Q&A with Larry Kilgman, head of Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School

I’d been to Heschel as a spectator when my son was in 5th grade and Viewpoint played their school in sports. I always remember how courteous and hospitable the kids and parents were during and after games, treating us as guests as opposed to rivals. Win or lose, Heschel always exhibited excellent sportsmanship, which I’ve learned, is an important part of a school’s culture. Since then, I’d been curious about the school, so I was pleased to accept the invitation to tour Heschel. Last month, I met Larry, along with Lara Martin, admissions director and Susan Kussin, head of marketing and alumni relations. Before walking around the lovely, sparkling campus–set on three acres– we chatted about Larry’s vision for the school’s future and his nearly lifelong connection to the school. I was inspired by his belief that the skills kids need most for the future include collaboration, critical thinking and, among others, empathy. The inclusion of empathy as a necessary skill is the type of forward-thinking leadership our world needs now and indefinitely. Heschel is a Jewish Day School grades TK-8 located in Northridge. –Christina 

Larry Kligman

1. You have a long history with Heschel, from student, teacher, coach and now head of school. What has kept you connected to the school for so long? 

Any Heschel student will tell you that once you attend our school, you remain a part of the Heschel community long past graduation.  As a transitional kindergarten through eighth grade program, our students spend their formative years learning and growing on our campus, and the connection lasts a lifetime. Heschel played an important role in my youth, and when I made the decision to have a career in education, I was lucky enough to come home to Heschel.

I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a dynamic, collaborative, and innovative administrative team and Board of Directors who have continuously supported and inspired my growth as an educator and leader.  Having a long history with Heschel affords me a unique perspective in balancing the ever-evolving nature of a school environment, while keeping the traditions and underlying values of our school at the heart of our mission.

2. How would you describe the educational philosophy of the school?

We hold onto the best of the principles and traditions upon which Heschel was founded, and strive constantly to learn and embrace current and forward thinking concepts, research, and strategies best suited to prepare our students for the future. Balancing individual engagement and joyful learning with rigorous studies within a dual curriculum is at the forefront of a Heschel education.

We are fortunate that the size of our school and the expertise of our faculty allow us to put into action the best elements from multiple learning approaches including project based learning, design thinking, and small group and ability-based instruction. The professional growth and development of our faculty promotes our innovative and fresh curriculum focused on critical thinking and curiosity, and as a result Heschel students experience true intellectual and ethical inquiry.

3. You described the 5 skills students will need for the future: Creativity, Collaboration, Design Thinking, Critical Thinking and Empathy. I’m pleased to see “empathy” is included. Can you talk about how you ensure students leave Heschel possessing these important skills and values?

Students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade are encouraged to question and engage in respectful debate, problem solve and think critically as they master new math concepts, strategize in games, interpret and respond to literature, and express themselves via writing and the arts.  

While we do not know what jobs may exist when our current students join the work force, we do know they will need to possess a strong sense of self, have a “growth mindset” – a willingness to work hard, take risks, and challenge their own comfort level.

As a pluralistic Jewish school, we have a natural lens for the inclusion of empathy, which is woven throughout the program in both general and Judaic studies. By exploring Jewish roots and other cultures, we encourage our students to explore sameness and difference.  Our students know who they are and what they stand for, and as a result, they have the ability to take on others’ perspectives. Every grade level participates in Tikkun Olam, acts of kindness which are performed to repair the world at large. The relevant and developmentally appropriate grade level projects are instrumental in instilling not just an understanding of the concept, but teaching students to live it in the form of action as a lifelong responsibility.

4. A big vote of confidence in a school is when alumni parents return to enroll their own children. Heschel has 69 legacy students! What did Heschel give so many families that they want for their own children? Does this make admissions more competitive for non-legacy families?

In my experience, all parents of our incoming new students want what any parent is seeking for their child; to grow confident, healthy individuals who make a positive difference in our world.  Our alumni families are already familiar with the Heschel partnership and community, and our new families quickly become part of the Heschel experience as they attend new parent events, community events, and experience Jewish holidays.

It is amazing how many Heschel alums share that their closest friends today are still the friends they made at Heschel. This is remarkable when considering our program concludes in eighth grade! Walking alumni through our school as prospective parents are some of my favorite tours. The reminiscing is endless and they are always amazed at the updated facility and incredible faculty. They see that the values, strong academic programs, and amazing community are still here, and they want that for their children.

In terms of admissions, we accept mission appropriate families where we can serve the child(ren) and family well. New and legacy families go through the same admissions process. When it comes to accepting new students, the competitive nature of private school admissions is dependent on class size and the applicant pool.

