underwood, Hayes Valley:

Ms. Underwood spoke about playing outside with all of her friends in the neighborhood, and how there are fewer families now in Hayes Valley.

Ann Kung, The Richmond:

Ms. Kung spoke about getting bread from the Boudin Bakery and playing softball with neighborhood kids in front of the library, she also mentioned that the Richmond has more Asian restaurants now.

Lisa Aquino, The Sunset:

Ms. Aquino spoke about how San Francisco has a small town feeling and that natives are often interconnected, she also mentioned that many people have moved out because of the high cost of living.

After each native spoke, Grade 2 students asked several thoughtful questions about San Francisco history, favorite landmarks, and neighborhood celebrations.

 

 

From Finance to Teaching Math: An Interview with Mary Kay Kosnik

What do you enjoy about your role at Hamlin? 

I’m currently teaching 6th grade math at Hamlin.  I have a dream job — I get to learn and help students!  Teaching in the middle school is pure magic. I witness great thinking, creativity, growth and joyful collaboration every day.   My students and colleagues are rock stars! The thread of excellence that permeates through Hamlin is what drew me into this diverse, dynamic and soulful community.   Everything that happens at Hamlin is aligned with best practices and continuously scrutinized for improvement.

Tell us about your career before Hamlin. What did you most like about that work?

My professional background is in analytics, research and consulting to the financial services industry.  I began my career at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and later worked on Wall Street as a buy-side equity analyst.  For the bulk of my professional career I worked as a management consultant for KPMG Peat Marwick’s National Financial Services Consulting Group. All of these jobs had a steep learning curve, were entrepreneurial and enabled me to collaborate with very talented people. In consulting I traveled extensively and worked on really unique and exciting high impact projects.

How did you make the decision to go into teaching?

I consider myself a life-long learner and have always been passionate about stepping into service to support students.  While I was working professionally and raising a family (my husband and I have three grown children), I taught and volunteered in classrooms, tutored, and coached and managed youth sports.  I also collaborated on fundraising projects to improve schools and provide scholarships. In higher education, I serve on the Dean’s Council at my alma mater, the University of Michigan. I also mentor undergraduates.  

So I guess I would say that becoming a teacher was a natural progression of my lifelong interest in helping students. I knew that becoming a teacher would be challenging and deeply meaningful work.  As an educator, my goal is to inspire girls to enjoy math and to develop their competence and confidence as mathematicians. We need more women in STEM fields!

What advice to you have for women who would like to work in finance?

Study math, always apply your analytical skills, be bold and decisive, and expect to become the boss!

Finance is creative and fun — every organization needs competent people who can generate, analyze and understand the numbers that ultimately drive decision making and the business.

How does learning math relate to understanding “real world” finance?

I think there is a big misconception that the goal in math is to learn an algorithm to achieve a “correct” answer.  Sure we need this competency, but math is so much more than that! In math we question, explore, investigate, analyze, collaborate, strategize, build, explain, and problem solve in diverse and creative ways.   “Real world” finance is all of this, whether you are managing your allowance, your household or your company.

Interview with Hamlin Math Enthusiast: Gillis Kallem

Gillis Kallem is our Lower School math specialist, this is her 11th year at Hamlin.

1. When and how did you fall in love with math?

When I was a kid in school I enjoyed math, it came to me easily and made me feel good about myself. I could see relationships with numbers. I fell in love with math again when I was training to be a teacher. I loved the beauty of teaching math.

2. What is your role in the Lower School?

Guiding the grade level teachers, looking at best practices, including how we develop numeracy for students. I also think about students developmentally, how and when do they acquire their skills? I help with differentiation of instruction, and co-teach inquiry sessions where students are given a problem, but no one tells them how to do it, they have multiple entry points and multiple strategies for solving it. I believe in a growth mindset, and work to elucidate what math is, for both teachers and students.

3. Explain one way that you enjoy supporting math learning.

I love it when a student becomes fully engaged during an inquiry investigation because the solution is open to interpretation, and they have an entry point. It is very fulfilling to watch a student become a leader really doing math with a purpose.

4. Who has influenced you in the math world?

Cathy Fosnot, Jo Boaler, Pam Harris, Graham Fletcher. These are the people I follow on YouTube and I read their blogs. Cathy taught me that when children are engaged with math in a meaningful context they become fully immersed and curious. These people believe that math should be taught for a reason, for a purpose.

