Wed10222014

News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Out of the classroom, but still plugged into learning


Courtesy of MindLaunch
MindLaunch, a local tutoring and advising service that uses virtual classrooms, pairs credentialed teachers from around the country with students working on an array of subjects.

While some grade-school students spend much of the summer attending camps and taking family trips, others press on in the academic world. They’re the target market for Los Altos entrepreneur Elaine Sigal.

The teacher-turned-tutor – who spent years as a September-to-June educator – has founded a startup that serves students after-hours and through the dog days of summer.

MindLaunch, a virtual classroom tutoring service, connects credentialed teachers from around the country with students who seek to study their subject specialties. For instance, incoming eighth-graders in the Los Altos School District who will miss the new geometry curriculum currently in development can take an online course, supplemented with one-on-one or small-group guidance from a MindLaunch math tutor.

In addition to subject-specific tutoring, MindLaunch offers test preparation and college counseling.

“I had a brick-and-mortar tutoring company for 15 years. To be able to (now) have access to incredible teachers from all over the U.S. is wonderful,” Sigal said. “Eighty percent of the teachers are teaching during the day, another 10 percent are on maternity leave or moms, and the rest are those who decided they want to retire from the classroom.”

Los Altos Hills resident Allyson Campa, a serial entrepreneur in the area, teamed up with Sigal as CEO at MindLaunch. The female-run partnership (their chief operating officer is also a local woman) congealed after an initial seven-hour interview that sounded like the high-tech version of an epic first date.

“Partnerships are tough,” Campa said appreciatively as they described taking a leap of faith to build the business together. “We all hold the same belief about education: It’s doing what’s best for each individual.”

Digital collaboration

MindLaunch assigns a principal educator to each client to learn the student’s goals, assess difficulties and then develop a personal academic roadmap. The company targets the K-12 market but has had college students return for assistance in transfer or grad school applications.

“Some of the kids really enjoy learning online because of the capabilities and flexibility that technology has to offer,” Sigal said.

She’s piloted the company’s technological platform over the past two years, using video conferencing software to bring teachers and students face to face online. Teachers contribute content and students can see, hear and interact through a virtual whiteboard. Math and science students are encouraged to purchase an electronic tablet that can write on a shared screen. The format also facilitates collaboration within the family.

“If mom’s at work, dad’s on a business trip and the teenager is at home, they can all be on the computer with a college adviser,” Sigal said. “When people come to us, we’re dealing with the parents. … The whole idea is to help parents be proactive in their children’s education.”

Tutors connect with parents to discuss standardized testing options, what’s accomplished during each session and, for parents who homeschool, offer guidance on grading and test prep. Sigal blogs for a homeschoolers newsletter.

Online sessions range in price from $40 to $99 depending on the size of the class, subject matter and the number of classes enrolled in simultaneously.

Maximum class size is eight, but classes are typically kept to six students. Each participant can see everyone else in the group classroom setup, which approximately half of MindLaunch’s clients use. The company records and archives every session, and parents may request copies for review.

Given the variety of formats, students can tailor the classroom structure to their styles: working on their own, then visiting with a teacher to review; or taking a class, then going home to do follow-up work.

MindLaunch has approximately 200 teachers either actively tutoring or undergoing its vetting process. Sigal said they are always looking for more.

Asked why her teachers wouldn’t set up shop as independent tutors, Sigal said many teachers are not business types who want to take up scheduling, billing and booking tutoring locations.

“From home, there’s no commute and there’s scheduling flexibility,” Campa said. “Teachers and students are willing to schedule at non-traditional times – we just got a request for a Saturday night.”

For more information, visit mindlaunch.com.

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