What's Brewing 2020-21 School Year

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From the Head of School


What’s Brewing at Live Oak Reopening Live Oak


Student Voices


Second Grade Literacy


A Medium for the Times


Advancing Racial Justice




Graduation Alumni Stories

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Alumni Changemaker


Advancing Equity & Inclusion


Faculty Spotlight: Wil Dionisio


MISSION Live Oak School supports the potential and promise of each student. We provide a strong academic foundation, foster skills to effect change, and develop courageous and conscientious learners from all backgrounds. We inspire students to advance equity and inclusion, to act with compassion and integrity, and to pursue a lifelong passion for learning.





A rich curriculum that provides access and challenge for every student, supporting deep thinking, self-expression, and new perspectives. An inclusive school community that explores and appreciates the differences that define us as individuals. Empathy in our personal relationships to encourage responsibility and integrity in our actions. Joy and humor—In this, we find the willingness to learn from mistakes, the desire to take healthy risks, and the curiosity of childhood.

VISION To know a child well is Live Oak School’s vision and the responsibility of the entire Live Oak community—faculty, parents, and the students themselves.


to pause, reflect, share, and appreciate the efforts and successes of our Live Oak School community in the 2020-21 school year. Live Oak today is deeply defined by our past stories and our future potential. Here’s an issue of What’s Brewing to spotlight the courage, creativity, and compassion we experienced last year. Stay in touch to see how we carry it forward! In October 2020, Live Oak School welcomed students back on campus after starting the school year in our School from Home program. The campus was transformed from when we left in March 2020. Think furniture, floor markings, baskets of face masks, desks, buckets of sanitizer, carts for lunch, classroom pop-ups, personal school supply kits, and more. We had to keep our distance and we couldn’t share. But we could learn and we would!


Activate Changemakers

By expanding the breadth and depth of our curriculum we will inspire the passion and achieve the potential of every Live Oak learner.

We take seriously our commitment to encourage students to think of themselves as changemakers and global citizens. We will ground our program in a guiding purpose that extends beyond our walls.

Reflecting back on the first few months of the 2020-21 school year and the early days of our return to in-person learning reminds us of an essential community truth that sustained us through the unique and challenging pandemic conditions. Our faculty, our students, and our parents and guardians will always persevere in creating an educational experience that fosters the potential and promise of us all to be conscientious, courageous changemakers. True to our life-long learning spirit, we took the best of School from Home, learned from public health experts, and created an environment that centered the educational promise of our students and the health and safety of every member of our school community and beyond. Within this issue of What’s Brewing are stories that capture the voices and narratives that defined the 2020-21 school year. We hear directly from the Class of 2021 about experiencing Live Oak in a hybrid setting and how this instilled new lessons both inside and outside of the classroom. We hear from faculty who reimagined curriculum by integrating technology and responding to their student’s desire to understand the world around them, deepening student thinking and fostering social connections in the process. And, continuing our school’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, we reflect on our school’s efforts in these unique times. This issue also features many alumni stories; from the Class of 1996 to the Class of 2020, Live Oak alumni are putting their Changemaker skills into action. It’s inspiring to see! Read on and nurture pride within yourself for being a part of the Live Oak School community. Gratefully,

Virginia Paik, Head of School

Advance Equity, Increase Diversity, Deepen Inclusion We will increase the racial diversity of our school community and expand the resources to support socio-economic diversity while ensuring that all students and families feel a sense of belonging.

Promote The Live Oak Way

Secure Assets To Support Priorities

We will clearly communicate the research-backed methods and philosophical motivations that underlie Live Oak’s teaching and learning, and conscientiously tend to our school culture.

We will understand the resources necessary to align our vision and offerings as well as deepen our financial resilience.



Reopening Live Oak School


By Erik Paxman, Director of Operations & Finance PENING LIVE OAK SCHOOL for in-person learning in the 2020-21 school year was a huge lift that involved the patience and effort of teachers, administrators, and parents and guardians. Throughout the

summer and early fall of 2020, much time

and energy was spent planning for and then

implementing in-person learning once the city gave the green light. Below is a summary of the things that were done to safely and securely open the school for our students and their teachers:


Re-envision the Live Oak campus to maximize the number of

students that could be in-person each day n

Upgrade the HVAC system for better air circulation and

improved filtration n

Implement a new drop-off and dismissal app that included

health screening n

Purchase new desks and chairs for Lower School students (250+)


Assemble desks and install in classrooms

(A big thanks to the Facilities team and volunteers from the Buildings and Grounds Committee) n

Prepare the campus for inspection by the City

- Mark all classrooms for desk locations - Set up desk and chairs to meet 6’ distancing requirements - Post COVID-19 notices around the school - Paint distancing markings inside and outside the school - Install hand sanitizer dispensers across the campus n

Train all faculty and staff on COVID-19 protocols

That Live Oak was able to remain open for most of the 2020-21 school year is a testament to the dedication of our faculty, staff, and families and adherence to the recommended guidelines and practices of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. •

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Student Voices: Class of 2021 IVE OAK’S CLASS OF 2021 certainly had a unique eighth grade year. From starting the school year online, to returning to campus in November, and applying to high schools virtually, our eighth graders demonstrated a keen sense of adaptability and curiosity. In their own words, here were some moments and lessons that they’ll carry with them.

Kai: A unique memory I have of this year was meeting my kindergarten buddy for the first time, even from a distance! It was also surprising that even when doing School from Home, I still enjoyed school. Opal: Getting Goat Hill pizza with my advisory class was a fun moment. It almost felt like “normal” times. Justin: I’ll never forget walking into school and class on my first day back and being welcomed by so many. It was clear to me how much our section had bonded and how being in person was a better learning experience for me. Simone: One of my favorite memories was doing karaoke over zoom with my advisory.


