Tue04152014

Spiritual Life

Christ Episcopal Church’s Ventana School expands to sixth grade


Photo By: Courtesy of Ventana School
Photo Courtesy Of Ventana School

Nicole Bien, head of school at Ventana School at Christ Episcopal Church of Los Altos, observes a demonstration of a classroom project, a voting booth made by first-graders.

At a service on National Episcopal Schools Sunday, Christ Episcopal Church of Los Altos installed Nicole Bien as Ventana School’s first head of school and announced plans to expand the school through the sixth grade.

The church last month received approval from the Santa Clara County Planning Commission for a new use permit that allows the expansion to upper elementary grades.

Founded in 2005 by Christ Episcopal Church, Ventana School first offered a program for preschoolers. With a K-3 program now under way, the school plans to add one grade per year over the next few years.

“We are very fortunate to have such a capable educator and manager as we chart the course for the school’s future,” said the church’s rector, the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Young, of Bien.

Young praised Bien as the ideal person to carry out the school’s mission of educating the whole child, making it a place that “helps strengthen the child’s inner person, as they become citizens who use that strength to make life better for other people.”

At the service, students and representatives from the school’s teaching staff and board of directors welcomed Bien with symbolic gifts, including a decorative window, representing the English translation of the Spanish word ventana and the school’s role in opening windows to learning.

Bien said she has a passion for education. She was drawn to Ventana School, she noted, by its progressive philosophy and the “opportunity to really take this to a level of success so that we can become a model for schools in the Bay Area.”

From the beginning, the school embraced the Reggio Emilia approach to education, which emphasizes a child-driven emergent curriculum across all elementary grades.

“Adopting best practices from our successful early childhood program and project-based, experiential learning, we engage elementary children in a rich, creative and collaborative environment to construct knowledge while integrating the state standards,” Bien said.

A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Business School, Bien worked in business before beginning her doctoral research in education at the University of Sydney. She said her experiences as a volunteer tutor, English language teacher and board-level leader in education – combined with her perspective as an Education Pioneer Fellow focusing on education reforms – convinced her that she could apply her skills to make an impact in the education field.

Bien joins Robin Jurs, preschool director, and Elisa Merrifield, assistant head of school, on the Ventana staff.

Ventana School is located at 1040 Border Road, Los Altos. For more information, visit www.ventanaschool.org.

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