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Alumni Directory

Alumni Directory

David Abernathy

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Company Name: The Arcview Group and Oaksterdam University
Current Position: Director of Information Technology and Special Operations and Economics teacher
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I loved getting to spend 10 years with the same small group of friends. In many ways, it almost felt like we were siblings growing up together.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I currently split my time between several ventures. I spend most of my time working as Director of Information Technology and Special Operations for an investment and market research firm called The Arcview Group. We work with early stage companies in and around the emerging legal cannabis industry and publish a series of annual market reports on the state of legal marijuana markets. When I started working in the legal cannabis industry in 2009, it was a nascent industry that nobody really took seriously. Cannabis is now the fastest growing industry in the country and our investors have placed more than $76 million into 125 companies.

In addition to that, I teach economics at Oaksterdam University and I co-own an indoor miniature golf course in Alameda.

Since high school, I’ve also been heavily involved in nonprofit work. I’ve founded and run several nonprofit organizations in the fields of art and education and served as Executive Director of Oakland Art Murmur. I currently serve as the President of a cat rescue organization called Cat Town. In 2014 we opened America’s first cat café on Broadway in Oakland.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

My professional career has consisted of a series of happy accidents, but many of the opportunities that I’ve had would not have been possible without the foundation of a strong education and an ability to understand and relate to people across geographic, cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic barriers. EB played an integral role in giving me the confidence to go out into the world and design my own life.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

There may be times when your children resent the workload or question the relevance of learning another language, but I can assure you that by the time they reach adulthood they will thoroughly appreciate the benefits that an EB education offers.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Absolutely. I have had the pleasure of working for a British engineering and consulting firm and an Australian investment bank. I travel for work on a monthly basis and regularly speak at conferences all over the country. From a very young age, EB instilled in me an awareness of other cultures and that has left me with the ability to feel comfortable almost everywhere I go.

Would you consider sending your children to EB?

Yes. My wife and I have not decided whether or not we want to have children yet but if we do, a bilingual education will be an absolute necessity.

Yusef Alexandrine

Graduating Class:
1988
Current Position: Investment management attorney
Interviews

I attended EB from 1983 until 1988, from first to fifth grade, before EB had a Middle School. In many ways, it was one of the best experiences of my childhood. My experience at EB had a significant impact on my perspective as well as my sense of self. I left with the sense that I was capable of learning almost anything and succeeding in almost any environment. In addition to an excellent bilingual education, EB’s culture of inclusiveness and its open approach to learning changed the way I conceptualized the world around me as well as how I approach that which is unfamiliar. I have often thought of these as my strongest attributes.

As an investment management attorney, advising clients regarding regulatory, transactional and counseling matters involving the securities and commodities laws, I find that the foundation laid at EB has helped me every step of the way.

I joined the EB board this year because I wanted to give something back to the school that gave so much to me. I am grateful to be able to share my experience and hope to contribute to future generations of EB graduates.

Sam Arons

Graduating Class:
1996
Current Position: Student
Education / School 1: Casablanca American School
Education / School 2: UC Berkeley
Interviews

When I stepped off the plane in Casablanca, I had no idea what the coming year would have in store. As I walked along the tarmac towards the terminal in the hazy dawn light, I reflected on just how it was that I had arrived here. Ever since my days at EB, there had been something inside of me—a curiosity, a fascination, a love of languages and cultures different from my own—that had been propelling me towards this country and this moment. A process that had begun some seventeen years before in the maternelle at 1009 Heinz Avenue seemed to have come to fruition—and here I found myself, ready and eager to begin my new job, a fresh graduate of Williams College with a physics degree in one hand and a suitcase in the other. I blinked, and entered the terminal.

At the Casablanca American School, where I spent the next year working as a math teacher in the 7th and 12th grade classes, I quickly found my language skills being put to use. Though my teaching was conducted in English, my fluency in French (and the bits and pieces of Moroccan Arabic that I was quickly picking up) proved indispensable in building positive relationships with my students and their parents. I also soon discovered that I was a hot commodity at faculty meetings—as one of the few teachers at the school truly fluent in both French and English, I was frequently called upon to translate critical information between my Moroccan and American colleagues. And of course, outside of the school, my knowledge of French allowed me to forge lasting and deep personal relationships that would have been impossible without the ability to communicate.

During my travels around the country over the course of the year, there was something that struck me, besides the warmth of the culture and the pleasure of being exposed to a new language: the pollution and degradation of Morocco’s natural environment. It is a beautiful country with stark mountains, a yawning desert, arcing beaches, and lush, fertile plains. But upon closer inspection of these landscapes, something disturbing comes into focus. There is trash littered everywhere: along the trails and in the mountain streams, half-buried in the sand of the beaches (making the simple pleasure of a barefoot walk impossible), along the highways and streets and gutters of its cities and medinas. And this most visible pollution barely scratches the surface of the litany of Morocco’s environmental woes, which include deforestation, desertification, poor groundwater quality, and air pollution. It made me so sad to see and learn of all this, to find Morocco’s striking landscapes marred and kind people threatened in this way.

Inspired to learn more about the socioeconomic, technological, and political reasons for this environmental degradation and the associated poverty, and what kinds of solutions might be found, I applied to UC Berkeley to study Energy and Resources in graduate school. My course of study has included courses in energy, environmental science, economics, development, and environmental law (not to mention Arabic!), and I now feel closer to understanding some of the complex reasons behind poverty and diminished environmental quality in the developing world.

But there are also environmental issues that affect us here at home, the most notable of which is the potential of climate change. Feeling an urgent need to contribute to solving this pressing global problem, I became very involved in UC Berkeley’s environmental sustainability initiatives. First as an appointee to, and now as co-chair of, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, I am helping a group of faculty, administrators, and other students conduct the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions inventory of the university, which we will use to identify opportunities for reducing—and eventually eliminating—our climate footprint. Further, I am working with the Trustees of the university’s endowment to identify ways that our investments might be leveraged to improve social and environmental equity while meeting the institution’s financial goals.

I do not yet know what the outcome of these initiatives will be, but my hope is that, by the time I graduate in May, I will have contributed in some small way to the betterment of our world. Though the future is still wide open, I am certain that the international perspective and language skill I gained at EB, coupled with my desire to work on global environmental problems, will figure prominently in my eventual career.

Michael Assadi

Graduating Class:
2012
Current Company Name: Mobile application company
Current Position: Owner
Education / School 1: Berkeley High School
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

EB gave me the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships. I enjoyed the many field trips, double period sports and all the opportunities to further increase my friendships, which have heavily impacted my life.

Please describe your current work/studies.

At the moment, I just graduated from Berkeley High School! My future plans are to take a gap year, during which I will travel to Europe and New Zealand and then continue my education afterwards. In Middle School, I started my own mobile application company. By freshman year of High School, my apps were getting hundreds of thousands of downloads and I was making enough money to live on my own. This has been my “job” for the past few years. I’ve recently created an online course to show people how to create mobile applications, with the intent of funding my gap year and adding another source of income. It currently has 4000+ students enrolled.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB has influenced me by giving me the opportunity to work with computers at a young age, influencing my profession as an app developer. EB has allowed me to be open-minded; at a young age you’re fully immersed in different cultures and ways of thinking, immediately instilling an open mindset at a very young age.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Though it can be a stretch financially, I believe it’s worth it, due to its overall impact on your child’s health, happiness, and future profession.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

My favorite memory was staying in a hotel room with three of my close friends during the Washington DC field trip. This is a very fond memory of mine, being with my close friends, visiting museums and taking a new approach to “standard learning.”

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Yes, I would consider sending my children to EB for many reasons, including bilingualism, long-lasting relationships, and a small community of mentors to aid you when needed.

Bevan Barton

Graduating Class:
2001
Current Position: On Sabbatical (world traveller)
Interviews

Eleven years at École Bilingue… where to begin! The memories come flooding back—my cahier de texte, French geometry, 5th grade trip to France, recess, MC Solaar—in short, I wish I were still there! My relatively carefree days spent at EB have had a much greater impact on my life than I could have imagined in those days of old. Lacking perspective, I had little idea of the value of such an education. It wasn’t until middle school and especially high school, when I was removed from the EB environment, that I began to realize how well my bilingual education could serve me.

During the summer after seventh grade my dad and I went on what was to be the first of several international trips, this one to Australia and New Zealand. This was one of my first opportunities to put my French to full use—many French-speaking New Caledonians had also decided to summer there, and it was most rewarding to strike up a conversation while rumbling through the outback or heli-skiing on the Tazman glacier.

More important than a language, EB teaches cultural awareness. Going to school in such an environment places one right in the middle of an international environment. This not only teaches awareness, but also, to me at least, sparked a desire to seek out more cultural understanding.

The summer after 8th grade, I dragged my dad to Africa, against his wish to stay out of the third world. I had had a passion with that continent which only grew stronger upon hearing teachers Mme Marie and Mme Bérard relate their travels. We experienced the streets of Nairobi, went on a camping safari, and even summited Kilimanjaro.

Things really took off from there. I developed a passion for mountaineering, and after my freshman year at CPS, my dad and I traveled to Russia, this time to summit Elbrus, Europe’s highest summit. Neither of us made it—we both got very sick from contaminated food at a high camp. Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to explore small rural towns near the Georgian border, which proved very rewarding. In training for the climb, I had also taken up cycling as my cardio workout. When I got back from that ill-fated trip I decided to pursue the sport somewhat seriously, and even do a “century”, a hundred-mile, one-day biking event. I chose a 200 kms (124-miles) “randonnée” (a French tradition, of course) as my first long distance event, and completed it in a lengthy ten and a half hours.

I began putting in more and more time on the bike, and, in the spring of my sophomore year, completed two double-centuries (200 miles), and randonnées of 300 kms and 400 kms (200 and 260 miles respectively), the latter of which I completed in about 19 continuous hours on the bike. The summer after sophomore year was largely spent training, but I took a month off to backpack in the Yukon Territories in Canada for a month with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). This kept my heart rate low, and when I got back, started training more than ever on the bike. My goal was to complete the Furnace Creek 508, a non-stop 508-mile race through the deserts of California and Death Valley. I realized that goal this October (I’m currently a junior), and became the youngest to ever finish this race at age 16. I placed 19th out of about 50 male racers, in a time of 42 hours.

Five months later, I’m still trying to get back on the bike! I’ve taken an extended break and am not racing this spring, but I plan to race “The 508” again next October, and possibly come close to winning. That would be training for Race Across America (RAAM), a televised 3000-mile transcontinental race, which I hope to become the youngest to finish, the summer after my senior year. As for training, I’ve been given the green light from my dad to go on a selfdirected bike touring / photographic expedition by myself through France and Italy this summer, to put to use the skills I’ve learned at EB and NOLS as well as my previous travel, biking, and photography experience.

College is looming on the horizon, but before spending another 4 or more years in school I plan to take a year off, to (you guessed it) travel, photograph, and maybe even write throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Southern Asia.

The most concrete skill I took out of EB is of course the French language, which I rarely hesitate to use when given the opportunity to do so. More importantly, however, my EB education has spurred my passion for traveling, has made me culturally aware, and has taught me to seek new challenges. My education at EB was, I believe, the most life-changing and positive experience I could have had in my early years. bevnbarton@aol.com

Pieta Blakely

Graduating Class:
1985
Current Position: Real Estate Agent
Interviews

Yesterday, I was a Realtor. Not just for the day. I have been a Realtor for two years. Ever since the sinking financial services sector turned me out of the safety of nine-to-five employment, I have enjoyed the relative freedom of a Real Estate Agent: interesting customers, remarkable properties, and lots of quality time with my car. Before I became a Realtor, I was in Mutual Funds for five years. I calculated daily values for a while, prepared financial statements, built databases. Very boring! Ecole Bilingue did not prepare me for boring. Now lunch is often a smoothie in the cup holder on my way to a meeting. This sure beats a sandwich at my desk, I tell myself.

Between clients, I started teaching a class, then two classes, and finally, this semester, five. I am no longer a very good Realtor. I use my time at the office to grade midterms. While driving to appointments, I am designing exercises for my class, not listing presentations for my clients. One would think that a person persuasive enough to convince a roomful of undergraduates that Accounting 1 is a fun class would be able to persuade someone to buy a condominium. However, as much as I love Real Estate, the satisfaction of making a deal does not come close, for me, to the satisfaction of seeing someone learn. The delighted and relieved expression of a person for whom the obscure has become clear, the shouts of triumph and congratulations as a team solves a difficult problem, and voices raised in emphatic discussion over a team exercise – are all things that the satisfied handshakes of buyers and sellers can not approach. So, I have made a decision that at the end of the month, I will no longer be a practicing Realtor.

I have been teaching in some way or another since high school, tutoring, and then assistant teaching as an undergraduate at Brown. While I was working in the Financial Services field, I volunteered as an English Tutor and Software Instructor at YMCA Training, Inc, a job-training program. When I found myself unemployed, I used my free time to volunteer there almost every day. Eventually, I joined the staff part-time, to design and teach an Accounting Support Curriculum. This led to a position as an Adjunct Professor at a two-year college and a position teaching college preparatory courses to older youth at Cambridge’s Community Learning Center. Many of my students attended school in other countries. My Haitian students notice that I do my subtraction in French. I admire the ability of my Russian students to divide in the European style.

While I’ve been living in Boston, I’ve obtained my Masters Degree. Now, with an academic career in mind, I am researching PhD programs in Finance. I like the topic – I just don’t like the work environment. Almost 20 years after I graduated from EB, I’ll be starting school again.

Morgan Brady

Graduating Class:
1998
Interviews

When parents choose Ecole Bilingue, they are making a choice for themselves as well as their children. Bob Brady and Sandy Simon became an EB family when their daughter, Morgan, began Kindergarten in 1989. In June, their second child, Will, graduates from the middle school. Over the many years they have been part of the EB community, Bob and Sandy have had “a great social experience.”

Initially, they were attracted to EB because the school struck them as “light and bright with good energy” and the right infrastructure to support learning. Unlike many EB families, they had no particular experience with France beyond Sandy’s high school French classes in Minnesota. As Bob says, they loved the idea of a second language “whatever it was.” Before having children and while traveling and working abroad, they had been frustrated by their limited ability to communicate. Like many of us, Bob and Sandy wanted to give their children broad opportunities and experiences. Moreover, they were willing to trust their instincts and “positive feelings” about EB in making an unconventional choice for their first child.

For Bob and Sandy, a wonderful aspect of their choice has been the interesting and culturally diverse families that they have met at EB. It is striking how well Bob and Sandy meet the same criteria. Bob and Sandy live near Fourth Street above the Trax Gallery that Sandy founded in a building designed by Charles Debbas (parent of EB 6th grader, Malek). The house/gallery, built five years ago, won an award from the Berkeley/Oakland Design Advocates Group. Sandy is a potter of national repute who creates functional porcelain pieces that revolve around food. Trax Gallery, specializing in ceramics and representing seventeen artists, is one of the best of its kind in the United States. Bob is a sculptor working primarily in wood and clay. For the next six weeks, 30 of his pieces are being shown at the Di Rosa Preserve in Napa which is the first traveling venue of a two year show called Robert Brady: Sculpture 1989-2005 that originated at the Palo Alto Arts Center and will end in Boston and Washington, D.C. Coincidentally, the work in Bob’s current show is roughly from the same period that he and Sandy have been EB parents.

By the time Morgan had graduated from middle school, Bob and Sandy had done their share as parent volunteers. Painting auction props for six weeks in their own working space became a bit old and they thought they would pull back from their involvement at EB. Yet, as Will began kindergarten, “much to my surprise,” according to Bob, “we found a whole new group of parents” whose friendship both of the Bradys have come to value.

Furthermore and most importantly, Bob and Sandy appreciate the qualities that the school and the EB community have fostered in their children. While Morgan and Will are still young and continue to develop as individuals, their parents feel that they have “a certain confidence and sense of power, an awareness” that can be traced in part to EB. In an experience that many alumni parents have shared and that highlights the poise and social ease characteristic of many EB graduates, Bob and Sandy have been told that their children are “so mature for their age.” When Morgan was fifteen and Will was six, the family spent some weeks on a working vacation in DeRuta, Italy, renown for majolica production. Although they had no common language, Will and the son of the proprietor of the Brady’s lodging spent hours playing together. Following their stay in Italy that summer, the Bradys went on to France where they stayed with an EB family from Bordeaux whose daughter was good friends with Morgan. Neither of their children missed a beat in transitioning from Berkeley to Italy to France. Bob and Sandy see Morgan and Will’s easy facility in all of these disparate settings as emblematic of the academic and life lessons that both of them have learned at Ecole Bilingue.

David Breslauer

Graduating Class:
1997
Current Company Name: Bolt Threads
Current Position: Co-founder
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

As a child, I most enjoyed playing tag in the Big Yard! Looking back, I am most appreciative of the multifaceted perspectives of the world that I acquired. From culturally diverse classmates to the differences in curriculum between “French Math” and “English Math,” EB taught me to appreciate different experiences and viewpoints in the world.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I co-founded Bolt Threads out of my graduate studies. We harness materials found in nature to create environmentally-friendly and sustainable consumer products. I run the research and development for new materials, currently studying the incredible properties of spider silk and making leathers using mushrooms.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I was always obsessed with science and technology, and the teachers at EB were incredibly supportive of exploration. In math class, I was allowed to program an advanced graphing calculator and for science class projects, Mr. Coup encouraged my Lego robotic creations. The autonomy and personalized attention provided by the EB faculty fostered my scientific inquiry, which is the basis of everything I do today.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

You’ve made a great decision. Now if you can, try to speak French at home! You’ll learn from your child and their language skills will benefit from a more around-the-clock immersive experience.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I have fond memories of Mr. Rossman, our science teacher, taking us on walks outside the school area during class. He would point out plants, animals, and insects and teach us about them. He would always encourage us to bring specimens we found into class as show and tell so that he could teach us the science behind them.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

EB shaped my life by providing me with exposure to the world outside of the Bay Area. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to spend time in many different countries. At EB I learned to appreciate the differences in cultures, societies, traditions, and religions that make up the world and how they all richly interact.

7. Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Absolutely. I strongly believe a multicultural and multilingual childhood education is beneficial for raising the global citizens of the future. EB provides this experience on many fronts, from the diversity of classmates and teachers, the combination of courses taught in the American and French styles, the penpals, and the Washington DC and Paris trips.