5. Where do Heschel’s eighth graders matriculate to and what is your process for helping place families in L.A. area private high schools?

This year our eighth graders have been accepted to 14 schools, which include Archer, Buckley, Campbell Hall, Chaminade, de Toledo High School, Harvard-Westlake, Marlborough, Milken, Shalhevet, Sierra Canyon, Valley Torah, Viewpoint, Village Christian, and Yula. We guide families through each step of the process, helping them transition from acceptance to graduation to matriculation. We recognize what an important process this is for our families, and our eighth grade faculty and the entire administration work hard to create an atmosphere of exploration and excitement for our families, rather than one of stress and angst. As a result, students feel empowered and excited to spread their wings after Heschel! We see Heschel as a place that opens endless opportunities to our students, and our matriculation process is no different.

For more information, visit Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School

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Photos: Heschel School and Christina Simon

Ad Astra School founded by Elon Musk accepting applications for 2019-20, per Quartz

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This article by Quartz gives information about how to apply to Ad Astra School for 2019-20. It looks like the deadline is January 1. Here are the questions students and parents must complete to apply.

 

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Spotlight on Emily Ingistov: Westchester Lutheran’s New Head of School

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We’re super-excited to feature a Q&A with Emily Ingistov, the new head of Westchester Lutheran School! Westchester Lutheran School is a private Christian school serving Preschool-8thGrade located in Westchester, CA.  Emily has been a familiar face at the school for years and now she’s earned the top job. Congratulations, Emily! –Christina

Question: After receiving your teaching credential and a Master’s of Arts in elementary education from Loyola Marymount University in 2003, you started teaching at Westchester Lutheran School (WLS). Most recently you taught math for grades 6-8. You also hold an administrative credential and a Master’s of Science. What are some of your most important short and long-term goals now that you’re the head of school?

Answer: My short-term goals include implementing a resource program this school year for gifted-students and students with special learning needs, beautifying our campus with improvements to the playground and yard play space, and developing a campus-wide STEM program.  My long-term goal for WLS is to welcome more families to our wonderful school, support ongoing continuing education and professional development for teachers, increase school-wide communication, and continue efforts to integrate technology into the classroom and into the hands of our students.

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Question: How would you describe the educational philosophy of WLS? At WLS, our motto is Believing and Achieving. We have been educating students since 1950.

Answer: At WLS, we make it our mission and goal to educate the whole child so that each child is provided opportunities and experiences to discover and develop their unique gifts and talents in a Christian, nurturing and caring atmosphere.  We aim for high academic success and achievement through our standards-based, differentiated instruction.  We want our students to graduate WLS knowing they have the confidence, knowledge, and skills necessary for succeeding in the world.

Question: What do you think are some of the most innovative trends happening in education right now? Are there any you’d like to incorporate into the curriculum at WLS?

Answer: One innovative trend I am seeing in the field of education is the emphasis of a STEM program so that students are leaders of the world in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  At WLS, we are going to expand and enhance our STEM program and Portals to Science. This is where students will build and learn through hands-on activities about energy and environmental conservation by installing solar panels, creating a battery from a potato, installing rain collection barrels, composting bins, solar ovens, and developing a school-wide recycling program.  In addition to this, we will have a STEM quad for our 6th-8thgrade students where Math, Science, and Technology curriculum will be integrated to promote student learning. The  integration of technology of across the curriculum is another important educational trend we embrace.

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Question: What are qualities you look for in applicant students? What about the parents?

Answer: We are looking for students who are eager to learn, understand new concepts, and grow in a caring, Christian environment where all members are valued and respected for unique differences, weaknesses and strengths. At WLS, we take pride in our strong tradition of academic excellence.  We seek students who are eager to be challenged and engaged in their learning experience.  We welcome parents who understand and value the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and want to be contributing members of our school community through the many volunteer activities we offer. We see parents as partners in educating our students.

Question: Do families need to belong to the Westchester Lutheran Church to enroll at the school?

Answer: We welcome and value ALL students of diverse ethnic backgrounds and faiths at Westchester Lutheran School. One does not have to be a member of the church to attend our school or be of the Lutheran faith.

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Question: Over ninety percent of the school’s eighth graders are accepted by their first choice private high school. Can you talk about how you help prepare kids to apply to private high schools? What are some of the private high schools your students attend?

