Speaker: Elizabeth Chen
Why did you choose Kirby School over other schools for your student?
Elizabeth Chen: When our son James was getting ready to start seventh grade, our family was making plans to move across country to the Bay Area. So we really took a careful look at a lot of schools across the region. And the more we learned about Kirby, the more interested we were. We really liked the combination of the small class sizes, the outstanding teachers, the caring, supportive environment. So we signed James up for a visit day and that really sealed the deal for us. That he's a kid who's always liked school, but this was a whole new level that he came out to the car at the end of that day and he was literally trembling with excitement that the kids were so nice and they were so interested in what they were learning and the teachers were so amazing and it was the most fun he had ever had, in a day at school and he couldn't believe he's going to have to wait all the way to August to come back. So we actually chose to move to Santa Cruz County, so that, versus other communities in the region, so that James could go to Kirby, and we're really, really happy that we made that choice.
In what ways have Kirby teachers met your student's needs this year? Feel free to share a specific story or anecdote.
Elizabeth Chen: The teachers have done an amazing job running their classes and keeping the kids learning and growing so well even during this crazy year. But I think above and beyond that, what they've done for our son is they've really, really reached out to him personally to make him feel that they're adults in his life who really care about him and want to make sure he's okay and want to make sure he's happy and thriving personally, not just intellectually during these times and I mean that's so important for any teenager to feel, but I think especially this year it matters so much more. And in addition to the classes, he's had so much fun joining some of the clubs at Kirby and there are many weeks where he'll show up to, you know, Chess Club or the Math Club or the Ethics Club and maybe there's just like one or two or three kids there, it's not a big group, but the teachers show up every week and there there with him and they're doing activities together that he loves doing and he gets so much joy from that and you know, at a time that he can't be there in person with everyone, he's still getting that really positive mentoring and social interaction that is so important to kids, and the teachers are so generous, offering their time to take care of the kids this way and it's very much appreciated.
What do you appreciate most about your student's teacher(s)?
Elizabeth Chen: Our son's teachers at Kirby across the board have just been fantastic. We've been so pleased with the education he's getting here. Really, they seem to be true experts in their fields, you know, historians, mathematicians, scientists, and they really, really love their subject and are able to convey that enthusiasm to the kids in a way that is really genuine and contagious. And in prior years our son would come home from school, I guess this year he just comes downstairs from his bedroom and completely jazzed up about the topic he learned that day maybe about some obscure concept in Latin grammar that's really cool, that follows some strange rule that didn't seem to make sense until Tovah explained it and now he really gets it and he really likes it and I didn't know kids get jazzed up about Latin grammar rules, but I think it's really cool that they do, and if they're going to get excited about it anywhere, it's going to be at Kirby where the teachers just have this really engaging teaching style that works so well with the kids. They set really high expectations and then they give them the tools to succeed and not just the tools, but the support that they're there for the kids, that the classes are all interactive, even when they're on Zoom and beyond that they have tutorial available every morning and you can come in and ask a question and you know, when you have a little bit of writer's block come in with your essay and say, I don't know where to go next and in my conclusion and they can help guide you through that process. You're not left at home struggling and feeling frustrated and unsuccessful. You have someone to turn to to help you move ahead and succeed and enjoy what you're doing and feel proud of the hard work and the things you're learning and that support is incredible and it works. So thank you.
What has stood out for you about the way Kirby has helped students learn during the pandemic?
Elizabeth Chen: Kirby has really done an incredible job of helping the students continue to learn and feel supported during this crazy year that we've been through. And I feel like between COVID and can schools open in person or can they not open in person and what they're plan is going to be and making a new plan, you know, over and over again to try to suit the constraints and opportunities that were working under was a Herculean task and the Kirby faculty and staff handled it with so much grace and so much generous devotion of their time during a time when everyone has so much going on personally and so much to deal with and it's very, very much appreciated. That the focus throughout all of this and all the decisions that have been made and all the adjustments that had to be made has always really come through as how can we take care of the kids during this time and what can we do to support their learning and what can we do to support them as people? And how can we make accommodations if you know, if needed, if somebody gets sick or somebody had to move in with relatives because of the wildfires or whatever it might be that I really feel like there's no 'rules are rules' attitude at Kirby, there's really how can we help you and support you and how can we make this a good experience for everybody? And that kind of flexibility comes from the Kirby culture, but I think it also just comes from the small class sizes and really just the deep level of caring, that's the core of the Kirby community.
Why would you recommend Kirby School?
Elizabeth Chen: Our family has been very, very happy at Kirby School, both for the middle school and the high school experience. Number one reason has got to be the people, the amazing faculty and staff who care so much and do such a great job of creating this very special community where the kids are challenged intellectually and learn so much, but learned so much in a very supportive environment where the teachers are always there, super accessible, you're in small classes, you can go to tutorial, you can get whatever help and support you need to succeed academically. And then also on the social side, it's a really nice group of kids and it's a really caring and supportive community and it's just overall a wonderful environment to grow up in. And we're really happy we found Kirby for our son.