Thank you to all my EB teachers from pre-K through 8th grade!

Michelle Breslauer

Graduating Class:
1994
Current Position: Master’s degree student
Education / School 2: The American University of Paris and (currently) The London School of Economics
Interviews

When I mention that I went to a bilingual school, most people assume that we simply took French language classes our whole lives. That’s when I have to start explaining, “No, it really was like going to school in France. We had physics in French, environmental science in English, geography in French and American History in English. All our notebooks were imported, so we could follow the proper French method of note taking in the miniscule spaces between the lines. We used a cahier de textes for recording our homework, and made sure to always have a triangle, compass, and protractor every time we entered math”. “Wow, that’s really cool,” is the answer that I usually get. Yet each time I hear it, I realize more and more what a gift attending Ecole Bilingue really was.

Growing up immersed in EB’s French culture allowed me to be comfortable in different societies, living amongst and meeting people with diverse languages, upbringings, and beliefs. I spent my university years at The American University of Paris, having originally chosen to move to France to accompany my family on their sabbatical year. Having attended EB gave me an advantage over my classmates, not just for the obvious reason that I spoke French, but also because I understood the culture and more importantly, was acutely attuned to recognizing and accepting cultural differences. This sensitivity was crucial as I attended a university whose student population of 900 represented over 100 different countries. As a plus, having grown up speaking French differentiated me from the stereotypical “dumb” American who can only speak English! Currently, I am preparing to move to London to complete a master’s degree in urban planning at The London School of Economics. My particular interests lie in developing urban governments and citizens who are culturally sensitive, in order to create diverse and integrated cities. Had it not been for the values of curiosity and acceptance that I learned at EB, I would not have the skills for the job I wish to undertake.

Although I have spent the last five years living in Europe and wish to remain there, I often long to return to the Bay Area to be part of my Ecole Bilingue community. My closest friends are those I’ve known from EB since age five, and I feel a sense of comfort being around them and their parents who have watched me grow up (one of them coerced me into writing this profile!). Honestly, my biggest struggle is the decision as to which country to live in. As I straddle the U.S and Europe, I realize that my indecision reflects EB’s having provided me with an education that opened my mind to new places and experiences. Oh well, c’est la vie!

Christina Choate

Graduating Class:
2001
Current Position: Filmmaker
Education / School 1: Lycée Français de Moscou in Russia
Education / School 2: UCSC
Interviews

It’s easy to forget how unique EBers are in the world. We were immersed in French—day in, day out—in every subject. And some of those subjects have become integral to my current career. Our solid foundation in science and art let me develop both interests with a BS in Marine Biology and an MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking. The extended international community at EB made me feel like part of the wider world and enabled me to explore it with an open mind.

Travel was a crucial part of my childhood, having transferred to EB from the Lycée Français de Moscou in Russia, with school trips to France, Yosemite and DC, and later to Costa Rica and Tahiti while at IHS. Family vacations were also tied into my education. When we went on a wildlife cruise in Alaska, I returned to share my new-found knowledge of whale feeding behavior in my 7th grade science report. My love of animals and science led me to learn to scuba dive when I was 15, and volunteer on science research trips in high school and college in Madagascar and the Caribbean. At UCSC, I managed to take a quarter off (thanks to the IB) and take two of the most amazing trips of my life: a family voyage to Antarctica and a volunteer job on a Great White Shark cage-diving boat in Capetown.

It’s been a privilege to travel the world as extensively as I have, and now, as a filmmaker, I intend to share my experiences and knowledge with others. This year, I produced TEDxBozeman which was broadcast live internationally, and I am pursuing film projects in the Bay Area with scientists, educators and world travelers who share the same passions. I want to open people’s minds to the vast timescales of the universe, the intricate beauty of life on Earth and the complex connections between humans and nature. The culture at EB and my strong connections with my classmates and teachers made it easy for me to join together with new and diverse groups of people. www.christinachoate.com

Celine Cohen

Graduating Class:
1983
Current Company Name: the Australian Trade Commission (aka Austrade)
Current Position: PR
Education / School 1: College Preparatory School in Oakland
Education / School 2: Hamilton College in upstate New York
Interviews

You never know where life will take you… or what hemisphere you’ll be living in, and I certainly didn’t anticipate calling Australia home (for now) while I was at EB in the early 80s.

After graduating from EB in 1983 at the end of 5th grade (as there was no middle school at the time), I spent 6th through 8th grades at FAIS in San Francisco with other EB graduates. Then it was onto College Preparatory School in Oakland for high school, where I continued French and Spanish classes as part of my curriculum.

After CPS, I ventured east, attending Hamilton College in upstate New York. Beyond the geographical shift, it was a huge cultural change being on the east coast and stepping outside the liberal haven that is Berkeley. There, I continued to study languages, incorporating French and Spanish into my major of Comparative Literature. I also had amazing opportunities to spend a summer in Spain before spending a year in Paris during my Junior Year Abroad. Hamilton has a well-established program in Paris, including deep affiliations with the Sorbonne and Sciences Politiques among other academic institutions; it was a very rewarding and enriching year.

After graduating from Hamilton in 1994, the question was, “What do I do with my life now?” (I think many liberal arts majors ask themselves this…). I came back to California and dabbled in a few internships with a publishing company and with the local CBS affiliate (KPIX), then worked for a French travel agency, did some more traveling and then ‘fell into’ a job with a high tech public relations firm. It was 1996, and the technology boom was on the horizon. Silicon Valley was buzzing with opportunity, promise and infinite confidence in technology, most of which was ‘vapor ware.’

Having traveled throughout my life, I felt that there was something more I needed to do: a trip around the world. A good friend of mine and I decided to embark on a travel adventure in July 2001 for three months. Unfortunately that meant leaving my job, but to me, traveling seemed too important and a life experience I would never forget (and the Internet boom was coming to an end). So off my friend Laura and I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, Egypt, Morocco, Spain and France. Being bilingual helped more often than not in many of these countries. It was an amazing trip…until the end, when we experienced September 11, 2001 while in Seville, Spain, and felt that the world had changed forever.

Upon returning to San Francisco in October 2001, I found the job market quite daunting. Gone were the boom days and post 9/11, everything was uncertain. I decided to do some volunteer PR work for an organization in San Francisco, which grants dream trips to AIDS sufferers.

During a trip to Lake Tahoe in December 2001, I met the man who would become my husband three years later, Peter Stumbles. The only hitch was that he lived in Australia. He was on his way back after spending a year in San Francisco on transfer from the Sydney office of an American management consultant company. I began working in a consumer PR firm, doing product launches for wineries, high end hotels, and restaurants. After a visit Down Under and much debate, I decided to take the leap and move to Sydney, Australia. One of my closest friends and fellow EB alumnae, Shauna Finnie, reminded me that we always dreamed of living in Australia, after seeing The Man from Snowy River and hoping we could have pet koalas in our backyards.

I moved to Sydney in March 2003 and have loved living here. I compare Sydney to a mixture of Europe and California, with an extra laid-back feel. Peter and I were married in September 2004 in Yountville, then took an extended honeymoon in France before coming back to Sydney. I started working again in public relations, most recently for the Australia government at the Australian Trade Commission (aka Austrade), which encourages Australian businesses to ‘give it a go’ and export their products and services globally. It was nice to be ‘in-house’ and part of a media team with a global reach after years of working in PR firms. Austrade is one of the most dynamic ‘companies’ I’ve ever worked for, in spite of its government status. I loved the international outlook and environment—there were always people visiting from all over the world, talking about how we could get Vegemite into supermarkets in India and Aussie swimwear into US fashion shows.

Over the years, I’ve kept in touch with many of my classmates from EB, and have been inspired by their accomplishments. It’s quite special to have these connections last so long and be so deep.

It’s now the end of a very long, hot and humid summer; Autumn is around the corner (I still can’t get used to thinking of April as an autumnal month, and October as the beginning of spring!) Rugby season is about to begin, while cricket season has all but ended. Melbourne is hosting the Commonwealth Games; sports are huge down here. I’ve now stopped working as Peter and I are expecting our first child in just a few weeks. It’s an exciting time—albeit daunting—and we are looking forward to welcoming a wee Aussie-Franco-American very soon. I’ve started researching French bilingual schools here and am discovering an extensive French community. I hope that our child will benefit from the precious language and cultural education I received, beginning with EB.

Courtney Coile

Graduating Class:
1982
Current Company Name: Wellesley College
Current Position: Economics teacher
Education / School 2: Harvard, MIT
Interviews

Why enroll your child in a bilingual school if you have no ties to the French language or culture? For my parents, the initial motivation was to escape public schools in the early 1970s that were a bit too experimental even for their hippie sensibilities—their daughter was going to learn to read in the first grade, not “when she felt like it”! They joined the group of parents that had founded EB, sanding desks in the summer of 1977 before enrolling me in 1st grade and my brother in pre-K.

While the exposure to French might have initially seemed like a nice bonus, we soon realized that it was much more. EB attracted a refreshingly diverse student body, and I quickly became best friends with one student who had a French mother and another whose parents had emigrated from India. One of the highlights of my childhood was a monthlong stay at the home of my friend’s grandparents in the French countryside. We passed the days playing with my friend’s French cousins, being taught how to knit by her grandmother, walking into the small town to buy fresh bread and chocolate for our afternoon snack, and watching a TV game show, Les Chiffres et Les Lettres. To this day, I am happy to count these EB friends among my very best friends in the world.

After graduating from EB, I had fewer occasions to use my French for a time, until my brother and I became counselors at a bilingual summer camp in Oakland. For seven summers, we played games and sang songs in French with our young charges by day, and by night hung out with the counselors from France and Belgium, introducing them to baseball and bowling and being introduced to the fine European pastime of hanging out at cafés. My life since then has taken me away from the Bay Area. I discovered in college that the field of economics offers a uniquely valuable perspective for thinking about the public policy issues that have interested me since my family discussed them around the dinner table in my childhood. I followed up an undergraduate degree in economics from Harvard with a Ph.D. in the subject from MIT, and am now teaching economics at Wellesley College and living in a Boston suburb with my husband, an environmental policy analyst, and our 10-month-old son. As the years have passed, I have to look a bit harder for the French connection in my life, but it remains. It’s there when I watch a French movie without subtitles, when I travel to France and feel right at home, when I sing French songs to my son. It’s there when I strike up conversations with French tourists just to get a chance to use the language – something I used to shudder at when my mother encouraged me to do it as a child! I am grateful to EB for all of this, but even more so for providing a nurturing environment that helped me to gain the self-confidence, academic skills, and love of learning that have formed a critical foundation for all of my endeavors.

Atissa Dorroh-Manshouri

Graduating Class:
1985
Current Company Name: the California Film Institute/Mill Valley Film Festival
Current Position: Development
Education / School 1: FAIS in San Francisco
Education / School 2: Georgetown University
Interviews


People say that the sure sign of being fluent in a foreign language is to dream in that language. I remember the first time I had a dream in French; it must have been second or third grade, when visions of Petit Nicolas were still dancing in my head. What a strange but thrilling experience —in my dream, everyone was speaking French, including me. There was no other language, there were no translations, just French, and it was all perfectly natural.

Twenty years later, and the thought of dreaming in French has taken on a very different meaning. When a child learns another language and another culture at a young age, there is an imperceptible opening of the mind that only really begins to take shape as that young person becomes an adult. My memories of EB begin with my friendships, my wonderful teachers, the sometimes unorthodox classroom activities, and a growing love of language. I couldn’t really pinpoint the moment in which I learned that there was a huge world out there, and it was all mine to explore. But looking back now, I can definitely trace that feeling back to Ecole Bilingue.

Wanderlust isn’t generally incorporated into standard American school curricula. But ask any student who’s graduated from EB where they’ve traveled, and the answers will astonish —France, of course, but also the rest of Europe, the Middle East, South America, China, Japan, all over Africa, and the list goes on and on. After three years at FAIS in San Francisco—where my linguistic wanderlust prompted me to start Chinese as a third language—I spent four years at Phillips Academy in Andover, where I continued to study French and Chinese. When I was sixteen years old (an age when most kids are obsessing about their first car), I spent the summer in China, and had my first dream in Chinese.

It seemed somewhat inevitable that I would wind up a Language major at Georgetown University. Italian joined the roster with Chinese and French, and a few months spent in beautiful Florence sealed the relationship—in no time I was dreaming in Italian. I discovered a new interest in art and the history of art—and conveniently, a new reason to spend time in France and Italy. Graduate school found me in London, studying for an MA in Art History—French art from the 1960s to be specific. For my thesis, I seized the opportunity to spend time in Paris and focused on three somewhat forgotten French painters of the late 1960s. Before my final exams, I may have even had my first nightmare in French.

My language skills were put to practical use on a fairly regular basis as I started my first job with a London contemporary art gallery. In my efforts to communicate with artists, I learned how lucky I was to speak other languages and to understand different ways of being and thinking. More than just being able to speak another language, my education at EB had opened me to the possibility of thinking differently.

Now I am back in the Bay Area, happily married and working for the California Film Institute/Mill Valley Film Festival in a development role. Needless to say, I am thrilled that part of our mission is to bring filmmakers from around the world to the Bay Area to present their work. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, that huge world out there will come to us. But more often, we must go out and explore it ourselves. I still have dreams in French, still look for any conceivable excuse to jump on the next plane to Europe, still hope that there will be other languages for me to dream in and other parts of the world to discover. And I often remember that first time that I dreamed in French, and think with gratitude about all the other dreams that came afterwards.

Gabrielle Dreyfus

Graduating Class:
1993
Current Position: Post Doc
Education / School 2: Princeton et l’université de Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI)
Interviews

Pourquoi devenir bilingue, or a bilingual odyssey

Princeton, NJ—Il y a une grande carte de l’Antarctique dans mon bureau au département des Géosciences de l’université de Princeton. Je rêve d’y aller, et il y a une forte chance que j’y serai pour l’été austral 2007–2008. Et cela, largement grâce à mes années d’école à EB.

J’ai commencé en classe de petite section à EB en 1982 et fini en classe de 4ème en 1993. Aujourd’hui, je poursuis une thèse en co-tutelle entre Princeton et l’université de Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI). Mon sujet de thèse est le changement climatique, en particulier le climat des derniers 800.000 ans tel qu’il est enregistré dans les bulles d’air piégées dans une carotte de glace de l’Antarctique (pour ceux qui sont curieux, regardez le journal Nature, 429, pp. 623-628, 2004). Ce sujet de thèse et mon cursus trans-atlantique n’auraient pas été possibles si je ne maî- trisais pas le français, car mon DEA et la moitié de ma recherche se font en français. Une autre raison survient des particularités de la politique scientifique : la carotte de glace sur laquelle je travaille a été forée sous les auspices du Programme Européen pour le forage de Carotte de Glace en Antarctique ; accent sur européen.

Être bilingue m’a non seulement ouvert les portes des universités françaises mais aussi permis de découvrir un autre monde, celui de la francophonie et de la joie de vivre à la française. Prenez par exemple le fait de manger. Bien que mes colocataires de Paris ne soutiennent pas le stéréotype du cuisinier français, elles reconnaissent l’importance de manger ensemble autour d’une table. De ce fait, nos amitiés sont plus solides, et c’est la meilleure condition de colocation que j’ai eu depuis être partie de chez moi, en dépit des 75 m2 très serrés qui doivent être partagés par quatre personnes !

Mais je n’ai pas toujours été vouée à la science. En 5ème Libby Bell-Larsen m’a transmis sa passion pour la littérature et la vie, et la fin du « Meilleur des mondes » d’Aldous Huxley, avec l’image des pieds du sauvage pendu errants comme une aiguille de boussole, me hante encore. L’ardente enseignante irlandaise n’était qu’une parmi les enseignants d’EB qui ont su me faire partager leur savoir et leur enthousiasme quelle que soit la matière enseignée.

J’avoue qu’avoir une double nationalité (française et américaine) a fortement facilité mon parcours académique. Mais ceci dit, c’est le fait d’avoir reçu une éducation bilingue qui m’a permis de profiter des diverses occasions qui se sont offertes à moi tant sur le plan des études que lors de mes voyages de par le monde. Et pour cela, je remercie mes parents pour m’avoir inscrite dans une école bilingue, telle que l’École Bilingue de Berkeley.

Princeton, NJ—There’s a giant map of Antarctica in my office at the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. I dream of going there, and there is a good chance that it will be for the austral summer of 2007–2008. This has been made possible in large part by my years of schooling at EB.

I started in pre-kindergarten in 1982 and finished with 8th grade in 1993. Today, I’m pursuing graduate studies jointly between Princeton and the University of Pierre and Marie Curie (Paris VI). My thesis topic is climate change, more specifically the climate over the last 800,000 years as recorded in the air bubbles trapped in an ice core from Antarctica (for the curious, check out the journal Nature, 429, pp. 623-628, 2004). This thesis subject and my trans-Atlantic studies would not have been possible if I weren’t fluent in French, since my master’s degree (DEA) and half my research is conducted in French. Another reason is a foible of science politics: the ice core I’m working on was drilled as part of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica, emphasis on European.

Being bilingual allowed me to take advantage not only of academic opportunities that wouldn’t have been open to me otherwise, I also discovered another world, that of “francophonie” and of the French “joie de vivre.” Take for example eating. While my housemates in Paris fail the stereotype of the French cook, they fully recognize the value of sitting around a table enjoying meals together. The result is deeper friendships and the best living situation I’ve had since leaving home, despite the cramped 75 m2 for four people!

I haven’t always known I wanted to do Science. In 7th grade Libby Bell-Larsen transmitted her passion for literature and life to me, and the final scene of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, with the image of the feet of the hanged savage swinging idly like the needle of a compass, still haunts me. This fiery Irish teacher is only one among the many teachers at EB who were able to share their knowledge and enthusiasm in any number of subjects.

I admit that having dual nationality (French and American) significantly aided me in my academic pursuits. But this said, it’s having received a bilingual education that enabled me to take advantage of the diverse opportunities that have presented themselves to me as much on the academic front, as in my travels around the world. And for this, I thank my parents for having enrolled me in a bilingual school, such as the Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley.