Answer: Over ninety percent of our students not only are accepted into the high school of their choice, but many of them also receive advanced placement at entrance, including honors programs, and receive academic scholarships for their excellence and achievement. Our students typically attend the following schools after graduation: Loyola H.S., Marymount H.S., St. Monica’s Catholic H.S., Notre Dame Academy, Notre Dame H.S., Pacifica Christian H.S., St. John Bosco, Bishop Montgomery, Harvard Westlake, Windward, and Vista Mar. Our students are highly prepared for the rigors of high school.  Students are taught time management through balancing rigorous academics, various athletics, and extra-curricular activities.  We provide leadership opportunities, including student clubs such as Math Mentor Club, Girl Up, and Student Government. Students take Spanish in elementary and middle school years at WLS which often places students in advanced placement in high school. Many students place into Honors Geometry, Honors English, and Honors Biology as Freshmen in high school and are very successful in these courses.  We are proud of our students and all that they have accomplished while at WLS. They continue to amaze us and make us proud with their continued accomplishments in high school and many prestigious universities.   At WLS, we provide students with the foundation and skills needed to achieve their professional aspirations and goals. Believing and Achieving!

A native of Sacramento, Emily Ingistov arrived in Los Angeles in 1997 after graduating from Saint Francis High School to pursue a degree in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University.  It was during this time at LMU, that Mrs. Ingistov discovered her professional calling to become a teacher while completing a work-study program at Cowan Avenue School as a Site Coordinator in the government-funded program America Reads. Mrs. Ingistov graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science in 2001. Upon graduation, she entered and completed a teaching credential and Masters of Arts in Elementary Education graduate program at LMU while simultaneously teaching 1st and 3rd grade at Visitation School in Westchester. She was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in education. In 2003, Mrs. Ingistov joined Westchester Lutheran School to teach 5th grade.  During this time, she found a love for teaching math and became the math teacher for grades 6-8 in 2009.  Mrs. Ingistov obtained a grant to complete a graduate program to earn her Administrative Credential and Masters of Science in School Administration from National University in 2009.  She was inducted into Pi Lambda Theta, an international honor society in education.  Mrs. Ingistov is committed to social justice and academic excellence. She is ready to effect change at a higher level as the new Head of School at Westchester Lutheran School which proudly serves preschool-8th grade students of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

For more information, visit Westchester Lutheran School.

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A Look at K-12 vs. K-8 vs. K-6: Options For L.A. Private Schools by Sanjay Nambiar

School Decisions

 

Dear Readers:

I’m so excited to publish this excellent piece by Sanjay Nambiar. Along with his wife, Priya, Sanjay runs Nambiar Advising and they are parents at PS1 Pluralistic School in Santa Monica. The decision to apply to K-12, K-8 or K-6 can be confusing and a lot of parents end up applying to more than one of these educational models. That’s what my own family did. But what happens when you have to choose between a K-6 and a K-12 for example? What about leaving a K-8 or K-12 before graduation? Read on! Sanjay breaks it all down for you. –Christina

 

Tough Decisions! Should I Lock in the Next 13 Years Now, or Should I Allow for Change?

A Look at K-12 vs. K-8 vs. K-6 Private Schools

You’re ready to apply to private school. You’ve done your research regarding traditional versus progressive pedagogies. You have a good idea of the type of setting where your child will thrive.

Now, should you apply to K-12 schools and be done with the process forever? Or maybe K-6 is a better strategy? And what about K-8? A few schools offer Developmental Kindergarten.

As if worrying about tuition and application essays were not enough, we also have this K-12 vs. K-8 vs. K-6 debate. It’s enough to make any parent pull his or her hair out!

Okay, deep breaths. We can do this. We will do this.

When it comes the grade structure of a school, each option offers a bevy of pros and cons. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right fit for your child and family. What works for Johnny might be the opposite of what’s best for Jennifer. There is no right or wrong strategy.

But there is solace in this. As long as we try our best – and do our research – we’re doing right by our kids. And that is always priority number one (at least in our opinion).

So, let’s jump in . . . Below is a check list of the some of the pros and cons for each of these school structures. This list focuses just on the nature of the grading groups. It doesn’t delve into the specific academic approaches of any school, which often are the biggest determinants of what constitutes a best-fit for a child. Nonetheless, these are a few elements to consider as you’re exploring various schools.

 

K-12 Pros

You don’t have to do this again.

Applying to private school can be a grueling and anxiety-inducing process. From understanding the various school philosophies to the essays, interviews, school tours, and financial aid applications, it’s often overwhelming for even the most prepared families. With a K-12 school, once you’re in, you never need to do this again.

