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Alumni Stories

Alumni Stories

David Abernathy's picture

David Abernathy

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Vice President of Data & Government Affairs at The Arcview Group
Current Location: Oakland, CA
Education / School 1: Clark University
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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's picture

Yusef Alexandrine

Graduating Class: 1988
Current Position: Director, Senior Counsel at Allianz Global Investors
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Howard University, UC Berkeley
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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's picture

Sam Arons

Graduating Class: 1996
Current Position: Director of Sustainability at Lyft
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: The College Preparatory School, Williams College, University of California, Berkeley
Education / School 2: UC Berkeley
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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's picture

Michael Assadi

Graduating Class: 2012
Current Position: Digital Marketing | Small Business Owner at GreenerPrinter
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Berkeley High School
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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's picture

Bevan Barton

Graduating Class: 2001
Current Position: Full-stack blockchain developer at Peepeth
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Middlebury College
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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's picture

Pieta Blakely

Graduating Class: 1985
Current Position: Data Management, Evaluation Systems, and Policy Consulting at Blakely Consulting, LLC
Current Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Education / School 1: Boston University, Harvard University, Brandeis University
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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's picture

Morgan Brady

Graduating Class: 1998
Current Position: Senior Coach Manager & Health Coach at Vida Health, Inc.
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Education / School 1: John F. Kennedy University, National University of Health Sciences
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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's picture

David Breslauer

Graduating Class: 1997
Current Position: CSO and co-founder at Bolt Threads
Current Location: Emeryville, CA
Education / School 1: University of California San Francisco
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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's picture

Michelle Breslauer

Graduating Class: 1994
Current Position: Public Affairs & Strategic Partnerships at Institute for Economics & Peace
Current Location: NYC
Education / School 1: The American University of Paris, he London School of Economics and Political Science
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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's picture

Christina Choate

Graduating Class: 2001
Current Position: Video Producer & Videographer
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Education / School 1: UCSC, Montana State University Bozeman
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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's picture

Celine Cohen

Graduating Class: 1983
Current Position: PR at the Australian Trade Commission (aka Austrade)
Education / School 1: College Preparatory School in Oakland, Hamilton College
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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's picture

Courtney Coile

Graduating Class: 1982
Current Position: Economics teacher at Wellesley College
Education / School 1: Harvard, MIT
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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's picture

Atissa Dorroh-Manshouri

Graduating Class: 1985
Current Position: Development at the California Film Institute/Mill Valley Film Festival
Current Location: Mill Valley, California
Education / School 1: Georgetown University
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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's picture

Gabrielle Dreyfus

Graduating Class: 1993
Current Position: Senior Scientist at Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD)
Current Location: Washington DC
Education / School 1: Princeton University, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Harvard University
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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's picture

Marc Escobosa

Graduating Class: 1984
Current Position: Innovation Sr. Director, West Practice Lead at Salesforce
Current Location: San Francisco, CA
Education / School 1: Dartmouth
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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's picture

Nick Fehr

Graduating Class: 2001
Current Position: Co-Founder at The Bosco
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York
Education / School 1: UCLA
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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's picture

Sarah Fielding

Graduating Class: 1997
Current Position: Biotechnologist
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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's picture

Shauna Finnie

Graduating Class: 1983
Current Position: Driving safer, cleaner ground transportation at Google
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: UCLA, UC Berkeley, Harvard University
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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's picture

Aaron Firestein

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Co-Founder and Chief Artist at BucketFeet
Current Location: Chicago
Education / School 1: University of Oregon
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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's picture

Danièle Fogel

Graduating Class: 1997
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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's picture

Ben Grant

Graduating Class: 1983
Current Position: independent consultant
Education / School 1: Columbia
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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's picture

Andrew and John Hasse

Graduating Class: 1995, 2004
Current Position: Filmmaker/Visioneer
Current Location: Berkeley California
Education / School 1: Marin Academy, NY University
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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.

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Pia Hauch

Graduating Class: 2003
Current Position: Director of Operations at Cabin
Current Location: San Francisco, CA
Education / School 1: Copenhagen Business School, Stanford University
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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.

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Ryan Jones

Graduating Class: 1995
Current Position: Facilitator by nature, empowering teams to build amazing software at Signature Consultants
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: Fresno City College, San Jose State University
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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.

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