Marc Escobosa

Graduating Class:
1984
Current Company Name: Silicon Valley start-up
Current Position: Interface designer
Education / School 1: Dartmouth
Interviews

I ’m not quite sure when exactly it dawned on me that the education I was getting at EB was something special. Maybe it was the day I “helped” a gaggle of devoted fathers, including my own, build the jungle gym in the Big Yard. Maybe it was on one of those countless bank-turns I made in Creative Movement class, running around the multi-purpose room pretending to be a helicopter or a motorcycle or a biplane. Or perhaps it was the day our English teacher Jan brought her wolf cubs into class for the day.

What I do know is that I left EB feeling part of a warm and dedicated community with an intuition for how to fuse academic rigor with creative problem-solving. And it is precisely this sense of intuition, even more than having been raised bilingually, that has guided me ever since.

While stuck in line buying books at the beginning of my sophomore year at Dartmouth, I began flipping through the pages of a Neuropsychology textbook whose colorful PET-scanbearing cover had caught my eye on a nearby shelf. The mere idea that a system as complex as the human brain (a system in our own heads, after all) could be understood through a fascinating mix of cutting-edge science and creative speculation had me smitten. I changed my major that afternoon.

It wasn’t until the last week of my senior year that I began to consider what I might do with such a major. That’s when one of my professors asked for a show of hands for whom among the class would be attending medical school in the fall. And in that moment, when I should have felt like I’d made some egregious error in foresight, I sat there smiling with my hands in my lap, filled to the brim with an irrational confidence that things would work out. I had followed my heart; what could go wrong?

As it happens, this thing called the Internet came along.

Within months of graduating, I had been hired as a coordinator for an international photojournalism project called 24 Hours in Cyberspace whose aim was to document in a single day (February 8th, 1996), the many ways the nascent World Wide Web was beginning to change people’s lives. I had been hired as a gopher but when word spread of my francophone background, I suddenly found myself on the phone to Senegal helping arrange assignments for the well known photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

It was during these conversations with far-flung correspondents that I realized how incorrectly we had set up the process back in San Francisco to receive their images and text submissions in order to turn them into stories and publish them online that same day. With a knack for common-sense problem-solving, I jumped in to help. One thing led to another and before I knew what had happened I had been hired as an interface designer for a Silicon Valley start-up.

To be honest, I’m not sure I knew at the time what an interface designer was. Over the next three years, in between overzealous ping pong matches and late-night Indian food deliveries, I cut my teeth designing our flagship product, NetObjects Fusion, which allowed normal people with little technical knowledge to produce complex web sites. I had such a good time doing it, my boss and I quit in 1998 and founded our own interface design firm in Mill Valley where I remained until last year when I left to attend a graduate course in Interaction Design in Ivrea, Italy (former headquarters of Olivetti).

Now as my wife and I return to settle in the Bay Area and start thinking about having children of our own some day, I marvel at the fantastic gift my parents gave me by helping form Ecole Bilingue. All we need now is to find a house in the Bay Area with a yard large enough to raise wolves.

Nick Fehr

Graduating Class:
2001
Current Company Name: The Bosco
Current Position: Creator
Education / School 2: University of California
Interviews

After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2009, I worked at small digital agencies building high profile web applications for brands such as Patrón, Infiniti, Nintendo, W Hotels, and Tiffany & Co. A few years later, a chance meeting outside a Brooklyn sandwich shop introduced me to Aaron Fisher-Cohen, filmmaker and photographer, and my future partner.

We created The Bosco (www.thebosco.com) in 2011, the first automatic GIF booth, bringing new technology to the photo booth tradition. I built most aspects of the company’s software and have since helped to grow The Bosco from a college fantasy to a profitable business with over 100 employees and offices in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco that service clients worldwide. I split my time between Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco and really only have one hobby: The San Francisco Giants.

While it’s been 14 years since I left EB, the one thing I’ll never forget are the lifelong friends I made. I think the bilingual and multicultural education at EB made my peers a much more interesting group of people, many of which I stay in touch with and consider to be my closest friends. If/when I have children, I’d definitely consider sending them to EB. I don’t know where else you could find such a perfect balance of culture and academics.

Sarah Fielding

Graduating Class:
1997
Current Position: Biotechnologist
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I’m most grateful for having had the opportunity to learn another language at such a young age. My parents are native English speakers, and neither of them speaks French. I think they were just excited for me to learn a language, and expand my cultural horizons. I don’t think they ever could have imagined the far-reaching benefits of being bilingual. It’s shaped my world-view, the way I interact with others, and the way I think.

Please describe your current work.

I currently work at a biotechnology company in the Bay Area that focuses on developing medicines for serious diseases with unmet medical needs, like cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

My job is to understand what is most important to doctors and patients, and to make sure we integrate those insights into how we develop new drugs, and how we educate people about our medicines.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Ever since that glorious summer in college where I worked at a wine bar in Paris, I’ve spent most of my career working in science and healthcare businesses. Even though I’ve been in US companies, I’ve used my language skills in almost every job I’ve had. My current company has offices all over the globe, with headquarters in Switzerland. I get to use my French when I travel there, but it’s not just about the practical benefits of being bilingual. My early cross-cultural experiences at EB have helped me more easily connect with colleagues around the world.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

That they are joining a wonderful community, and that their child is about to embark on a great adventure. And if you don’t speak French at home, you’ll be amazed how easily your child picks up the language!

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I loved the exchange programs to France and Washington DC. We even had a Minitel machine to chat with our pen pals in France—EB was really on the cutting edge of internet technology! And with my EB classmates, we shared a unique bi-cultural experience that bonded us together. To this day, I still slip into “Franglais” idioms with lifelong friends I have from EB.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Absolutely! I’m so grateful for my EB education, for the friendships I made there, and for the lasting gift of being bilingual. I can only hope to be able to give my child that same experience.

Shauna Finnie

Graduating Class:
1983
Current Company Name: McKinsey & Company
Current Position: Consultant
Education / School 1: Switzerland local public high school
Education / School 2: UC Berkeley and Harvard
Interviews

The question “What have you done since EB” in less than a page is difficult to answer not because I’ve done so many things but simply because I graduated from EB a very long time ago! To reach the 20-year milestone makes me feel old, yet it has been a fulfilling time in large part due to the unique foundation I was provided by EB.

To sum up these – gulp – 20 years, I have lived in 4 different countries (5 different states within the US), have attended 8 different schools, and have worked with people from countless backgrounds. Change has clearly been a staple in my life to date, and it is the learning I received at an early age that has provided me with the necessary tools to pursue, enjoy and succeed in all of these situations.

From EB, I hopped on the yellow school bus to attend Berkeley Public Schools and loved this new context until my family moved to Lausanne, Switzerland where I attended the local public high school (“collège”) and thereby rekindled my ability to speak French. Upon returning to the US, I finished high school at CPS and headed to UCLA to major in Mechanical Engineering. Not ready to join the real world after spending 4 years in la-la land, I pursued my Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at UCBerkeley. Upon graduation, I accepted a foreign assignment with Ford Motor Company to work on revamping their operations in Bordeaux, France. After 2 1⁄2 years of la bonne vie (including a 6- month rotation to Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne, Germany), I returned to the US to join Ford’s leadership development program. This included managing Ranger Truck Final Assembly (with over 50 UAW line operators on night shift) and then managing brand strategy with Ford’s creative artists in the design studios. These were definitely some diverse and stamina-building assignments!

Eager to escape the real world once again, back to school I went! In June 2001, I received my MBA from Harvard Business School and moved to New York to join McKinsey & Company as a Consultant. While it was an invaluable learning assignment, I missed having my skin in the game with tangible responsibilities and products. So, I am now with Honeywell International building a small fluorochemicals business and enjoying every minute of it. In addition to a steep technical learning curve, I am enjoying commercializing technologies for a diverse array of market ranging from semiconductor etching to cosmetics. Although I will always be a California girl at heart, I continue to enjoy living in New York City and will never take it for granted after September 11th, 2001. Every day is a new day, so the possibility of moving back “home” (to Berkeley) will never be out of the question, but for now New York is treating me well.

Despite changes in geography, jobs, schools, etc, there is a common theme that resonates, which I believe started with EB: an openness to new, challenging situations outside any sense of comfort zone and to a diverse crowd. EB taught me that multiple ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds can all get along on one playground and that we can always learn from each other’s beliefs. Furthermore, my friends from EB are still some of my closest, and despite the 20 years since our graduation, none of us feel as if any time has gone by whenever we get together. Don’t we all wish that were the case!

Aaron Firestein

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Company Name: BucketFeet
Current Position: Co-Founder and Chief Artist
Interviews

In January 2014, Aaron was named as one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of promising young entrepreneurs.

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

Looking back, my days at EB were some of my best. It’s pretty incredible that a lot of the people I met back then are still very close friends today.

Please describe your current work.

I am the Co-Founder and Chief Artist of BucketFeet, an artist-designed footwear brand based in Chicago. We collaborate with artists all over the world to create really fun, unique shoes. So far we have a network of 4,000 artists from over 60 countries. We believe art is for everyone and think that shoes are a perfect platform to spread that message.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Going to EB was one of the best things to happen to me. Learning a foreign language at a young age gave me confidence and a level of curiosity about the world that I don’t know if I would have had otherwise. In 2008, I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina with no real plans but to learn Spanish. That’s where I met Raaja Nemani, an ex-investment banker who had quit his job to travel the world. We hit it off after volunteering with kids in the villas (slums) of the city and became friends. I shared my fun side-hobby, customizing shoes, with Raaaja and he bought a pair off of me and continued traveling with a story on his feet. That was really the start of Bucketfeet. Two years later, he reached out to me with a plan to turn my side hobby into something more and we’ve never looked back. I think that attending EB really opened the doors for me in terms of being open to different cultures and ideas.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

That they’ll be glad they sent their kids there. It was a wonderful experience.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I used to love Michael Rossman’s classes… there too many memories to count. I’m probably not the first one he made an impact on.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Absolutely. I think learning a new language and being surrounded by so many different ethnicities and nationalities made me realize at an early age that the world was an amazing place. The curriculum and teaching staff were excellent as well - something that definitely deserves to be highlighted.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

I definitely would. Learning a foreign language opens the world up to you.

Danièle Fogel

Graduating Class:
1997
Interviews

I arrived in France about a year ago. With my International Baccalaureate diploma from FAIS tucked under one arm and my Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin tucked under the other, I had decided to finally see what it was like to actually live in France. I had been coming here ever since I was little to visit my French family in Paris, and had always claimed my Frenchness in light of the fact that I felt somewhat “different,” especially as I went on to university, but I had never lived in France proper. I wanted to explore a place that I felt I knew because of my cultural exposure to it at home, at school at EB, and later at FAIS.

Interested in working with immigrants or “ethnic minorities” in France, and learning that my B.A., or “specialité généraliste” degree was not worth much in the eyes of French employers, I held a mishmash of jobs and volunteer activities: literacy for immigrant women in the mornings, private English tutoring in the afternoons, and after- school activities with kids of mostly west African immigrants in the evenings.

Although not to the extent I suspected, learning about the complexities of contemporary French society inevitably brings with it the discovery of the cultures it colonized, cultures that are intricately woven into its history. As I find myself this year teaching English conversation classes in a high school in the banlieue of Paris, I am once again working with people who are perhaps French but identify with another culture as well. The vast majority of my students are “issus de l’immigration”: kids of immigrants or immigrants themselves.

My pattern and interest in working with people who know more than one culture exists because of the positive experience I had with it. Although my experience growing up was far from that of an immigrant in the suburbs of Paris, I find myself able to relate to my students on a level of having had experience with multiculturalism, and for my students, who are often given the message that their multiculturalism is misplaced in France, I am able to promote it as something positive and as something to embrace.

Having been exposed in a school environment to two sets of norms, I was not only given the tools to critically examine culture, but to appreciate differences, and to see cultural clashes as enriching rather than confining. I have a natural attraction towards those who come from another culture and those who know more than one culture.

When I ponder what will be the next step in my life, although it may not yet have taken shape, I know that it will have an international element to it. Be it working or volunteering in a francophone country in west Africa, working with teens in the US, or graduate school, I know it will have something to do with the international cultural awakening I received at home and as a kid at EB where I was presented with richness from two worlds, and the knowledge that diversity must be cherished and promoted. I will be ever grateful for the bilingual and bicultural education I received, as I continue to reap the benefits of it even today, and see it shaping my life in every decision I make.

Ben Grant

Graduating Class:
1983
Current Position: independent consultant
Education / School 2: Columbia
Interviews

I tend to take my French for granted, in much the same way you tend to take your first language for granted. That’s how effective bilingual education is. It’s only when I meet a native speaker and latch onto them, hungry for practice, that I realize what a gift I got from Ecole Bilingue. “Wow,” comes the response, “ Tu parles français sans accent.”

I visit Ecole Bilingue once in a while for alumni events and anniversaries. It’s a strange experience. On the one hand, it has shrunk, in the usual manner of childhood places. Everything looks familiar, suffused with memories, but in Disneyland 7/8 scale. But coupled with this familiar feeling is it’s opposite: this place is HUGE. Building after building that I never knew. It seems incredible that you no longer have to line up “deux-pardeux” for the long march to the Big Yard. Above all, there is a sense of this quirky little experiment having become a real institution, and a permanent presence.

But I’m supposed to be tooting my own horn here, proving that alumni live and breathe 20 years after EB. I started with three years in the Berkeley Public Schools, then four at College Prep in Oakland. Then I followed my sister to New York City, to enroll at Columbia College.

I have wonderful memories of singing through the American songbook with Liz [Elizabeth Lamson], EB’s first music teacher. Throughout high school and into college, I studied piano, oboe, and voice. I sang in a capella groups, played in orchestras and rock bands, performed in musical theater. Once I returned to the Bay Area, I joined the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, a classical chorus, under the direction of my first music teacher (and dad) Dick Grant.

I started off as a music major, but where I wanted to make music, they wanted me to study it. Meanwhile, I was becoming interested in environmental issues, particularly those at the intersection of people and the places they live. I set about designing a major (against a great deal of sage advice) that would allow me to study environmental issues through a mix of cultural studies, science, and policy. After a year off climbing mountains and doing environmental work in Costa Rica, I returned to Columbia College, where the administration grudgingly allowed me my home-grown major.

When I graduated, I took a job at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, teaching composting to gardeners, teachers, and institutional managers. We were funded by the Department of Sanitation, and had to cover all of Brooklyn, so not only did I get to go to this beautiful garden every day, I saw every part of the Borough. The whole time, both at work and at home in Manhattan, I was becoming entranced with the city, first as the great exception in the car-addicted American landscape, but increasingly for its own sake, as this magical living artifact that could be read and explored and lived in and fought over.

So that was it. I applied to City Planning school. Conveniently enough, Berkeley has one of the top programs, and I was pining for coffee, burritos and hills. So I came home. There turns out to be an awful lot of work to be done here, as poorly planned growth pushes deep into the central valley, and our freeways grind into gridlock. I got a Master of City Planning degree from Cal, with a concentration in Urban Design. Urban Design deals with the physical and aesthetic relationships of buildings, streets, transportation and public space. I don’t design buildings, but I might write design guidelines for a district or help connect people to transit with streetscape improvements.

After some time exploring the cities of Europe and the Middle East, I came back and went to work for SMWM, a large design firm in San Francisco. It was an incredible place to work, and a real trial by fire. SMWM has worked on some of the most exciting architecture and planning projects around—from the Ferry Building to Boston’s Big Dig to Mission Bay. Much of my work was on Downtown San Jose, where we did a 20-year vision plan among many other projects. I also became involved in policy and design work aimed at integrating transportation and land use in the Silicon Valley, where sprawling development patterns have made for a bleak and inefficient landscape.

In the last year, I have made the leap to working as an independent consultant, so I can be flexible enough to pursue music and planning advocacy work. It has been an exciting and scary year, but I’m as busy as I’ve ever been. I am more involved than ever in music. I write, sing, and play bass in a rock band called Pony Boy. We perform regularly and we plan to make a recording this winter. In November, I will be traveling to Berlin with The Pacific Mozart Ensemble to perform with the Deutsche Symphonie under Kent Nagano.

Andrew and John Hasse

Graduating Class:
1995, 2004
Current Position: Student
Education / School 1: Berkeley High School
Interviews

Interview of Ann Hasse by Tina Meyer


Ann and Colin Hasse became parents at Ecole Bilingue in 1984 when their son Andrew (Class of 1995) began pre-K. Twenty years later, they are ready to become an Alumni family as their younger son, John, is about to graduate from the 8th grade. Having spaced their children in order to maximize their membership in the EB Parents Association, one wonders how these American parents came to be so committed to bilingual education and EB. With a Ph.D. in Classics, Colin’s language proficiency did not (and still does not) include French. Ann spent her junior year of high school in Paris with her parents when her philosophy professor father took a sabbatical year in 1964. Ann used her high school French and coaching from her fluent father (despite the fact that he had never been to Europe before his sabbatical!) when she spent that year in a private French girls’ school called L’Institut Norma Désir. Since the educational reforms made after 1968 were yet to come, many of her teachers spent the whole class period reading from prepared texts—not a practice inclined to endear them to a California adolescent, but very good for Ann’s French. That was about the extent of their French connection when Ann and Colin began to think about schools for Andrew. With the urging of a friend whose child was already in grade school at EB, they chose our pre-school program for their own child.

That three-year old is now a twentysomething who graduated from New York University last year with a degree in film-making. Ann, Colin, and John recently attended a screening of his film at the NYU First Run Film Festival which show cases the work of recent graduates. Andrew’s film , My Friend Friedrich (that would be Friedrich Nietzsche – Andrew IS the grandson of a philosophy professor) is a 20-minute romantic comedy in which a spectral Nietzsche appears to give advice to a love-sick undergraduate. Andrew was the screenwriter and director of the production which involved about twenty people and was shot at several locations around New York City. He had begun the screenplay for the film during the spring of his junior year at the NYU program in Paris. Andrew’s decision to spend a semester in Paris had taken his parents by surprise: as a high school student at Marin Academy, Andrew had taken Spanish, nor did he study French in college before going to Paris. Nonetheless, having EB in his his past, Andrew returned from Paris with the best French of the non-native speakers in the program. EB was also the beginning of Andrew’s film career. His seventh grade English teacher, Chris Nickoloff, had given Andrew and several classmates permission to make a video book report. Their 20- minute video on Lord of the Rings won third place honors in the East Bay Film Festival. Currently, Andrew is back in Berkeley where he works for Fluid, an animation production company which was founded by a group of former Pixar employees. Andrew was hired as a script writer and he has just been made the production director for a TV pilot. Ann notes that Andrew has kept his EB friends: “Those ties continue.”

