High marks: Trio of LASD teachers earn National Board Certification

While most teachers were giving out homework assignments, three Los Altos School District teachers were on the receiving end as they worked to attain their National Board Certification.

According to a Los Altos School District press release, the certification is the “most prestigious recognition in the field (of teaching).”

JustREAD: Nonprofit tutoring organization seeks volunteers

JustREAD, a local nonprofit organization, is recruiting volunteers to work with students for one-on-one literacy and math tutoring on campus during the school day.

There are tutoring opportunities at Mountain View High School, as well as at elementary and middle schools in the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Budding artist uses vivid imagination as force for change

Courtesy of Aria Luna
Aria Luna’s exhibition “Fusion Tide” takes a fantastical look at a real issue, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Her monster creation, Bogo Mogo, above, has a hunger for plastic and must be stopped by the mythical protectors of the sea.

In the middle of a cafe on a late Saturday morning, Aria Luna is plopped on a white cushioned chair, doodling. She has a lavender-colored meringue cookie in one hand, green marker in the other. Her hazel eyes are fixated on her notebook, and her wispy brown curls gravitate toward the paper.

Aria, an 8-year-old Los Altos resident, has a penchant for art. But she is a package deal, also a lover of sweets, video games, math and making sense of the world and its flaws.

Silicon Valley schools reject tech

Megan V. Winslow/ Town Crier
Canterbury Christian School students do not use computers or tablets in the classroom until sixth grade.

At most elementary schools, iPads and laptops abound. Children create PowerPoint presentations to showcase their work, and they search for sources online for research papers. But at Canterbury Christian School in Los Altos, laptops, tablets and cellphones are not welcome in the classroom.

The small elementary school of 90 students is distinctly religious: Each school day starts with a service, and each student memorizes a Bible verse each week. But what draws some Silicon Valley families to the school is that computers are left out of the classroom.

Tutorfly stretches its wings

Courtesy of Tutorfly
Tutorfly, a tutoring startup founded by a Homestead High alumnus, recently hosted a monthlong coding camp for local students.

Taylor Garcia, sixth-grader at Graham Middle School in Mountain View, loves animals. She wanted to build a website dedicated to ending puppy mills, but she didn’t know how. So when her mom told her about a monthlong coding camp, she was in.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, sign me up,”’ Taylor said.

The coding camp is the latest brainchild of a company created by Los Altos native and Homestead High alumnus Parsa Rezvani.

Rezvani created Tutorfly because he wanted to provide peer-to-peer tutoring at his former high school and other schools. Now, the Los Angeles-based startup has tutors at more than 300 high schools and universities across the state. The company is rooted in his peer-to-peer model: Tutors are students who have recently taken the course a fellow student is looking for help in, so they know the curriculum and sometimes even the teachers’ quirks. Baked into the company’s mission is a desire to serve families of all income levels.

“We’re doing a good job of alleviating the pain of expensive tutoring for middle-income families, but we really want to help lower-income families that can’t afford to even pay $25 per hour for tutoring,” Rezvani said.

As part of that mission, Tutorfly partnered with different organizations to provide two coding camps in the fall. The camp that Taylor participated in took place at Homestead High and was a joint venture between Tutorfly and Mindspark: Mindspark supplied the curriculum for the camp and Tutorfly provided the tutors and oversight.

The curriculum consisted of the basics of building a website, start to finish. Taylor learned HTML and CSS – she’d already taken coding classes after school at her elementary school, but the website-building tools were new to her.

With any growth comes growing pains – Rezvani said the camp ended up with fewer participants than expected. Initially the company planned to have 20 paying students attend the camp and 10 students attend for free, but they eventually decided to make the camp free for all and afterward ask families for a donation.

Approximately 10 students consistently attended the camp at Homestead. During the same time, Tutorfly held a similar camp in Southern California that had approximately 30 students regularly attending. Rezvani said they learned that getting community input in advance of the camp is important – parent-teacher organizations were helpful in spreading the word about the Southern California camp. Timing matters, too – in the survey parents filled out after the camp, they said a 7-9 p.m. camp time was too late for their kids.

Like any startup, Tutorfly will keep iterating. The kids who attended camp last fall walked away with a working knowledge of how to build a website, which instructor Diya Aggarwal said she was proud of.

“Most people came in with no previous knowledge, so that feels rewarding,” she said.

For more information, visit tutorfly.org.

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This too shall pass: Handling students first-year college challenges

While much energy is spent on the college admissions process and the focus on getting in, as important is staying, graduating and getting out.

More than 36 percent of all four-year college students transfer out of their first university, half of those to a community college. While challenging academics play a small part, it is often the executive functioning skills and adjustment to being away from home that are the big culprits impacting both mental health and grades.

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