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Share Your Story

Share your Synergy memories - an anecdote, an experience, a funny story, or how Synergy has shaped your life.

Share Your Story


Burton-Lippard Family

We weren’t necessarily looking for schools when Synergy came into our lives. Our son was in preschool and they offered a TK option. We were happy there and thought we would continue for the TK program at said preschool. To our surprise the owner of the preschool approached us about exploring Synergy. While she knew she was possibly undercutting her own business she felt our family should explore Synergy. While we had applied to public options we hadn’t really considered a private school for TK. When touring for the first time, it’s easy to say we immediately felt a “vibe,” for lack of a better term, that we were intrigued by and found ourselves wanting to know more. The school itself felt right for our somewhat shy son who seemed to be slightly overwhelmed by large environments. We as parents were drawn to the emphasis on diversity and social justice. A school where race, different family compositions, gender identity and equality were openly discussed and embraced. An environment where our son’s family make up would be reflected in other students’ family compositions. Moreover the sense of community and parental involvement were exactly what we had desired. A place where we could be a part of our child's education and the environment in which these formative years are spent.

Ari flourished in his first year at Synergy as a TK. His confidence blossomed, his social circle widened and his reading skills were on fire. As a TK he uncovered a love of reading, music, Spanish and was able to truly indulge his desire for art and fantasy play. It shouldn’t go without mentioning that to him… Rita, Tanya and Carolyn are beyond compare. He has a connection with each of them and speaks of them often outside of Synergy. Remember adoring your favorite teachers as a child? We do and we love that the Star Room and Synergy as a whole provides such close connections between students and staff.

Every parent wants a safe and nurturing environment for their child. Every parent wants a broad education that fosters a desire for learning. At Synergy we are fortunate to not only have those components but to be surrounded by parents and staff who are committed to those goals as well as immersed in creating a community of support for all.

This year as a second year kindergartner, Ari continues to embrace his Synergy universe. Each day is truly reported as “GREAT!” when Ari is retrieved at the end of the day. He also asks to go to After School every day! And while I don’t indulge him in that wish, he does go a few days a week and we are thrilled that he wants to be there! It speaks to the quality of the environment and the hard work of all the staff that he desires to be at Synergy as much and as often as possible. Outside of school hours when we are living life in the Mission and surrounding neighborhoods… every time we pass Synergy he blows kisses and boasts “I love Synergy!”.

Like Ari, we too are in love with Synergy and have completely subscribed to all they offer our family. We are forever grateful for the agreement system as it’s truly changed our language and approach to “discipline” in our home. We strive to be involved in all that our schedules allow and believe wholeheartedly the more we give in every way possible, the more we and the community of Synergy as a whole benefit.

–Michael Burton, Adam Lippard & Ari (Star Room) Class of 2027

Ian Sicurella, Class of 2008

Synergy holds a very special place in my heart. I have many fond memories from being part of student council to discussing the fine details of Run-DMC with Roy in the Eastenders. Synergy fostered a sense of justice, creativity, and empowerment. I am truly grateful for my teachers who engaged me as a student by creating a supportive learning experience. Synergy gives agency to students to pursue subjects that interests them. As a student, I fell in love with history because I was given the freedom to select my own topics on projects. Learning became exciting for me and it pushed me to want to learn more. It was the catalyst that sparked my passion for history, political science, and social justice.

Synergy also allowed me to understand what an active participant in a community means. It taught me that we need to help each other and to be fair with each other. My experience at Synergy led me to tutor teenagers in a juvenile detention center and inmates in a maximum-security prison through the Bard Prison Initiative Program. Synergy fostered a sense of justice that led me to work at St. Anthony’s Foundation where I am a job coach for men in a rehabilitation program. Synergy nurtured a true sense of community–a community that is diverse, fair, just, and loving. I am proud that I had both the honor of being a student and staff member of Synergy School.

Ian Sicurella, Class of 2008, former Summer Tech Camp and After School instructor (photo above: Ian, right, with brother Alex, Class of 2006)

Garrido-Duthie Family

Our story started when Jen was hired as the art teacher at Synergy in 2002. Our first step was moving from Berkeley to San Francisco to be closer to Synergy. Sandy Barra (4/5 teacher) and her husband Pete graciously asked us if we would like to rent their small cottage. We gladly said yes and Jen taught at Synergy for the next four years before focusing on her own art practice. We did not know what we were getting into at the time, but the Synergy community and spirit had literally moved us.

Fast forward to us looking and touring schools for our daughter, Jemma, almost ten years later. We toured a handful of schools just to reconfirm what we already knew. We wanted Jemma to be a part of the Synergy community. We visited Synergy and ran into so many familiar faces from active teachers, retired teachers, friends, and Synergy families—a hug from Rita, a high five from Jana, a big smile from Roy. We felt moved again. We left inspired by the continued commitment and spirit that was just how we remembered it—if not stronger. We feel so lucky to be a part of the Synergy community and it is even better experiencing it as a parent through the eyes of our daughter.