Just as Andrew was leaving EB, his younger brother John began pre-school. As he is at the end of middle school and the beginning of adolescence, John’s life as an EB alumni has yet to be lived. He will be going to Berkeley High School next year, partly because BHS has a golf team! John also feels ready for a larger school and he values the cultural, social, ethnic and economic diversity that is such a big part of EB and not so easily found at many private high schools. Ann does not know what John’s attachment to French will be as an alumni, although she feels that he is much more fluent and secure in French than Andrew was at the same age because of changes which have taken place at EB. English is now given a 50% share of the curriculum beginning in the 3rd grade rather than the 1st grade. Nor does she feel that John’s English skills have suffered as a consequence despite some concern. Ann notes that her two sons, despite their very different personalities, both refused to speak French at home. But, because of EB, “they both have a sense that there are at least two worlds”—a sense that many other Americans do not share.

With the experience of twenty years behind her, Ann says (with perhaps only a little anticipatory nostalgia!) EB has been a very positive experience. As a parent volunteer, she has been a room representative (repeatedly) for each of her son’s classes. She lays claim to the gift basket as fund raising tool: for many years, she donated a chocolate basket for the raffle and Kitchen Tour which has since become a model at EB auctions. Ann and Colin handled ticket management for the Kitchen Tour and Raffle for a number of years and they sold EB t-shirts and sweatshirts in several different styles for seven years. When the Hasses became parents at EB twenty years ago, the school was led by its second Head of School (Fréderic Canadas is the fifth), EB had only several hundred students (now there are just over 500), there was no middle school and no middle school site. Thanks to the Hasses and the efforts and commitment of many, many other families, EB is a very special school.

Pia Hauch

Graduating Class:
2003
Current Company Name: La Boulange
Current Position: Project Manager
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

In addition to the language piece—learning a second language from such a young age is so beneficial and always sticks with you—one of my favorite things about EB was the small class size and intimate community feeling. Our class was comprised of the same group of students from the very beginning, and we really grew up together. I felt like this was my second family, a wonderful international family who I could always count on.

Please describe your current work.

I work at La Boulange, the Bay-Area-based bakery that Starbucks acquired in 2012. I joined as the project manager for the manufacturing and product development team—we are in charge of the overall food vision, platform assortment and strategy, thinking through how to increase sales and customer perception of food at Starbucks. Our mission is to build a food culture within a company whose core competency is coffee. With 50 million customers coming through our doors every week, we have the opportunity to have a huge impact! The added bonus is that I speak French on a daily basis since the founder of La Boulange, as well as many of the team members, are French.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I think learning another language at such a young age opens many doors for EB graduates. Not only does it open kids’ eyes to different cultures early on, I truly believe it shapes how you interpret and synthesize information—something that has helped me in all facets of my life, from music, to college, to the interview process. I know too that having such a wonderful support system while growing up at EB really gave me the confidence to go after what I want. It helped me place value on lasting friendships and identify the types of people that I want to surround myself with in my life.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Your kids will love the Cahier de Textes… that was always my favorite part of starting the school year!

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

The field trips we got to take were always the best. Pioneer camp, Yosemite, Washington DC…. we were very lucky! Our fifth grade trip to France is definitely at the top of the list; how many ten-year-olds get to go to France with all of their friends? I also always loved the tradition of the Galette des Rois in January, something only kids at French schools will know about.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

I would like to think that I am a citizen of the world, and continue to grow as one. EB helps kids think differently—you’re taught very early on to be open, accepting and curious of new cultures and experiences, something that I think is very important in today’s world. The trips we got to take, for example, speak volumes about the opportunities offered by EB and their commitment to fostering open-mindedness and interest in other people and lifestyles.

From an academic standpoint, we were taught most classes in French and English (geometry in French, algebra in English; European history and American History). Taking classes in both languages is a challenge but when you don’t know any better, it becomes a norm— and, in hindsight, a really unique way to learn. I must admit, though, I still have trouble with that tricky French grammar!

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Absolutely. I had great experiences at EB and would want my kids to experience that same type of opportunity.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I am an avid runner and very passionate about food. I started a blog a few years back about the San Francisco food scene—a great way to justify all the money I spend eating out! I truly love exploring different cities and I believe the best way to do that is through running—mapping out the different parts of the city on foot—and discovering the food that makes each place special.

Ryan Jones

Graduating Class:
1995
Current Position: Consultant
Education / School 1: Berkeley High
Interviews

I still remember the day my parents took me to my sister’s school (EB) to go through what I didn’t realize at the time was an entrance exam. I really enjoyed talking with the adults and making shapes with blocks. At the time, I was too young to really understand much about school, let alone what a bilingual school was.

A decade ago when I left EB, I would not have imagined looking back at my time there fondly. As my sister and my former classmates can tell you, foreign languages are not my strongest point, which of course is a tough spot to be in when you are an EB student. I left EB having spent many years working very hard to make it through the school. At the time, given all that I had to dedicate to the process of getting through school, I didn’t appreciate what I learned while I was there.

I moved on to King Junior High School for eighth grade and went on to Berkeley High. I have to say, the contrast of EB with King (not that Berkeley doesn’t have better than average public schools) was amazing. EB had clearly placed me ahead of my peers, something I would continue to see in the coming years. At Berkeley High, I was a varsity athlete in both Water Polo and Swimming. The hard-fought foundation of learning that had been laid during my time at EB really began to blossom. I did well academically and as a whole really enjoyed my time in high school.

Outside of school, my sister and I were lucky enough to have a parent (our father) who worked for an airline. Needless to say, we traveled a lot as a family and in later years on our own. On the road, the true value of the cultural education I earned during my time at EB often shows its true value in the most random places, as in talking in French with Germans during a train ride across western Europe. They mistook me for a fellow European. Although I haven’t kept up my accent enough to pass for French, I can at least shed the veil of being “American” while interacting with Europeans through speaking French. Or simply the cultural and intellectual curiosity that EB endowed me with leading to conversations with Australians about their life at a cattle station in the outback, where it’s necessary to keep one type of venomous snake in order to ward off another.

It never ceases to amaze me how much my cultural education truly has helped me. The funny thing is, it didn’t truly show its colors until I went away to college. In the fall of 1999, after a great summer spent exploring Europe, I drove across the United States to start school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Now, for those of you who have never been to upstate New York - and I assume that is most of the EB community—it is the polar opposite of the Bay Area and Berkeley’s beautiful culture which EB embodies so well. This isn’t to say that I didn’t learn to love Troy, but moving to a small industrial revolution rust belt town, where winter days easily reach -20º wind chill, is nothing like the Bay Area. It was in Troy, where the culture is closer to Nebraska than New York City, where I truly learned the value of education from EB. I was able to really appreciate the cultural background of my classmates much more than I ever would have been able to, had I not gone to EB. Through the prism of living in Troy and looking back at my life in the Bay Area, I was able to really truly appreciate the cultural melting pot that we in the Bay Area often take for granted. My time at RPI was great. I majored in Information Technology and Finance and continued my athletic pursuits as an NCAA Division III swimmer and an inter-collegiate club water polo player.

When my time at RPI came to an end in May 2003, I felt the pull of multiculturalism and moved to New York City where I joined a consulting firm and spent a year traveling to Boston—which has a culture very similar to that of Berkeley. I continue to work as a consultant based in New York City. Someday soon I plan to return to the Bay Area. I have to admit I only have so many cold winters left in me, but before I do I am hoping to follow the spirit of multiculturalism EB placed in me and take an international assignment for a year or two.

Sarah Kanafani

Graduating Class:
1992
Current Company Name: ARC
Education / School 2: UC Berkeley and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service
Interviews

I have always valued the education I got at EB for a variety of reasons—its well-roundedness, the small classes, the excellent and dedicated faculty, the multiculturalism, and the friendships I made there (which are still among my best). But that appreciation jumped to a new level recently, as I can honestly say that I would not have my current job if it were not for those nine years on Heinz Street. Nearly four months ago, I moved to Conakry, the capital of the tiny francophone West African country of Guinea, to work with the American Refugee Committee. Despite being part of a region that has become synonymous in the press with brutal civil wars, few have heard of it. I had to specify countless times, “Not Equatorial, not Bissau, not even close to Papua New—just Guinea.”

Being bilingual is useful in almost any context. Throughout my academic and professional career since EB, my ability to speak a second language fluently has been an asset—whether because it is an explicit requirement or because it is often regarded as a mark of being well-educated and capable. I completed a French minor (along with an English major) at UC Berkeley before moving to New York where I worked for the Whitney Museum of American Art. A second language was not mandatory for that job, but it was a distinct advantage in the application process. And later, when I applied to graduate school at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, foreign language proficiency was a minimum requirement.

But in my current job with ARC, it was French specifically that was the deal-breaker. Having just graduated from Georgetown with my masters in International Relations and a focus on Conflict Management, I was not the only one of my classmates looking for field jobs overseas. Many are just as qualified as I am to fulfill the duties of this position and manage the demands of living in one of the poorest countries in the world and one that is not only surrounded by war-torn countries, but characterized by a slew of its own structural instabilities. But my classmates don’t speak French. Even though the refugees I work with and for here are mostly English-speaking (from Liberia and Sierra Leone), regular office business, liaising with other organizations, and daily life are all conducted in French. Indeed, if it weren’t for French, half the African continent would be closed to me, at least in terms of living and working. For someone who wants to spend their career preventing and resolving conflicts, providing humanitarian assistance in war-torn countries, and linking relief to longer-term development, to be monolingual would be a major disadvantage. In a way, it is the education I received at EB that has allowed me make my dreams come true.

Additionally, the early start and the combination of linguistic and cultural education I got at EB have proven to be big advantages in a francophone country. Compared to people here who only began studying French in high school or college, I find it easier to understand technical language, slang, jokes, and different accents. While these may seem like minor issues, they can mean the difference between actively contributing and just keeping up in a meeting, and between having a social life and just sticking to the anglophone expatriate community. While French is what got me here in the first place, it is partly EB that has made my experiences here as rich and dynamic as they are. And that is true not only for Guinea (not Equatorial, not Bissau…), but for places I’ve been to, people I’ve met, and things I’ve done throughout my life.

Olivia Kragen

Graduating Class:
2003
Current Company Name: The Preferred Hotel Group
Current Position: Consultant
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

As an adult, you’re lucky if you remember anything from Lower and Middle School. I am fortunate to have great memories of EB class trips. From Pioneer Camp, to Yosemite and France, every trip was unique, educational, and most importantly fun. I remember the unique “one of a kind” science classes taught by Michael Rossman that sparked my love for nature and environmental science. And there were so many other teachers who were impactful, especially Sue Campbell, who challenged my skills and gave me the confidence that I could be a good writer.

Please describe your current work.

After working in marketing for the Four Seasons Hotel New York, I now work for a consulting division of the Preferred Hotel Group. In my current role, I develop and manage English-language social media channels for travel destinations worldwide. I produce digital content that tells a story about a destination in order to attract the North American travel market. I lead media familiarization trips and manage online and offline events. This gives me the opportunity to travel and work with counterparts in countries like Mexico and China.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

My EB education allowed me to form a global perspective at a young age and gain a deep curiosity for the world. My years at EB were the foundation that inspired me to pursue a professional career in the international hospitality and travel industry.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

When childhood comes up in discussion amongst your peers you quickly realize that attending EB was incredibly unique. Mastering subjects in two different languages is no easy feat, but it prompts you into thinking critically, staying open to the nuances of different cultures, and into feeling at ease as a citizen of the world. I deeply appreciate the cultural diversity of the school.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Of course I would send my kids to EB! I want them to have a rigorous, challenging, and fun educational experience at a young age. I also want them to grow up speaking French properly. I believe this can only happen in a school with native speakers as teachers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t attended EB from kindergarten to 8th grade. I really benefited from the strong community of students and teachers at EB. I’m incredibly thankful that my parents had the foresight to send me to EB.

Lucie Kroening

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Position: Student
Education / School 1: Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco
Education / School 2: Columbia University
Interviews

I graduated from EB almost six years ago. It certainly doesn’t seem like that long ago. I keep in touch with a half dozen or so of my closest friends from my class. As an only child, they are the closest I will ever get to siblings.

After EB, I attended Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. I didn’t know anyone else in my freshman class. I am not particularly outgoing, or at least I wasn’t when I was 14. To be honest, I never really made much social headway in high school. I didn’t feel like I could relate to the San Francisco kids, all of whom knew one another the way I would have known everyone if I had gone to Head Royce, CPS, or Berkeley High. Through the four years at Lick, I only made one great friend. Nine years spent developing relationships at EB made four years sound like a joke. To a certain extent, I do think that I am more strict than most when it comes to calling someone a friend.

Going to the school in San Francisco, most of the social life was there as well. Thus, few of my classmates spent much time in the East Bay; even fewer saw my house or met my parents. How much can you understand someone if you never see where they come from? It was no coincidence that the people I was closest to were all from the East Bay. I rode BART to and from school with them every day. We knew the same people from Middle School dances. Although I had some terribly lonely times at Lick, going to school in San Francisco enabled me to become familiar and to navigate what really is a beautiful and amazing city. To a certain extent, it also prepared me for the next adventure of attending college in the East, where I currently attend Columbia University in New York City.

Lick may not have been the perfect social environment for someone like me, but there is no place I would have rather have gone to school. From my perspective, it offered the perfect follow-up to EB. Growing up at EB instilled in me a multi-cultural worldview that I now consider the most integral part of my personal philosophy. EB’s bilingual structure, complete with two parallel educational tracks, not only taught me to speak French fluently but also to approach the world from different angles. I was constantly in contact with people of different cultural backgrounds, from the parents of my French, Indian, and Brazilian friends to my teachers who came from places as far away as the Ivory Coast. Lick has a similar respect for cultures and perspectives. Lick is also well-known for its technical arts program, which attracts artistic, creative faculty to teach not only the shop classes but also the English, History, and Math classes. At EB, the emphasis was on language for self-expression. At Lick, while I spent ample time writing essays and editing the Paper Tiger, the school newspaper, I also discovered the satisfaction of welding and working in the darkroom. I discovered a new, more visual and tactile perspective of the world.

As I progress in my education, I find myself at yet another school that values the wellrounded, world-exposed student: Columbia. Our core curriculum, one of the most traditional, inclusive, and oldest in the nation, requires that students study everything from non-western cultures to the visual arts and music to philosophy. EB, in addition to my family, have raised me to appreciate all these things and, in fact, to appreciate everything. I think that my pre-collegiate education has made me the ever-interested, open-minded, critical thinking person that I hope I am today. But I still have a lot more to learn.

Hannah Le

Graduating Class:
1994
Current Company Name: EB
Current Position: Faculty Representative
Education / School 1: Berkeley High
Education / School 2: UC Davis
Interviews

My name is Hannah Lê. I am a first-generation Vietnamese American. My mother was raised in a French school in Saigon, and wanted to pass on her French education to me. My parents enrolled me at Ecole Bilingue as a kindergartener in 1985. The four years I spent at EB were wonderful and had an everlasting impression on me. I attended Berkeley High and then UC Davis, where I studied French and Human Development, with a minor in Education. I have always wanted to become a teacher.I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, seeing them learn and grow. The following year I entered UC Davis, School of Education, where I received my California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with CLAD and then my M.A in Education. I have never regretted my decision to become a teacher.

I currently live in Oakland with 2 roommates and my dog Guinness. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, playing the piano, practicing Aikido, and hanging out with Guinness.

This is my third year at EB, and my fifth year teaching elementary school.

I taught two years for the Pittsburg Unified School District and decided that I had to either change schools or find a new career. Teaching is my passion, so I pressed on. When I decided to leave my former school, I was elated to find out that there was an opening at EB. Teaching at my alma mater has been and continues to be an enriching experience for me. Working at EB fits perfectly with my interests in teaching and in the French culture and language. As a former student and a current teacher at EB, I can relate to my students. I understand those who are struggling with learning two languages and who may need encouragement. I find it ironic to be teaching in classrooms that I use to be in. Rather than sitting at the desk, I am now in the front of the room. It still seems strange to me. I am proud to serve two years as a Faculty Trustee. As a trustee, I plan to bring in my dual perspectives, my insights, diversity, and perhaps a sense of humor. I try to bring in all of these qualities into the classroom.

None of the teachers I had are currently at EB anymore. However, one teacher that stands out in my mind is Michael Rossman. He was the science teacher that everyone loved. His quirky sense of humor made learning fun. He was a very “hands-on” teacher. He dissected every road kill, taught us how to ferment grapes to make wine, and brought in various rocks to show. Michael was one of a kind. Michael was inspirational to me; I hope to someday make a difference in the lives of my students.
 

Johnelle Mancha

Graduating Class:
1994
Current Company Name: Mignonne (Home furnishing)
Current Position: Owner
Interviews

Johnelle is the owner of Mignonne, a home furnishings and décor store in West Berkeley. Ever since Mignonne opened in 2005 it has carried vintage and repurposed items: vintage textiles transformed into pillow covers, antique glassware, and furniture given a new lease on life by Johnelle’s creative eye and refinishing skills. Many of the pieces of furniture came from yard sales, thrift shops and places like Urban Ore.

Recently, she expanded her services to allow customers to bring in their own pieces for redesign. Says Johnelle, “Our customers know that repurposed furniture reduces the amount of trees harvested for new furniture; reuses existing furniture, which means one less item in a dump or landfill somewhere; and supports recycling because by refinishing a piece, it is transformed into something new and functional again.”

Eli Marienthal

Graduating Class:
2000
Current Position: student
Education / School 1: Berkeley High School
Interviews


I am a junior at Berkeley High School and graduated from EB three years ago after an undeniably formative ten years in attendance. I hold as my memories from the school some of the sweetest and some of the most trying of my life. Yet the lasting impression which the school has left on me is firmest, not in the form of anecdote but as a set of lessons learned that I will forever apply to life. For me, EB presented a playing field upon which I comfortably molded a position for myself. Nestled warmly among familiar faces, while driven by the rigor of a formal French education, I was continually compelled to reevaluate and reassess who and where I was, as well as the more dynamic and daunting questions of who and where I wanted to be.

