Harker Magazine Fall/Winter 2019

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Fringe! Conservatory has outstanding run in Edinburgh





FAL L/W I NTER 2019, V O LU ME 11, N U MB E R 1 Pam Dickinson Office of Communication Director William Cracraft Managing Editor Catherine Snider Production Editor Mark Kocina Photographer Jennifer Maragoni Copy Editor Zach Jones Rebecca McCartney Staff Contributors Blue Heron Design Design Have an idea? Contact us: news@harker.org 408.345.9273 Or write: Harker Magazine 500 Saratoga Ave. San Jose, CA 95129 Harker is a Bay Area Green Certified Business of Santa Clara County. As part of our many sustainability efforts, Harker Magazine is printed on 100% recycled paper.

On the cover: The cast of “Urinetown� works the crowd at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo by Kathy Fang, grade 12. On this page: A kindergartner enjoys some quiet time during the Teddy Bear Picnic. Photo by Mark Kocina. On the back: First day of school at Bucknall! Photo by Mark Kocina.

HAR K E R MAGA Z I N E l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019


CONTENTS More Than Tech LID helps teachers transform classrooms.

Global Communication Language programs teach intercultural understanding.


Spotlight on the Crew A look behind the scenes at technical theater.

Entrepreneurship and Beyond Incubator classes guide startup development and pay off in life.


8 20 32 44

Headlines: Head of School Brian Yager reviews Harker’s recent


accreditation process.

Top Stories: A summary of the most-read articles from


Harker News.

Face Time: Up close and personal with teachers and staff.

15, 39, 51, 56

Gallery: Photo highlights from the past semester – fine arts, Fringe Festival, performing arts, community events, sports. . 16, 27, 28, 40, 52 Passion & Impact: Alumni following their dreams and 18, 30, 42, 54 making a difference in the world. Staff Kudos: Happenings in the professional lives of our faculty and staff.


Class Notes: Alumni news and photos.




From its early beginnings in 1893 – when Stanford University leaders assisted in its establishment – to its reputation today as a leading preparatory school with graduates attending prestigious universities worldwide, Harker’s mission has remained constant: to create an environment that promotes academic excellence, inspires intellectual curiosity, expects personal accountability and forever instills a genuine passion for learning. Whether striving for academic achievement, raising funds for global concerns, performing on stage or scoring a goal, Harker students encourage and support one another and celebrate each other’s efforts and successes, at Harker and beyond. Harker is a dynamic, supportive, fun and nurturing community where kids and their families make friends for life.

HARKER MAGAZINE Harker Magazine is published biannually, in December and June, to showcase some of the top news, visionary programs and inspiring people of the greater Harker community. This magazine and its predecessor, the Harker Quarterly, have been recognized with CASE silver and bronze awards, and two gold and three platinum MarCom awards.

Subscribe to Harker News and get the latest daily updates. Visit news.harker.org.

FIND, FRIEND & FOLLOW US! Join us for tweets, videos, announcements, photo sharing and more! Search “harkerschool”:

You can opt out of receiving Harker Magazine by mail and just read it online at https://issuu.com/ theharkerschool. To be removed from the mailing list, email us at communications@harker.org. The Harker School is an independent, coed, collegeprep school serving preschool through grade 12. Preschool: 4525 Union Ave., San Jose, CA 95124 K-Grade 5: 4300 Bucknall Rd., San Jose, CA 95130 Grades 6-8: 3800 Blackford Ave., San Jose, CA 95117 Grades 9-12: 500 Saratoga Ave., San Jose, CA 95129 Produced by the Harker Office of Communication 500 Saratoga Ave., San Jose, CA 95129 communications@harker.org · 408.345.9273 NEXT ISSUE: SPRING/SUMMER 2020


HAR K E R MAGA Z I N E l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019


About Harker


School’s Successful Reaccreditation is a Valuable Lesson in Introspection The fall season is an especially eventful time for two groups in our community: the seniors, who are working eagerly to find the next destination in their educational journey, and, conversely, the group of prospective students and families who are visiting Harker with the hopes that they can join the Harker community. It is a time of excitement, anticipation, and – as all seniors and their parents know – no small amount of anxiety. While understandable, we know that this last emotion fades quickly at the conclusion of the college admissions process, as all of our students will end up at institutions where they will thrive and grow. Year after year, our young alumni return to school with stories of gratitude for their Harker experience and the preparation they had here, and they affirm our efforts to meet our mission’s call to “prepare our students for success in college – and beyond.” For both our seniors and our prospective families, this admissions season is a period of assessment, both internal and external.

Though [CAIS is] instructed to provide no more than 15-20 commendations to a school, they gave Harker 38.

Last year, all of us in the Harker community engaged in a process that had many parallels to the admissions process: our accreditation review by CAIS/ WASC (the California Association of Independent Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges). The experience, which involved every staff member and a host of parent and student volunteers, and which was overseen with incredible aplomb by Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, started in spring 2017 as groups were formed to begin our self-study. Our yearlong self-review resulted in a document of more than 150 pages in length, which we presented to CAIS/WASC in fall 2018. The purpose of the self-study was for us to assess everything about ourselves, and, in so doing, to identify how well we are or are not meeting our goals, and the efficacy of the processes we are employing. In March 2019, a visiting team of educators from CAIS member schools spent four days at Harker. They made sure that we are meeting the expectations of CAIS member schools, and they explored how well we had identified our own strengths, challenges and opportunities.

These five recommendations will serve as focal points for our efforts in the coming years. Not surprisingly, one of the recommendations focused on our upcoming middle school move. It reads: ”The Visiting Team recommends that the school remain strongly focused on preparing, coordinating, communicating about, and effecting the move of the middle school program onto the Union Avenue campus, giving particular attention to the preschool faculty who remain so professionally and selflessly focused on delivering one of the finest preschool educations in the city.” In addition to the team’s acknowledgement of the importance of this effort to move the middle school, it was especially noteworthy that they embedded a much-deserved mention of support and praise for the amazing educators who have overseen our preschool program.

At the end of the visit, the team was tasked with penning its own report to present to the board of directors of CAIS/WASC. A significant portion of the report is dedicated to providing commendations and recommendations to member schools. Though they are instructed to provide no more than 15-20 commendations to a school, they gave Harker 38. The ideal outcome of the process is that a school receives a reaccreditation status valid for seven years, and that the report from the visiting committee affirms the work of the self-study, in that both the commendations and recommendations are aligned with our own analysis. To a remarkable degree, and thanks entirely to the engaged and earnest effort of the Harker community, we experienced an ideal outcome from this reaccreditation process, and have, as expected, been granted another seven years accreditation status. In addition to providing numerous commendations and minor recommendations, the visiting committee is tasked with producing a smaller number of major recommendations that reflect items it deems of significant importance to the school, and which we are required to address and report on during the course of the next seven years. It was affirming that each of these followed from our own assessment, and were consistent with our expectations entering the reaccreditation process.

Two other major recommendations focused on aspects of our existing efforts to provide an impactful educational environment in the arena of wellness and in our efforts related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These have been areas of focus since the previous accreditation, and the visiting committee encouraged us to sustain our efforts. The visiting team’s fourth recommendation is that we look to data to help us assess our efficacy and opportunities “to inform areas of growth, measure the effectiveness of change initiatives, and validate the delivery of the mission.” We are grateful for our membership in and accreditation by CAIS/WASC, and as is true of any good growth processes, the reaccreditation cycle required us to reflect deeply and work hard. Yet, the resulting benefits to our community and our educational program will be long-lasting and significant. The final element of the process is for us to create a strategic plan that incorporates the major recommendations. Our work to make this plan a productive and forward-looking one is well underway, with various groups already refining themes and initiatives. The plan should take its final form this spring, and we will present it to the community then, just around the same time our seniors are deciding which colleges they will attend, and when our new families will be welcomed into the Harker community. H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019


top stories

Top Stories Recent stories reprinted from Harker News online. Harker News publishes stories online about our students and faculty, highlighting accomplishments and celebrating successes. This Top Stories feature reprints the most widely read Harker News stories since the last issue of Harker Magazine (spring/summer 2019) went to press. Visit news.harker.org to see full stories and hundreds more articles noting the truly remarkable efforts of our Harker students and faculty

May 17, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-a7Q In mid-May, junior Allison Jia was named one of two winners of the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair! Jia’s project, which studied proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases, won her a $50,000 prize! It also was named Best in Category for cell and molecular biology and won a First Award, earning Jia an additional $5,000 and $1,000, respectively. Senior Ruhi Sayana also did well at the fair, winning a $10,000 scholarship from the Drug, Chemical & Associated Technologies Association for her project in the biomedical and health sciences category, in which she also won a $1,000 Third Award from Intel ISEF and a $500 Second Award from the Ashtavadhani Vidwan Ambati Subbaraya Chetty Foundation. In the computational biology and informatics category, junior Cynthia Chen received a Third Award of $1,000. All three students won trips to the Intel ISEF at the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science & Technology Championship in March.



HAR K E R MAGA Z I N E l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019

Six finalists and one semifinalist in ProjectCSGIRLS Competition

Photo by Jacqueline Orrell

Junior wins Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award at Intel ISEF

Incubator classes help students build on existing and new enterprises May 29, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-a9J The business and entrepreneurship department launched two incubator courses this school year. The two new academic incubator classes began in fall 2018: Honors Entrepreneurship: Startup Incubator 1 and Honors Entrepreneurship: Startup Incubator 2. Students in each of the courses receive coaching and mentorship from entrepreneurs, investors and business experts who visit the classes (see the feature article on the incubator program in this issue, page 44).


May 30, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-aaw Six Harker middle school girls were named finalists and one named a semifinalist in the 2019 ProjectCSGIRLS Competition for Middle School Girls, which encourages entrants to create technology projects that will improve people’s lives. Individual finalists were Deeya Viradia, grade 8, and Anika Pallapothu, grade 6, and team finalists were eighth graders Carol Wininger and Amiya Chokhawala and seventh graders Trisha Iyer and Anika Mantripragada. Saanvi Bhargava, grade 6, was named a semifinalist. This was the first year Harker students entered the competition. Participants were tasked with creating a computer science or technology project that addressed a social problem in the categories of health, world safety, intelligent technology or inequality. Finalists are eligible to attend the ProjectCSGIRLS National Gala, which will be held June 8-9 in the Washington, D.C., metro area. National winners will be announced at this event, which also will include notable speakers and workshops.


Upper school math students earn accolades in national contests

Photo provided by Jenny Achten

June 4, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-ab2 Harker upper school students performed well in a pair of recent math contests. Yesterday, junior Jeffrey Kwan received an honorable mention from the Mathematical Association of America for being one of the top scorers in the 2019 USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), among 300,000 participants.

Middle school speech and debate team overwhelms at Tournament of Champions

In April, Harker placed ninth in National Assessment & Testing’s Four-By-Four competition due to the high scores posted by a team of sophomores comprising Arya Maheshwari, Luisa Pan, Sidra Xu and Nicholas Yi. The contest has teams of four solve a series of problems over 10 rounds, each lasting three minutes.

May 14, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-a6W The middle school speech and debate team had an outstanding weekend at the Middle School Tournament of Champions, hosted by the University of Kentucky on May 11-12.

Harker had a three-way closeout of the final round in Lincoln-Douglas debate with Alexander Lan, grade 8, Kabir Buch, grade 7, and Mysoor sharing the championship. Joe Li, grade 7, and Sheth also cleared in Lincoln-Douglas. The policy team of Bahri and Viradia made it to semifinals. Additionally, Arissa Huda, grade 8, was in the final round of extemporaneous speaking.