–Jen Garrido, Josh Duthie, Jemma, Class of 2025 (Rainbow Room) and Juna (younger sibling in photo)

Terrance Baugh, Class of '88

Although I may have been destined to become a licensed marriage and family therapist from the start, I believe that Synergy pushed me towards a life of healing myself and others through the lessons of love, caring, empathy, and joy. Synergy values diversity, connection, sharing, and wisdom, and taught me all of those powerfully.

I have so many amazing memories of Synergy, and they will always be cherished ones. They range from numerous adventures on field trips and backpacking trips, play performances, play in general, and weekly meetings as vice president of the Anti-Veal Club (Christopher Rice was naturally president).

Synergy will always be a huge part of my life, so much so that Tammy and Elena (retired Synergy teachers) were guests at my wedding a few years ago. The love and care that Synergy embodies is everlasting, and if I had children, I would send them there in a heartbeat. Wishing the entire community blessings, past, present, and future.

–Terence Baugh, Alum, Class of 1988

(Terence is the Director of Behavioral Health at the San Francisco-based non-profit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.)

Alumni Teacher-Administrator-Parent Elena Dillon

I was nervous as I went up the stairs to my job interview at Synergy School on Grove Street in June 1983. Here I was, a product of SF public schools, the parent of two public school students and a teacher fully committed to public education, applying to teach in a private school. If I get the job, I’ll just stay a few years and hopefully the public schools will begin hiring again, I reasoned.

I did get the job teaching kindergarten, and in August I attended my first Synergy event—a picnic celebrating Synergy’s tenth anniversary. People came from all over, thrilled to see each other, full of stories of their Synergy experiences. I was flabbergasted that people came together to joyfully celebrate their elementary school (!!). It was beginning to occur to me that this was no ordinary school.

Teaching at Synergy is not for the faint at heart. From the first hour of my first day at Synergy, we were off and running, creating curriculum, debating ways to help students assume responsibility, getting to know each other as teammates, and moving furniture into classrooms. It never stopped. I was constantly challenged to be the best teacher I could be, to constantly revisit my assumptions, and to make myself a better teacher and the school the best possible environment for learning. It was intellectually and emotionally challenging and infinitely rewarding.

Now that I’ve been retired for 5 years, after 30 years at Synergy, I still miss the creativity of curriculum development and the close community of students, families, and teachers. In a few short years, Synergy will celebrate fifty years and I imagine new teachers discovering the uniqueness of Synergy at what will undoubtedly be a grand celebration.

–Elena Dillon, Synergy Trustee, former Director of Admissions and Synergy Teacher

P.S. – My daughter, Jennifer Dillon, graduated from Synergy in ‘89 and my grandson, Jeffrey Jamil Dillon, graduated in ‘06.


The Valley Family

Have you ever walked by someplace and thought, “It looks so cool in there. What are they doing? I want to be a part of that.” In my life B.C. (before children), I would walk by Synergy for years on my way to the bus stop. I could hear the joyful voices of the children playing and laughing, and the teachers were always smiling. I could see kids climbing trees and running around and I would think - This is what learning should look and feel like. Fast forward a couple of years and when it came time for Jose and I to think about choosing a school for Christian, the vision I had for his learning brought me back to the memory of Synergy. With 2 younger brothers, we knew whatever school we choose, we were in it for the long term. We were looking for more than a school; we were looking for a community of learners whose vision for life was in alignment with our family goals. We wanted a community that celebrates diversity and is committed to inclusion and social justice. As a family, we talk a lot about making the world better, the importance of standing up for others and ourselves, and practicing more kindness. As parents, Jose and I are still learning how to broach these conversations, which in recent times seems to be even more challenging, but we feel completely supported by the Synergy staff and Synergy families. Christian is in the 2nd grade now and we are enjoying watching him grow and thrive at Synergy. We are so thankful to be a part of the Synergy family and look forward to many more years to come.


The Valle Family

The Milham Family

As our older daughter gets ready to graduate from Synergy, it’s a natural time to think back on Masey’s and our family's experience. The other bookend to this time is the first moment we came through the doors during an open house. We were met  by two young students, who greeted us, asked where we were hoping to go, and cheerfully guided us there.  We were struck by how at ease they were, how kind and comfortable they were greeting visitors. They behaved like someone would at their own home.  As we followed them through the halls, there were more kids,  all with that same glide in their step and the same energy. The students’ relationships seemed almost like siblings, and the whole school had a feeling of family.

Now, we're a part of that family.  Synergy has become like a second home to us as well. The staff knows our daughters as whole people, who have had the chance to engage with this school totally, explore passionately, and walk the path of finding out who they are.

And just like a family home, this place will serve as a lode star for them, supporting and guiding their choices as they go through the world, even long after they've left.

Ian & Yvonne Milham, Masey - Class of 2019, and Zara - Class of 2022