No ISEE

Starting at 5thgrade, students need to take the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) when applying to private school. (Think of it as the SAT for private schools.) But if you’re in a K-12 school, your child doesn’t need to take this test. Ever. That’s a decent amount of stress and studying to avoid.

13 years of consistent families & friends

Many K-12 schools have a special sense of community. Your child can be with the same cohort for up to 13 years. It becomes like family, and those bonds can last a lifetime; some schools even call these kids “lifers”. If the fit is right, this consistency through adolescence and the teenage years can be wonderful. But there’s also another side to this . . . (see below).

 

K-12 Cons

Kids change

Developmentally, we often don’t know the details of a child’s learning style until about 3rdor 4thgrade. Moreover, many kids change significantly during their tween years (10- to 12-years-old). As a result, the academic approach of the school you chose when your child was in Kindergarten might not be a fit when she is in 6thor 7thgrade.

13 years of consistent families & friends

If you don’t love your community in elementary school at K-12 school, you might be out of luck. Your child could be in a peer group that he or she doesn’t connect with, and likewise you might not connect with other parents. And this varies from year to year. The classes above and below your daughter’s might be delightful, but she unfortunately might be stuck with a crew that doesn’t totally fit her – even if new students join the school in 6th, 7th, or 9thgrade. It’s random and sometimes can’t be anticipated. Moreover, as your child changes in the tween and teen years, he might want (or need) a new and different group of friends. Changing at 6thor 9thgrade could be a refreshing move that leads to more success. Further, this change can help prepare kids for the big transition on the not-too-distant horizon: going to college.

 

K-6 Pros

A focus on elementary education

K-6 schools tend to be experts on elementary education. They know the pedagogy and philosophy incredibly well. They know this age group incredibly well. It’s what they do, and all of their resources are devoted to this one aspect of education. There’s no diversion of resources into middle or high school.

An opportunity to change

At 6thgrade, you’ll have a much better idea of how your child learns and in what type of setting he or she will flourish. That means you can apply to great options at 7thgrade, both private and public, that could help foster your child’s academic, creative, and social potential. And that school might be very different from your current K-6 school, and that’s okay. Also, a child can have a special opportunity to change his or her environment in 7thgrade. It’s a time to learn key life skills: how to move to a new setting, how to adapt to new people, and how to cope with change, all with the benefit parental support.

 

K-6 Cons

You’ll have to do this again

As mentioned before, applying to private school can be stressful on many levels. Also, your child will need to take the ISEE (or perhaps another entrance exam, depending on the school) as part of the application. If you’re at a K-12 school, you get to avoid this process.

Change can be hard

Although learning how to adapt to new environments is an important life skill, for some children this type of change can be overwhelming. Combined with the typical trials and tribulations of puberty and early teenage years, switching to a new middle school can be a stressful experience, even if it results in personal growth.

 

K-8 Pros

Easier transition to middle school

K-8 schools enjoy the K-6 pros mentioned above. Additionally, they provide the benefit of a relatively seamless transition to middle school (7th& 8thgrades). This can reduce the stress of changing schools and make those awkward early teenage years a little easier for students, especially those who may be a little shy or vulnerable. Also, 7thand 8thgraders in these schools have an opportunity to be leaders, while delaying the move to another school simultaneously keeps them young. In fact, researchers in one study compared K-8 schools to traditional 6-8 settings and discovered that K-8 students earned higher SAT scores as well as higher GPAs in 9thgrade[1].

 

K-8 Cons

Family attrition

K-8 schools also encounter the same K-6 cons mentioned above. Additionally, some families transition out of a K-8 school at 7thgrade, for a variety of reasons. For example, some K-12 (and 6-12 or 7-12) private schools have fewer openings at 9thgrade than at 7th. This results in 7thand 8thgrade classes at K-8 schools that are thinner, as families apply out sooner. The smaller class sizes can be a bonus, but this attrition also can affect morale, change the culture of a class, and result in fewer resources for these grades.

 

Keep It in Perspective

No matter where you choose to send your child to school, success has a myriad of factors beyond the K-12/K-8/K-6 debate. When a student thrives, it’s about educational philosophy, peer circles, access to creative endeavors, family dynamics, and so much more. Perhaps knowing this can make the research and decision about K-12/K-8/K-6 a little less stressful. Because, ultimately, the educational journey is a long one. And regardless of what type of school structure your children attend, they can forge a path that harnesses their potential and joy for learning.