............................................................... Photo provided by Jenny Achten

The team won first place in overall sweepstakes for the best performance at the tournament by any school. Shoring up this award were the top speaker in Lincoln-Douglas debate, Ansh Sheth, grade 7, and top speaker in policy debate, Deeya Viradia, grade 8. Arjun Krishna, grade 7, Krishna Mysoor, grade 7, and Mir Bahri, grade 8, also won debate speaker awards.

Harker debaters garner first and second at nationals, have a great season overall! June 24, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-ad6 Team Harker crushed it at the National Speech & Debate Tournament, where Haris Hosseini ’19, and Avi Gulati, a rising senior, nailed first and second places in original oratory. This event, billed as the largest academic competition in the world, is the culminating event of the speech and debate season. And there’s more good news: Alycia Cary ’19 made it to the semifinals for

oratory; Andrew Sun, a rising junior, was 15th in congressional debate; and Jason Huang ’19 made it to the semifinals of congressional debate. “When these results are added to earlier results at the National Debate Coaches Association National Championship (sophomore Akshay Manglik’s top-three-in-the-nation finish in Lincoln-Douglas debate and Anusha Kuppahally, grade 12 and Maddie Huynh, grade 11, finishing fifth in policy debate), we have had quite the season!” noted Jennifer Achten, speech and debate chair.

............................................................... Tiffany Duong ‘02: Off the Beaten Path July 22, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-abM When Tiffany Duong ’02 signed up on a whim for a scuba diving trip to the Galapagos Islands, she didn’t know it would transform her life. At the time, she was working endless hours at a law firm in Los Angeles and thought the trip would be a distraction from her work-hard, play-hard life. It was among the wild blue ocean currents that she literally took the plunge and committed to changing her life. She worked up the courage to quit her job as a lawyer and set out to follow her passion to protect the planet. And she’s never been happier. “I’m three years into my one-year sabbatical, and it’s just turned into my life because I keep ‘failing better’ and being OK with it,” said Duong with a bright smile on her face. “I am choosing more what is right for me (path B, C, D) vs. what I ‘should’ be doing (path A). So, even when I fail, I learn something or meet someone that pushes me forward, so I still feel like I’m moving in the right direction. And I’m having so much more fun doing it.” H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019 5

top stories

Photo provided by Denzil (Sikka) Eden ‘09

Photo provided by Lisa Masoni

both graduated from Harker in 2015, received the awards.

Many top 10 finishes for Harker Latin students at national JCL convention Aug. 5, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-afA The theme of the 2019 National Junior Classical League Convention was “apes non sunt solitaria natura” (“Bees are not of a solitary nature”). Harker students participating as members of the California delegation were certainly as busy as bees, attending workshops and contest sessions, assemblies and sporting events. In addition to helping California take the top place in the spirit competition for medium-size delegations, the students brought home many top 10 places.

July 30, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-afp Harker alumna Denzil (Sikka) Eden ‘09 was honored this week as one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award winners for 2019. Eden earned many accolades while at Harker, including being named an Intel (now Regeneron) Science Talent Search semifinalist. Eden earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT and an MBA from Harvard University. In between, she worked at Microsoft for three years while teaching computer science at Foothill College in Los Altos and San Francisco State University. Eden was working for San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo as his office’s technology and innovation advisor until this month, when she delved full time into her startup, Smarty A.I., an artificial intelligence executive-assistant product.



HAR K E R MAGA Z I N E l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019

Photo provided by The Harker Archives

Alumna ‘09 named to Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list

Alumni receive Dean’s Award from University of Pennsylvania for academic excellence in service and innovation Aug. 13, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-ag0 Two Harker alumni were given Dean’s Awards for Academic Excellence by Wharton/University of Pennsylvania School of Undergraduates this spring. Savi Joshi and Vedant Thyagaraj, who

Joshi was awarded for service to the University of Pennsylvania and/or the greater Philadelphia community. “Savi was recognized with this award for her tremendous efforts in teaching over 150 people about healthy eating in the greater Philadelphia community,” said Lee Kramer, director of student life at Wharton. Thyagaraj, who graduated from Wharton’s life science management dual-degree program in May, was presented with the Dean’s Award for Innovation for his remarkable career at the school. His many achievements at Wharton included strong academic performance, serving as president of the Penn Undergraduate Biotechnology Society and acting as a research assistant for the Wharton Global Family Alliance.

............................................................... Three women earn awards from the Davidson Institute for science and technology projects Aug. 21, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-agH Three women from Harker were honored by the Davidson Institute in its annual awards. Natasha Maniar ’19 and Cynthia Chen, grade 12, were named 2019 Davidson Fellow Laureates, while Ruhi Sayana ’19 received an honorable mention. Maniar’s award is in the technology category, while Chen’s and Sayana’s awards are in the science category. The two fellows each will receive a $50,000 scholarship and a trip to Washington, D.C., to receive their awards. Chen’s project is titled “Decoding Neural Networks: Novel Computational Methods to Discover Anti-Tumor B Cell

Receptor Binding Motifs.” Maniar’s project is titled “MapAF: Deep Learning to Improve Therapy of Complex Human Heart Rhythm Abnormalities.” Sayana’s project, titled “Precision Care for Leukemia: Discovery of Novel Therapeutics for High-Risk ALL via Epigenetic and Computational Transcriptome Profiling,” already earned her one of the 40 finalist slots in the Regeneron Science Talent Search in early 2019.

............................................................... Junior uses debate skills to help sixth grade girls at Oracle community workshop Sept. 18, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-ajn Deven Parikh, grade 11, joined his mother, Dev Parikh, ACS vice president of Go to Market for Oracle, at a communication debate workshop at Oracle in late July to help sixth grade girls learn the basics of speech and debate. Parikh has been in the Harker speech and debate program for five years, and expressed a desire to teach others the skills he has gained in the program. At the workshop, Deven Parikh presented a 20-minute lecture on public speaking. “Prior to the actual workshop, I spent ample time communicating with a representative from Apple to obtain donated Apple iPads,” he said. “Many of the children we would be working with did not have electronics at home, so by providing them with iPads, they were able to research a topic to debate. At the end of the workshop, they were able to keep the iPads.”


Student Brian Chen named Broadcom MASTERS finalist Sept. 18, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-ai8 Brian Chen is headed to Washington, D.C.! Today, the freshman was named as a finalist in the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS competition. He and the other finalists will spend Oct. 25-30 in the nation’s capital, competing in the final stage of the competition, as well as meeting government officials and displaying their projects to the public. Winners will be announced on Oct. 29. Best of luck! (Original story, Sept. 4, 2019:) In early September, seven students were named to the Top 300 in the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS competition! Arjun Barrett, Rohan Bhowmik, Brian Chen, Gordon Chen, Jacob Huang and Nicholas Wei, all grade 9, and Reshma Kosaraju, grade 8, were selected from more than 2,300 applicants for this year’s competition. The students were selected for projects they entered in science fairs last year, when they were in middle school.

............................................................... 63 seniors named National Merit semifinalists, nearly 70% of senior class recognized Sept. 24, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-akp Earlier this month, 63 seniors were named semifinalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program, placing them among the 16,000 high school students who make up less than 1 percent of the more than 1.5 million students who entered the contest as juniors last year. Students enter each year by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT. Additionally, 72 seniors were named commended students for their outstanding

performance on the PSAT/NMSQT. Altogether, Harker’s National Merit semifinalists and commended students comprise 68% of the Class of 2020!

............................................................... Newest inductees added to Harker’s Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 12, 2019 https://wp.me/pOeLQ-amN Harker’s year-old Athletic Hall of Fame doubled in size tonight, when four new inductees were presented with their awards and formally entered as hall of famers. Adhir Ravipati ’05 was inducted for his multisport prowess at Harker and his stellar coaching record as the Menlo High School football coach. Kristina (Bither) Gurney ’09 was a member of the state Photo by Mark Kocina finalist volleyball team in 2007 and played a wicked game of soccer as well. Maverick McNealy ’13 has been a household name – at least in golfing households – for years as he contributed heavily to the many fine finishes of Harker golf teams, and now he has gone pro. Former athletic department staffer Chris Collins was a critical part of the department team as Harker ramped up its athletic offerings, and a friend to all students needing help. Following deeply heartfelt speeches by athletic directors Dan Molin (upper school), and Theresa “Smitty” Smith (lower and middle school), each inductee was presented with a beautiful crystal award (Butch Keller, upper school head, accepted for McNealy as he is currently on the PGA tour). The ceremony was very well attended by friends and family of the other inductees, including a large contingent celebrating with Collins. https:// www.harker.org/halloffame





More Than Tech LID is helping Harker teachers transform classrooms with a multitude of resources side from having one the school’s catchier acronyms, Harker’s learning, innovation and design (LID) department has for years been a key driver of much of the technology and methods that have made the school’s classroom experience continually exceptional. But there’s far more to LID’s process and philosophy than the latest device or app fashionable among teachers. Harker has long been a tech-savvy school, partly owing to its roots in Silicon Valley. Student-built apps are in regular use on campus, and clubs host multiple programming competitions each year. Laptops see ubiquitous use by students and faculty for every kind of assignment, and teachers have made use of funds provided through the 8


Photo provided by Liz Brumbaugh




“Sometimes a crayon’s the best tool.” –Liz Brumbaugh, PS-12 LID director


HA R K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019


school’s LID Grant (formerly Tech Grant) program to explore new ways to integrate the latest technology into their instructional methods. It wasn’t until relatively recently, however, that Harker took the crucial institutional step to decouple classroom innovation from the realm of information technology, a distinction that LID directors are hoping will become clearer in the future. “In the larger scope of education, innovation and educational technology, there was a significant shift away from associating what we do with the boxes and wires, the technical aspects of technology,” said Liz Brumbaugh, PS-12 LID director. “We provide the support for faculty to integrate whatever innovations, whatever creativity, whatever design pieces – whether that’s lesson design or their environmental design – and walk next to them in the development of whatever cool, great, inspiring new thing they want to try.” Although these ideas may (and frequently do) incorporate a piece of technology, gadgets and software are no longer seen by LID as an essential piece of the puzzle. “Sometimes a crayon’s the best tool,” said Brumbaugh. Should a tech tool turn out to be more suitable than a crayon, LID takes steps to ensure that it’s a better fit for a teacher’s pedagogical approach, and that it is not being implemented for the sake of having a nice new toy to play with. “The technology that’s pervasive is another tool,” said Brumbaugh. “It’s an impactful tool, but you have to look at your lesson design. What’s your purpose? What’s your point in your lesson first? And then backwards plan and say, ‘Is technology the point of this?’” Key to each LID director’s position is the requirement that they also have experience as classroom teachers, which offers unique insight into the day-to-day lives and activities of the educators they work with, in addition to familiarizing them with pedagogical theory. “We have spent a lot of time teaching and being around teachers and learning about what makes good teaching even better,” said Diane Main, LID director at the upper school. “Many times when teachers have me come work with them or their students, or both, it’s not necessarily about technology, it’s about how we can do a better job of what we’re trying to do in that learning experience.” To that end, teachers often see LID as a great source of feedback on their ideas, and have emerged from their discussions with LID inspired and invigorated. “The most important role that Lisa [Diffenderfer, lower school LID director,] plays for me is as a sounding board for helping me discern the best approach to designing lessons and activities,” said grade 5 English teacher Ann Smitherman. “She helps me determine what I really want to teach my students, and in turn, how I really want my students to show me what they’ve learned.” Diffenderfer’s work has been instrumental in introducing

virtual reality lessons to lower school classrooms, enabling students to, among other things, get detailed glimpses of far-off places relevant to their studies. She has been working with teachers to formulate ways to “take it a step further, helping teachers create their own virtual reality experiences for the students, more specific experiences that relate to the content of their classrooms,” she said. When Smitherman wanted to use VR in her classroom as part of a unit on E.L. Konigsburg’s 1967 novel “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” Diffenderfer worked with her “to create a Google Slides ‘journey’ that helped students explore such old-timey landmarks as the automat and Grand Central Station,” she recalled. “Students were able to work at their own pace to complete the work, and it made the literature come to life.” Another, less technology-focused project was spurred by Smitherman’s session at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University last year, aimed at developing reading and writing skills in young students by creating new methods for teaching and assessment. Smitherman returned from the two-week session with an idea for a new writing program that is currently being piloted among a self-selected group of teachers. Diffenderfer and Smitherman have worked closely to develop the pilot program “in a more organized and research-based fashion,” Diffenderfer said.