Catherine: Learning over zoom was very challenging for me. I was surprised that we had the chance to be on campus, especially since it was hard to get children back to school in person. Being back on campus meant happiness and the chance to have a better experience in my last year at Live Oak. It’s also taught me that even when things are hard, to push through and to never give up.

Malani: There were so many unique memories from this year so it is hard to name just one. I feel like there was a lot going on with the pandemic and things like that, which just made school different. I’ve learned to ask a lot more questions.

Delilah: This school year was unique because I went to class from my bedroom every day. It was a challenge to stay motivated at times when I saw my friends and classmates having fun at school, while I was still doing School from Home. I enjoyed science class so much though! I usually prefer humanities classes, but science this year was so much fun and interesting and I loved it! My favorite project was recording and writing a podcast with Audrey. We explained why circus animals shouldn’t be a part of the circus because they are only there for other people’s pleasure. Oliver H.: Making close friendships with my advisory classmates was a perk of this school year. Over the years at Live Oak, I have made friends that I never thought I’d make and now we are closer than ever.

Gunner: I got my first 100% on a math test this year! Tyler: Returning to campus felt like almost having a normal school year: seeing my friends, hands on learning—just the normal aspects of class you would normally see. Because it’s hybrid, it was challenging going back and forth between online and in person classes. I’m still surprised though at how much time Live Oak was able to provide students when it came to in person learning. •



Second Grade Literacy


By Keren Bein, Second Grade Teacher

N SECOND GRADE, students begin to develop a rich reading and writing life as they deepen their identities as readers and writers. We guide students to make reading selections that support independent thinking and their personal interest. In the 2020-21 school year, students used technology to support these explorations and to help them to communicate their thinking with peers. When we returned to school, students took a deep dive into the nonfiction genre. During School from Home, many of the students were reading books online using Epic!, which allowed us to curate book

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selections based on a student’s interest. Students then recorded book reviews and practiced blog writing on SeeSaw. Using these platforms, students made connections between current and historical events using a collection of books centered on civil rights leaders and changemakers including Ruby Bridges, John Lewis, Malcolm X, MLK, Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela. These readings informed classroom discussions and provided context for second graders to grapple with the current Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 Presidential election. To balance the technology time, we focused on building pen and paper strategies to analyze reading. Book clubs and reading partners integrated Branches students who

were learning at home, fostering social connections along the way. Students learned note taking strategies and accumulated topic specific vocabulary. They also learned to use a semantic web to organize key information about nonfiction topics. This skill proved useful as students looked closely at recipes, coins, collections of concert tickets, CD jackets, and packaging. They used their expert nonfiction eyes to grow knowledge, notice details, and ask plenty of questions. At the conclusion of the nonfiction unit, second graders designed their own posters to teach others about a favorite topic. The lower school hallway featured these colorful posters depicting images, facts, and ideas on otters, asteroids, snakes, and Naomi Osaka. •

A Medium for the Times: Using Art to Answer Big Questions


By Francisca Guzman, Director of Communications

T LIVE OAK SCHOOL, our students’ identity development is essential to our efforts to support their potential and promise. Our students’ work to understand themselves by finding mirrors and windows in their world is a K to 8 project. Their art classes provide an important platform for these lessons. “Art is a medium that allows students to self-express with confidence, and with that they can depict an honest message about who they are and how they see their world,” shares lower school art teacher José Trujillo. Even during a pandemic year, Live Oak’s hallways and bulletin boards were filled with student artwork. There were Mondrian inspired grids, ceramic self-portraits (one even winked at you), black and white silhouettes, sneaker drawings, and wave sculptures. Our hallways were our galleries, and our students the artists. Last year’s creations mirrored the specific circumstances that pandemic teaching and learning have created. Working from a wheeling cart packed with containers of paint, scissors, markers, brushes, and other supplies, José and his students made the most of their traveling art studio. Clay projects were replaced by bridge sculptures using readily available recycled materials. Spray paint remained on the shelves of the art room this year, replaced by markers and oil pastels, which were easier to clean up in shared classroom spaces. “Both the students and I had to do a fair share of problem solving and improvisation,” explains José. “One part of that was adapting lessons and instructions to support students on campus as well as those online. We needed to have projects that were accessible and equitable to all of them.” Technical and logistical considerations were coupled with adaptations of the curriculum itself in response to the big questions students brought to their work in the tumultuous pandemic year. “The level of awareness that students brought into the art room about current events made it essential to create an environment where students could process that information in connection to who they are,” says José. Racial injustice, COVID-19, electoral politics, and climate change were some of the larger themes that students explored through their work. For example, fifth grade students had a unit on Kara Walker, a Black artist known for her silhouette images depicting enslaved people. Students studied some of her works, watched a short documentary, and then engaged in open dialogue as a class before creating their own silhouette vignette stories. “That was a hard unit to present to fifth graders,” reflects José. “But the students did not shy away from the conversations and the feelings that Walker’s work elicited. The open dialogue allowed for them to think and reflect back on what they heard, and what they felt, and then translate that into their art.” José stresses that it is the process of creating art, as much as the final product itself, that allows for the authentic expression that he sees in his students’ work. “As faculty, we provide a structure and curriculum, but the most important part is for our students to have the freedom to express themselves, and to know that they can add to the structure in any way they want.” •


Advancing Racial Justice


By Adrian Takyi, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion HE GLOBAL COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to redesign our learning environments, rethink our instructional strategies, and reimagine our community events and traditions. Yet, through all of this unprecedented change, Live Oak has remained vigilantly focused on maintaining and strengthening our commitment to equity, inclusion, and social justice in our curriculum and community. Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, and the Black Lives Matter Movement momentum that followed, we committed to deepening our community’s understanding and action on issues of racial justice. As we prepared for our students to return to school this last fall, whether virtual or in-person, we made sure our faculty were ready to help our students process the summer’s events and feel supported in our community moving forward. At the start of the year, Live Oak committed to use our professional time to address the challenges of hybrid learning and to advance racial justice in our community. All faculty set explicit racial justice goals as part of their professional goal setting, and we planned professional development sessions

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throughout the year to enrich and improve our racial literacy skills. In addition to hosting these in-house trainings, the school tapped into the experience and expertise of Rosetta Lee, a renowned DEI facilitator, to extend our perspectives. Combined with learning communities such as SEED and ARE, racial affinity sessions, and our continued presence at regional and national conferences, we developed a dynamic and layered professional program to enhance the expertise, action, and sense of belonging in our community.