As life moves on, these questions evolve, metamorphose , answer themselves and then demand yet another level of recognition. I will spend the rest of my life in pursuit, through action and nonaction, of those answers and I firmly believe EB to have been the breeding ground of many of my most fulfilling endeavors.

When I was eight years old I began acting. I started with local theater and though I still work with reputable theatre houses throughout the Bay Area, including the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Aurora Theatre, ACT and the Magic Theatre, I have also worked extensively in film and television. For the first four years of my career, I was both working and attending EB. Not only was the school helpful and supportive of all my activities, it simultaneously forged a foundation in which academic rigor and accomplishment were expected. The priorities that it set, academics first yet not at the expense of becoming a rounded and prepared global citizen remain the bulwarks of my life. I feel that much of the evolving and learning I do today is through my own writing. I’ve been writing poetry and performing it competitively since I was twelve years old. I work extensively with a San Francisco based organization called Youth Speaks. I have performed all over the country and plan to publish my first volume of poetry sometime next year.

While I still have another year to decide on colleges, I am aiming at some of the most competitive and rigorous institutions in the world. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that those opportunities are directly related to the preparation and standards set by EB. For that, I am always grateful. I wake up every morning and consider the blessings of my life, of which my time at Ecole Bilingue remains one of the greatest.

Daniel Marschak

Graduating Class:
2000
Current Company Name: Las Positas College in Livermore
Current Position: full time professor of music
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I really enjoyed participating in activities that would never have happened in a “normal” school. For example, I remember when Jean-Pierre Moullé, a great chef from Chez Panisse visited our class and taught us how to make Madeleine cookies. I remember how Mardi Gras was celebrated by our school in the traditional French manner, and how we would read French classics in addition to the standard school reading assignments. It was like we were being taught two radically different perspectives (one American and one French) at the same time, and that made us twice as aware of how big the world was.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I am a jazz pianist, composer, and as of the 2015-2016 academic year, I am a full time professor of music at Las Positas College in Livermore. I split my time up between teaching, gigging around the Bay Area, and composing for contemporary classical music and film projects. Recent highlights include composing a film score for a documentary about Huntington’s disease, a performance with vocalist Kalil Wilson at the El Cerrito World One Festival, a premiere with my composer collective LA Signal Lab, and an upcoming premiere with Hocket Duo, a piano duo based in LA at the Steinway Gallery in Pasadena.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB was an extremely nurturing environment. The teachers would always encourage whatever artistic endeavors I wanted to pursue— and they weren’t always musical— and my fellow students tended to be open-minded as well. I made some of my best friends while I was a student at EB, and some of them I work with professionally to this day. I can also say that the ability to speak French has come in handy several times in performance situations, and having that in my back pocket will always be helpful as a musician.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Give it time! Your child will not immediately be bilingual, and they might even be confused at first by having to study different subjects in different languages. But by the end of their EB experience they will be so happy they went to this school. No other school can offer the expansive worldview that EB can.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

When our class went to Washington DC, I had a blast. We really bonded over all the incredible history, architecture, monuments, and museums, and I learned that traveling is the best way to cultivate friendships.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

EB gave me an expansive view of the world, and made it clear that one’s identity can be constructed from multiple cultures. It was also very challenging to learn subjects in different languages – especially when I got to high school. But I managed to overcome these challenges and succeed academically.

As a community college instructor, I feel that EB has prepared me to teach students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. English is a second language for many of my students, and as someone who grew up bilingual, I understand how to manage that unique challenge.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

I would definitely consider sending my children to EB, because in what other school could they internalize two different cultural points of view in two languages? EB continues to earn a sterling reputation, and I know that my kids would be prepared for an increasingly globalized world with a solid educational background from EB.

Kili McGowan

Graduating Class:
1993
Current Position: safari escort and translator.
Education / School 2: UC Berkeley
Interviews

I was born in 1979 to a true “Berkeley” family. My father was a renowned American mountaineer and entrepreneur, while my mother’s family were ranchers and farmers who pioneered northern British Columbia. It’s fair to say that traveling to some of the most remote areas of the world and running my own specialty travelbusiness are part of a family tradition that includes curiosity, adventure and independence.

I was named for Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, and went on my first safari in Kenya and Tanzania when I was just a year old. During my ten years at Ecole Bilingue (I completed Middle School in 1993), I shared with my classmates and teachers many slideshows of my early travels to off-the-beaten path destinations like Nepal, India, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica, Botswana, Lesotho and the Seychelles.

I credit both my family and Ecole Bilingue with providing a firm foundation in global citizenship that has served me well. In fact, as a five-year-old, my fluency in French defused a tense situation in Cameroon near the border with Equatorial Guinea when I was able to interpret for my dad!

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2002 with degrees in both Biology and Anthropology, I’ve continued to pursue my interests in travel, wildlife, evolution and archaeology. In the past six years, I’ve traveled widely in Western Europe and Southern, East and North Africa both independently and as safari escort and translator.

Today, I am among the youngest Africa specialists and entrepreneurs in the travel industry, handling customized safari arrangements which often include unique experiences such as gorilla tracking, camel-supported walking and birding safaris. Everyday I see how my educational background, my work experience and my travels prepared me to assume day-to-day management of my family’s business, Next Adventure and Safari, in 2005.

My father, who served two terms on the EB Board, made his love of mountaineering a permanent part of EB when he helped build the “alpiniste” statue that still marks Annual Fund progress at the Lower School. I was honored to continue another family tradition when I was invited to join the EB Board of Trustees last spring.

As a trustee, I will endeavor to follow in his footsteps and leave a lasting impact on our school community. As the first alumna to serve on the Board, I’ll bring a perspective that is both longterm and student-centered. While I am still learning the duties and responsibilities of being on my first Board, it is clear to me that the vibrant sense of community that I remember from my time at EB is still very much part of the school.

Recently, I attended a friend’s wedding, and many of the guests were EB alumni and their families. Fifteen years after graduation, I was excited to see these families were still very interested in the school, and hungry for news. As a trustee, I hope to keep the school relevant for alumni families and to engage the many graduates like me whose early years were shaped by EB.

Nathalie Miller

Graduating Class:
1996
Current Company Name: The New York City D.A.’s Office investigation sector
Current Position: Trial preparation assistant
Education / School 2: Harvard
Interviews

Learning French at Ecole Bilingue has had a profound effect on me. As I became comfortable in my second language, it was almost as if linguistic barriers were knocked down in my mind. I’ve always found that the greatest obstacle in learning a new language is the fear of testing out conversation and making mistakes. But since EB taught me how to think in French at such a young age, I have never felt afraid to try my luck at learning different languages. This, in turn, has enabled me to experience some of the greatest adventures in my life: travel.

While I was in seventh grade at EB, I helped organize Global Exchange’s (a local human rights organization) first educational youth tour to Cuba. As most who travel to Cuba quickly learn, making friends with the warm people there comes easily and naturally. After my initial visit, I returned often throughout high school to see my adopted family in Havana. The long summer nights spent chatting along the Malecón quickly bolstered the Spanish framework set in EB middle school classes. Before I knew it, my Cuban friends had made me fluent.

The summer after my freshman year at Harvard, I decided to go somewhere completely new and unknown to me. In Ghana, I lived and taught in a missionary school run by yogic monks from India and other parts of West Africa. Once a British colony, English is spoken widely throughout Ghana. But in the small village where I was, in the mountains of central Ghana (north of Kumasi), proficiency in English was more scarce. I learned that to befriend my neighbors I would also have to learn some Twi, the local dialect. At first it was hard, but when I learned that most of my coworkers easily spoke sixteen or seventeen languages everything was put into perspective. Besides the language challenge, being in Ghana was very life-changing. Though Ghana is stable and much more “developed” than neighboring African nations, I never have experienced the level of poverty in which my community lived. Working in Ghana raised issues not only of survival and suffering, but also the role of the West’s social responsibility for poverty alleviation.

I returned to school compelled to delve deeper into issues of culture and development and chose to concentrate in Social Anthropology and African and Afro-American Studies. Through incredible courses both inside and outside my majors, I became close with some truly amazing professors. I can’t adequately explain how grateful I am for this experience. Many all-nighters later I wrote a senior thesis on the phenomena of gay dads adopting Black children. As I am neither an adopted Black child nor a gay man, the study was definitely an ethnographic experiment of participant/observer. The project was extremely rewarding, mostly due to the lovely families who befriended me.

Last year I spent as a Harvard CPIC (Center for Public Interest Careers) fellow, working as a trial preparation assistant for the New York City D.A.’s Office investigation sector. As expected, I found aspects of the criminal justice system completely flawed and racist, but I rationalized my work because I investigated white-collar crime—which translates to rich people who usually get away with scams and end up on yachts off the coast of Thailand.

This past April, one Sunday night before work, a pretty crucial turning point in my life occurred: I found out that my childhood friend’s car was bombed in Iraq, where she was on a humanitarian mission to count Iraqi civilian casualties. She was one of the three other teenagers who I organized the Cuba youth trip with years ago. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to find out a long-time friend has died by seeing her smiling face flash across CNN. What’s most important to me is that she died doing something that she believed in. Life is transient, and her death made me realize that I better live as she died: courageously and passionately.

That said, my next humble attempt at bravery will be moving to Vietnam this October. I’ve been taking Vietnamese classes for nearly a year now to prepare for a Fulbright there. I’ll be researching microfinance and the role of women in the developing economy. As I do my best to become fluent in Vietnamese and to prepare for a year far away from home, I feel that I’m on the cusp of a lot of adventure. There’s no doubt in my mind that my desire to learn and comfort in other languages, which was first instilled in maternelle at EB, has helped bring me here.

Philomene Morrison

Graduating Class:
2003
Current Company Name: Emory University and McLean Hospital at Harvard University
Current Position: 5th-year Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate
Interviews

I’m currently a 5th-year Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at Emory University and McLean Hospital at Harvard University. My current research is focused on the mechanisms of how stress and emotional trauma affect learning and memory, with the goal of understanding psychiatric disorders like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m really interested in understanding how social and environmental inequalities impact health, how stress can be transmitted from one generation to the next, and how we can best identify and develop strategies for intervention.

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I especially enjoyed the math and science classes at EB. The opportunity to attend “French Math” and “English Math”, where “French Math” focused on principles of geometry and “English Math” focused on algebra and pre-calculus, was so unique and really encouraged EB students to think critically in different languages. I can also still remember the projects, experiments, and teachers from my 5th grade and Middle School science classes that instilled in me a sense of wonder and curiosity about how things work in the world around me that I’ve carried with me through my undergraduate and now graduate career.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Absolutely. Thanks to EB, I not only learned a second language from a very early age, but was also immersed in an international and diverse community at the school and through experiences like the 5th grade exchange trip to France. That early exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking was crucial to my development and really prepared me to think critically about, and also to appreciate, the world around me.

John Palmer

Graduating Class:
1988
Current Position: Finance Lawyer
Interviews

I attended EB from 1983 until 1988, from first to fifth grade. During that time, I learned that there is always more than one way to do something–think long division. Since then, I’ve tried to ask questions when presented with differences of method, opinion, culture: I’ve tried to ask about the strengths and weaknesses of each method, the origins of the opinion, the evolution of the cultural norm. This has made me a bricoleur—willing to source my methods, opinions, maybe even my culture pretty widely. It has made me curious about trying new things and it has made me believe in the abiding value of not being scared of the unknown, not finding difference to be something that needs resolution, but rather finding delight and richness in difference.

This clearly has implications at work—I’m a finance lawyer in San Francisco—my work involves finding solutions that meet the needs of different perspectives, it demands innovation, it bridges economic strata and culture and sometimes even language. But the point is: no matter what I had ended up doing, the education I got at EB would have informed the way I approached my work, and, I think, made it better.

I think that learning to live in a world increasingly divided by difference is going to mean that we will need citizens who think of themselves as people who can bridge those differences, who are at home in multiple cultures, who aren’t ineluctably rooted in their own perspective. If this was valuable thirty years ago when I started my education at EB, it’s only become more valuable since, and I can’t think of a better way than joining the Board both to give back, and also to do my small part to help produce the kinds of citizens we’re going to need in the coming decades.

David Pruess

Graduating Class:
1995
Current Position: EB teacher/substitute
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

Playing with my friends, because it was fun! This must be the answer of pretty much any child about any school they attend. I enjoyed running around the “big yard” (now bigger, but we thought it was big back then). Later on in Middle School I remember being really excited about developing my writing skills with the aid of Mr. Nikoloff and Mme. Marie.

Please describe your current work.

I am teaching 6th and 7th grade English at EB while another teacher is on sabbatical in France. I’m trying to get my students reading and writing on a daily basis for practice. I’m also trying to teach them to reflect and to understand some powerful communication tools.

Last year I also worked at EB as a substitute, which was super fun for someone who is interested in everything: I got to try every subject and every grade level, and along the way meet pretty much every student and every teacher at the school. Even though it had been many years since I was a student, it felt like coming home from a short trip.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Very directly, I think the influence of Mr. Nikoloff and Mme. Marie that I mentioned above gave me a great appreciation of the value of a teacher. I also know that a couple of my classmates are teachers now, so it could be that having exceptional teachers influenced several of us in this direction.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I have a lot of conversations with new parents, and we usually talk about the value of being exposed to many languages and cultures, and how this opens up the possibilities to connect with all the other people in the world—how I have always felt myself an international citizen and never only an American. Additionally, they are always heartened to see that my French is fluent after all these years, and to hear that my parents became very proficient in French simply by being around EB for 16 years!

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I loved getting comments back on the short stories I wrote, and discussing Joseph Conrad’s books.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

My daughter just started in Petite Section this fall. She loves it! I want her to have the same advantage I did of being around children from many different backgrounds. I hope she develops the same appreciation of other people’s experiences and appreciates the value of foreign languages as a tool for forming connections.

Alexandra Sánchez

Graduating Class:
2005
Current Company Name: UC Berkeley's Intercollegiate Athletics Department
Current Position: Assistant Director of Compliance
Education / School 1: Berkeley High School
Education / School 2: The United World College of the Atlantic, Amherst College and Cal.
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB?

I most enjoyed learning another language and developing a strong appreciation for French culture, history, literature and more. Many of my friends were French and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to France several times— it’s been so special to feel at home and to be able to interact and engage with others while I travel. I also loved learning multiple subjects in both English and French.

A friend of mine once told me that you are worth as many people as the languages you speak. I feel lucky to be multilingual, multicultural and in his words, more than one person.

Please describe your current work.

I currently work as the Assistant Director of Compliance for UC Berkeley’s Intercollegiate Athletics Department. In this job I’ll be assisting with the development and implementation of our NCAA Rules Education program as well as in providing interpretations of these rules to athletics coaches and staff. I’ll also be helping with the department’s monitoring efforts and outbound communications. I am especially excited to be working more closely with our international students in this rule (ensuring they are cleared to compete)!

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB has influenced my education and my career orientation and future plans. EB taught me that a diverse, multilingual and rich education opens doors that may never be open otherwise. I do not think I would have learned Latin, French, History and Geography, U.S. History, Geometry and Algebra and more all at once at any other middle school. The variety of classes we were exposed to at EB taught me that it is important to curate my own education.

I carried this mindset with me into high school, college and beyond. EB exposed me to a culture different to my own at a young age. This experience added to my interest in international relations and economic development while also inspiring me to live and study abroad. I am in the process of applying to law school and hope to study international law; I am sure I will use my French during my career!

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I would tell parents that they are investing in their child’s future and personal development. One day, their child will thank them for choosing to invest in their education in this way—no matter their financial resources.

It’s also important that we commit as a society to international understanding and tolerance. The more children are exposed to cultures and languages different from their own, the more they will celebrate the diversity that makes our world so special. We need more schools like EB that will help our children become informed, caring and compassionate global citizens and stewards of this planet.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I loved my time at EB. I have many funny memories. Some of my best memories came from the different trips we took beginning in third grade. These trips helped teach me about independence and resilience. They also helped develop my wanderlust and love for nature. My favorite trips were the trips we took to Yosemite and France in seventh and eighth grade.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB and in the world?

I have been blessed with an extraordinary education. I went to EB, Berkeley High School, the United World College of the Atlantic, Amherst College and Cal. And my education isn’t done!

EB taught me another language. It taught me discipline, attention to detail, organizational skills, leadership and so much more. Most importantly, EB was the catalyst to me becoming a citizen of the world. Following my eight years at EB I have taken every opportunity possible to learn more about my country, the world and how I can be of service to my immediate community and beyond.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am so proud to be a jaguar and to be an alumna of EB. I am deeply grateful for the lessons I learned, the friends I made, and the teachers I learned from during those formative years of my life.

Christina Sanford

Graduating Class:
1994
Current Position: Law student
Education / School 2: Claremont McKenna College and (currently) UCLA law school
Interviews

While I appreciate the gift of a bilingual education and have used my French countless times, I want to touch on the less concrete things I learned at EB. EB not only instilled in me a global perspective, a love for French culture and an awareness of happenings outside my daily sphere, but encouraged me to be introspective and to know myself. My teachers taught with an overwhelming and contagious enthusiasm that could only have come from a passion for their profession. Libby, the head of the middle school when I attended it, once told me: “Love your job, Christina. Pick one that you’re excited to go to everyday, and that you’d go to even if you weren’t getting paid.” I have spent most of my time since EB trying to figure out what that job could be.

After graduating from EB, I went on to Head Royce for high school and then Claremont McKenna College for my undergraduate education. Like most everyone, I studied abroad my junior year. With my accent, or rather lack of accent, all I had to do was slap on some dark socks and a detached look and I was treated like every other French student in my classes at the Sorbonne.

After college graduation, contemplating an MD/Ph.D, I spent a year as a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health studying HIV immune reactions. I was asked to stay on for another year but research was not for me. I was content to drop the Ph.D part. I came back to the Bay Area to work while I applied to medical school. It was an arduous process, but in the end I was accepted to many places any parent would love to brag to their friends about.

Still, this was not the direction my life was to take. Just as I was about to sign my financial aid papers, I realized that while I would have liked being a doctor, I would not have loved it. I was face to face with that question, what do I want to do with my life? It was then that I thought back to the happiest times of my life and I remembered our eighth grade trip to Washington D.C. When I came home from that trip I told everyone I knew that I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. And while I don’t think this aspiration will be as prophetic as Samuel Alito’s yearbook prediction, I have decided that I would love to be a lawyer. So after another round of tests, essays and personal statements, I will be attending UCLA law school this coming fall, where I plan to study International Law.