“Students were able to work at their own pace to complete the work, and it made the literature come to life.”–Ann Smitherman, grade 5 English teacher This particular project is one where Diffenderfer’s experience as a teacher has proved crucial. “Lisa has a great understanding of our curriculum, knows the ‘latest and greatest’ tools – not all of which require technology – to





“Many times when teachers have me come work with them or their students, it’s not necessarily about technology, it’s about how we can do a better job . . . in that learning experience.” –Diane Main, upper school LID director

help me and our students reach our goals,” said Smitherman. “She asks really probing questions, forcing me to clarify the outcomes I seek.” In addition to academics, LID also has applied its expertise to areas such as digital citizenship, student wellness and social justice. Earlier this year, middle school history teacher Cyrus Merrill and middle school LID director Abigail Joseph worked together to create a “social justice hackathon for students to take on real-world challenges and attempt to put together potential real-world solutions,” Merrill said. “I want to empower students to think they themselves can take on issues in the present, not just learn about them in the past.” The result of that collaboration is the Get MAD (Make A


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Difference) design workshop and hackathon, which took place in November and saw students organize into groups to develop ideas to combat various social problems using their creativity and design thinking, a method of problemsolving that involves ascertaining a greater sense of who will be seeing and using the things they’ve made. Joseph also worked with several teachers who attended the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning this past summer. “I helped them debrief to generate ideas for their actionable next steps,” Joseph said. “So I led them through a two-hour design thinking process, and at the end of that they came up with two concrete ideas that they wanted to bring back to staff and the parent community around introducing SEL at Harker.”

Design thinking is popular in the maker community, with which Joseph has spent considerable time at meetups and conferences. She runs and curates the middle school’s LID Hub, a maker and design thinking space which she hopes to see become “a space on campus where teachers and students can go and make their ideas take flight and test out things and try developing any ideas or thoughts that they have.” Joseph one day would like to have students and teachers working together in the LID Hub, and to have the students become experienced enough to offer lessons of their own. “My big vision is to have the students teach the teachers,” she said.

In the meantime, teachers have spent a lot of time teaching one another during the LID Vision Days that are held each year, in which they share new methods or concepts they have integrated into their instruction, often as a result of the LID Grant program. Ostensibly an opportunity for teachers to find new ways to enhance their methods, LID Vision Days have also acted as forums for teachers to brainstorm and discuss a wide range of topics that affect learners. “It’s really about the other people in the room getting a chance to learn and/or participate. It’s not always what we could call a sit-and-get kind of thing, where the teacher teaches and everybody just learns something,” said Main. “Often it’s hands on, it’s ‘Why don’t you bring your laptop and we’ll go through this together?’ or a conversation where the person facilitating is really just the one starting the conversation, and it doesn’t have to be that they’re leading it.” One session took the form of a discussion on how to teach girls and how teachers often unknowingly carry genderbased biases with them into the classroom. “There’s a lot of implicit bias towards males in the classroom; there are certain behaviors that tend to be seen as more masculine that are seen as more favorable,” said Main. In another session facilitated by Main and upper school Spanish teacher Abel Olivas, students from the Gender and Sexuality Alliance invited teachers to ask questions about the experiences of LGBTQ+ students, including topics such as gender-neutral restrooms, how to ask students about correct





Institute, such events have become extremely common. “Conferences are a dime a dozen, especially in this area and especially as it relates to educational technology,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s almost impossible not to find some weekend throughout the entire year where people could go to a conference within 20 miles and get some educational technology training.” The addition of online resources such as YouTube channels and podcasts, she added, makes it more difficult for events such as the Harker Teacher Institute to set themselves apart.

pronoun usage and avoiding the use of everyday gendered phrases such as “you guys.” “Those conversations have been exciting to be a part of because they’re a part of our culture here and not just about our job,” Main said. “That’s what LID wants to be about, is helping transform the culture of the school so that everyone feels like it’s a very comfortable, safe, positive learning space.” Earlier this year, Joseph spearheaded the effort to help make LID Vision Days even more student-focused with the first Student LID Vision. “I thought, well why don’t students have an opportunity to showcase all the cool learning that they do in and outside of the classroom, because they all do so much?” she recalled. The event showcased the engaging aspects of everything from debate to origami to yearbook signing, mirroring LID’s philosophy that learning can take many unlikely forms. “Providing that space for our students to start having a little bit of voice and choice and to recognize that their learning can happen beyond their classroom is probably the thing I’m most proud of,” Joseph said. “I’m looking forward to making that bigger and better than last year and utilizing some faculty and students to help design what it looks like.” To this end, Joseph is planning to form student and faculty LID councils that meet separately to discuss LID’s impact on the school community. Brumbaugh is also hoping to bring teachers who’ve worked with LID to conferences and co-present with them about ways they’ve applied learning, innovation and design principles in their teaching methods. Although Harker has hosted and invited teachers from outside the school to events such as the Harker Teacher



As an alternative to overcrowding the selection of events, LID began requesting teachers to submit proposals last spring for presentations on how they’ve worked with LID to expand or strengthen their methods, which the LID directors plan to craft together with the teachers. For teachers more reticent about presenting on their achievements, LID directors have offered to present with them. “Teachers are notoriously humble, and because they’re notoriously humble, they don’t toot their own horns,” Brumbaugh said. “But if you can say there are people who need to learn a thing, they’ll be motivated by that.” Meanwhile, the directors themselves are always seeking opportunities for new methods and technologies to bring to their colleagues. Next year, they plan to attend SXSW Edu, the educational arm of the world-famous SXSW culture festival in Austin. “We all go out to these different education innovation-rich conferences to keep up with the landscape of how people are innovating in education,” Joseph said. According to Brumbaugh – who started in education as an English teacher and previously worked at the Santa Clara County Office of Education as instructional technology manager, serving more than 200,000 students – Harker is in a unique position to lead in a developing field. “The fact that we have the people in the first place sets us apart, but then that we have pretty high standards for what those people are going to be able to do once they’re in this position, is another level altogether,” she said. “So I think what sets us apart is the structure, which is representative of the philosophy, and the individual people. There’s such synchronicity, and it’s really beautiful when I stand back from being in the team and I’m like, this is good.”

face time


chenelle Henry is a native New Yorker, raised in New York City. This Harker Preschool lead teacher made the move west to Harker in 2017, and lives with her husband, Leo, and daughter, Bella Grace, in downtown San Jose. Henry jokes that free time is a “rare commodity” with a toddler, so she cherishes both time spent with her family, and alone time when she can binge-watch shows stored up on her DVR – “the simple pleasures in life.” She shared some other musings with Harker Magazine.

When did you first really feel like an adult? When I started taking accountability for my actions. Life happens, the good and the bad, but I always try to consider what I could have done differently or can do in the future to make a situation or relationship better.

What one piece of advice you would offer anyone who asks? Don’t just be yourself, be your best self.

Brag about something. I’m great at organizing. I used to have an interior organizing business.

What is the one thing in the world you would fix if you could wave a magic wand? I would want high-quality education and equal access to educational resources for all students – regardless of race, national origin or ZIP code, among other things.

What are you doing when you feel most alive? Singing or dancing like no one is watching. Literally, because I’m usually at home when this all goes down!

Do you have any pets? I have a self-sustaining ecosphere of small shrimp. It’s low maintenance and pretty cool!

Schenelle Henry H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019



fine arts


Kian Sze Preschool “Ghost”

Bonnie Crabb Preschool “Self Portrait”

Aila El-Charif Grade 3 “Night Time Cat”

Violet Santana Grade 1 “Oil Pastel Owl”


Heather Wang

Grade 5 “Sunflowers in a Vase”

Marcus Blennemann Grade 7 “Pig Container”

Kaitlyn Su Grade 7 “Inner Ear”

Ethan Choi

Grade 11 “Iterations / Glimmer”

Gina Partridge Grade 12 “Untitled”



passion impact


Raising her


“I said yes to every opportunity that came my way.” –Roshni Mehra ’06

Alumna forged her own path by trying new things


hen someone asks for a volunteer, Roshni Mehra ’06 is often the first person to raise her hand. Her journey from finance to philanthropy was a result of her decision to pursue her passion and willingness to be open to every opportunity that came her way. Whether it was in Cheryl Cavanaugh’s English class at Harker, where she learned how the power of someone’s passion can ignite your own, or working with disadvantaged students through PIMCO Foundation’s Tools for Tomorrow program, Mehra wasn’t afraid to follow her heart to find what’s right. Mehra attended Harker’s upper school and then went on to the University of California, Irvine, to pursue business economics and international studies. While she was in college, she interned at Merrill Lynch for two years and then joined asset management firm PIMCO upon graduation. Being the youngest person ever hired and the only woman on the team, she was hungry to learn, working from 3 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day on the trade floor.

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While she harnessed many skills while working in finance, it was never her passion. The problem was, she didn’t know what her passion actually was – that is, until she got involved in PIMCO’s Women’s Leadership Network and the PIMCO Foundation. “Due to my early work hours and the late evening afterschool programs I was volunteering with, I started to stretch myself too thin,” Mehra said. “I soon realized that my favorite part of my job was taking place after work. That’s when I knew there was a problem.” She took the bold step to quit her job at PIMCO and do a year of service and exploration. As a part of this soulsearching mission, she had two goals for the year: first, to build an educational foundation in the nonprofit world, and second, to get as much experiential knowledge as possible doing pro bono work. She took classes through Stanford University and Coursera. Being on campus, Mehra soon became involved with Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS), which develops and shares knowledge to improve philanthropy, strengthen civil society and effect social change. “I said yes to every opportunity that came my way,” said Mehra with a bright smile on her face. But she didn’t stop there. She also volunteered for a locally based, internationally aimed nonprofit called Home of Hope, which advances education for girls in India. In typical Mehra fashion, she joined its board of directors, became the executive director of the English Empowerment Program and director of the Youth Chapter, and even launched a social venture called Mentors Without Borders, which was featured on NBC Bay Area.. “I discovered I was most passionate about creating a lasting impact and igniting empowerment through mentorship and education,” she said. “I knew I needed to be a part of an impact-driven organization.”