The fight for racial justice is an intergenerational one and there is action to be taken by all of us ... We also know that this work cannot stop with our teachers and administrators. Supporting the continuing education of our parent and guardian community is vital to the success of these efforts. Last school year, we hosted civil rights activist Valarie Kaur in conversation with Virginia at a SPEAK event; held parent and guardian enrichment events focused on antiracism and white fragility; and pivoted to

a virtual platform that enabled us to continue hosting family affinity events for our underrepresented community members to find support and solidarity. Our Board of Trustees participated in workshops to deepen their own racial literacy, to recognize and confront white dominant culture, and to increase engagement in courageous conversations about race and privilege. Building a truly inclusive and equitable community can feel like an endless pursuit, but we believe that it is the only moral path to follow. Only when we examine our own biases, confront our own blindspots, and dig into discomfort can we hope to make lasting progress. The fight for racial justice is an intergenerational one and there is action to be taken by all of us—faculty, staff, students, and families—to ensure a better future. We cannot allow today’s victories to result in tomorrow’s complacency. We must commit to this work not only when injustice is in the news, but also in the space between crises, when the world can feel safer and the headlines are more palatable. It is in these times that complacency can set in and derail our broader goals. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” My hope is that with dedication, vulnerability, and a conviction to do what is right, Live Oak can do our part to hasten our progress on that arc. •

Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED)


AST YEAR WAS LIVE OAK’S SECOND YEAR as a member site for The National SEED Project. Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) is a peer-facilitated seminar where faculty and staff meet in ongoing sessions to engage in structured conversations on equity and diversity. The goal of the National SEED Project is to illuminate ways participants can support their schools in becoming more equitable and just. While our inaugural SEED community found a home in the Arkansas room for a handful of hours every month, the pandemic meant that we were a virtual community for the recent school year. Lisa Duque shares that SEED work asks a lot of its members. “We dig deep into the experiences that shape the ways that we show up in the world, for one another and for the students. There is so much beauty and value in hearing one another’s stories; we grow closer as a community, but we also learn deeper truths about ourselves, as well.” Frameworks and structures within the SEED sessions include personal reflection and testimony, listening to others’ voices, and learning experientially and collectively, in the context of each participant’s intersecting identities. In this way, SEED equips participants to connect their lives to one another and to society at large by acknowledging systems of power, oppression, and privilege. One participant noted of the experience that “mindful practices make me hopeful, resources give me insight, and community gives me courage.” SEEDers meet, share and reflect with an aim to create the most effective environments for learning and flourishing, considering the need for curricula, teaching methods, and workplace practices that are gender fair, multiculturally equitable, socioeconomically aware, and globally informed. Sharyne Beza reflects, “The framework for discussions in SEED has helped me put language and light to my own experiences within systems of oppression. Because of this, I have grown my perspective in relating to my colleagues and students. I want to use this knowledge to reflect and challenge my own practice as an educator to bring equity, justice, and humanity to our curriculum.” •

ANTI RACIST EDUCATORS ANTI RACIST EDUCATORS (ARE) is an ongoing group of white identifying Live Oak teachers and staff who work together in pursuit of racial justice within ourselves and in our community. While it may sound strange for white people to meet in a group separate from people of color to talk about race, we believe that it is an essential aspect of antiracist work. We know that it’s critical for white people to explore our own racial biases and internalized racism if we are going to gain understanding. We also know that exploring our biases with people of color can sometimes place an additional burden on their lives. ARE seeks to provide a space and structure for white people so that we can be better informed about the origins of whiteness and how it operates, more skilled in addressing it, and more open to antiracist work in our larger community. In ARE meetings, we focus on experiences that center whiteness so that we can learn to decenter it in our teaching practices, our collegial relationships, and in our lives beyond Live Oak. •


Class of 2021


HE CLASS OF 2021 GRADUATION marked a joyful return to Mariposa Street and Live Oak’s first foray into livestreaming! It was a privilege and an honor to welcome our graduating class and our newest students to mark this extraordinary year. Some traditions that mark the end of

the school year were reimagined (a virtual Step Up Ceremony!) and others, like the bagpiper, held true. Congratulations to the Class of 2021—you’ve taught us all the power of flexibility and connection to carry us through!



HELLO LIVE OAK families, faculty and staff, and students. Look at us all here again on Mariposa Street after two long years. So much has happened since we were last here. Thank you to the teachers and faculty that make this day and every day happen. And thank you to my fellow classmates for entrusting me with this great honor. Collective events can define a generation. 9 WHAT’S BREWING | School Year 2020-21