5. Finish this sentence. Exploring math is like_____________________________________

a journey into the known and unknown simultaneously. Along the way you stumble across unexpected places and experiences, and the exploration is exciting and inspiring.

6. What is one goal for a Hamlin student completing our lower school math program?

Macro: They are willing to persevere when confronting seemingly impossible problems.

Micro: They are able to work with numbers easily and figure out efficient strategies appropriate for a given mathematical situation.

To learn more about Ms. Kallem’s approach to math, please read: http://www.hamlinblog.org/blog/2014/10/03/first-comes-number-sense-gillis-kallem/

 

 

Interview with Hamlin Teacher: Kirsten Gustavson

Since 1985, Ms. Kirsten Gustavson has been sharing her life energy with students of The Hamlin School. Whether teaching French (as she used to), singing out Morning Meeting, or leading graduation rehearsal, Ms. G is a Hamlin institution. A San Francisco native, Ms. Gustavson attended French-American International School, Lowell High School, then Princeton University. She is a meditator, a music enthusiast, and a maker.

We recently had the chance to sit down and speak with Ms. Gustavson.

1) Tell us about your current work at The Hamlin School.

I teach 8th grade social studies. The course is an overview of the major events of the 20th century with a focus on current events as well. I’m also a teacher-peer coach, basically a pedagogy nerd who talks shop with other teachers about things they are working on, with a focus on supporting teachers new to Hamlin.

2) You’ve worked at Hamlin for well over 30 years, share one story from your early days.

I was a practical support person for men during the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980’s. I shopped for people, cooked for people, and provided general support for those facing AIDS. One weekend I volunteered to take a small group of students to see the AIDS Quilt. It was moving to know my students wanted to see the quilt. It was a challenge of their time and they sought to understand more about what was being lost. We were in the epicenter and they wanted to know what was going on.

3) Alumnae from many years past still reflect fondly on your teaching. What is a core facet of your pedagogical philosophy?

The one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. It is my job to set up situations where as many students can talk in a way that is structured and supports the learning objectives. I want them engaged and speaking for as much of the class time as is possible. Also, being humorous and being real, showing up authentically.

4) What do you like most about Hamlin?

How unapologetically feminist and empowering it is. It has become more concentrated and that over the time I’ve been here, putting the talents and experience of girls front and center, giving them the tools to be young women in this place, in this time.

5) Tell us something about yourself that isn’t specifically Hamlin-related.

I’m really a maker. I come from a long line of craftsmen and women. I do sewing and jewelry-making, but I also do a lot of other stuff. I designed and made my son’s talis for his Bar Mitzvah, that meant a great deal to me.

For alumnae with fond memories of the Colonies Song, here is a recording of Ms. Gustavson’s rendition:

 

Leadership with Hamlin’s Director of Admissions, Lisa Aquino ’81

“Great leaders aren’t always front and center. And Lisa Lau Aquino knows that leaders don’t have to set themselves apart by title or responsibility.” 

This article appears in AISAP (Association of Independent School Admission Professionals).

It can be read here: http://goo.gl/M4Kfc6

Interview with Hamlin Alumna and Teacher: Helen (Fowler) Ortiz ’03

Helen (Fowler) Ortiz graduated from The Hamlin School in 2003 and is now back with us teaching Kindergarten.

1) What are your favorite memories of Hamlin?

Outdoor Education (we sang songs to keep our morale up in the Yosemite sleet), cross-country skiing, Halloween (I loved making costumes), singing the song the Witches’ Brew, the 8th grade musical (Bye Bye Birdie), Famous American Women’s Tea, and Field Day, to name a few! My closest friends are my Hamlin friends, they are like family to me. Also, as a 7th grader I volunteered in a 1st grade classroom reading to the girls and playing games, that experience started me thinking about becoming a teacher. 

2) What is it like coming back to Hamlin as a teacher? 

It is exciting and inspiring, the longevity of the teachers is a testament to the Hamlin school community. Hamlin is a school that always strives to do more and a place where teachers help each other out. It is wonderful seeing all my old teachers: Ms. Aquino, Ms. Gustavson, Ms. Abbott, Ms. McDonald, Ms. Hillegas-Stommel, and Ms. Metcalf. I loved my Hamlin teachers.

3) How has San Francisco changed since you were a kid?

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