She’s doing just that at Stanford Graduate School of Business as the associate director of development marketing and communications, where her job doesn’t feel like work because it is so aligned with her passion and desire to have a positive impact in the world. In addition to creating meaningful impact reports for donors, Mehra also volunteers as a pre-major advisor for Stanford undergraduate students, serving as a mentor and life coach for a cohort of 15-plus freshman and sophomore students as they navigate the transition from high school to college. But that’s not the only way she gives back. She volunteers with a group that brings therapy dogs to campus every month for students, faculty and staff to de-stress. “Having hired Roshni 4 1/2 years ago, I subsequently promoted her into several other positions. Her capacity to take on increased responsibility has grown consistently,” said Susan Chung, director of development marketing and communications at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “What I appreciate most about Roshni is her approach to getting things done. Whether that be within our immediate team or across departments, her positive impact is grounded in seeking to understand issues and opportunities from multiple perspectives.” Vikki Bowes-Mok is also the executive director of the community nonprofit Compass Collective.




Global Communication Intensive language programs teach linguistic competency and intercultural understanding





unior Tessa Muhle is passionate about languages. A student of both Spanish and Latin, she has taken full advantage of Harker’s comprehensive language programs since enrolling in the school as a sophomore. She said she “foolishly” thought Spanish would be easy to learn when she was younger, but has now developed a love for travel and culture that demands more nuanced comprehension.





“Learning Spanish allows me to broaden my view of the world and thoroughly immerse myself in a different culture,” said Muhle, who is currently taking Level 3 Honors Spanish. Last April, she was part of the Harker Spanish program’s delegation to Andalusia in southern Spain and, in August, she volunteered with the nonprofit organization Amigos de las Americas in Panama, where she helped with turtle conservation efforts and immersed herself in the local culture. “Both trips stretched my speaking ability and made me infinitely more confident,” she said. Muhle also is enrolled in Level 3 Honors Latin, which perfectly complements her Spanish study because of Latin’s influence on other languages, she said. “I can use Latin words to figure out what Spanish words mean. For example, the Spanish verb ‘morir,’ which means ‘to die,’ derives from the Latin verb ‘mori,’ which means the same thing.” By requiring its students to study language – fully embedded in a deeper examination of culture – Harker is helping them develop a facility for

language not often seen at the middle and high school levels. Students also grow to understand the interconnectedness of the world in which they live, which is increasingly multilingual and multicultural. They learn to shed prejudices and stereotypes and gain new perspectives through lenses and cultural norms different from their own.

students beginning in grade 1, when they start to explore the Spanish language and culture to help them understand their own culture and language by comparison. In grades 4 and 5, Spanish students learn the language’s basic structures and continue to develop their vocabulary skills in preparation for daily practice in middle school.

“Language learning is a window into cultures, people and practices,” said Abel Olivas, upper school Spanish teacher and modern and classical languages department chair. “It’s also an excellent mental exercise because it stretches students’ brains by teaching them to integrate new structures in communication while developing their ear for unfamiliar sounds.”

When all students begin taking formal classes in grade 6 in the language of their choice, they work on developing the basic skills necessary to study a foreign language successfully, including listening, reading, speaking and writing. “Our focus in middle school is on

Intensive Programs Harker provides every student with a strong foundation in one of five foreign languages –French, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin and Spanish – by requiring the completion of Level 3, which most students attain during grade 9. Spanish alone is offered for Harker’s youngest

The intersection of history, culture and language in Mandarin has helped me view concepts in other classes through multifaceted lenses.” – Sana Pandey, grade 12 22


rris Carol Pa vided by ro p to o h P

communication,” said Carol Parris, modern and classical languages department chair for grades 1 through 8 who has taught French at Harker since 1976. “We give them the tools they need to understand how language is constructed. When they learn something in French, for example, they can compare it to what they know about English, and why one language might make more sense than the other. What students learn in a foreign language helps them in their English classes, both in grammar and composition.” Tanay Sharma, a ninth grader currently taking Level 3 Honors French, said that is indeed the case. “We take timed writing tests in French and this has helped me become

a better writer in English. I’ve learned to use the time given to formulate a proper essay successfully.” In an era when most schools have eliminated the study of Latin, Harker’s Latin students flourish in their knowledge of the underpinnings of all language, said Lisa Masoni, middle school Latin teacher. In Latin courses, the emphasis is on developing strong reading and writing skills. “We see a lot of value in Latin, in that it provides the roots of the English language and other modern languages, and it still influences many of our cultural ideas,” Masoni said. “In general, language study teaches students to read carefully, analyze critically and understand different viewpoints.” Students of Latin study the social and political history of ancient cultures and improve their comprehension skills through the reading and analyzing of classical prose and poetry. Trisha Variyar, a ninth grader in her third year of Latin, finds her knowledge of Latin has enhanced skills she can draw on in other coursework and activities. “I have seen an overall improvement in my vocabulary because I can analyze the roots of words and connect them to the English meaning,” she said. Many upper school students continue to progress with their chosen language by taking honors

and AP courses as they develop an understanding of the more complex structures of language. Harker is one of only a few schools in the Bay Area that offers five languages through the AP level and it’s not uncommon for students to earn the top score of 5 on AP language exams and scores in the 800s on the SAT’s language subject tests, given the strong foundation in languages they’ve acquired in seven years of instruction at Harker. Options for post-AP study include courses focused on such topics as literature, contemporary global issues and the arts. Many students go on to study foreign languages in college, take advantage of study abroad programs to further develop their skills and find employment that requires bilingualism.

Engaging Classrooms Harker’s excellent language teachers bring to bear their own diverse life experiences in engaging students in creative learning that expands their knowledge. Each department, with the exception of Latin, includes teachers who are native speakers and often ones who have lived outside the United States. Language learning at Harker is studentcentered and immersive, as students and teachers speak the target language as much as possible, even in interactions outside of class. “Hearing my teacher’s greeting of ‘Bonjour, Félicie’ transports me to a different world,” said AP French student Farah Hosseini, grade 11, referring to her chosen classroom name. “Speaking French in class is challenging, but also refreshing and rewarding, as it’s a change of pace from my other classes.” Seventh grader Neil Krishnan, after H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019


feature only one year of French, has begun to recognize French terms and inferences all around him. “In English, I read Steinbeck’s ‘The Affair at 7, Rue de M,’” he said. “I had a deeper understanding of the book than those who didn’t have any French knowledge.” Krishnan’s classmate, Saanvi Bhargava, has had a similar experience in Concert Choir. “We are singing a French song and I am able to interpret the lyrics, which enhances my understanding of the song,” she said. Mandarin teacher Xiuyu Gao has taught at Harker for seven years, having previously taught in her native China and the United Kingdom. She shares teaching duties with Shaun Jahshan, who holds a Ph.D. in Chinese literature from Stanford. “It’s interesting for our students to have both of our perspectives,” said Gao, who noted that she enjoys sharing her personal experiences of living in China for 35 years. “Harker students benefit from my deep understanding of the culture and its education system, which is much more rigid than the American system.” By comparison, she described Harker’s way of teaching as “loving, caring and encouraging.” Photo provided by Diana Moss


HA R K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019


I have seen an overall French teacher Agnès improvement in my Pommier agreed that Harker’s nurturing vocabulary, because I can environment is ideal analyze the roots of words for language students. and connect them to the “We require speaking French all the time, English meaning.” – Trisha Variyar, grade 9 so students do make mistakes, but we teach a language to life. Festival celebrations our students to respect each other and like El Día de los Muertos, Mardi Gras, encourage them to master their own Setsubun (the day before the beginning learning process and to do their best of spring in Japan), King’s Day, the each day,” she said. Chinese Moon Festival and Chinese Harker’s language teachers keep abreast of the latest teaching methodologies by pursuing professional development opportunities locally and in their target language countries, enabling them to engage students with differing learning styles, including kinesthetic, visual, auditory and tactile. Activities such as games, films, music, dramatic presentations, and paired and smallgroup hands-on projects are all a regular part of language classrooms. Students’ strengths and interests are emphasized, fostering opportunities for students to shine by using their talents in music, fine arts, cooking, dance and drama to bring

New Year (during which students create dragons for a parade) encourage learning about different cultures’ customs, cuisines and histories. Technology like Kahoot and Quizlet – simple and effective online learning tools that assist students in mastering vocabulary – is often employed in the classroom, Olivas said. “We use these tools not just for the sake of using technology, but because they give our students practice in a way that’s engaging, energetic and fun. The idea is to expose students to different learning tools so they can determine what works best for them.”

Sixth grader Tom Campisi, in his first year of learning Mandarin, appreciates that his teachers understand that it can be jarring to learn a new language. “We have fun by using rhymes and poems in Chinese to help with tones and pronunciation,” he said. Senior Rani Sheth, who began taking Spanish in sixth grade, recalled building stories in class. “We’d sit in a circle and each person would write a sentence and pass it on to the next person to continue,” she said. “It resulted in really hilarious stories and great conversation.” Both Yumiko Aridomi and Keiko Irino, who teach Japanese at the upper school, are natives of Japan and are skilled in Japanese pedagogy. Because Japanese is a difficult language to learn, they regularly enrich classroom learning by encouraging students’ interests in Japanese anime, food and games. “The teachers really love what they do

from a French perspective, such as scientific discoveries, global health issues, music and sports. We have wonderful discussions. Students are able to make comparisons given their own life experiences.”

and it shows through their enthusiasm for teaching us,” said sophomore Kailash Ranganathan, who is currently taking Level 4 Honors Japanese. “They’re experts in the field and they understand how we learn best, encouraging friendly competition through activities that motivate everyone to do their best.” Upper school French teacher Galina Tchourilova, who first studied French language and culture as a university student in her native Russia, noted that language study offers many opportunities to challenge students’ worldviews, deepen their cultural knowledge and learn how other societies approach complex issues. “For example, in my AP classes, we consider many topics

Hosseini agreed that classroom discussions are lively. She noted that breaking down themes such as identity or contemporary family life has helped her expand her vocabulary and drastically improve her pronunciation. “I’ve noticed that I’m able to form complex sentences more easily without having to think twice about it,” she said. Through the study of Chinese, senior Sana Pandey has developed an appreciation for the interplay of perspectives across all subjects. “The intersection of history, culture and language in Mandarin has




We are singing a French song and I am able to interpret the lyrics, which enhances my understanding of the song.” – Saanvi Bhargava, grade 7 helped me view concepts in other classes through multifaceted lenses,” said Pandey, who has studied Mandarin since sixth grade and hopes to major in linguistics in college.

Outside the Classroom Language learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school day at Harker. Many students participate in activities that extend their learning beyond the classroom, including dining at local restaurants, visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown or a local Japanese garden for a tea ceremony, and attending cultural fairs, festivals and museum exhibits around the Bay Area, like a Spanish class field trip to the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Students also prepare for and participate in national language contests that test reading, writing and speaking comprehension. Each language offered at Harker has a complementary student honor society, through which members organize and enjoy cultural activities, including target language cultural nights at Harker. Other examples include students in the Japanese National Honor Society volunteering at local Japanese-American museums and a Buddhist temple. Those in the Spanish National Honor Society publish Pórtico, an online publication of articles on current events, culture, trips and people of interest.