They can change the course of history and they can inspire people to speak up and do things differently and fundamentally change the world. For everyone in the audience, ask yourself “What event changed your generation?” For some it was the assasination of John F. Kennedy. For others it was the space shuttle Challenger tragedy. And for some it was 9/11. But for us, there isn’t just one. There have been multiple big events that have shaped the course of history in the past year alone. The murder of George Floyd, a global climate crisis, the attack on the US Capitol, the election of Joe Biden, and a global pandemic. All of these, plus whatever personal challenges we have faced, have changed us forever. What did these events teach us? This year’s challenges have taught us to be over prepared, be ready for anything, and to be

persistent in the hardest of times. My question is what happens when we combine everything the generations of Live Oak students before us have learned with the extraordinary events of this year? What are the lessons Live Oak teaches us? Kindies, I remember when I was your age and I walked into school on the first day terrified that I wouldn’t make any friends, and I wouldn’t fit in. But when I got there I was greeted by Virginia with a warm hello and big smile and I was no longer worried. This small gesture made me feel welcomed. This was my very first lesson from Live Oak. But all our lessons didn’t come from Virginia. Scott taught us to add thought and time into our art. Neil taught us you don’t have to raise your voice to get your point across. Renata taught us to add detail to our work to make it more enjoyable to our reader. Johnny taught us that being weird isn’t weird. Marcus taught us to add humor to everything we do. Carlos taught us the power of kindness. Robbie taught us that sports are not all about winning. And last but not least, Stephanie taught us to be loud to make sure everyone can hear us. So what is the answer? What happens when we combine everything the generations of Live Oak students before us have learned with the extraordinary events of this year. My answer is there is no one answer. Everyone will step away from this experience learning different lessons, so I can only speak for myself. Above all, I have learned that we’re better together than we are apart. I have learned not to take the little things for granted. I have learned what it is to adapt. And I have learned that sometimes you just have to do it on your own.

The Class of 2021 will continue their educational adventure at the following schools: SEATED (L-R):

Criya Mickles – St. Ignatius College Prep Jane Heruty – St. Ignatius College Prep Opal Williams Law – Urban School of San Francisco Alex Billick – Jewish Community High School of the Bay Tor Fillbrandt – St. Ignatius College Prep Gunnar Grubbs – Palo Alto High School Isaac Grossnickle – Drew School Max Borgiotti – Bay School of San Francisco Fitz Brockway– San Francisco University High School Justin Babler-Keubler – Drew School Scott Schemmel-Shapiro – The Marin School STANDING (L-R):

The difference between other graduating classes and our class is simple. The answer is change. Other generations have been led to believe that change will come in time and happen eventually. But our class has been led to know that the time for change is now. Thank you.


a second home. But the people I am most grateful to have in my life are my parents, Marlon and Gilda Hernandez. Thank you for guiding my learning and doing everything possible to walk in the path of greatness. Kindness, integrity, and love are the values that Live Oak School has taught me and my fellow peers. These three values have guided me to become a better person in my lower school and middle school years. Soon these values will guide us to high school and future experiences. Once again, it’s an honor to be among such accomplished individuals and to be able to share this moment with you all. Thank you. Gracias.

Georgie Miles – San Francisco University High School Malani Bluford – Archbishop Riordan High School Miles Coleman – St. Ignatius College Prep Olivia Miles – San Francisco University High School Oliver Bodden-Howard – Urban School of San Francisco Thalia White – Lick-Wilmerding High School Nicolas Greene – Urban School of San Francisco Iliana Lazo – San Francisco Girls School Audrey Carter – Drew School Nala Urrutia – Lick-Wilmerding High School Dylan Wittenberg – Drew School Catherine Galvez – Thacher School Oliver Hernandez – Urban School of San Francisco Lena Wilson – Drew School Sunil Maurillo – Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts Phoebe Brockway – Convent of the Sacred Heart Delilah Ricciardi – Urban School of San Francisco Kai Atkin – Urban School of San Francisco Bobbi Mulatu – Drew School Lelio Maurillo – Bay School of San Francisco Simone Maurillo – Urban School of San Francisco Tyler Kunz – International High School NOT PICTURED:

Joey Carlson – Drew School Dean Mortillaro – St. Ignatius College Prep

BUENOS DÍAS A TODOS. Good morning. I promised my parents I wasn’t going to cry. For those who don’t know me my name is Oliver Hernandez and I started my first year at Live Oak in fifth grade. I’m very honored to be the recipient of the Holy Horton Award and to be part of the Live Oak community. I want to thank everyone who has pushed and helped me to become the person I am today. This would not have been possible without my friends, my teachers, and the parents and guardians of this lovely class. I would also like to say a great thank you to Virginia, the Head of School, and a friend to all of us. Her hard work and dedication has made Live Oak a fantastic school environment and personally 10

Sophia Patterson, Class of 2017 ALUMNI SPEAKER


HELLO, MY NAME is Sophia Patterson and I was a graduate of Live Oak’s Class of 2017. I just graduated from Lick-Wilmerding High School and will be attending the University of California-Davis in the fall. As I move forward, I will never forget the steps that brought me to this moment and helped me develop into the independent and creative adult that I am today. Live Oak taught me that community is more than simply a title, but a feeling and a value to uphold throughout your life. From Groves to class camping trips, I learned how to find strength in those who surround me, and to love others unconditionally. My teachers taught me to love what I learn and to bring my passion with me in whatever adventure awaits me. The confidence and curiosity Live Oak inspired in me is something I will forever be grateful for. Live Oak has also gifted me with my most long lasting friendships, as I just graduated with my best friend since 6th grade. When I walked down Live Oak’s halls for the last time, my journey was far from over. Class of 2021, your journey has just begun. So before you venture far from the walls of Live Oak, I want to give you a few tools to help you in this next chapter. Firstly, you don’t have to be extraordinary to be worthy of love and respect. I know it can be easy to compare your accomplishments to others’ and find yourself wanting to be better than those around you. But something that I have learned in high school is that when you measure in comparison, it’s hard to find the beauty and love within yourself. No matter what you choose to do, as long as you bring passion and curiosity, you will find joy and excel. Secondly, be kind. This is something I learned from my time at Live Oak and haven’t forgotten since. Whether it be the lunch lady in your cafeteria, the new kid on your soccer team, or your chemistry teacher, community is everything and the people you build relationships with are going to become your biggest supporters. Be kind to everyone you meet, simply because you can. Lastly, take your time. We live in a world where children and teens are forced to grow up much too fast. Enjoy your time in high school and enjoy your time as a teenager. There are books to read, friends to make and so many new memories to be made. Don’t let the pressure of high school distract you from the fact that you are here, and life is beautiful, so slow down when you can. You’ll cherish those moments. I wish each and every one of you the best of luck on your next adventure. • 11 WHAT’S BREWING | School Year 2020-21

