Thu07242014

News

Obama visits Los Altos area

Obama visits Los Altos area

President Obama made a fundraising stop today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills, an appearance that spurred traffic disruptions, helicopters scouting overhead and protesters. In the wake of his visit, unknown persons, apparently no fans of ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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