“Many of our students also do community service in local clinics and schools,” said upper school Spanish teacher Diana Moss. “These are enriching experiences for them, all the more so when they can use their language skills in practical settings, which reinforces what they’re learning in the classroom.” Harker’s global education program offers language students the opportunity to travel to countries in which they can immerse themselves in the culture while practicing their speaking and comprehension skills. Students have enjoyed intercultural exchanges and immersion trips to several of Harker’s sister schools, including Tamagawa Academy in Tokyo, Japan; Nuevo Milenio in Grecia, Costa Rica; the World Foreign Language Middle School in Shanghai, China; and the Collège de Gambach in Fribourg, Switzerland, to which French students have traveled in the past. Last winter, French students visited Quebec City in Canada during its Winter Carnival. “When they travel, students realize how much more dynamic their interactions are when they can speak the language of the country they’re visiting,” Moss said. Visiting historic sites and delving into Japanese culture firsthand during Harker’s trip to Tokyo and Sapporo last summer was “incredibly fun,” said sophomore Erica Cai, who is now enrolled in Level 4 Honors

how good your teachers are.” Masoni directs Harker’s Junior Classical League, or Latin Club, which helps students prepare for Latin competitions at the local, state and national levels. Students have a choice of academic tests in areas such as vocabulary, reading comprehension, mythology or Roman history, and then complete projects based on the ancient world, such as building a model of an aqueduct. They also can compete in an athletic Olympiad. “The competition is a chance for our students to meet other students learning Latin,” Masoni said. “It’s a lot of fun and students can bond over everyone asking them why they’re taking a dead language!” With a dynamic and intensive curriculum taught by dedicated teachers, wideranging cultural experiences and travel to foreign countries that allow for full immersion, students in Harker’s language programs develop as knowledgeable global citizens who see the value in learning about the world from other perspectives. Sheth and fellow senior Jeffrey Yang are currently taking the post-AP course on Spanish literature and film – focused on the novel “Como Agua Para Chocolate” (“Like Water for Chocolate”) – and have performed together on cello at Harker’s Spanish Culture Night. That experience was a “super fun way to explore the artistic side of the language,” Sheth said. Yang agreed, noting that in studying another language “we learn not only to speak and write the language, but also to embody its culture and ideology.” Marla Holt is a freelance writer based in Minnesota.

Japanese. “The trip helped me tremendously, as I experienced using Japanese in real-world situations,” she said. “You can only learn so much from a textbook, no matter




n August, the Harker Conservatory headed to Scotland to present last year’s spring musical, “Urinetown,” and soak up the atmosphere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.



gallery 28

performing arts




arker’s upper school performers and crew arrived in the fall ready for another year of shows, starting with the production of “Almost, Maine,” a bittersweet collection of stories about love and loss. At the middle school, the grade 6 fall play,“The Borrowers,” based on the novel by Mary Norton, relayed the story of a family of tiny persons living in the house of a much larger family. “Failure: A Love Story,” performed by grades 7 and 8, followed three sisters facing an untimely fate and lessons they both learn and leave behind. The upper school’s winter choral concert, titled “Breaking Walls,” featured vocal groups Bel Canto, Signature, Camerata and Cantilena performing songs celebrating themes of inclusion and communal harmony from a wide range of cultures, including the Caribbean, the Middle East and Latin America. And several groups joined up to once again ring in the season at Santana Row’s tree lighting ceremony.





Building a Successful Life Alumnus’ passion for architecture started with a class his senior year


hen Matthew Gehm ’09 was at the upper school, he didn’t know what career path he wanted to pursue – until a pivotal class his senior year. A Harker student since kindergarten, he was strong in math and science, but was also drawn to the arts. “Matt was not a typical Harker math- and science-focused student, because his visual art classes were a lifeline for him,” said Pilar Agüero-Esparza, art teacher. “As a teen, he seemed to be going through a tough time and art was a way he could channel his creativity and inner self.” His creativity and bent toward math led him to take an architecture class in the fall of his senior year – and that sealed the deal. His grandfather was an architect, so he had been exposed to the field, but everything clicked in the class, and he realized he wanted to pursue architecture in college. So after high school, he set off to study architecture at the University of Southern California, which had a highly rated, five-year program. He had found his passion in architecture but also continued his digital artwork, which is focused around the

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HAR K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019 2018

“I’m lucky to have found my passion.” —Matthew Gehm ’09

misuse of digital tools used in architecture in pursuit of novel forms and complexity. After graduating from USC, he started Forester Gehm, a multidisciplinary design firm, which allowed him to balance the line between art and architecture by working on larger installation pieces.

Ghost in the Machine Part II” with Jonathan Gregurick, is a “conceptual hybrid of motion and stasis, which blurs the lines between control and chaos, structure and fenestration or machines and technics,” according to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design website.

He also worked for some architecture firms and then decided to attend graduate school, all while keeping Forester Gehm humming.

The intellectual challenges of coursework combined with fascinating history courses and students from around the globe consumed Gehm for an amazing two years.

“Matt reached out to me after he graduated from USC, and I saw a laser focus and ambition light up in him about his life and career goals,” said Agüero-Esparza. “Soon after our meeting, I saw him reach for new heights, including entering his artwork in exhibitions and then applying to graduate school.”

But when Gehm graduated in 2019, he knew he wanted to return to Los Angeles where his girlfriend lived and the beach beckoned. Instead of racing home, though, he spent a month traveling and camping across the United States. He’s an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, camping and going to the beach.

Gehm decided to attend Harvard University to pursue a Master in Architecture II, a two-year program that extends the base of knowledge of the professional field with particular emphasis on design.

Gehm is now a designer at Gehry Partners LLP, a full-service firm with broad international experience. He just started with Gehry and is involved in designing a skyscraper in Toronto. He plans to build his career in architecture but also continue his artwork.

“If you asked me when I was graduating Harker if I ever thought I would go to Harvard, I would have said ‘no,’” Gehm said in his steady voice. “It felt out of reach, but then I found something I really cared about and something I was passionate about and it felt more real.” One of Gehm’s projects at Harvard, “Tin Whiskers, or The

“I realize that life is not a sprint but rather a series of opportunities,” said Gehm. “I’m lucky to have found my passion.” Vikki Bowes-Mok is also the executive director of the community nonprofit Compass Collective.




on the

A look behind the scenes at technical theater


HA R K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019

arlier this year, a contingent of upper school students traveled to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. Putting on a pared-down version of “Urinetown,” the 2019 upper school spring musical, the show was set up, performed and torn down in just 90 minutes, a daunting task for any theater troupe, much less a group of high school students performing in a venue very different from their usual environs. Nevertheless, the productions went smoothly and received praise from local media, such as EdinburghGuide, which raved, “This particular ensemble from the award-winning high school conservatory The Harker School blows you away with their character work and synchronicity, a display well beyond their years.” But while the performances garner most of the attention-grabbing pull quotes, there’s no show to be had without the crew, whose skills at running a show on time and glitch-free were learned in Harker’s technical theater program. As a discipline, technical theater comprises a massive range of theatrical aspects essential for a successful show. “Technical theater supports the productions we do at Harker,” said upper school technical theater teacher, and H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019



the school’s production manager, Brian Larsen. “So kids involved in technical theater work on stage crew, move things around, construct, paint and install scenery, operate the lights, soundboard and follow spots, help with costuming, putting things together.” Such a broad scope naturally attracts students with diverse interests, but Larsen noted that it is rare that students enter the upper school program knowing exactly what they want to do. “If a student comes in and is very focused on being a sound technician, we want to try and help them with that track as much as possible,” he said. Far more common are students who discover their interests on their own after some experimentation. “What we’ve discovered is kids come here and they try a couple of things and go,


HA R K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019


‘ooh that’s interesting,’ and they get a little more involved in that component,” Larsen said. “But we don’t tend to get a lot of kids who come through the door and say, ‘I’m a lighting designer.’ We’ve had those students, we’ve had those kids who did lighting outside of our organization … which is tremendous, but on the whole, we try to have the kids have as many opportunities as possible.” In order to help students better find these opportunities and discover the aspects of technical theater they want to pursue, the performing arts department soon will offer a class on the study of technical theater, which recently received UC approval. “The study-of class will be very broad-based,” said Larsen, who also

noted that the Rothschild Performing Arts Center provides a suitable space for experimentation. “The kids will have a lot of opportunities to try all manner of things. [Rothschild] is a large lab, so we’ll have a lot of opportunity for them to get immersed in things and try things out.” The beginnings of Harker’s technical theater program date back to 1996 when Larsen joined the middle school faculty to teach theater production. With the start of the upper school and the opening of what is now the lower school campus two short years later, the challenge of teaching two classes on separate campuses compelled Larsen

inexperienced crew could take on the task, “Sure enough, the kids did a great job,” Dunn remembers. to seek another teacher for the grade 6 class. Danny Dunn was then brought on to teach grade 6 while Larsen taught at the middle and upper schools. When the middle school campus opened in 2005, Dunn moved her class to Blackford. Under her direction, more hands-on elements were added and her students began working shows, the first of which was a major task for a group of young students. “The very first show that the sixth grade students ever crewed was one of the great big huge shows that we put on to welcome the Tamagawa visitors,” Dunn said. Though there was some concern that such a young and

The move to Blackford left Dunn with no tech theater students at the lower school to work on that campus’ productions. “So I started the fifth grade program because I’d lost all my tech kids at the lower school.” Dunn’s classes began as a primer on theater production: “how a theater works, jobs in the theater and whatnot,” she recalled. She later began inviting students to help build sets on the weekends. “Parents would drop their kids off and we would just have a great time and build sets,” she said. “That became very popular and still is to this day.” True to Dunn’s vision, students in grade 5 perform a great deal of hands-on work, building props, sets and occasionally costumes. “If we’re doing the picnic show here with middle school actors, we might need 100-plus Robin Hood hats,” Dunn said. Tools of the trade are also learned early on in the program, including the use of (and safety precautions with) power tools used to create the sets as well as soundboard and light board operation, and even special effects makeup and stage combat. “My goal is to have them not just help the grown-ups do it but for

them to take ownership of an aspect of the performance,” Dunn said. At the middle school, technical theater is offered as a series of electives, starting with a grade 6 design class that teaches the fundamentals of creating a scene using elements of scenery, lighting and sound. One exercise has students design a scene from the stage adaptation of the famous children’s novel “The Phantom Tollbooth.” Every aspect of the scene, including props, lighting, costumes and special effects, is conceptualized and critiqued. Middle school students who wish to continue their studies have the option of taking an elective in theater production and design for grades 7 and 8, taught by Paul Vallerga, the middle school technical director, who has also been Harker’s primary set designer for 17 years. It is here that students begin working on elements that are used in major middle school productions. “The H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019




first day of class, one of the things I try to tell them is that, besides just the tech theater aspect, what I want them to learn from the class is that any time they’re watching anything – a TV show or movie – realize that everything you see is on purpose,” said Vallerga said. “Even if the decision was just, this where I’m going to put the camera to shoot those trees, somebody decided that’s what they want the audience to see.”