Legacy Gift


HE CLASS OF 2021 presented Live Oak with a gift of $50,473 for the Live Oak School Endowment. Live Oak’s Endowment was seeded in 2011 to support, in perpetuity, Live Oak’s Adjusted Tuition Program, faculty and staff professional development, and other strategic priorities of the school. Over the last ten years, the Fund also grew—to $2.9 million dollars. This year, the Endowment’s investment income generated $100,000 in additional income for Live Oak’s Adjusted Tuition Program and for faculty workshops and training. Thanks to the generosity of our eighth grade families the Live Oak School Endowment will continue to grow, providing even more income in the future to deepen diversity and support our faculty’s professional growth.

2 0 2 1 L E GA C Y G I F T D O N O R S Dave Atkin and Adrienne Digiesi Martin Babler and Peter Kuebler Sergio and Amanda Borgiotti Gregg and Anna Brockway Judith A. Carroll J.J. and Jenn Carter Scott Coleman and Heather O’Neill David and Sylvia Weisz Family Foundation Matthew and Stephanie Fillbrandt Melvin Galvez Todd and Lisa Greene Joshua Grossnickle and Hope Schmeltzer Edwin and Lisa Grubbs Steven and Christy Heruty Brian Kunz Nicholas Law and Odette Williams Mike Maurillo and Ranu Mukherjee Willie and Crystal Mickles Christine Miles Richard Mortillaro and Patricia Downey Melissa Raphaely Andre and Janice Ricciardi Luke Schemmel and Jonathan Shapiro Teri Schneckenberger William White and Alexandre Petrakis Marcel Wilson Evan and Carla Wittenberg 12


Live Oak Alumni Stories: Life During COVID-19 Richard Baltimore CLASS OF 1996 Live Oak School Alumni Changemaker 2017 After Live Oak, Richard attended The Branson School and Morehouse College. His journey to working with community programs began when a friend invited him to help lead a local Boy Scout troop in Brooklyn, where the boys lacked positive role models. Working with the Boy Scouts of America, Richard won Scoutmaster of the Year and Spark Plug Awards. Professionally, he has served as Director at the Salvation Army in Chicago, and a Partner Relations Manager at Year Up in Washington D.C., an organization that mentors students through high school and college. As the Community Center and Programs Director for a non-profit in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, Richard founded an Open Gym program, providing a safe place for people to socialize at night, to play basketball, and relax, away from the uncertainty and violence that might experience while spending time on the street. He writes, “I not only enjoyed playing basketball with community members but saw evidence that I was accomplishing my goal when people from rival gangs began arriving to play basketball together peacefully.” In the next five years, Richard sees himself leading and making impactful changes in Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Outside of his professional life, he enjoys playing soccer, volunteering, playing drums, and hiking with his dog, Rhea, who he got during the pandemic. He is also slowly working on a recently purchased fixer-upper.

Emily Cosin CLASS OF 2000 After Live Oak, Emily attended Miramonte High School in Orinda, CA. Proving to be a lifelong learner, she then attended Chico State for her undergraduate degree, Boston University for her Masters in Mental Health and Behavioral Medicine, and the Wright Institute for her PhD in Psychology. Emily now works as a clinical psychologist and has a private practice focused on perinatal mental health.

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Emily loves to spend time outside, hiking, gardening, and being with her family. They recently bought five acres in Petaluma and devote plenty of time to planning a small farm. In the next five years, she sees herself running a nature program for toddlers on their land while maintaining a small private practice.

Brendan O’Callaghan CLASS OF 2002 Brendan attended St. Ignatius College Prep before continuing on to Lawrence University in Wisconsin, where he played baseball. He transferred to Oregon State University and completed a BA in English and a BS in Forestry. Brendan works in public affairs and politics, currently as the Director of Public Affairs for Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Prior to his current role, he served five-and-a-half years on the communications team for the University of California President (and former DHS secretary and governor of Arizona) Janet Napolitano. One of the most exceptional experiences of Brendan’s professional career was serving on President Napolitano’s team while she and the UC system, on behalf of its undocumented students, sued the Trump administration over the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Napolitano created as DHS secretary. The case made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States and received a favorable ruling, affirming that DHS’s decision to end DACA lacked sound reasoning. In January 2021, Brendan and his wife welcomed their first child, Daniel, and have been busy adjusting to life as parents and the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn! Beyond watching their son grow and learn every day, they spend their free time skiing and exploring local natural areas with their two dogs, and enjoying life in New York, where there is truly something happening 24/7. Brendan writes, “A highlight of the pre-pandemic era was catching Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway.” He is also a runner and triathlete and hopes to train for another ironman-distance race as events return.

Oliva Evans CLASS OF 2006 Olivia went to Lick-Wilmerding High School and graduated from Dartmouth College in 2014. She now works on the marketing & communications team at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory. X’s mission is to build and launch new “moonshot” technologies to help solve some of the world’s hardest problems— including clean energy, ocean health, sustainable agriculture, and more. Her job is to tell the story of their moonshot projects and build excitement for them so that they can have a greater chance of success in the world. Recently, Olivia developed Moonshots!, a video game, which teachers have been using in classrooms to inspire students to get involved in STEM and then use their creativity to solve big problems in the world. She writes, “It’s a bit like Cards Against Humanity, except more like Cards For Humanity.” The pandemic ushered in an era of remote work, which has allowed Olivia and her partner to live in different parts of the US. So far they have lived in: 1) Park City, Utah, 2) Grand Lake, Colorado, 3) Taos, New Mexico 4) Austin, Texas 5) New Orleans, Louisiana 6) Jackson Hole, Wyoming 7) Venice, California. These locales have shown her how much beauty is to be found right here in America, sometimes only a couple hours drive right outside of San Francisco. She’s hoping that Zion might be a future stop! In her free time, Olivia loves reading, watching movies, and has even dabbled a bit with writing children’s books. She also volunteers as a reading tutor with Reading Partners, working to develop a love of reading and skills in elementary school students in the Bay Area.

