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News

Council seeks more options for community center

Council seeks more options for community center


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos City Council approved an appropriation to examine options for a new community center to replace the aging Hillview facility.

The Los Altos City Council last week voted narrowly in favor of examining further opti...

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Schools

Local schools participate in  national Hour of Code activities

Local schools participate in national Hour of Code activities


Ellie Van HOutte/Town Crier
Himan Shu Raj, a volunteer from Microsoft, advises Los Altos High ninth-graders, from left, Serhat Suzer, Jamie Bennett and Chris Yang as they participate in the school’s Hour of Code Showcase.

Local schools participa...

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Community

Take a dive into the holiday archive

Take a dive into the holiday archive

Town Crier staff made a quick cruise back through the newspaper's archives to find some late-December reading as inspiration for eating, drinking, decorating and more:

Beloved holiday books build the spirit of the season and staff at Los Altos’ Li...

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Sports

Pinewood poised for another title run

Pinewood poised for another title run


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Pinewood’s girls basketball team is receiving contributions from several new players, including freshman Stella Kailahi, above.

Complacency shouldn’t be a problem for the defending Division V state champion Pinewood S...

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Comment

Letters to the Editor

Ticket motorists for U-turns on Main Street

As I was walking downtown on Main Street recently, something came to me out of the blue. The town of Los Altos is missing out on a huge revenue stream. I realized that if all the cars – there were th...

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Special Sections

Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead


s in line to be mayor of Mountain View in 2015.

Mountain View anticipates the following changes in 2015:

• Beginning Jan. 1, Mountain View City Councilmembers will receive a raise to $1,000 per month as a result of the passage of Measure A in...

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Business

Your 2015 stock market game plan

It’s been a maddening month because of oil and gas, especially in stocks and bonds. Then, consumer spending pushed stocks higher Thursday, easing investors’ jitters about the global economy and prompting them to consider how to invest in ...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

SANGEETA SACHDEVA

SANGEETA SACHDEVA

Sangeeta Sachdeva, 55, wife of Subhash Sachdeva and mother to Natasha and Tanya, died at 8:54pm, Sunday, December 7, 2014 from respiratory failure.

Sangeeta was born on October 18, 1959 in Delhi, India. She was born to Moti Sagar and Raj Kapoor an...

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Travel

South Tahoe renovations enhance off-mountain seasonal fun

As any enthusiast knows well, there is more to the enjoyment of winter sports than skiing or snowboarding.

While many winter resorts make minor upgrades each season, the off-mountain attractions and amenities can be as enticing as the activities on ...

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Stepping Out

Aurora Singers to emit 'Musical Glow' Friday

Aurora Singers to emit 'Musical Glow' Friday


courtesy of Aurora Singers
The Aurora Singers are scheduled to perform a seasonal concert Friday night in Palo Alto.

The Aurora Singers’ “Winter’s Musical Glow” holiday concert is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pal...

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Spiritual Life

Enter the superhero: Finding the God who loves you

In my life-coaching practice, I see a lot of pain. Much of it stems from fear and guilt, often expressed as low self-esteem, anxiety, a lack of forgiveness both for oneself and others, anger – and so on.

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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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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