“My goal is to have them ... take ownership of an aspect of the performance.” —Danny Dunn, lower school technical theater teacher

Vallerga, who also spent 20 years with the now-defunct California Theatre Center, has students practice designing sets using William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker” as a basis. “I try to teach them a few things about traffic patterns,” he said, noting the times he has had to coach students against “making a doorway that’s a foot wide.” Further bolstering the middle school tech theater offerings is the afterschool technical theater class open to all middle school students, which includes weekly workshops in a variety of disciplines, including prop-making, makeup, costume construction and fight scene choreography. By the time she arrived at the upper school, junior Geneva Devlin had spent considerable time in the technical theater programs at other campuses. Although she didn’t feel as enthusiastic about the craft as she once had in

Photo by Kath y Fang , grade



HA R K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019

middle school, she nevertheless signed up to be a member of the crew for “42nd Street,” the first spring musical to be produced at the Rothschild Performing Arts Center. “It was my first time doing tech for an actual show and I loved it,” she said. “Being able to bond with my fellow techies and dance

along backstage was so much fun, I didn’t want it to end.” She later joined the Harker Conservatory’s certificate program for technical theater and has since been joining the crew for shows whenever possible. The upper school fortunately provides students with a wide range of learning opportunities, given the ambitious size and complexity that the productions often achieve. Certificate candidates are also prioritized when it comes time to decide which positions on the crew will be filled, especially “if there is something in particular they either are really interested in or haven’t done yet,” said Larsen. “So we make that available to them first and then we open it up to the other students to sign up for positions that interest them.” Similar to how certificate candidates in other disciplines are required to act as crew members, so too must technical theater students perform in a show as part of their track in order to see how these different elements of crafting a show are affected by and complement one another. “You have to do both sides so you can see what that experience is,” Larsen said. “So you understand what a performer going through rehearsal is experiencing.” Shanna Polzin ’10, who is now working as a production manager and stage manager in New York City (the Bryant Park Tree Lighting is her favorite event to work each year), first became fascinated the inner workings of the shows she performed in as a sixth grader, when a few of her friends

began working on the crew. “In high school, I was part of the Conservatory program as a dancer, and we had a requirement of two technical positions,” she said. “That was my first experience with being a backstage crew member, as well as a follow spot operator.” Though she spent most of her time at Harker as a performer, the program taught Polzin to appreciate just how much the crew works to make a show possible. “From a very young age, Mr. Larsen taught me the importance of tech theater and how no show can happen without the crew,” she said. “So while I was predominantly a performer, I was always taught to notice, appreciate and respect the tech side of things.” Although Polzin did not receive her certificate in technical theater, she cites the experience she gained at Harker as a factor in helping her find her current career, “from being aware of all the parts that go into putting on a show, to the work ethic, attention to detail and time management skills that get developed in all Harker students, to the general love of performing and making an audience happy,” she said. “Ideally, if a student starts in fifth grade then takes the sixth grade design elective, then works with Paul in the seventh and eighth grade and then does the Conservatory program with Brian, by the time they leave they should be able to get a job in theater no problem, if that’s what they want to do,” said Dunn. “But even kids who only take part of the program still enjoy it. They like being part of a show without having to act.”

“Being able to interact and learn from the professional tech community that works at Harker is like a dream.” – Geneva Devlin, grade 11

Dunn also has noticed that technical theater provides a way for students who are reticent or less enthusiastic about acting to enjoy the process of putting on a show, which occasionally leads them to discovering an appreciation for performing they were previously unaware of. “I notice in middle school there’s a whole lot of being too embarrassed to perform,” she noted, Michelle Holt ’11



feature “so students who are not comfortable being in the spotlight or putting themselves out there can dress all in black and blend into the scenery but still be completely part of the show, part of a cast or crew, part of the experience.” The opening of the Rothschild Performing Arts Center presents a number of exciting opportunities for the technical theater program, which is already set to grow with the addition of the Study of Technical Theater class next year. “It’s done two huge things, and neither of them can be understated,” Larsen said. The first is the presence of a fully equipped facility located on the same campus where upper school technical theater students spend most of their days, which removes the disruption of having to travel to a different campus to work. “The kids know right after school, they can come to the building, they can rehearse, they can build, they can do all the things that are inherent in being on the campus,” Larsen said. The second major change is how the facility further connects the upper school’s performing arts department to the culture of the campus. “It’s not that much of a big deal now if students catch a ball game, grab a bite to eat and come see our show,” Larsen said. “It’s all contained within the culture of the upper school; it’s right here.” It’s also had benefits for the middle school, which for the time being has a space entirely its own that it no longer has to share with another campus. “We don’t have to kick the drama teachers out of their rooms for a week, and say ‘hey, these are our [upper school cast’s] dressing rooms now,’” Vallerga said. For his part, Vallerga also looks forward to using the facilities at Rothschild to create props and scenery for middle school productions, as well as bringing middle school students to the upper school to work on the elements of their shows. Whatever potential the new building holds for the program, there are students who remain in love with the process and its people above all. “I enjoy getting to learn something new each time I crew. I further my knowledge and gain more experience,” said Devlin. “I also really love bonding with all of the actors. Being able to interact and learn from the professional tech community that works at Harker is like a dream.”


HA R K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019


face time


tacie Wallace spends her days as middle school English department chair and grade 8 English teacher. But what shines through most about her is her thoughtfulness and introspection, and her pride in her three alumnae daughters, Rachel ’05, Molly ’07 and Sophi ’09, each of whom has provided a grandchild to dote on! She reflects that, after a “tumultuous and unstable childhood … I’m grateful for the life I was able to create for myself,” and her conversation with Harker Magazine reveals the ways she lives for balance and gratitude each day.

What is the one thing in the world you would fix if you could wave a magic wand? Distances between family members. I would wave my wand and POOF!, everyone’s over for dinner at my house.

What one piece of advice you would offer anyone who asks? Don’t apologize for taking up space on the planet. If you need to apologize for something real, that’s fine, but don’t feel you have to apologize for everything.

What are you obsessed with? Right now, I’m obsessed with NYT Cooking, a Facebook group that shares recipes (from the New York Times and all kinds of others) and supports one another in our efforts to try new things.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Advice/caution really: “This too shall pass.” It’s meant to reassure, I think, as in, “It won’t always be this hard.” That was so helpful when I was raising three little ones. But as I’ve grown older, I see it’s also a gentle warning to appreciate things in my life, because they won’t always be there, or be the same.

Where in the world are you the happiest? In my sister’s kitchen having a cup of coffee and talking and laughing. I never laugh as much as I do when we’re together.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? Ha! I would wake up ready to write that novel and get going full bore on it.

Stacie Wallace H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019


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community events




he Harker community was in a celebratory mood in October, as the Family & Alumni Picnic and Homecoming provided all manner of fun and activities for two weekends in a row. Families flocked to the picnic at the middle school campus to play games, eat a variety of great foods and catch performances by Harker students. The unseasonably warm weather didn’t stop attendees from heading out into the sunshine to drive bumper cars, climb the rock wall or even try their hands at sending a teacher into the dunk tank. The following weekend, hundreds gathered at the upper school campus for the 2019 Homecoming celebration to root for the Eagles, who took on the Mustangs of Saint Vincent de Paul. The gridiron action wasn’t all that drew cheers from the crowd, as attendees also enjoyed treasured traditions such as the Eaglets fly-by, tug-of-war contests, performances by our dancers and cheerleaders, and the crowning of this year’s Homecoming royalty.





From bench to bedside


Alumnus develops iPhone app to remove the guesswork from surgical blood loss

iddarth Satish ’06 found his passion when he won his first debate round in high school. Satish, who later became captain of the debate team, treasured his time learning and growing with his classmates. He qualified and represented Harker at the national circuit debate’s Tournament of Champions. “I can picture his smiling, enthusiastic face with ease,” said Tony Silk, upper school mathematics department chair. “I recall him easily connecting with his classmates, jumping into group work and always ready to help a friend out.”

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HAR K E R MAGA Z I NE l FA L L/W I N T E R 2019 2018

After graduating from Harker, Satish’s educational and entrepreneurial journey led him to become the founder and CEO of Gauss Surgical.

Satish always wanted to be an engineer, so he applied to the University of California, Berkeley’s chemical engineering program, which was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. During his time at Berkeley, he worked on computer-aided molecular modeling and fluid dynamics research and had several articles published in journals by his senior year. After he completed his undergraduate work, a professor convinced him to join a graduate program – the UCSF/UC Berkeley Joint Ph.D. Program in Bioengineering – that would allow him to explore his passion for fluid mechanics within a more applied context: medical technology. “It dawned on me that the work I was doing was unlikely to have an immediate impact in the real world. The prospect of designing medical devices, translating them to clinical use and concretely improving health outcomes was hugely enticing to me – it was real,” remembered Satish. “My graduate project was initially focused on robotic surgery but after spending a lot of time in operating rooms at Stanford, I realized that diagnosing surgical bleeding was an unsolved category, simply because the technology didn’t exist.”

when he negotiated his first round of funding for Gauss and when he made a presentation to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “I’ve been fortunate to rediscover and redefine my passions over time through these formative experiences and to let them evolve,” said Satish, who was raised by two engineerentrepreneurs from India, where he was born. He immigrated to the United States when he was 7 years old, and he and his sister, Anita ’10, are both Harker graduates. Another Harker graduate is Satish’s wife, Alisha Tolani ’06, who is a resident physician specializing in obstetrics/gynecology at Stanford. “I’ve also re-discovered my passion for the water, and Alisha and I have been on hundreds of dives all over the planet,” said Satish. “It’s been a rewarding experience since you get to see the world with such a different perspective.” Vikki Bowes-Mok is also the executive director of the community nonprofit Compass Collective.

This led Satish to develop a novel method of estimating hemoglobin mass from a photo of blood-soaked gauze. The algorithm could be delivered through a software on a camera-enabled mobile device – an iPhone app. Of course, this was not a simple matter, but after developing a complex application of computer vision and machine learning algorithms and tackling the regulatory pathway for market access, Gauss Surgical was born. Gauss has raised roughly $50 million in funding since its founding in 2011 and its app, Triton, is being used in more than 250,000 surgeries a year at medical centers including Mount Sinai Hospital, Duke University Medical Center and Northwestern Medicine. Satish is a named inventor on more than 50 issued or pending patents, was named to Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list and spoke at a TedMed conference.

“The prospect of … concretely improving health outcomes was hugely enticing to me – it was real.” – Siddarth Satish ’06

Satish’s passion is ever-evolving from that first spark on the debate team. His passion was further ignited when he walked into an operating room in graduate school,



“The goal is to provide students with experiences that teach values and practices that are not traditionally taught in the classroom but are hugely important in life/work.” – Michael Acheatel, business & entrepreneurship teacher



in d e n ses r a e s l a s l l c l Ski bator tup incu de star nt and gui elopme ife dev off in l pay


arker’s incubator program, after one full year, has turned out some solid successes, awarding cash grants to students who developed business plans and successfully pitched to a panel. Now, starting year two, the benefits to students – far beyond money – are becoming apparent.