Hannah Mills Dragomanovich CLASS OF 2007 Hannah graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2015 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She’s currently in the final few months of medical school at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, CA. Hannah is looking forward to graduating in May and starting a Family Medicine residency at Lifelong Medical Care in Richmond, CA in July. As a future physician, Hannah recognizes both the privilege of being a leader and the responsibility to advocate for those in her community. Being interested in advocacy and social justice, she has been involved over the last few years with the organization California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP), serving on their student and resident council as the Advocacy Chair for her local chapter. Hannah is currently a CAFP Health Policy Fellow, learning about health policy, leadership, and patient advocacy.

Some of the initiatives Hannah has recently worked on include: improving health care access for formerly incarcerated persons reentering back into society, calling for family physicians to be more active in the fight against climate change, and increasing minority representation in medical education. Hannah writes, “Being a Changemaker is a lifelong privilege and responsibility and I am so happy to hear that students are learning the importance of this at such a young age.” Hannah was married in 2018 and currently lives in Berkeley with her husband, Conor, and their dopey Labrador, Titus. Pre-pandemic they loved to travel but now they have been enjoying going on hikes around the Bay Area and puzzling.

Callie Cesewski CLASS OF 2017 Callie is a recent graduate of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA) and will be attending UC Berkeley this fall. At SOTA, Callie was part of the musical theatre department, getting extensive training in singing, dancing, and acting. She was a member of the Sunrise Movement, a national climate advocacy group focused on policy change. Callie led the Jew Crew club, and was a co-lead on the Environmental Club at school. She also loves to craft! Last year, Callie helped organize a project called Window Earths through SOTA’s Environmental Club. The club made Earths out of recyclable materials and placed them in their windows for Earth Day. She was excited about the submissions from far and wide and shared them as manager of the project’s Instagram account. Callie writes, “To all the current Live Oak students out there, I hope you make the most out of going to a school like Live Oak; they really prepare you for high school and beyond!”

Thijs Simonian CLASS OF 2020 Thijs is currently attending LickWilmerding High School. He recently placed first in the 2021 LancerHacks Hackathon! LancerHacks is a 12hour hackathon organized by the programming club at Saint Francis High School, hosting approximately 200 students. In response to the rise in misinformation on social media, Thijs created FactCheqr, a Discord bot that flags misinformation and allows users to factcheck comments and view statistics. •




Play More, Laugh Harder, Love Without Limits


AVI DONOBEDIAN graduated from Live Oak in 2010. He was selected as our 2021 Alumni Changemaker for his work helping people lead healthier, happier lives that are full of self compassion, care for the environment, and plenty of play. Eleven years after speaking at his graduation from Live Oak, Xavi once again spoke to our middle schoolers this time over Zoom. His warmth and openness inspired questions from students about how to handle a parents’ divorce, healthy eating and body image, and even how to start a business. Below is an excerpt of what Xavi shared with our middle school students. My vision for the future is for a world of embodied self-masters that lead with compassionate action and relentless selflove. I see tremendous opportunity for every person on this planet to create a deeper, more curious relationship to their most vulnerable

emotions. Whether you seek to be a captain of industry, an artist, a schoolteacher, perhaps a professional athlete, the invitation into deeper self-compassion is the primary route by which we create lasting health and success. I foresee a global community united by mutual respect, living in harmony with the earth through localized, regenerative farming and ranching practices, and ripping on life through boundless play. I moved to San Francisco with my father at the age of eight, leaving behind my mother in New Mexico. When I arrived at Live Oak, I quickly realized that my life path was atypical by comparison to some of my other classmates. As a child of divorce, I struggled deeply with self esteem, codependency, addiction, and depression. Willed forward by a supportive community of peers and faculty, I gathered a bit of steam that I hoped would carry me through those troubling times. During the summer between seventh and eighth grade, I lost a lot of weight thanks to my commitment to what

I believed then were healthy lifestyle practices. In retrospect, my drive to lose weight came from a place of self-denial rather than self-love. Unbeknownst to me at the time, unraveling the etiology of self-sabotage through personal development would become my life’s work. I gained back all the weight I’d lost in middle school while in high school. The same low selfesteem patterns which drove my desire to lose weight during my tenure at Live Oak continued to gnaw at me. At the age of nineteen, I finally began to confront the unresolved shame, guilt, and fear of my childhood. While meandering through

Xavi’s Compassion Meditation n

Find a comfortable seat, legs crossed with the hips elevated above your knees.









Begin to breathe slowly and rhythmically into your belly. Invite yourself to feel into your heart. Ask yourself: How does your heart feel today? As the answer comes into your awareness, notice where that resides in your body. Breath into this part of your body. Ask yourself: What does this part of me need to hear today? Breathe deeply as you answer this question for yourself.


Bring your hands to the heart.


Say the words you need to hear out loud.


15 WHAT’S BREWING | School Year 2020-21

Lengthen through your spine and feel the crown of your head elevate to the ceiling.

Repeat this process for any emotion that may arise throughout the day.


