Share Your Story
Share your Synergy memories - an anecdote, an experience, a funny story, or how Synergy has shaped your life.
We didn’t have an early reader. Our kindergartener was just more interested in his dance moves and the magical stories that played out in his head. First grade rolled around, and we watched as the other kids in the class sounded out their words and delighted in books. “Don’t worry,” they told us, “it will come. Everyone has their own timetable.”
The new year came and went. Winter passed. Should we be worried? “Trust us,” the teachers said. And then it hit. Boy did it ever hit! The light came on and the words lit up. We started hearing from teachers that it became impossible to tear Baxter away from his books. He was reading on buses and trains, in restaurants and at Giants games. Within months he had leapt a couple of grade levels.
While our friends at other schools were frenetically practicing sight word flashcards in kindergarten, our teachers were playing a longer game. The love of books, the smile you see here, this is what progressive education looks like. This is why we give.
In first grade I was reading fluently, but rarely pronounced new words correctly. It turned out that, instead of sounding out new words, I was memorizing the pronunciations one-by-one. Tanya Baker, my first grade teacher, didn't stop the way I was learning. Instead, after mentioning it to my parents, she helped me learn my way, making sure that I stayed on track.
Evidently, I learned how to read. While my method of learning might have made English a little more difficult, it made Chinese, which I'd learn later on, far easier. If Tanya had forced me to learn "her way" instead of helping me cultivate my own, I might never have developed the skills and personal qualities that I treasure today.
Tanya's willingness to support me through my own learning experience was emblematic of my time at Synergy. Synergy is purposefully designed to generate a community of creative individuals, bound together by a universalizing sense of mutual respect and curiosity for those around us. This lack of a prepackaged "Synergy experience" says a lot about the care Synergy's teachers and administrators take to provide us with the opportunity to grow into whoever we want to be, rather than to ask us conform to some established standard or predetermined vision.
When I look back on my experiences and education at Synergy, I think about my teachers and the strong sense of community. Whether we were building volcanoes with Jesse or bridges with Rea or creating our own cultures with Tammy and Elena at farm school, my teachers always cared about me as an individual. They encouraged me, taught me to think critically, and fostered my interest in environmental sustainability.
I'm currently a double major in political science and environmental science at UC Santa Barbara with a significant interest in American politics and policy, my intended field of focus. My long-term academic goal is to attend law school and to focus on environmental law and policy making.
In addition to my academics, I gained experience last summer conducting research for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and for former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty. My work with Bevan led to a position as his campaign coordinator as he launched his successful bid for the District 9 seat on the BART Board of Directors. This summer, I interned at the Sierra Club.
I’m grateful for my Synergy experience and for my teachers who helped me find my voice and my passion.
As a public high school teacher, I spend a lot of time with standards, and in some ways, I find them antithetical to good teaching and learning. Students learn at different rates and in different ways, and having such specific end points for a year’s learning made me anxious when it came to finding the right learning environment for my own child. More than anything, Jackie and I just wanted Ezra to like school because we’d both seen and felt the results of not liking school and how a negative school experience can result in fossilized negative patterns of behavior and mindset.
We brought that anxiety with us to our first curriculum night when Ezra was in the Star Room (kindergarten). Thankfully, we were put fully at ease when Tanya responded to a question about how much reading progress children are expected to make in their first year. “A year’s growth from wherever they start,” was her response. When we heard that, we looked at each other with relief. That sense of growth and expectation has continued through all of Ezra’s grades, and we love that learning at Synergy begins with where each child begins.
Ezra tells us that he likes Synergy because “it feels free and open, and it starts and ends with a celebration. There are lots of fun events, and fun groups that you can join. The teachers care about us. Even when I’m getting a wave out, they don’t yell at me. They just say it calmly, ‘Wave out, Ezra.’” We do our best to emulate that calmness at home. We are working on it.
Please join us in giving to the Annual Fun.
When my last child graduated from Synergy, I remember wondering how I could possibly thank the Synergy teachers and staff for all they've given my family. At Synergy, one of my sons developed a life long love of history, my daughter discovered she doesn't actually hate math and that she loves to draw and sing, and all three of my children learned writing skills that will serve them their whole lives.
But beyond the academics and arts at Synergy, I value what my children learned about empathy, compassion, and what it means to be a citizen of the planet. Every day we learn more about the value of social and emotional learning (SEL) in education. SEL is woven into the fabric of Synergy, and has been from day one. You walk into the school and from the art work on the walls to the exuberant shouts on the yard to the welcome you receive from Becky and everyone else you run in to, you can tell that it is a happy, caring place.
My children are now young adults, but Synergy is still a part of our lives. We met many of our closest friends at Synergy, and the Synergy community has been a second family in a city where we have no other relatives. I've heard Tanya compare Synergy to the Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. And it's true...
Synergy will always be a part of my family.
I knew about Synergy as our neighborhood school with an intriguing organizational structure and creative curriculum. When I started teaching biology at Lick-Wilmerding High School with 9th graders coming from over 50 different middle schools around the Bay Area, the Synergy students stood out as free thinkers, confident without being overbearing, curious, interested and interesting.
In the summer before my daughter Eva was about to start 5th grade, and I knew the middle school search was looming, I learned about a 5th grade opening at Synergy, and we leaped at the opportunity. The transition was complicated, being the only new student in a tight-knit group, but the school welcomed her with open arms. Eva found lifelong friendships among her classmates and teachers alike. The performing arts programs were particularly meaningful for her, and helped to shape her into the musician and artist she is today.
She didn’t agree with everything about her school environment, but what seemed most important to me was that the school allowed her and encouraged her to speak her mind, be herself, and share her perspective with the administration. Eva has emerged as one of those free thinkers from Synergy who left her mark on my school as well.
My family gives to the Annual Fund because we believe in all the magic that happens at Synergy School. In so many ways, Synergy has been like a family to me over the years—over 25 years as a teacher.
Our daughter, Lucia has completed 9 amazing, creative years filled with class plays, community service events, camping trips, and potlucks at Synergy. Lucia is thriving at Lowell High School and I can wholeheartedly thank all of the hard working teachers who shaped her into the amazing person she is today.
Synergy teaches kids to strive for academic excellence, be aware and active about social justice issues, and most of all, to have fun while learning. The community at Synergy is welcoming and giving, and has always been there for me. Pete and I give so that the spirit of Synergy will continue into the future.
Nearly every day, my daughter sits down at a computer to add to her collection of dozens of stories she has written since we joined Synergy two years ago. It is a passion nurtured and fostered by a wonderful experience in the Sun Room. We all have stories like these.
My family gives to the Annual Drive because, make no mistake, we have something really special going on here and it is us to up to keep it strong. We don’t have to look any further than parents hugging in the halls, poised children leading tours, and classrooms filled with creative expressions of learning. Synergy is also place in which every child learns to play instruments, understands the power of drama, and uses art to explore social justice issues and a developing sense of self. All of this is bound by a commitment of teachers of so strong that they all give to this fund every year, spend days on end away from their own families to run incredible school trips, and double their classroom work by leading the board and committees.
If we all participate in giving to this Annual Drive, at any level we can, we make up the $2500 difference between what Synergy costs for each student and what we pay in tuition. We ensure tuition levels and financial aid that attracts the range of wonderful families that make us who we are. Thanks for joining us!
Ruby, Class of 2022, and Maggie, Class of 2023