The program launched with a single class in summer 2017. That first class, a no-credit offering, brought students three of the critical ingredients for entrepreneurial success: strategic advice and mentorship, a dedicated support team and seed funding. A couple of pretty interesting ventures arose from that class, which was so well-received that the department developed the curriculum for a regular school-year program of two forcredit classes to start a year later, in fall 2018. (See links in box on page 49 for more.) H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019 45


In Incubator 1, students created and commercialized their own product or service. “Teams are led through the lean startup processes of developing hypotheses about a business concept, testing those hypotheses, adapting and continually iterating,” said Michael Acheatel, business & entrepreneurship teacher. Incubator 2 is geared toward students who have already launched a company and are focused on growing their business. “Students are led through three-week long ‘sprints’ where students identify their individual goals and tasks at the beginning of the sprint and present a demo of their accomplishments at the end of the sprint,” said Acheatel. Students in each of the courses receive coaching and mentorship from entrepreneurs, investors and business experts, and a key element in the 2018-19 classes was provided by Next47, a venture capital firm, which donated $10,000 in venture funds. Now, year two of the for-credit incubator classes has started and the Incubator 1 students are in the midst of the vetting processes, while the new Incubator 2 students are using their funding to develop their ventures to bring them to the next level – a functional organization with a product. The goal, however, is not to create milliondollar companies in high school, though in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial atmosphere, that is not beyond reach. The real goal is to teach students to think critically when developing ideas, to use resources, like mentors, to advance their knowledge and network, and to help the students gain confidence that careful, hard work will bring concrete results at some level. “The goal of the course is to provide students with experiences that teach values and



practices that are not traditionally taught in the classroom but are hugely important in life/ work,” said Acheatel. “We want to inculcate soft skills such as resiliency, problem-solving, creative thinking, public speaking and networking. These skills are built into the lean methodology of controlled failure, of seeking failure early as a means of improving. Furthermore, they learn these skills by working with mentors and pitching investors,” he said. “Additionally, they learn technical skills that they’ll use in the workplace like financial modeling, conducting competitive and market research, executing marketing campaigns, creating and delivering pitches, developing investor reports, etc. These are skills that they will use in almost any job they take, yet they are not taught in traditional school environments,” Acheatel noted. Nerine Uyanik and Arun Sundaresan, both grade 12, are in the Incubator 1 class, exploring the skills needed for serious entrepreneurship for the first time. Their company is designing electronic flashcards that address shortcomings in existing digital flashcards. “Most digital flashcards have a two-sided format that inherently limits the content that can be asked,” said Uyanik. “To study certain concepts, such as vocabulary, would require either making many flashcards with closely related but still separate information or making a single flashcard that contains all the related information. One is inefficient, and the other is ineffective, potentially coming at the cost of the student’s own learning,” she said. The pair is working on a multisided flashcard that suits a student’s needs better. For example, when studying a molecule, to learn its name, formula, molecular geometry and structure would require a program in which students can input all the information and determine how they review that info. “Nothing of the sort exists,” said Uyanik, “so I decided to take this incubator class to develop such an application.” Partner Sundaresan came in with more background and is really looking for an

Photo by Jacqueline Orrell

The for-credit classes, Honors Entrepreneurship: Startup Incubator 1 and Honors Entrepreneurship: Startup Incubator 2, ran all year. By May 2019, about $20,000 in venture funds were handed out to eight companies developed by 11 students.


“By the end of the year, I want to have a working prototype to take into college.” – Anay Karwal, grade 12



“I have come to value working with someone with a complementary set of skills and perspectives.”


opportunity to grow as an entrepreneur. – Nerine Uyanik, grade 12 “I’ve had a lot of exposure to business and entrepreneurship before, both academically and in extracurricular pursuits,” he said. “I feel like taking the incubator class was a natural progression in my explorations of business, as I will launch a for-profit company.”

of product development, and my deeper understanding of the product helps drive the vision of the company. Through this class, I have come to value working with someone with a complementary set of skills and perspectives.”

The first lesson the pair learned was that although each came to class with independent ideas, there was enough crossover that they could grow their ideas together. “At first, we hesitated to work together since we envisioned pursuing completely different paths,” said Uyanik, “but Mr. Acheatel pointed out that we both were trying to address problems with existing study tools, just with different solutions in mind … so he encouraged us to work together at least during the early stages, where having more ideas on the table wouldn’t hurt. We then delved into the market research and analyzed our ideas realistically.”

“It’s a class, but it’s all real,” said Uyanik. “Everything we learn and do ties into making practical progress. The pitches we now refine in class will eventually be delivered to investors. Our homework – completing market analyses and conducting customer interviews, for example – reflects the work that businesses must do to grow. We learn to do, and we do to learn.”

That’s when the real growth began. “Arun realized that my proposition seemed more feasible to achieve through this class, so he decided to let go of pursuing his vision to focus on mine,” said Uyanik. “I realize how difficult it was for him to make such a decision, for we both had strong ideas and intentions when deciding to take this class. As he has come to understand my idea, though, I am grateful that he is now also convinced of its potential and confident in his work. Arun’s expertise in coding and technology makes up for my lack of experience in that area when addressing the specifics 48


“Since the first day,” noted Sundaresan, “when we were figuring out problems that our businesses would solve, we had to think creatively and in terms of how to solve existing problems. Presentation skills are also vital for this, because we create our own elevator pitches that are regularly revised and presented. Nerine and I have definitely used this class to expand our networks,” he said.

Anay Karwal, grade 12, an Incubator 1 student, is developing Persona, an app that automatically recommends outfits to high school and college students, and to business professionals, based on their existing wardrobe and their fashion preferences. He is already seeing the kind of life-growth that Acheatel noted. “I joined the incubator class because I really wanted to attain an experiential perspective with a business,” said Karwal. “I’ve participated in DECA since my freshman year, and I wanted to utilize all the skills that I learned in order to create something tangible. By the end of the year, I want to have a working prototype to take into college.” Karwal is seeing the building blocks to his goal emerge from the course. “From working at this startup alone, I’ve now realized that

collaboration is extremely crucial in life, because it provides you a new perspective and is much more effective,” he said. It is clear that Incubator 1 students are acquiring skills essential to developing a product, and that personal growth is part of that learning, including how to be flexible, how to work with others on complex tasks and, in Sundaresan’s case, how to switch gears when necessary to build out a successful product. But beyond the incubator program, the students are finding their advancing skills eminently useful in other classes and in life. “With my experiences in DECA and this class, I refined my public speaking abilities and I constantly apply that to all my classes. The problem-solving skills I learned from this class help in my math and economics classes,” Karwal said, adding that he now appreciates learning from others. “The best thing I’ve gotten out of the class is my mentor, as he consistently provides me with help and guidance,” Karwal concluded.

underserved regions in China. Graduating seniors pass down leadership of the company each year, and this year Andrew Sun, grade 11, heads up the venture and is “franchising” the fundraising program at other schools. “We’re interested in helping those who have been abandoned by traditional lending organizations in China,” Sun said. For Sun, the rewards transcend grades and personal accomplishments. “I am passionate about effecting change beyond myself,” Sun said. “I’ve realized through heading Nanoseed that it’s incredibly gratifying to do something that will directly impact someone else’s life. It’s helped me realize that there is much more to life than grades and homework assignments, which is a balance I have definitely struggled with in the past. For example, Nanoseed’s benefit concert last year [to reduce poverty in rural China] really opened my perspective.

“The summer reading for the class also introduced us to a systematic approach to finding solutions to problems by testing one feature/aspect at a time, similar to isolating one Nanoseed is a Harker student-developed nonprofit that variable in an experiment,” Sun noted. “This approach helped organizes student and business loans and grants to me also with improving my speeches in congressional debate, another activity I’m involved in. I’ve found applications of that systematic approach Read more about the incubator program and student by changing one thing about a speech successes: every iteration and seeing if that achieved • Incubator helps create innovative entrepreneurs: https:// the improvement I wanted it to achieve.”

wp.me/pOeLQ-8xM • Incubator classes help students build on existing and new enterprises: https://wp.me/pOeLQ-a9J • Benefit concert raises $8,000 to combat poverty in rural China: https://wp.me/pOeLQ-ad3

For Sun, like Karwal, the biggest advantage to the class is networking and being able to interact with the other people in the class. “They’ve given me so many ideas for fundraisers, operations, etc., and have H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019 49


“Designing the app and then asking for potential customer feedback … required me to break down the tasks and keep going at it resiliently.” – Claire Luo, grade 11


also been wonderful about offering help when I need it,” said Sun. “The collaborative aspect of the class is really rewarding and I’m most grateful I took the class for this reason.”

Claire Luo, grade 11, now in Incubator 2, formed a company last year called GetTime, whose mission is to decrease stress and increase productivity among teenage students through an engaging and efficient time management app. The current version of the app consists of three core features – a dashboard for tracking progress and tasks, a prioritized to-do list and a timing function to keep students on track throughout their study period. “What differentiates my app is that it combines task and time management on one platform and specifically targets high school students, which helps make the experience more streamlined and effective,” she said. Luo, too, has gained wider perspective through her work in the incubator program. “One overarching truth I have learned is that flexibility and adaptability are key, for me as a person and for my company,” she said. “Whether this means continually soliciting feedback and revising features or altering my goals to fit new circumstances, I have learned to be more open to change. In particular, going out and talking to potential customers and mentors has encouraged me to embrace pivoting some aspects of my app.” The payoff is there in the learning, even if the product never gets to market. “I have definitely been able to apply these skills, both in creating my company and in my own life,” said Luo. “For instance, designing the app and then asking for potential customer feedback was a new experience for me and required me to break down the tasks and keep going at it resiliently. The ability to have a clear project end goal and then executing each



task one at a time has applied to any other large group project in other classes. “In addition, presenting and pitching to investors has improved my presenting skills. In my other classes (and activities like DECA), I am more comfortable with speaking in front of larger groups and with using business terms. Also, I learned how to create more effective visuals that are clear and concise, which has been incredibly helpful in other classes.” No surprise, Luo has also embraced the collaborative value of networking. “Networking is also an invaluable skill, since I am now more aware of the importance of going out and connecting with others in order to expand my network. The type of creative and entrepreneurial thinking cultivated in this class has improved my analysis skills, for example,

by allowing me to better evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of certain things.” Luo feels the class has given her the tools to set and reach ambitious milestones. “As starting a company is a very individualized process, setting goals is often up to what I want to accomplish, not what someone else tells me,” she said. “This class has inspired me to be proactive in adapting to changes and staying on top of my work, and has provided me the resources I need to achieve my goals.”

What one piece of advice would you offer anyone who asks? Laugh often – seek out opportunities for it.

What are you obsessed with? Sports movies of all kinds: “Field of Dreams,”“Major League,”“A League of Their Own,”“American Flyers,”“The Winning Season,”“Hoosiers,”“The Endless Summer,” “Rocky,”“Necessary Roughness,”“The Hammer” – I could go on and on.

What helps you persevere when you feel like giving up? The feeling of being so content when the job is done and done well.

face time


ower school P.E. department chair Jim McGovern is a sports guy. If you ask him about his favorite memories, meaningful moments or what famous person he’d like to dine with, he’ll reveal his sports obsession (and for the record, that’s the 1980 gold medal U.S. hockey team/Dwight Clark’s “The Catch”/S.F. Giants 2010 World Series win; playing on a team that beat Alexi Lalas’ indoor soccer team; and Bill Walton). McGovern’s Harker family also includes some real family – teachers Michelle Anderson and Pete Anderson are his sister and brother-in-law. Harker Magazine learned some other fun facts about this San Jose native; though raised in California and Oregon, he now lives less than a mile from where he was born. Read on!

What are you doing when you feel most alive? Riding a breaking wave that keeps going and going, while on a bodyboard or a longboard.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful? Not giving up playing soccer and baseball after I was cut from each of those sports in high school. I went on and played for the better part of 32 years after graduating (and am still playing softball).

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? Ranking pretty high up there is getting my master’s degree in education.




Photo by John Todd





his fall, Eagle athletes continued to make Harker history. Anna Weirich, grade 11, won the first girls CCS cross country title in school history; the girls tennis team upset two top teams to advance to the CCS semifinals, further than any other tennis team (boys or girls) in Harker’s history; the girls golf team took third in CCS and fifth in NorCal, the top finish in program history, with Claire Chen, grade 9, tying for seventh at the state finals; and the girls volleyball team brought home just the second CCS team title in school history, giving coach Theresa Smith her first CCS championship in her nearly 20 years of coaching at Harker. At the lower and middle school levels, Stanley Chen, grade 6, took first at the WBAL cross country meet; the middle school golf team took second at the WBAL tournament; and the JVA softball team finished first in the WBAL. Go Eagles! Photo by John Todd


s t r a e H g n i Help





hen Dr. Shalini (Lal) Bhambani ’02 decided to pursue a career in medicine, she didn’t know that she would learn cutting-edge technology that would regularly save the lives of very ill patients. Her post-Harker education took her to Pomona College where she earned her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience before she went to medical school at Harvard University.