 

Priya and Sanjay Nambiar run Nambiar Advising, a consulting practice that shepherds families through the private school admissions process, from helping clients find the best-fit schools for children to application support, essay editing, interview preparation, and more. Priya has spent more than 20 years in education and was the Associate Director of Admissions at the Brentwood School in Los Angeles. She earned a B.A. in Education from Brown University and an M.Ed. from Harvard University. Sanjay is an entrepreneur and professional writer who has written several award-winning children’s books. He earned a B.A. in Economics and Neurobiology from U.C. Berkeley and an M.B.A. from UCLA. To learn more, please visit www.nambiaradvising.com.

[1]Look, K. (2009). The great K-8 debate. The Philadelphia Education Fund. www.philaedfund.org/notebook/TheGreatK8Debate.htm

 

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STEM3 Academy: For Poets and Physicists

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A few months ago, I met with Dr. Ellis Crasnow, the head of school Stem3 Academy for a tour of the campus and a chat about the program. Dr. Crasnow holds a PhD from USC and has taught math, science and English at the college and high school levels. He is friendly and low-key, a welcoming presence at the school. We met at the Valley Glen campus, but Ellis explained that the school also includes a Culver City campus that has expanded to include middle and high school. STEM3 Academy is a school for kids grades 3-12 with social and/or learning differences. STEM3 Academy is a school under The Help Group. STEM is short for science, technology, engineering and math.

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STEM3 Academy School has a warm, nurturing feeling, making you feel like you want to roll up your sleeves and get involved in any of the various classroom projects, even if you’re not a STEM person (I’m definitely not!). Ellis knows the details of every project and he knows every kid’s name and what they’re working on, from coding or expository writing to robotics and a 3D printing project. He explained big concepts and project details, making them come to life with explanations of real-world applications happening in student labs. When I asked Ellis if students must be focused on technology he told me the school welcomes non-STEM students too. He is looking for curious, motivated students in all disciplines, including the arts.

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Here’s my Q&A with Ellis. I hope you’ll check out this amazing school!–Christina

1. Your school is very impressive! Why do you think the place is buzzing with such positive energy? The classes are directed towards student interests and skills—they have an interest in classes like robotics, engineering and design, cybersecurity, and computer programming. In addition, the way in which the classes are taught also plays to their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Classes are hands-on, and students engage in real-world projects so that what they learn is not only of interest to them but also relevant to the world in which they live. That generates excitement.

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2. What kind of student does Stem3 Academy seek to admit? We look for students who are passionate, engaged, interested, who want to learn and try, who are makers and builders. They might be writers or artists, scientists or math whizzes. What they’re interested in matters less than that they are interested. Our goal is to provide them the resources to excel in their area of interest and passion.

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3. What are some of the traits you believe will help a student succeed at Stem3 Academy? Students who are collaborative and creative, who are independent thinkers, who persevere and persist, who are positive and optimistic about their own future and their prospects will be successful. Also those who are strong academically or those who are tactile or kinesthetic learners, or those who don’t learn in traditional ways (by being lectured to or rote learning)—they will all do well with us.

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4. Can you tell us a bit about college acceptances your students have received? Our first year as an independent school, we graduated 5 seniors all of whom went to college. This year (in 2 weeks’ time!) we will graduate 14 seniors who have already been accepted to UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Channel Islands, Woodbury University, Parsons School of Design, Bard College, and many others.

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5. Do you have to be a STEM kid to thrive at Stem3 Academy? No, not at all. We would as happily accept a poet as a physicist. What matters more is the passion a student might have for drawing or drama, or writing. We will support their passion no matter the area of interest. The importance of STEM is due to the overwhelming influence that technology has had on every area of human endeavor—it has changed both what we do and how we do it, and that is as true for an artist as an architect.

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6. How is Stem3 Academy different from public school programs for kids on the spectrum or those with ADHD? We distinguish ourselves in a variety of ways. First, our focus is on learning, not on teaching. Classes are student-focused, not teacher-focused, so that the emphasis is on student collaboration and engagement in making meaning and in learning. Secondly, there is a focus on the development of real-world hands-on projects, which develop student skills in collaboration, communication and creativity. Third, we encourage students to be active learners in class in doing work when teachers can support them, and do passive work (reading, research) for homework when they can work on their own. This is the reverse of what happens in public school programs. Fourth, we encourage the use of technology in all subjects and have rich resources for student use on campus: 3-D printers and pens, CNC mill, DSL cameras and video cameras, drawing pads for digital animation, Go-pro style cameras, sound mixing table, green screen, microphones, tripods, 3 different robotics platforms, etc.

Admissions at STEM3 Academy is on a rolling basis and tuition is $34,000 per year. For more information, visit www.stem3academy.org

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