When I was asked to write this profile, I took a look at what some of my fellow classmates had to say, mostly for inspiration, but also to see what everyone was up to. Libby must have given her advice to all of us because we are all doing things that excite us. While I was not aware of it at the time, EB gave me the tools to figure out who I am and what I want from my life. It taught me not only how to succeed in the eyes of others, but in my own as well.

Lisa Schipper

Graduating Class:
1986
Interviews

From Berkeley to Bangkok: How my EB Background Paved my Way to Sticky Rice with Mango

My mother is Swedish and my father American, I am married to a German and live in Thailand. When people ask me where I am from, although I have two passports, I usually try to avoid answering the question. This is because I am not just Swedish, American or an “expat” but part of me also identifies myself as “from Berkeley” and even a little part of me would say “sort of French”. Then they say: “French?! How can that be?” “Well, I went to a French school from the age of 5.” The next question is usually “Why?!”. I usually try to avoid answering that as well, because my French “identity” is actually more of a consequence of how strongly my formation was influenced by going to Ecole Bilingue, which was a choice my parents made for me not because they wanted me to “become French”, but because they recognized what a unique education I would get. An education that would carry me far, it was hoped—and indeed for now it certainly feels that this hope is being fulfilled.

I went to EB from first through fifth grade, graduating in 1986. I recently found my graduation speech, which thanked EB, all the teachers and students for being so wonderful. I had moved to London before Christmas of my final year at EB, and had spent a few months in a school that I didn’t enjoy very much, to put it nicely. I came back for graduation because my parents understood how much I had benefited from being at EB, and how important it was for me to be part of my class once again, if only for a few days.

After returning from England in 1987, I went on to the French-American International School in San Francisco, because I still felt that I needed to build on the education that I had gained. By this point I had no doubts that the level of discipline and dedication necessary for a French education were necessary for me to function well—I had experienced undisciplined students and a poor curriculum in London, and knew that I didn’t want to go through that again. I will never forget my shock at how the teachers in London didn’t care what color pen you wrote in, nor whether you underlined correctly or even did your homework at all!

After finishing my International Baccalaureate at FAIS, I ended up at Brown University in Rhode Island, for the first time experiencing an “American” school, but obviously not a typical one. Because of my international upbringing and education at EB and FAIS, I had always been interested in international issues, and global environmental change was one that I felt was extremely important for international cooperation. My passion for environmental issues bloomed at Brown, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, just as the Kyoto Protocol was being agreed at the end of 1997. Because of my interest in climate change, I went to work at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat in Bonn, Germany, in March 1998. It was there that I found out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life—professionally and personally. On my first day entering the UN building, I didn’t have the right ID with me, so the German security guard behind the counter asked me for my driver’s license. Never having seen a California license before (in colour), he managed to memorise my birthday, which came in handy on our first date two months later. We have been together since that time, and have been married since August 2006. Markus is a web developer and a photographer, passionate about marathons and dreaming of doing the Iron Man in Hawaii one day. Coming from a background that contrasts almost 180 degrees from mine, we never seem to run out of things to discuss and even argue about!

At the UN in Bonn, I realized that what I was really interested in was working with environment and development, so after a year in Norway working for the UN Environment Programm, Markus and I moved to England in October 1999, where I began studying a Master’s of Science in Environment and Development. My focus was on adaptation to climate change, and after finishing the degree, I decided to stay in England and continue to work on the topic as a doctoral student. Little did I know that this would become the next big topic in climate change!

In 2001, the internet boom went bust, and Markus found himself wanting to move back to Germany. So a few days after September 11, we packed our belongings in our east London house, and drove to Germany. I continued to work on my Ph.D., and Markus worked for a small company outside Frankfurt that quickly also went bankrupt. During that time, I was in El Salvador doing my fieldwork, and Markus found a new job in Düsseldorf. We moved there for two years while I was writing up my Ph.D., which was finally finished in July 2004. In February 2005 we moved to Sri Lanka for two years of extreme expatriate living, complete with cockroaches and cocktails, and periods of significant insecurity. I had a post-doctoral fellowship working on agriculture, water management and livelihoods, and Markus worked for a research project. We finally made it to Thailand in February 2007, and I believe we will call Bangkok home for at least another few years to come.

In October 2007, the weather in Bangkok was improving—it got cooler and drier. One day, while working from home, I suddenly felt a familiar feeling. I lay down on the floor of the workroom, and realized that I was having a serious Berkeley flashback. It occurred to me how much I missed Berkeley, how much I missed the smell of coffee roasting as we played in the EB playground, the sound of the private aircraft that fly over north Berkeley on weekends, the smell of eucalyptus trees, the hot asphalt under my feet as I run down the stairs of our house to see if the mail has come, and all the Berkeley institutions that I had just taken for granted when I was younger—Peet’s coffee, Zachary’s pizza, all the fantastic bakeries, the Cheeseboard, to mention only a few!

I decided to spend March 2008 in Berkeley. As it happened, I had to come to Central America for some fieldwork anyway, but towards February it became clear that I had to be in Tanzania the second week of March, which I had planned as part of my 3-week Berkeley bonanza. So the bonanza became two weeks, but I still enjoyed it more than ever, soaking in as much of Berkeley as I possibly could! Driving around the EB neighborhood was one of the most important parts of “fueling my Berkeley tanks”. Remembering all the friends, catching up with some of them, walking around and looking at the houses—remember who lived here, there, across the street?

Often, people will tell me that I am a global citizen. Although it sounds like a cliché, it seems accurate—yes, I speak many languages (trying to add Thai as my 6th one but finding it very challenging!) and yes I have traveled all over the world. But I think what really lies at the heart of being a ‘global citizen’ is attitude—about being part of a bigger picture, and respecting that it is possible to venture beyond our own social and cultural backgrounds to accept other ways of being, thinking and doing. I can be reached on elfs75@gmail.com

PS. What’s this about sticky rice with mango then? Well, you take a sweet mango—the yellow-skinned kind with the velvety soft texture that just melts on your tongue—and to that add sticky rice and a sweet, thick coconut sauce. It’s a Thai traditional dessert—and although the health freak in me says no! the Berkeley gourmet says bring it on!

Delphine Schmidt

Graduating Class:
1983
Current Company Name: law firm Duteil Avocat
Current Position: To develop the firm's international M&A and private equity transactions
Education / School 1: the French American International School in San Francisco
Education / School 2: La Sorbonne (Paris)
Interviews

Here is an article from Delphine who only went to EB for one year. Her younger brother (Adrien, Class of 1987) went to EB for many years. Their mother was on the Board of Ecole Bilingue.

I was eight years old when my family moved from Annecy (South East of France) to San Francisco. I did not speak a word of English and therefore went to the French Lycée in San Francisco.

We rapidly moved to Berkeley and I discovered EB in fifth grade. I remember, on the first day, our French teacher saying “There is a new French girl amongst us now, her name is Delphine” and I was thinking while being stared at: “Oh my! I hope someone speaks French around here!!!!”

Of course the kids spoke French, they were almost all bilingual! I was very much encouraged in improving my English by Jan, our English teacher; she was always very positive “Great progress! Wonderful! You’ve improved so much!” I had a lot of happy faces on my notebook although my essays were full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors…! She really did help a lot!

Everything went very fast: I felt integrated in no time, made great friends and soon preferred speaking English than French. I even volunteered to be “Annie” (the main character) in the play we were to act in front of all the parents. I ended up being the maid, though…my English accent was probably not good enough! Wonderful souvenirs which were due to the teachers, the students, everyone at EB I guess!

Unfortunately, I spent only a year at EB as there was no middle school. I then attended the French American International School in San Francisco, as well as most of my EB friends.

I moved back to France (Paris) when I was 14, in tenth grade. I then studied law at Sorbonne Paris, succeeded in the French bar exam in 1996, and became a lawyer specialized in mergers & acquisitions/private equity. Since the beginning of my career, I have worked, in majority, on international transactions (e.g. foreign clients purchasing French companies). I started out in an English law firm (Freshfields Paris) for 3 years before my husband and I decided to move to Lyon, located in the South East of France, close to the mountains! My husband found a job in an investment bank and I joined the law firm Soulier (well known for its foreign clients, mostly Americans) and worked there for 31⁄2 years. I am now working (still in Lyon) for the law firm Duteil Avocat where my task is to develop the firm’s international M&A and private equity transactions (through, in particular, the search for an active international network of lawyers, whether existing or to be created).

I am particularly attached to the “international” aspect of my job, which no doubt comes from my 6 years experience in San Francisco. I would love it if my daughter Elise (21⁄2 years old), with whom I speak English, had the chance to live the same experience as mine at EB. Receiving a bilingual education clearly opened my mind and helped me understand better other cultures and attitudes. Maybe an opportunity will show up one day…!?

In the meantime, I am coming back to San Francisco next September, one of my best friends from EB is getting married… I just can’t wait to meet with my old friends!

Andrew Schreyer

Graduating Class:
2006
Current Company Name: Pierre's Birthday Fund, Mesmerize Marketing
Current Position: Founder, Operations and Systems Manager for Hillary Clinton's campaign, Field Operations Manager
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

What I enjoyed most about EB was the faculty—everyone cared so much about the work that I was doing; it really felt like a partnership. I remember a number of my classes very fondly, especially my Histoire-Géo ones, which were always full of excitement. The care that the teachers had for their students is something that influenced my high school decision and then my college decision. I now even think about it when I am choosing a job.

Please describe your current work.

Almost two years ago, I founded a non-profit that brings joy, hope, and pain relief to in-patient children called Pierre’s Birthday Fund. Today, we are operating at UCSFOakland and Mission Bay by celebrating kids’ birthdays, providing massage and art therapy; we just launched a new resilience-based bead-making therapy program, and are participating in a pediatric oncology acupressure study.

I recently finished working for Hillary Clinton on her Presidential campaign. There, I was the Operations and Systems Manager focused on our financial operations, implementation of our financial software and databases, and planned our debt elimination strategy. I recently started a new job as Field Operations Manager for a healthcare marketing company, Mesmerize Marketing. There, I strategically plan media placements in doctors’ offices and pharmacies, advise our CEO on future market opportunities, and design the logistical components of our media plans.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I think that EB helped ignite the fire within me for making positive change in the world. When I look for new jobs, I always look for something that is mission-focused, something impactful, and something innovative, all of which EB had. I think that EB did a great job of charging its students with the idea of improving their community and making the world a better place. This idea is at the cornerstone of why I founded Pierre’s Birthday Fund when my little brother passed away.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Welcome to one of the greatest and most tight-knit communities of the East Bay. EB is a place where families come together to create a larger, more cohesive family, representative of so many varying backgrounds. It’s a place where your children will grow immensely, and learn a second language along the way. You’ve made a good choice.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

My favorite memory from EB is the annual Halloween parade. It was so fun to see the entire school, PK through 8th grade, come together for the same occasion. Everyone had huge grins on their faces and the costumes were so fun. While I was school president, I dressed up as Napoleon, but don’t worry, we didn’t have similar leadership styles. Another year, my brother and I dressed up as Astérix and Obélix. I definitely had a great time with Halloween every year at EB.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

I think that EB definitely prepared me for life afterward, in high school and beyond. At EB, I learned some of the studying techniques that were useful to me during the rest of my studies. EB also gave me lifelong friends with whom I got to go through life (and still do). I try to learn as much as I can about other cultures; being exposed to the French culture definitely had something to do with that.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

If I were to relocate to the Bay Area, I would definitely send my hypothetical children to EB—no doubt about it! It’s the best place in the East Bay to get a quality bilingual education and I know that my kids would thank me for it in the end—I know I do.

Anya Schwin Gibson

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Company Name: UC Davis
Current Position: academic advisor
Education / School 2: UC Davis
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

There are so many things that I loved about EB so it’s hard to pick just one. I loved the environment the school created for learning and friends. I also really loved the opportunity to experience new perspectives and cultures.

Please describe your current work.

I am an academic advisor at UC Davis. I supervise the advising center that works with the East Asian Studies, Economics, and History majors. I work with students to help them achieve their goals in college. I have a BA in Sociology – Organizational Studies from UC Davis and an MA in Education from Sacramento State.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Meeting faculty and students from around the world at EB, as well as learning to appreciate our differences, enabled me to be a more empathetic and understanding academic advisor. I appreciate students’ individual stories and I love helping them find their own unique path through college. EB introduced me to new perspectives and people in a way that more traditional education would not have. I learned early on to acknowledge and appreciate differences.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

EB is a great community—jump in wholeheartedly! The curriculum can be challenging for your student, but it prepares them for looking at the world through a global perspective.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

Gosh there are so many great memories, it’s truly hard to pick just one. I won’t ever forget the field trips around California (Marin Headlands, Pescadero, Pioneer Camp, Yosemite, to name a few), as well as ones further away in Washington DC and France. The opportunity to experience culture and education outside the classroom will always be one of my favorite parts of EB.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Absolutely! Academically, I was very well prepared for the rigors of high school and college. Personally, my worldview was expanded, which helped me make more informed life choices.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Yes! I think the bilingual education and opportunity to experience different cultures and perspectives is an invaluable experience.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I really loved my time at EB. I love the community, the learning, and the environment in general. It was my favorite time in school.

Jonathan Silk

Graduating Class:
1992
Current Company Name: Gold Circle Films
Current Position: Creative executive
Education / School 2: UC Santa Cruz
Interviews

When I was at EB, I was more interested in drawing comic books in class than in learning French, which did not endear me to my teachers, who generally viewed me as a trouble-maker and a clown. Nonetheless, I came out of EB speaking some French, and surprisingly, both the comics and the French have intersected in unexpected ways since I left EB.

After I graduated from UC Santa Cruz, I worked as a comic book editor for a year. I then worked at a talent agency, assisting an agent for a year. Then I landed a job assisting the movie producer Scott Rudin. During this time, my knowledge of French kept me gainfully employed. Rudin has six full-time assistants, and the average turnover is less than four weeks—it’s quite a demanding environment, and my prospects (or those of anyone else) were not great.

My first week, I was assigned the task of drafting a list of all of Rudin’s favorite Parisian antique stores, including their cross streets and hours of operation, spelling it all perfectly (one error could have gotten me fired—it sounds exaggerated, but it’s not). Most of these boutiques were not listed on the internet, so I had to call the storekeepers, many of whom didn’t speak English, and scrupulously copy down all the pertinent info. Upon getting Scott his list, he told me I did a “great job,” words exceedingly rare coming from his mouth.

Getting on Rudin’s good side opened numerous doors for me—I was hired at Universal Pictures, which would have been almost impossible, coming from New York, without his endorsement.

Now I’ve graduated from assistant at Universal to creative executive at Gold Circle Films, the company that made My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Currently, my full-time job is helping produce movies, finding good scripts, emerging writers, directors, and actors, and helping put it all together into successful films. It’s a job I feel lucky to have, and one that I enjoy. It was not easy to climb my way through all those jobs; I was hazed, and this is a highly competitive industry, so I had to jump through many hoops.

France is the Mecca of the comic book world, so now that I’m beginning to travel, searching for ideas for films, I’m reading more French comics, and I might attend Angoulême—the largest comic book festival/convention in the world, which is in France. There are French film festivals, French production companies that develop interesting and unique projects, and French filmmakers that we work with. My limited knowledge of French is helpful in my work, allowing me to network with talented artists and storytellers who otherwise might go undiscovered in the U.S.

The French I learned at EB has been useful in my career. Now that I’m searching for French comics to turn into movies, maybe all those comics I was drawing while in school weren’t a waste of time either.

Erika Sinclair

Graduating Class:
1985
Current Company Name: non-profit organization
Current Position: to improve the health of women and their families in Africa, Asia and Latin America
Education / School 1: FAIS San Francisco
Education / School 2: La Sorbonne (Paris)
Interviews

Writing about yourself sometimes feels a little like writing your own letter of recommendation. It’s not that easy. But doing it in the context of Ecole Bilingue is like writing your own adventure story. My story started in kindergarten at EB, and got more exciting with every corner turned.

Growing up, my parents were of the mind that “exposure” was an essential ingredient to a good education. Enrolling my brother and me in this once small school that had immeasurable vision about the value of scholarship and culture was their first attempt. Very early in life, we were exposed to alternative learning, international consciousness, and a second language to boot (not a word of which either of them spoke, incidentally). Their second attempt was to move our family to Kenya when I was seven (after a couple of years at EB). I knew what and where Africa was, but had no idea why we were going there. I was told, “You’re going to see how people live in another part of the world!” That was good enough for me. Of all the schools we considered, L’Ecole Française de Nairobi felt like the best fit. It was just like EB, minus the English, and with kids from Morocco, Vietnam, Senegal, France… all over. And that setting felt normal to me. Somehow I managed to succeed in an all-French environment, which had a lot to do with the foundation planted at EB. Fourteen months, a new world view, and a third language (Swahili) later, we crossed the Atlantic back to Berkeley, and back to EB. Exposure was a success.

At the time EB did not have middle school, and post-fifth grade evolution took me to FAIS in San Francisco. Traveling across the Bay Bridge every day gave me the travel bug. So in the seventh grade, I managed to get myself selected as one of two U.S. representatives at an international youth film festival in Paris to judge films from around the globe. We were 28 from fourteen countries worldwide. They rolled out the red carpet, chauffeured us around in snazzy Citroëns and aired us on a national French TV talk show—we felt like teen stars. Needless to say, our sponsors repeatedly mistook me for the participant from Côte d’Ivoire. Something about the way I spoke French “sans accent” combined with the right amount of melanin.

Fast forward to college. I spent just over a year studying philosophy and French literature at the Sorbonne. While there, I also made my [very] amateur Paris debut as Cyrano de Bergerac’s Roxanne, for the Institute of European Studies’ annual theater production. Speaking and living in French is one thing, but acting in French is another bag of potatoes.

Post-college left me with many options for next steps. I moved to Benin to work in primary school education and development, and the transition to living life in a small African village was largely softened by my ability to communicate with people in a way that was comfortable to both them and myself. I learned to love cold bucket baths, to do laundry by hand, and to appreciate the wholesome goodness of living simply… but more than anything, being there solidified my understanding that the ability to speak another language is so much more than mere communication; it’s about cultural sensitivity, it’s about global awareness; it’s about being entirely human.