She actually thought she wanted to become a pediatrician, because she loves children, but realized that it was very emotionally taxing to see children so sick. Then a rotation through cardiology opened a new world, one that was procedure-based and very brainy, which was appealing to her.

Alumna using cutting-edge technology to save patients’ lives

It was so appealing that after her residency at Los Angeles County Hospital+USC Medical Center, she did two fellowships, including one at Stanford University in cardiovascular imaging/ echocardiography that gave her special training in 3D echo, strain imaging, interventional echo for structural heart disease and cardiac MRI. This unique skill set allows her to have a greater impact on sick patients by making and confirming diagnoses at Silicon Valley Cardiology, which is part of Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “Patients come from all over the country to get diagnoses that can only be made with this imaging, so my work is meaningful and impactful,” said Bhambani. “In my practice, I’m the only one with this skill set and I’m fortunate to work with my partners who support and trust me.” 54



“Harker wants you to learn to become a better person; it teaches students that life skills are not just academic skills.” – Shalini Bhambani ’02 me that her son would be in one of my classes in a little over a decade. So much for retirement,” laughed Robbie Korin, chemistry teacher. “But in all seriousness, Shalini came into my Honors Chemistry class concerned that she would struggle, but she quickly found her footing and became an excellent student of chemistry.” Bhambani learned so much in Korin’s class, she actually used the notes from his course while studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). “There’s nothing greater that I can do than sending my own children to Harker,” Bhambani said. “I really trust in their methods and am grateful for what Harker did for me and will do for my children.” Vikki Bowes-Mok is also the executive director of the community nonprofit Compass Collective.

It’s very rewarding work and she appreciates Harker’s role in grooming her for success. So when Bhambani’s son, Aiden, turned 5 she knew exactly where she wanted to send him to school – Harker (her 4-yearold daughter, Sania, hopefully will attend Harker next year). “Harker wants you to learn to become a better person; it teaches students that life skills are not just academic skills.” Bhambani and her husband, Ajoy, feel that becoming part of the Harker community as a family will have an incredible impact on their children. Her transition from student to parent has been filled with joy because Aiden is so happy at school. “Mommy, I love Harker,” said Aiden, who just started first grade. “How come Harker doesn’t have a college?” Bhambani laughed at this comment, but is hopeful Aiden will get to experience some of the amazing teachers she had when she attended Harker. “Shalini came up to me at a recent family picnic with the same smile and an air of kindness she had in high school and told H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019



face time

att “Doc” Harley is a hard figure to miss on the upper school campus. Yes, he’s 6’8”, but it’s his inspirational teaching style in his Honors Biology and Biotechnology classes that has made him a popular teacher and mentor. A Baltimore native, Harley and his family have made Harker their home: His wife, Amy, works at the lower school as a teacher’s aide and handwriting teacher, daughter, Lucy, is in grade 6 and son, Luke, is in grade 2, “and they are both off-the-charts tall.” Harley says his students “challenge me intellectually and reaffirm my faith in humanity,” and his conversation with Harker Magazine illustrates that his passion for science and nature is by no means confined to the classroom.

What are the two things you like to do when you finally have a block of free time?

Where in the world are you the happiest? There are several places of natural beauty that I love, but my new happy place is New Zealand, sitting on a hill overlooking the foliage in the foreground, and the bay and ocean in the background.

What is the one thing in the world you would fix if you could wave a magic wand? Better understanding and faith in science by the public. This would cause us to finally and fully address climate change, prevent vaccinatable diseases like measles, and slow the spread and impact of Ebola in Africa.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? I hope it hasn’t happened yet!

Nature hikes and geocaching with my kids.

What makes you feel like a kid again? Playing with a dog. (Amy has a cat, but I am not-sopatiently waiting to get a dog.)

If you had $100 million in the bank, what would your day look like? The only thing I think would change is that I would be commuting to Harker in a new electric vehicle, or perhaps taking the new all-electric public transportation system that I would fund.

Matt Harley 34 56



Photo by Kyle Cavallaro

Golf coach Ie-Chen Cheng was named one of the Central Coast Section’s 2019 Fall Sport Honor Coaches. CCS identified Cheng’s focus on team aspects as a key factor, notable for a sport that typically emphasizes individual achievement. Her method has proven effective, leading girls golf to second place in CCS in 2018 and boys golf to six consecutive WBAL titles.

In October, lower school learning, innovation and design director Lisa Diffenderfer and lower school math teacher Eileen Schick presented at Fall CUE, an educational technology conference, in Rancho Cordova. The two held a workshop on games that improve students’ math skills, creative problem-solving and computational thinking. The workshop included a demonstration of the games and allowed teachers in attendance to try the games for themselves.

In September, Abigail Joseph, middle school learning, innovation and design director, was named one of the first recipients of the Computer Science Teachers Association’s Equity Fellowship. She is one of 10 teachers chosen for the program, which provides an array of opportunities for career development aimed at increasing equity in computer science education.

class notes

Keep up to date on the lives of your classmates. Alumni from all classes through 1997 are listed under the years they would have completed grade 8 at The Harker School, Harker Academy, Harker Day School or Palo Alto Military Academy (PAMA). For all classes after the Class of 1997, alumni are listed under the class years they would have graduated from high school, regardless of whether they completed high school studies at Harker. For unlisted classes, we invite you to email alumni@harker.org if you are interested in becoming a class agent or would like to nominate a classmate. All photos submitted by the subject unless noted.

class notes

Photo by Kyle Cavallaro

Professional accomplishments of our faculty and staff.

staff kudos

staff kudos


PAMA Calling all Palo Alto Military Academy alumni! Please join fellow alumni on the PAMA Facebook page. Just type “Palo Alto Military Academy” into the Facebook search window.

1989 Justin Pogue was interviewed for an hour-long podcast on his real estate consulting business and a book he has written. https://lnkd.in/gAAiCYJ

2003 Jess (Cu) Killips had a baby boy. “On July 16 we welcomed Owen Killips to the world. He was a tiny little nugget, coming three weeks early at 5 lbs. 7 oz. His older sister, Haley, started preschool this month and is loving it.” Jess and Andrew are doing well, especially now that Owen is sleeping (almost) through the night! H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019


class notes

2007 Chanelle Kasik recently got engaged to J.P. Dimalanta in Cape Cod, Mass. Joining their family is their new Miniature Australian Shepherd puppy Theodore (“Theo”). Chanelle and J.P. reside in New York City.

2009 Denzil (Sikka) Eden was honored as one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award winners for 2019. Read more about Denzil’s wonderful accomplishment here https://news.harker.org/ alumna-09-named-to-silicon-valley-business-journals-40-under-40-list/



Vishesh Jain and Rashmi Sharma got married in Pleasanton this past May, 11 years after they started dating during their sophomore year at Harker! Vishesh’s sister, Saachi Jain ’14, played the important role of tying the knot that held them together during their combined Hindu and Jain wedding ceremony. Their best friends and classmates Kelsey Hilbrich, Andrea Lincoln and Nathaniel Edwards attended the wedding. Photo provided by Manali Anne Photography http:// www.manaliannephotography.com/

Danny Wang began medical school in England this fall. Danny and classmates Ashley Del Alto and Michael Chen joined Kerry Enzensperger, Clare Elchert and Jaron Olson for a fun gathering to say goodbye and good luck at a send-off dinner at Gombei in Japantown in San Jose.

LONDON MEET-UP While chaperoning the upper school journalism department’s trip to London last June, Kristina Alaniz, director of alumni relations, journalism teacher Ellen Austin and dance teacher Karl Kuehn had the pleasure of meeting up with some alumni. Hannah Prutton ’13 and Devin Nguyen ’12 both joined the group at The Globe Theater for an evening of Shakespeare, while recent grad Olivia Esparza ’19 and her mom, art teacher Pilar Agüero-Esparza, joined the group for a lovely dinner!



class notes 2017


This summer Andrew Tierno completed a software engineering internship at Facebook. He fully enjoyed his work at the company and the perks that came with it (ample food options and a luxury residence in Cupertino). He will be returning to Facebook in summer 2020 to continue with his passion of machine learning and data science.

Rajiv Movva, a Davidson Fellow, is first author on a paper about deciphering regulator DNA sequences published at PLOS: https://lnkd.in/gUeDvNX. Check out Rajiv’s other accolades and a short description of his project at https://lnkd.in/g-XNqNx and https://lnkd.in/gSVuZR8.

Andrew is a junior at Stanford University, pursuing computer engineering with a specialization in machine learning and math.

Sumati Wadhwa conducted sessions related to neuroscience at the Splash at Berkeley fall 2019 program. Splash at Berkeley is a student organization that brings local high school students to the University of California, Berkeley, for a day of unlimited student-led learning. UC Berkeley students get an opportunity to contribute to the community

by sharing their passions. Sumati is a sophomore at Cal. https://berkeley. learningu.org/

2019 Ayush Alag had his paper published on a machine learning approach to help identify food allergies. It has been quite a journey for Ayush as his research developed! https://journals.plos.org/ plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal. pone.0218253 To learn more about Ayush’s project and the company it has spawned, see Harker News: http://news.harker. org/students-research-into-allergies-leads-to-founding-of-company/

KELLER TOUR SPRING 2019 The first leg of this year’s Keller Tour stopped in Southern California in September for a rather large gathering with USC students. Mr. and Mrs. Keller were joined by 15 alumni at the popular L.A. restaurant Shaquille’s, owned by none other than former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal. The Kellers will continue their tour when they head to the East Coast this spring.



Photos by Matthew Sutton ’18

class notes


rk er

ve ha

20 GI 20 V DA

IN Y #l G O o


The final leg of the 125th anniversary tour was celebrated on Sept. 7 in San Francisco. The Gagosian Gallery was the location for this year’s event and many alumni from around the Bay Area joined Harker faculty and administration for an evening of drinks, art and mingling with good company!

Hey, Harker Alumni!

Show your Harker pride




making a gift to your alma mater.


#loveoflearning #goeagles

and #loveharker on Feb.14 by

2019-20 The arts are integral to a complete education at Harker, and we are

FRI., FEB. 28, 2020 l 7 P.M.

Kronos Quartet www.kronosquartet.org

honored to share this year’s lineup of outstanding performers with the


community. Plan to join us!

FRI., NOV. 22, 2019 l 7 P.M.

FRI., SEPT. 20, 2019 l 7 P.M.

The Bohemian Trio

Laila Biali and her Trio



Rothschild Performing Arts Center The Harker School - Upper School Campus 500 Saratoga Ave., San Jose

$25 per concert $15 students/seniors Admission is free for Harker students. Watch for announcements. Reception one hour prior to each performance. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks.

Information & tickets: www.harker.org/concerts H AR KE R MAG A Z INE l FALL/WIN TER 2019




Summer Programs

Thewww.harker.org Harker School 500 Saratoga Ave. San Jose , CA 95129

final frame

62 64



O of C: 6/19 (BHDG) 5,800

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