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News

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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