Today I live in Manhattan working for a non-profit organization that helps to improve the health of women and their families in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I have seen so many new places and learned about health crises in the world that most of us cannot even imagine. I have also been dabbling in voice and piano, which helps to keep me grounded in the chaos of the city. It’s certainly been a journey, and there have been lots of twists and turns. But it all started at EB, where I received the tools I needed to move through this life with confidence and a fearless spirit.

Kate Solomon-Tilley

Graduating Class:
2001
Current Company Name: Disney's Lion King
Current Position: Child Guardian
Interviews


What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

My favorite aspects of EB are the community and culture, the friendships that EB creates. I feel that Ecole Bilingue was, and is, very much a little slice of France in America, creating a unique Franco-American hybrid. There’s a mix of traditional French academic vigor with elements of the American system of learning through play and creativity and arts... and of course let’s not forget the food.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I am a Child Wrangler (or Child Guardian) for Disney’s Lion King on Broadway. A child wrangler is a stage manager for the child actors who work in the show playing Young Simba and Young Nala. Wranglers, like stage managers, help make sure the actors get to their cues on time, remember lines, and ensure their costumes and makeup are stage-ready. When not working at the Lion King, I work as a freelance stage manager, often on developing musicals on and off Broadway, and as a personal assistant to the legendary villain Jafar from Aladdin.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

Firstly, the small but mighty theater department in Middle School helped students find their place and passion in the theater world and really helped me grow as I was discovering new aspects of the field (set designer, stagecraft, directing). The teachers created roles that would allow me to experience multiple sides of theater: acting, set designing, directing.

More importantly, having grown up in a bilingual and bicultural community has opened my eyes and ears to appreciating the complexities and beauty of all cultures and languages, and therefore created a global citizen who is comfortable moving between cultures and bridging differences. (use an ellipsis in between).

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

As a former student of EB coming from a family with no background in French, I would emphasize the importance of remembering that EB is not only giving your child a foreign language, but also a culture, and a unique view of the world. They are being given a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes, to see the world from a different perspective. They are planting the seeds of empathy and compassion.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

My favorite memory at EB was crêpe day. I remember the first time, when I was in kindergarten I could barely believe what I saw: one whole side of the Multi-Purpose room had a line of tables with adults cooking endless amounts of crêpes, and on the other side stood two tables of toppings, a savory (ham, cheese spinach) and a sweet side (strawberries, bananas, Nutella, and my soon to be discovered favorite, the traditional lemon & sugar).

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Overall, I would say EB went above and beyond in preparing me for life after. Academically, I felt on par or more often, beyond my age/grade level in subjects, but what EB prepared me for that I didn’t realize or expect was the ethos, moral compass, and just plain perspective of a global citizens.

Would you consider sending your kid to EB? Why?

Since I was a child, I recognized the beauty and uniqueness of the world that EB created: the community. I’ve never had a doubt that when the time came, if I were able to, I would send my child to EB. In fact, twenty-five years after I started EB, my nephew became a student there!

Chinzalée Sonami

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Position: Grocery Buyer in London
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

The friends I made at EB are to this day some of my closest and dearest friends and what I cherish most from my time at EB. That, and nap time when we were in Pre-K and Kindergarten….

Please describe your current work.

I currently work in London as the grocery buyer for a chain of organic grocery stores, much like Whole Foods. I spend most of my day meeting new suppliers, tasting products, negotiating margins and using a lot more math than I ever expected to. Merci M. Coup !

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I have been a food buyer now for 6 years, first working with fine foods from Italy, Spain and France and now in the UK. Although I’m not sure that EB taught me to love food, it did influence my love for the stories behind so many of the international suppliers and producers I work with. I think it gave me an appreciation for trying everything and understanding the value behind learning a new culture, even if it is only through their foods.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I would tell parents that sending their kids to EB will give their children a unique perspective on life. Learning a new language and being bilingual is a gift that will stay with them for the rest of their lives and will open countless doors.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

There are so many! I loved the Halloween parades, watching “the big kids” walk by the Lower School playground, the EBISC Middle School dances, the 8th grade Washington DC trip and, of course, the smell of roasted coffee from the neighborhood roaster is forever burned into my memory.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

My time at EB has shaped my life in countless ways but the most significant is perhaps the way it taught us to view ourselves as citizens of the world. There is no doubt that EB is a very “Berkeley” school, but studying in French with French teachers, taking trips to France and hosting exchange students narrowed the gap between the Bay Area and the rest of the world. It meant that in 6th grade I lived in France for a year, then went to university in Madrid, lived in India for 6 months and finally moved to London a couple of years ago. I think these all would have been much more daunting had we not been exposed to so much at such a young age.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Absolutely. I would like my children to be reminded that there is a world that extends far beyond the one they know in the Bay Area. Aside from traveling, I think EB is the best way to remind them. I truly do look forward to the day my kids go to EB, even if it’s just to selfishly walk down memory lane.

Ivan Spazkowski

Graduating Class:
2000
Interviews

In the 15 years since graduating from EB, I have lived in ten cities in four countries. After running out of French classes in high school, I made a decision that’s shaped my life ever since. I started learning Mandarin. In college, I became ever more immersed in both Chinese and China, and following graduation I moved to China, studying and working there for a year and a half. I returned to the U.S. for graduate school and began working in New York, but soon moved back to Asia – first in Singapore, then Shanghai and now Hong Kong where I head Citigroup’s Asia commodities research team.

The international perspective provided by EB has been invaluable. My Asian and European friends are amazed to hear that most Americans do not even own a passport. In contrast, EB offers the opportunity to experience two distinct cultures, languages, and outlooks on the world. In my opinion, this is one of the most profound learning experiences possible.

I now regularly travel around the world for work and the background offered by EB has helped me to adapt wherever I go. Moreover, an important part of my job is helping Westerners better understand China and Chinese better understand the West. My ability to help bridge the gap between cultures has been aided tremendously by the experience of growing up amidst both French and American systems.

EB also helped instill in me a love of good food, which was one of the attractions for me of China, as only French cuisine can compete with the variety of authentic Chinese food. And while Chinese is the foreign language I use on a daily basis, I find myself happily slipping back into French language and culture whenever I visit France.

Laura Spiekerman

Graduating Class:
2000
Current Position: entrepreneur in the financial services technology space
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

First and foremost, the teachers. I will always think fondly of people like Thierry and Odile, among many others, who gave me confidence and encouraged my learning and growth over the years. Second, growing up in a bi-cultural community gave me an early appreciation for travel and learning about other people, places, languages, cultures, and cuisines. That has shaped who I am, what I care about, and how I view the world.

Please describe your current work.

I’m an entrepreneur in the financial services technology space, having started my company three years ago after several years at other startups and investing in private equity & venture capital funds. My company, Alloy, helps enable fintech (financial technology) companies and financial institutions to better manage user onboarding and identity/compliance requirements.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB made me interested in other cultures, and that background was part of what drove me to move to Kenya a few years after college, which was when I discovered my love for building next-generation mass-market financial services and products, first in East Africa and now in the United States. I became interested in that by studying microfinance in Senegal (during college), a country I chose to spend time in because I could use my French!

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Exposing your kids to as many cultural experiences—whether local or global—has long-lasting, positive effects. Let them access education and new experiences through something tangible and exciting (e.g. cooking) because there are many years ahead (high school and college) where your kids will mostly be head-down in books worried about their grades.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

One of my favorite memories was our 7th grade Yosemite trip, visiting pitch-black caves and learning to rely on each other and our senses to get through them. It was such a fun trip!

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

It certainly made me feel like a citizen of the world, and even now I travel to new places and feel more at home than I would without my EB experiences. I’m more comfortable talking to new people from completely different backgrounds, as well as navigating new cities, languages, and cultures.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Yes! I’d love to send my kids to EB. I want them to grow up appreciating other cultures and being exposed to things outside our direct sphere of influence.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Decades later, EB still feels like home to me. I will never forget so many people— administrators, teachers, and students alike—who shaped my worldview and helped raise me.

Madeleine Stokes

Graduating Class:
2003
Current Company Name: NGO
Education / School 2: UCLA
Interviews

My family is characterized by know-it-alls. To put it respectfully, historically, they have always had a desire for knowledge and a worldly view. My grandparents are from Germany and because of their background have emphasized multilingualism not only as a vital brain exercise, but also more importantly, as a pathway into different cultures, and other ways of thinking and seeing. École Bilingue, therefore, has been more than just for me; it was a family exercise too. My entire family including my grandparents have been engaged in my education since Kindergarten, whether it be through homework or through events like la Place du Marché. To this day, I still remember the French poems that my grandparents quizzed me on or the dictées that kept me up late with my parents by my side.

The educational experience at École Bilingue is unrivaled. Perhaps it’s not orthodox in the United States to have your geometry teacher yell at you “Ne cherche pas midi à quatorze heures !” but it is also not common to have a geometry teacher at age 11, period. That educational excellence that EB gifted me left me well-rounded and ready for any challenges. What other kid masters the art of contending with teachers both in English and in French at age seven?

I was given a very unique education, but what’s most important is the insatiable desire for knowledge with which EB has endowed me. Through EB as a cultural experience, I have always sought out a knowledge that connects academics and thought with society and culture. When I got to high school, I continued to follow this path to, let’s say, enlightenment; and I was determined in this endeavor. After a history teacher opened my eyes to a history and culture I had never heard of, I was hooked. Through exploring the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian problem in high school, I continued to college at UCLA focused on the Middle East and anything else that could throw my convictions off and set my curiosity spinning. I majored in Global Studies, a multi-disciplinary major that takes a practical approach to international relations by focusing on globalization.

Through the Global Studies program I was able to study abroad in Paris. The challenges and triumphs that came from living abroad confirmed that I needed to continue on this journey. When I graduated from college, after studying Arabic for two years, I moved to Beirut, Lebanon.

I’ve been in Beirut since January. In addition to studying Arabic, I work at an NGO that provides capacity building for independent voices and activists in Lebanon: Hayya Bina. Every day I meet interesting people, and while I am in what seems like a completely different world, I often feel “at home.” And I find that the more Arabic I learn, the more at home I feel. I surprise the Lebanese when I can respond to them in both Arabic and French. It’s thanks to École Bilingue that I’m here enjoying an unconventional lifestyle and that I’m committed to learning Arabic, because I know that language is the key to fully understand where I am, and even who I am

Bret Turner

Graduating Class:
1995
Interviews

In February of 2008, Andrew Hasse (‘95), my good friend since the age of four, gathered several of his old friends together to tell us he had a golden opportunity to make a meaningful film, and that he wanted all of us to be involved. Some of us had backgrounds in film, but the rest had more experience in areas like music, graphic design, linguistics, sound design, and politics. He told us he’d been flirting with the idea of a production company for years, and that for a variety of reasons, now was the perfect time. And so, East Bay Pictures International was formed.

The initial project was a feature-length documentary on climate change, based on a recent controversial book called Break Through that sought to re-frame the issues as economic opportunity rather than the typical doomsday approach seen in much of the media. Other projects came to the table, including a horror film and a comedic web series about young wizards in the year 2050. Eventually, a short piece on urban farming, meant as a means to familiarize ourselves with a type of film that none of us had much experience with, was suggested. Initially, it was intended to be nothing more than a brief sketch of the local culture of urban agriculture, a portrait of the characters, motives, and ideals involved, and a way for us to get our feet wet in the medium of documentary filmmaking.

But as we explored the world of urban farming, and as contract negotiations and other pre-production red tape on Break Through slowed to a crawl, Edible City gradually became our main focus. Visits to local community gardens, school programs, conferences, a rehabilitative program at San Quentin, among others—as well as interviews with farmers, community leaders and experts—have propelled Edible City to become the focus of the company. The urban farming community, and the food security movement as a whole, is gaining traction in a broken economy and an unsure future. Coming to terms with several basic facts—from dwindling fossil fuels to a constantly worsening food crisis—we began to feel (as we always had with Break Through) that it was a film that needed to be made. In the end, the local subjects we’ve found for Edible City are extremely relevant to the larger issues of climate change and sustainability, and our intention is to give a comprehensive view of the model system that is growing in the Bay Area.

EBPI consists of, among others, Andrew Hasse, Chris Woodard, and me, all graduates of Ecole Bilingue’s 8th grade class of 1995. Other EB collaborators have included my sister Katy, who will put her degree in fashion design to good use in future projects; Julien Raffinot (’96), currently residing in France but lending his skills as an actor and artist whenever possible; and Alex Foster, who has helped with contract negotiations from New York. Still others have helped creatively and with fundraising events (including Marian Acquistapace, ‘96). Many of us met around the age of four, and our lives have intersected numerous times through the years, and have now brought us back together in a creative, collaborative setting. We were all, to some degree, fed up with desk jobs and the nine to five, and decided to essentially try an experiment: can we make meaningful movies, as a viable company, with our best friends? The answer, thus far, has been a resounding yes.

We are currently in production on Edible City, as well as in the midst of a fundraising push. For more information, or to learn how to support the project, please visit us at www.ediblecitymovie.com.

Saleh Tyebjee

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Company Name: Aerojet Rocketdyne
Current Position: Aerospace engineer
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

One of my favorite parts of EB was the diversity and eclectic nature of the teaching staff. I recently had a conversation with someone who was amazed that I could remember my teachers from elementary school. I doubt many EB grads could ever forget science walks with Michael Rossman or how well Philippe [Mourrat] could handle an unruly ten year-old. They were the type of teachers you would not get at any other school. I truly hope there is a Michael Rossman out there somewhere to teach my children some day.

Please describe your current work.

I work as an aerospace engineer for Aerojet Rocketdyne. The company develops and produces rocket propulsion technologies of all types. I work on the high powered turbine driven pumps which pressurize rockets propellants so that they can be burned efficiently, that energy is then used to deliver the force needed to lift the rocket. It’s a very cool feeling to see a rocket launch with and engine you helped build firing underneath it.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I have always been good at and enjoyed science and math. EB fostered that interest by providing a unique approach to science and math curricula. Starting in sixth grade, our class schedules started showing both “English Math” and “French Math.” At the time (and possibly still), the English class focused on algebra and later pre-calculus while the French class focused on geometry. This split helped students understand the very nature of math as a broad spectrum tool or language, rather than a narrow focused class subject. I have found that the most successful engineers see the tools of their trade such as math and coding as a language finely tuned to solve certain types of problems. As students who had already spent many years learning multiple languages, I think that EB students are uniquely adapted to learn the language of mathematics.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Buy your kids French language cartoons… they’re way better!

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

While there are many good memories from EB, I can’t look past our class trip to France as part of the exchange program as the top memory. We were very lucky to have that as part of the experience. If nothing else, I learned from that trip that if I ever start to feel like I’m forgetting all the French that I’ve learned, a trip to France will bring it back just like riding a bike.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world? Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Public discourse about the state of education in our country often focuses on what the BEST way to teach our children is. I think EB is evidence that instead of finding a one size fits all approach to education, we should be allowing kids all over the country to learn different things in different ways. EB has a very unique style of teaching, which, over the course of a student’s time there parlays into a unique style of thinking. The term “thinking outside the box” sounds cliché, but when children are raised with a unique style of thinking, it allows them to find solutions to problems that others don’t see, be leaders in their fields, and generally lead unique lives. EB was a great place to foster unique people.

We heard you have a unique and interesting hobby. Could you tell us about it?

I picked up Australian football in 2009 after moving to Sacramento for work. The sport is kind of like a full contact version of soccer where you can use your hands; it has similarities to rugby, but is very much its own sport. That same year I got invited to try out for the development squad for the USA Revolution, the US National team with players from all over the country. I was then selected to the senior squad to participate in the International Cup in 2011, which is a triennial tournament in Australia. In 2011 we came into the tournament ranked 7th and fought our way to finish in 4th place out of the 18 teams playing. I am returning this year and we are hoping to improve on our finish and crack the top three which currently are Ireland, Papua New Guinea, and New. I also help run kids clinics to teach the game to elementary through high school students in the Sacramento area. If I ever find myself back in the Bay Area, I’d love to bring a clinic to EB!

Zia Tyebjee

Graduating Class:
1996
Current Position: Architect
Interviews

When I first got to Shanghai I almost thought I’d accidentally moved to New York. In fact my temporary serviced apartment, aside from being absurdly large and slick, is right behind a massive mall and office complex called Shanghai Times Square—complete with Gucci, Zara, Starbucks and McDonald’s. There are parts of town where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a gourmet restaurant serving steak tartare and moules frites, or sandwich shop boasting a daily panini and smoothie combo. The streets are busy, of course, but no more than New York and certainly nowhere near what I expected. Where are these 1.4 billion people I hear so much about?

I’ve had the good fortune to travel a lot, but until now the only big city I’ve spent much time in outside of Europe and the US is Mumbai. Mumbai is a whole different world, full of people and cars and animals crushing into every inch of space. There are sounds and smells everywhere and you can’t go 3 feet without a sharp reminder that you are very, very much abroad. To be honest, I expected a little more of that in Shanghai. I expected to get jostled in the streets and to be woken by honking busses at 3 a.m., for the traffic to ignore lane lines and for the air to be heavy with smells. In short I expected to be hit over the head by the fact that I’d moved to China, and I expected the feeling to be inescapable.

Instead I felt immediately at home. As it turns out this city has been much easier to handle than I expected. Yes, most things are in Mandarin, but after asking around at work and leafing through my phrase book I can usually come up with whatever I need. With 3 dozen expats in my office there isn’t a problem I could have that someone else hasn’t dealt with before. Barely a day goes by without someone, knowing I’m new to the city, stopping by my desk to see if I want to go to lunch, or dinner, or an exhibit with whatever group is getting together that day. Not only that, but there is no better excuse for calling friends of friends of friends you’ve never met to go out for coffee than that you’re 6000 miles from home and don’t know a soul in the country. I’ve been here a month and I haven’t felt alone or out of place once.

