A snapshot into life at Sonoma Academy taken from many angles, 从这里查看 is our bi-monthly blog featuring reflections from the Head of School, and other staffulty members. 

从这里查看: Current Article


  • 从这里查看: Creating Our Community

    By 沙栈, Director of Enrollment, 经济资助, & Institutional Research

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    Conversation is at the heart of our 招生 process; in fact, I often think of the admissions season as an ongoing conversation with prospective families. You start with small talk; then, as you establish more of a connection, you get to the headier stuff, and my favorite part: what is important to you and for your teen? What do you hope for from the high school experience? What will your teen need in order to thrive? As we enter into the time of year when these conversations get deeper, I am curious, excited, and extremely full of pride in our school. 

    Throughout the fall, we have been visiting many middle schools around the region. Our All-Star student represpresentives come along to speak about the everyday experience at Sonoma Academy, answering questions and sharing the things they love about their school. Their enthusiasm and passion for their school is the best advertising, and it is extremely valuable for prospective applicants to hear directly from current students themselves. 

    Our Early Decision deadline is right around the corner, and this is where we really get to know the first round of our applicants. The admissions committee looks carefully at the whole picture —not just grades and test scores (although those are important, too), but activities, recommendations, and attitude. This year, we have added a new element to our application process, the SSAT Character Assessment. This survey of social and emotional temperament will provide another fascinating data point, painting a more detailed picture of each applicant. 

    It’s impossible to say exactly what kind of applicant is the ideal fit for Sonoma Academy, because our students are such wonderful mashups of skills, passions, and abilities. Essentially, the ideal applicant is interested, motivated, curious, and eager to be a part of an inclusive learning community, and those characteristics come in many guises. Just as it is in a great conversation where the participants are on the same wavelength, understanding and engaging one another, sometimes there is an intangible “click.” That is what we are looking for, above all. 

    In a few weeks, I will have another one of those moments that I look forward to during admissions season, when I sit with visiting families in the bleachers during Community Meeting on Visit Day. I am always filled with pride as I see the talent, confidence, and capacities on display, and prospective parents are often in awe of what our students can do. Community Meeting always reminds me of how inspired I am by our collaborative, supportive culture, where students are encouraged to develop deep self-knowledge and to maintain a healthy balance, even as they take risks and stretch themselves. As I watch prospective families begin to understand our unique and special community, I feel fortunate and honored to be involved in introducing them to our school for the 12th year!
  • The View from Here: Creating Curriculum

    凯利卡斯塔涅达 thinks about a lot of things. Sit down to have a conversation with her and you might find yourself deeply immersed in an exploration of ethical decision-making, the role of cross-cultural experiences in student learning, or a cool project happening in the 工作室 right now. Three years ago, she returned to Sonoma Academy as our first-ever Dean of Curriculum. “Returned” because Kelly had worked here once before as a STEM teacher (from 2004 to 2010, she taught chemistry and math, and served as our 干 Department Chair). She returned after a long stint at the Crossroads School where she also taught math and was a grade level advisor assisting with academic advising and social-emotional support.

    As Dean of Curriculum, Kelly sees her primary work as ensuring that our mission is made manifest throughout our curriculum. She also seeks ways to build connections between various elements of our programming — amplifying work that is already being done, utilizing different programs to enhance meaningful learning opportunities, and looking for ways to evolve current programs to make them even better at meeting their stated learning objectives.

    Says Kelly, “We have the benefit of working in an environment where our programs are always evolving. So we are continually looking for ways to build bridges and make connections, as well as explicitly amplifying programs that focus on a student’s sense of meaning and intrinsic motivation.”
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    Although there are endless examples of this (see future Couriers for articles that focus on these!), Kelly highlights a couple that are top-of-mind for her right now. In the arena of teaching our students to communicate across cultures, Kelly is interested in finding ways to more deeply anchor our international travel programs into the curriculum. Because our 人文 I curriculum--built around the central question “How does geography shape culture”—already develops a certain level of cross-cultural skill, any additional program developed can start at a much higher level.

    Our teachers also naturally make use of learning opportunities when they present themselves. For example, Colin MacNamara already teaches a section of his Humanities II courses on Japan. This year, because a number of our students will be traveling to Japan for 休会, Colin created an exercise for his students to make a travel guide for for those students traveling to Japan. They also worked on creating a series of scenarios that are helpful for newcomers to Japanese culture (things like, “At SA, you are required to wear your shoes on campus. In Japan, you will likely be required to remove your shoes when entering a home or indoor space.”). Kelly is excited to think about opportunities that can build on Colin’s curriculum or other segments of the 人文 courses.

    Lastly, Kelly is focused on the overt articulation of meaningful and purposeful learning within the curriculum—opportunities that build on a student’s intrinsic motivation to learn. She believes that our ungraded programs—探索, 连接, and 休会—provide wonderful opportunities to help students connect with the joy of learning, or learning for the sake of learning, and she is currently assessing each of these programs for ways to ensure that students have as much opportunity as possible within these to try new things and pursue interests in the relatively pressure-free environment created when grades and transcripts for college don’t factor into the equation.
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    Kelly believes that a core vision for Sonoma Academy is to help all students find the passion, purpose, and meaningful impact of their learning. Ultimately, that is the essence of the work she does. We will share updates from Kelly’s curriculum work throughout the year.
  • 从这里查看: Annual Fund Giving

    As some of you know, my son Keefe (pictured above wearing his Teachers Field Day T-Shirt) is starting a new career as a sixth grade teacher at the Presentation School in Sonoma. He’s deeply engaged in his new work, getting up early to review lesson plans, digging into scholarly articles about educational theory. As he has been settling in, he’s called me for bits of advice about various curricular and classroom conundra. The other day, he called to ask me how much he should give to his new school’s Annual Fund. 
    At first, I wanted to say “it doesn’t matter, as long as you give something.” Participating in the Annual Fund shows that you believe in the school, that you’re invested in its success… literally. But then, I reflected about it a bit more and realized that I actually wanted him to know it’s important that he stretch a bit. As a first year teacher, just about anything would be a stretch, but I suggested that he think about the following: what would you spend on a nice dinner out? Maybe a concert or sporting event? What would you give to a political campaign or other organization you felt passionate about? I wanted to make sure that he understood, in his first year as a teacher, that giving matters. It’s a way to support what is most fundamental: children and education. 
    Keefe’s question was one of those serendipitous moments, because we are about to kick off our own Annual Fund efforts. And really, the message is the same. Most important is your participation at whatever level works for your family, but also, we’d like you to stretch just the tiniest bit (or a little more!). We know you already have given us the greatest gift you can—the opportunity to spend these transformative years teaching and learning alongside your children. And we know that you all give to us in countless ways, from all the volunteer hours to your enthusiastic attendance at games, theater productions, and family events to your engagement with your child’s learning, for which we are deeply grateful and honored. 
    You’ll soon be hearing from our Kim and our Advancement Team, and I hope you will join Keefe and I in giving a gift to your children’s education.




Sonoma Academy is the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.