Advancing Equity and Inclusion By Kendra Mastain, DIrector of Advancement

L a career as a barista at small specialty coffee shops in San Francisco, I spent the majority of my time embracing the spiritual perspective necessary to become the man of my dreams—a healthy entrepreneur who leads with compassionate action and relentless self-love. Between 2014 and 2018, I lost over 100 pounds. I rekindled my connection to the Xavi that I had been in 8th grade. I combined movement with solid nutrition from a place of self-love rather than selfneglect. Fueling my body with healthy foods, I spent hours on a yoga mat, using that practice as a catalyst to release painful childhood memories. During this same period, I began to study with other well known holistic movement and functional medicine practitioners. In 2018, led by this extensive education, I started Organic Health Movement, a health coaching platform. My extensive educational background in functional medicine, corrective exercise, and stress management informs my daily work with clients, who now range from entrepreneurs to professional athletes. My coaching focuses on helping my clients regain vitality by playing more, laughing harder, and learning to love without limits. This mindset is the foundation by which lifestyle change is implemented and explored. In doing this work, I found that yoga and mindfulness are primarily available to those of affluence, which inspired my choice to bring those practices to underserved populations. I began teaching weekly classes for the residents at Joy Junction, a homeless shelter, in Albuquerque. I was humbled to meet countless folks that were willing to share their story along the way. I was blown away by the courage of these individuals to move faithfully through their hardship. The experience truly changed my perspective on what it means to be “homeless”. Perhaps the most poignant phrase came from a woman in class one day, who said, “We’re not homeless, just houseless.” •

IVE OAK’S ADVANCEMENT DEPARTMENT sits just off the Rooftop Playground. Drop in anytime and you will find Francisca, Kendra, and Maycon working to tell our stories and raising money for Live Oak’s programs. The role of Advancement Departments in schools is to advance the mission. For Live Oak, this means finding equitable and inclusive ways to raise money for programs; sharing the stories that give prospective families a window into our school; and providing current and alumni families the information and inspiration they need to be involved. Inclusion and equity have not always been considered in fundraising, but at Live Oak we believe they should be. Typically, expensive parties and leadership donor events are common strategies used to raise money. In most cases, these events leave many people in the community feeling left out. Several years ago, Live Oak began to examine and evaluate every event with an eye toward inclusion. Our goal was to broaden our events so that families and staff could celebrate the transformative impact of philanthropic support from major donors while also showing gratitude for the cumulative power of generosity within the community. It was decided that from that time forward, all events hosted by Live Oak would be free and accessible to everyone. The one exception to this are affinity events which provide valuable opportunities for individual racial and identity groups to build connections. All of Live Oak’s parties, meetings, and school gatherings were evaluated to determine if they met the criteria of accessibility. Those events that didn’t were taken off the calendar. The first event we eliminated was the auction, later came Barbecue Bingo–a party and dinner families had to pay to attend. In most cases events that were eliminated were replaced with inclusive gatherings with the purpose of building community, like the After Party, a year-end event for the adults at our school; and Community Service Night, an evening where families engage in projects for the humane society, Family House, and other nonprofit organizations providing necessary services in our community. Additionally, Live Oak committed to ask families for only one donation during the school year with the assurance that they wouldn’t be asked for additional gifts in that same year. This includes special projects of any kind as well as student fundraisers. Each year, one or more students request permission to raise money from their classmates for a passion project. When these requests are made, students are encouraged to focus on projects that benefit from volunteer time rather than money. Creating equitable and inclusive advancement and fundraising programs at Live Oak is a continuous process. The work isn’t finished, but the Advancement Department is committed to providing opportunities for everyone to support Live Oak in ways that strengthen their sense of belonging at our school. •

50 YEARS OF LIVE OAK THE 2021-22 SCHOOL YEAR marks Live Oak’s 50th year and we have much to celebrate! While we have come a long way from the early days on Ocean Avenue, Live Oak remains as committed as ever to providing a progressive education that builds the potential and promise of our students and activates their changemaker skills. As our 50th anniversary unfolds in the 2021-22 school year, we will have a number of exciting events, culminating with the biggest After Party ever. The year will bring opportunities to reflect on the past while securing our commitment to Live Oak’s future 50 years! • 16


Faculty Spotlight: Wil Dionisio By Francisca Guzman, Director of Communications


HERE’S NO WAY to mistake Wil Dionisio. There are the ever present hoodie and sneakers, and the quiet, confident swagger. The greetings that pour in: “Hey Wil!” “Hi Willie Nelson!” “What’s up Wil?” The signature head nod in response, and a remark that is unique to the interaction at hand. There are not many at Live Oak who do not know Wil, which is no surprise given that he taught kindergarten art, and now teaches middle school PE. What follows is an is an excerpt from a recent conversation with Wil about teaching, pandemic connections, authenticity, and storytelling, among other things. Take us back, what brought you to Live Oak? I was working part-time for my brother’s real estate business and was looking for a job to supplement that. I saw a posting for a position in extended care, and I thought why not. I was a counselor at the Boys & Girls Club, which I liked and thought that this would be similar. Once I started, I was focused on being who I thought Live Oak wanted me to be. I came to my interview wearing a suit. And communicating and interacting with kids was very difficult in that context. It was like the kids could tell that I was trying too hard and not being authentic.

You wore a suit?! Code switching is a skill or coping mechanism that many people of color utilize in navigating primarily white spaces, what made it possible for you to drop that? Man, code switching is exhausting, you know! But, I naturally knew that the only way I was going to be able to engage and connect with the kids was to be true to who I am and to ignore the conventional trappings of what being a professional means. But I didn’t know that when I first started here. And one thing that’s become clear to me with time is that Live Oak respects and encourages everyone to be themselves. I was at the People of Color Conference, POCC, speaking to a head of school from Kentucky. We’re exchanging stories, he’s telling me about his son, and then he asks me if I speak this way all the time, referring to my accent. My response to him was, ‘Yeah.’ Those moments remind me of the value we place on authenticity as a school. Becoming comfortable with your identity seems to have changed things for you professionally. How did this translate into your teaching and building a community with kids? Almost immediately when I showed up wearing a hat and I stopped hiding my accent,