In all fairness this is really only one side of the story. I’ve seen some quirky things here, and I love it when I do. I’ve seen an old man in a full set of plaid pajamas walking a cat midday in the park. I’ve had to walk to work in the middle of the street each day because the sidewalk is used entirely for motorcycle parking (parking which is kept very orderly by the not particularly official man in the folding chair selling tickets). I’ve sat with my landlord for 40 minutes while we counted out 4 months worth of my rent in 100RMB (~$15) notes since my landlord, like many others, only accepts cash. I’ve seen a family of twelve eating dinner at an enormous round table that a restaurant was kind enough to move to the middle of the sidewalk for them. I’ve watched window washers rappel down a 30-story building on a single rope, bucket and squeegee in hand. I’ve had lunch for 12 cents and dinner for 30, and I’ve resisted the $12 box of Cheerios. There are certainly things here you don’t see in the states, but it’s not quite as overwhelmingly foreign as I expected.

Oddly enough, what I’ve found more startling than the Chinese aspects of Shanghai are the European ones. The expat community here is enormous, and has been present for so long that it has integrated itself into the city and its history. Everything from the food to the people to the architecture is a hodgepodge from around the world. There are often conversations going in 4 or 5 languages in the office simultaneously, with everyone finding whatever common language they are most comfortable in. Though most everyone speaks English, many people are more comfortable in Mandarin, Shanghainese or French, and a smattering of other European languages can be heard occasionally. French, in fact, seems to be by far the most common non-Asian language here aside from English. I couldn’t be more excited about this, and I’m already getting made fun of in the office because I’ll talk to pretty much anyone, anywhere, as long as they’ll talk to me in French. After enduring years of the typical Californian rebuke “Why on earth did you learn French when you could have learned Spanish?” It’s both validating and simply fun to be somewhere where I can put this language I love to daily use.

I came here for a lot of reasons. I wanted a drastic change and a big city adventure half way around the world. I wanted challenge in my everyday life, and to live outside my comfort zone. Being an architect, I wanted to work in the city that builds some of the biggest most staggering skyscrapers in the world. The Shanghai office of my firm is currently working on a tower nearly 700 meters tall—so tall you can’t see the ground for the clouds some days—and I wanted to touch the project, even if only a little. I wanted to live abroad, just to see what it was like, and I wanted to try the “expat experience” first hand.

So far I’ve found some of this in Shanghai, and some of it I haven’t. For everything I was looking for that I didn’t find, though, I’ve found something just as good that I never thought to expect. Shanghai hasn’t yet proven quite the drastic change and constant challenge I expected, but it is showing itself to be a city I could love.

Tristan Vellrath

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Company Name: Bombardier
Current Position: Aircraft mechanic
Education / School 2: UC Davis
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

What I enjoyed most about EB are the people that make EB what it is, the classmates, the teachers and the staff. EB is a small school so you know everyone well, and they become like a second family over the years.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I am an aircraft mechanic for Bombardier, the third largest aircraft manufacturer in the world behind Boeing and Airbus. I work at one of their MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) operations in Tucson, AZ. It’s a large operation with several hangars and we do maintenance on CRJ 200, 700, and 900 regional jets, Q400 turboprops, and Global Express, Challenger, and Learjet business jets. It’s been fun working here and it stays interesting as the maintenance tasks I work on change daily.

This job has been a great experience for me as it’s the first time I’ve worked on commercial aircraft. I have learned the ins and outs of a large operation, and have learned to pay careful attention to everything I do on the aircraft as people’s lives are in our hands. Within the next year or so I plan to start applying to graduate schools, most likely to enter an MBA program and eventually make my way into management.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I’ve always had a passion for flying. My dream job for the longest time was to be a pilot. While it didn’t quite work out that way, I’m happy with the direction I’m going. EB has taught me that you should always pursue your dreams, work your hardest to attain them, and not let anyone tell dissuade you. EB helped instill the drive to excel in any field in me. I’ve flown recreationally in single engine Cessna aircraft and some day will get my private pilots license.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

I would tell them that EB is a great school for their kids. EB offers a unique experience because you get to learn from two different cultures: American and French. EB is very diverse, which is one of the things that makes EB great. Your kids will interact with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life and they will learn to see things from many different points of view. They will learn to be accepting of other people beliefs, even if they don’t always agree, which is essential to growing up into a well-rounded person. I would also encourage the parents to be involved with EB and their kid’s activities as much as they can, to be supportive, but also let them forge their own path, try things on their own, and let them discover who they are.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

This is a hard one because there are so many. I enjoyed all the times we spent together as classmates; we had a lot of fun. I got to know everyone very well and felt close to most everyone in my class. I would say my favorite memories include going on the class trips—to France, Donner ski resort, Yosemite, and Washington DC. They were all fun, and times when we really bonded together. I also really enjoyed many of the classes we had together: Philippe [Moura]’s class in fifth grade, Michael Rossman’s science class where we dissected animals he brought in, Mr. Coup’s math class. We worked and studied hard, but I also remember times when we goofed around in class and the teachers usually had a good sense of humor about it.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

Of course! EB is the starting point for a really good education. I was among classmates that were very smart and dedicated to doing well. It helped me strive to do better and challenge myself. Because I learned how to work hard and study well, I was accepted into a good high school, and then into UC Davis. EB set high standards which prepared me for the expectations beyond EB’s doors, in high school college, and beyond in my professional career. EB has always encouraged and promoted a great work ethic at a young age, and that has always stayed with me.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

Yes definitely! For the reasons I stated above, but also because I feel that EB reinforces the good morals, values, and qualities I was taught at home. I would feel good knowing my kids are being taught and influenced in the right way by good teachers, surrounded by good classmates.

Jonathan Wachter

Graduating Class:
2002
Current Company Name: the Marin Agricultural Land Trust
Current Position: to lead a program to promote soil health and carbon sequestration on farmland
Education / School 2: Washington State University
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

I have so many fond memories of EB, its amazing teachers, and its vibrant community. I think it’s telling that a few of my closest friends to this day are classmates from EB.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I recently started working at the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which works to protect family farms and ranches in Marin County. I’m helping to lead a program to promote soil health and carbon sequestration on farmland. Before this, I was finishing a PhD in soil science at Washington State University.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I have no doubt that our elementary school science teacher, Michael Rossman, played a big role in encouraging me to become a scientist. He inspired us to be curious, to ask hard questions, and to think for ourselves. I think those things are a big part of EB as a whole. As a student, I was encouraged to be independent and to think critically. At the same time, I was instilled with a strong sense of our international community and a desire to give back to the world around me.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

You are giving your child–and yourselves–an incredible gift! The academic and cultural education I got as a student at EB was amazing. And I know that my parents loved being part of the strong EB community of teachers and parents.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I remember running laps around the classroom to practice our times tables with Sylvie Petit. Or getting the fève in the fête des rois one year and being king for the day. Or Jean-Philippe helping me flip crêpes in mid-K. I still think about that now whenever I make crêpes!

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

I feel very fortunate to have grown up with the cultural exposure and bilingual education of EB. Of course, it prepared me academically and linguistically. But more importantly, it gave me an appreciation for other perspectives at a young age.

Julian Walter

Graduating Class:
1999
Current Position: Photographer
Education / School 2: UCLA
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

My time at EB is totally invaluable to me. There were many aspects that I can greatly appreciate without being able to pick out a single one that I enjoyed the most. When I describe my elementary school to my friends, they are blown away to hear some of the stories I had to talk about. It is the most international experience a kid could have, and they wouldn’t even realize it until they get out into the real world and compare their experience to others. I had friends from all over the world and thought nothing of it, the way everybody should be able to. The overall vibe of the school felt very nurturing to me in my growth, and I remember every teacher caring a lot in making this happen.

Please describe your current work/studies.

I was always a math/science kind of guy, and went to UCLA to study aerospace engineering. But during my studies, my interests veered off into photography, and I found myself obsessed. After receiving my engineering degree, I went full steam into learning as much as I could in the photo world. I’m currently a photographer living in Brooklyn, NY, where primarily I assist other photographers, but am on the hustle to making my own individual career happen. I left the states last November to get out and travel the whole winter, covering ground in Cuba, Greece with the refugee crisis, Morocco, and Namibia. It was my first big project on my own and I was very happy to have made the push with my own work. My aim is to be able to produce journalistic work that tells a story and can be shown in an artistically beautiful manner. An image from my latest travel in Namibia landed photo of the day on National Geographic’s website! It was an honor to have been up there. Now I’m pushing for more.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB as a school was so well-rounded in our education and every teacher put such care into their classes that I came left feeling like I had experience in many different areas. Because of this, I’ve always felt like I could do so much in many different fields and it helped me feel like moving into the arts after studying engineering wasn’t such a crazy thing to do.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

It’s a great decision, and your children are in good hands. I believe many problems in the world stem from childhood development, and everybody I know from my class is a very strong and successful human that is contributing good to their communities. These kids will make friends here for the rest of their lives just as I did, and find themselves reminiscing on how awesome their experience was.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

One of my favorite memories has to be with our science teacher Michael Rossman. I was in 5th grade and he had requested that they allow our entire class to spend the whole day with him, as he had just acquired a recently deceased fifteen-foot anaconda snake from the Oakland Zoo and would be dissecting it to the bone. He was a total hippie and prominent leader in the free speech movement in Berkeley, and perfect type of person to teach us about the natural world. His enthusiasm was so apparent and I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times our whole group sat in total awe during his classes.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

EB did plenty to prepare me for life after EB. I have always found myself able to think very globally, partly due to my French upbringing, but partly because I had friends that were from all over the world. Other kids grow up without much personal knowledge of far away regions, but my friends from India, France, Nepal, would all talk about their homes and I automatically wondered about life in other areas. I believe this has led me to have such a curiosity and passion for life all around the world and telling these stories through my photography as well.

Would you consider sending your children to EB?

I would love to send my children to EB. This has been a goal of mine since becoming an adult and knowing that one day, I’d have to make that decision. I couldn’t imagine any other possibility for them and it would make me very happy to know that they would get the same (if not better!) experience I had as a child. When visiting home to see my parents, I would take my girlfriends to EB just to show them that this is the coolest school they have ever seen!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I could talk forever about it, but I think it has been summed up here. I can’t think of another school that has pen pals and visits in France, kids from all over the world, amazing teachers who care and are passionate, and can offer all the other amazing opportunities that can be achieved in the first dozen years of a child’s life. Thanks to everyone there, past and present!

Laurie Walter

Graduating Class:
1997
Current Company Name: English language training school in the south of France
Current Position: Academic manager
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

Wow, what can I say? I just enjoyed being a kid in such an awesome environment! I knew we had it good there. We all did. The experience of being sandwiched between two cultures, one that we entered into when we stepped onto school grounds, was what was so enjoyable. I wouldn’t say there was just one thing; it was the environment as a whole.

Please describe your current work.

Currently, I am the academic manager in an English language training school in the south of France. We have a particular method for teaching and I counsel the students in their development. I also manage the team like a mother hen I suppose you could say.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

EB was the center point of my life growing up and I feel so fortunate to have had a French American education at such a critical point of development. That being said, I always felt that I missed out on the true immersion French experience and that’s when I came out to France to teach English. I wouldn’t say that EB led me to my choice directly but it sure did get me thinking about what else is out there in the world and therefore initiating me to move out to France and see for myself more in depth.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

It’s totally worth it. Your child will have a more open mind and connect those neurons for language learning at such an early age which will stay with them forever! Where else will your child have such an opportunity? Despite having a French mom, it’s not enough to speak only at home to one person. The more immersed you are in a language, the better.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

My favorite memory was in the library when a classmate did a presentation on her trip to Africa with her family. The stories she told were so mystifying that they made me want to travel there, a dream I finally got to realize two years ago with another former classmate from EB!
Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?
I left EB after elementary school and it left me with a taste of the world that I wanted to explore more of and still do to this day more than anything. Without EB to boost my curiosity, I don’t know if I would have had enough confidence to come out here and try out life in a new way. With that confidence I do believe that I’m a more well-rounded person thanks to this school.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

If I had any, yes of course. The class sizes are small and the curriculum includes gardening. The teachers and administration put so much effort into teaching not only the basics, but also the importance of environmental factors, healthy eating and well-being, all while letting us kids… be kids! The sense of community was critical among all staff members from the maintenance man to the headmaster, which shows children how to coexist with people from all walks of life. EB has such a gravitational pull on the French community in the Bay Area as well. As parents, it’s not about just sending your kids to a school, it’s also about sharing ideas with other parents from all walks of life. So much goodness is transmitted to the kids through organized events and other such activities.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope this school keeps growing all while maintaining its core values that seem to only be getting stronger in an ever growing and changing world. My life would be so very different without EB; I’ve kept in touch with some classmates who have become quite good friends. We all end up finding each other again along the road somewhere.

Tatiana Webb

Graduating Class:
2003
Current Position: PhD student
Interviews

The people at EB are really the ones who shape the experience. I had more than a handful of unique teachers whom I will always remember, and our family became friends with a lot of the school staff as well.

I really enjoyed being in a multilingual environment where we could all switch at will between different languages depending on which best conveyed the message. (I later moved to Montréal in search of that same type of environment.) I also always thought it was special to be able to feel part of a different culture, and to have experienced a curriculum that is different from any other school’s in the area. Plus, learning French at a young age gave me something that I knew better than my Anglophone parents, and could correct them on!

Please describe your current work/studies.

I am completing my PhD in experimental condensed matter physics. I study the electronic properties of materials on the atomic scale with scanning tunneling microscopy, which uses the current of electrons “tunneling” into a very finely pointed, needle-like tip to image surfaces with atomic resolution (we “see” atoms!). Currently, I am working on high temperature superconductors, materials which conduct electricity with no resistance.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of profession?

I loved the French math classes, where we were challenged with problems that were expected to be difficult to solve. Having experienced the excitement of learning geometry, doing proofs, and having creative projects built into math class helped to solidify my interest in math at an early age.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

Being at EB comes with benefits and challenges. My parents couldn't help me with some of my French homework, and the standards and expectations held by the French teachers are different from the American ones.

I think it is also worth emphasizing that while at EB, you are following two curricula, French and English, simultaneously. This can be challenging, exciting, frustrating and eye-opening, but is an essential part of the EB experience.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

I remember a number of specific instances where teachers at EB—one math teacher comes to mind—seemed to interpret the classroom as a stage and put on a dramatic performance to galvanize the classroom. In one instance, the class fell silent when said teacher asked us for the result of some simple arithmetic. Seeing everyone freeze, he began to tell us with voice rising and falling, arms gesticulating, about the importance of “calcul mental!”

Of course, I remember the field trips and special events, but it was events in the classroom that made the day more interesting, and gave all us students something to talk about.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

I left EB with a “French connection,” which I think is best compared to what is experienced by those who grow up in the U.S. with French parents. The French teachers and staff were excited to share their culture with all the kids—we had crêpes and Nutella, used French products, etc… My family also got to know a lot of the French staff and families from the school, so that we really felt a part of the Bay Area’s French community. I learned that there were different sets of etiquette, senses of humor, foods, etc… among French and American gatherings. I felt a part of each, and could switch between the two, and still do today.

Bijan White

Graduating Class:
2009
Current Company Name: UCLA
Current Position: Student in Economics and Mathematics
Education / School 2: UCLA
Interviews

What did you enjoy most about your time at EB and why?

One of the things I have learned to cherish about my time spent at EB is the cohesiveness of the community. As a student, I felt completely immersed in the school. Maybe this was only an illusion of childhood, but I felt as if I, just as every other student, was an essential piece of the student body. We grew up together, experienced life together, and now, as adults, share an intimate past built on precious memories. I have never found such a state of being again, neither in high school nor in college, in which I feel so in tune with the entirety of my school community.

Please describe your current studies.

I am currently a second year student at UCLA and I am focusing my studies on Economics and Mathematics. I am not sure what I want to do with my future, but, in my opinion, no one truly knows the answer to that question anyways. For the time being, I am waiting for the right opportunity to set my life into motion.

How do you feel EB has influenced you or led you towards your choice of studies/profession?

Ecole Bilingue provided me with a window into the francophone world. The gift of French has not only allowed me to remain close with my family in France, but also to operate as a professional within the French community. I am currently working as a journalist for Opinion Internationale, a French magazine, specifically under their section dedicated to Iran. Furthermore, EB inspired in me a deep appreciation for French literature, which I have studied on my own time for many years. Such things would have been impossible without my French education, which revealed both possibilities and unexpected passions.

What would you say to parents just starting out at EB?

The learning of a language and the discovery of a culture offer a chance to bind oneself to an entirely new society. EB is, in a way, like a strong-willed matchmaker that throws a small child into a long-term relationship with a considerably older Francophone culture. The role of the parents is to encourage this relationship in hope that the seeds they planted by sending their children to EB will grow into something beautiful and sustainable. In essence, EB is formed upon relationships, whether they be between students, teachers, parents, or cultures. The trick is to take full advantage of them.

Describe your favorite memory from EB.

There are many memories that come to mind upon the mentioning of EB, some happy, some bizarre, and many that are blatantly awkward. Should I talk about how I desperately tried to finish painting my Social Studies diorama on a toilet seat before class started? I probably shouldn’t go into detail about how I killed the class bird in the first grade, or how we were expected to drag a wagon full of beef jerky through the wild lands during our third grade trip to “pioneer camp”. While these events might sound slightly drastic, I experienced them all alongside friends who I had known for years and I hold each of them close to my heart.

Do you feel that EB adequately prepared you for life after EB? Do you feel you are a citizen of the world?

There is little that truly prepares us for what lies ahead because the future is always hidden until it reveals itself as the present. However, I believe that being comfortable with the unknown is the best way to make you ready for what may come to pass. Life has a way of throwing people into situations that are difficult mostly because we do not understand them. I have found that the best way to deal with the confusing and scary state of uncertainty is to befriend it, which EB has always relentlessly encouraged. Whether it is by learning a new language, traveling to a new country, or getting on stage to perform a school play, EB constantly confronts its students with what is uncertain so that they may learn to master the art of shedding light upon the unknown.

Would you consider sending your children to EB? Why?

would love for my children to have a connection to the French world and so I would definitely consider sending them to Ecole Bilingue. The school has as much to offer as the French culture itself and educates its students in a way that they step into adulthood ripe with potential.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

What I have not so much touched on are the friendships made at EB, which are truly one of the most important aspects. It has been years since I graduated from EB and many of my closest friends were my classmates from Ecole Bilingue. Not every friendship from EB will last (that would be a miracle), but those that do run very deep. The friends I have kept from EB are absolutely integral and essential to my life, even now that college has scattered us all over the country. Of all that EB has offered to me, I value above all else its blessing of friendship.