the kids gravitated towards me. Maybe it was because I was so different from anyone else at Live Oak, and the kids were like, ‘Who is that guy?’, but my connections with students became more organic and meaningful. It goes to show that we’ve got to keep it real. I realized that if I could communicate clearly with a kindergartner or an eighth grader, then communicating with adults is no thing. And with time, that shift allowed me to gain so much confidence in my ability to teach. Working with kids always came naturally to me. I am not a classically trained teacher. In fact, I wasn’t planning on being a teacher. My friends would never have guessed that I’d be in this position. When I was younger, I was definitely more focused on the pursuit of the bottom line. When a position opened up for an Art Teaching Assistant, I was encouraged to apply. I was fortunate to have a good mentor in Beth Foote, who was an amazing teacher, and helped me develop skills through handson learning. From there, I picked up PE classes too. You know, once you get a taste of working with kids in education, it’s hard to leave. Would you say there is a specific purpose to why you teach? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; I’ve had lots of time with the pandemic. I’d say my goal or purpose at Live Oak is to help kids find their cool. I really cherish that. When you see me teach PE class, I’m sharing encouragement all the time. I can’t help it. I’m not doing it on purpose, but when I see something cool I have to bring it to their attention, and help them see that in each other. And what does “cool” mean to you? Cool equals authenticity. Students in K-3 are authentic to a fault. They don’t hide anything and are truly themselves. So, whether it’s a dope sneaker a kid is wearing, or a book they’re excited about, I want to draw attention to those things—the unique qualities about each kid. The other part of being cool is being humble. So, when I say a word wrong and

17 WHAT’S BREWING | School Year 2020-21

Thank You

the kids call me out on it, I acknowledge that I make mistakes too and this lowers their guard. And then, when we have to talk about expectations and things don’t go right, we have that trust. I can say, ‘You trust my opinion on what’s cool, so you also trust that I’m looking out for you.’ We have to hold each other accountable.

WE GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGE the parents and guardians, trustees, grandparents, past parents and guardians, alumni, foundations, friends, and faculty and staff who support Live Oak School. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this magazine. Please accept our sincere apologies if we have made any errors or omissions and bring them to the attention of the Advancement Office at (650) 273-9545.

Culture of Giving

Last year, you added being advisor to your roles at Live Oak, what has that been like? Being an advisor reminds me of growing up in a tight knit neighborhood, where there was always an adult who had your back and was not going to play you. I now have the opportunity—and responsibility— to stand up for myself and for others, and to serve as a mentor for my sixth grade advisees.

AT LIVE OAK, we practice philanthropy because we know that each act of generosity benefits every member of our community.

W H AT Y O U R G I F T S S U P P O RT Live Oak Fund Our annual fundraiser supports Live Oak’s exceptional educational experiences. We aim

Did you grow up in the Bay Area? Yeah, I was born in San Francisco and my family lived off of Folsom until I was five, when we moved to Daly City. I’m never leaving Daly City; the weather is too good. Fog is my lifeblood; it’s what gives me life. It’s good that Karl the Fog brings you so much joy. Where or how are you able to find joy in this year of pandemic teaching and learning? The joy is coming back. I have a great advisory that keeps me laughing and working. With kindergarten doing art is pure joy because they’re still joyful even with masks on. That kindergarten energy is just wonderful. It’s a true gift that working with kids has provided me in my personal life. A challenge has been bringing authenticity across through zoom and with social distancing. I use my whole face to communicate and a mask cuts that off. You still get some of that energy when you’re on a screen with them, it’s just different. But one of my advisees told one of his classmates, ‘Imagine if we didn’t have Wil as our advisor,’ and that was dope hearing that. So, the relationships are there, when we slow down and look for them.

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Endowment gifts ensure the fiscal strength of Live Oak in the decades to come; your donations are invested fully to generate income in perpetuity. You can direct your gifts to: n

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Gifts of privately held stock: Live Oak can often accept stock from privately held companies. This type of gift may provide capital gains tax protection in addition to an income tax deduction. Gifts from IRAs: An IRA Charitable Rollover may make sense if you are over 70 ½ by helping you still allowing you to satisfy your required minimum distribution. Gifts of real estate: Donating real estate, such as a home, vacation property, or commercial property may provide capital gains tax protection in addition to an income tax deduction. Gifts of life insurance: The donation of a whole life insurance policy can provide current-year or multiyear income tax deductions, depending on your instructions to cash in the policy or retain it until maturity.

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WAY S T O C O N T R I B U T E We are here to help with inspiration, information, and logistics to guide your giving at Live Oak. Email development@liveoaksf.org, call 650.273.9545, or drop by the development office on the 4th floor anytime.

Cash Gifts Cash gifts: Donate by cash, check, or credit card. You can donate online at liveoaksf.org/donate. We can also accept wire transfers. Pledges: A pledge amount payable in installments over time allows you to consider a more substantial commitment than might be possible with a one-

Bequests: By naming Live Oak in your will, you can provide support without any current cost and may receive an estate tax deduction. Retirement plan beneficiary designation: By naming Live Oak as a beneficiary of your plan, you retain your assets for your life while receiving an income tax and estate tax deduction at your death. Charitable trusts: Hold your appreciated assets in a trust that includes Live Oak as an eventual beneficiary while it generates regular income for you and provides capital gains tax protection. All gifts to Live Oak School are tax deductible as allowed by law. Live Oak a Learning Center for Children: Tax ID #94-2153158

time gift. Design: Elaine Kwong Design

That’s very cool. Are there any hobbies you’ve picked up during this time? I do a lot of storytelling and I just started doing stand up comedy. I’m finding that stepping up in front of a class is similar to stand up in that there is a chance you will bomb. I also know that when you laugh and giggle it makes it easier to make connections. I’m still taking classes and learning how to write and tell jokes; we’ll see when I make it up on stage. •

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What’s Brewing W HAT ’ S I N S I D E : • Student Voices • Advancing Racial Justice • Graduation • Alumni Changemaker • Faculty Spotlight: Wil Dionisio

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