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Alumni Stories

Madeleine Stokes's picture

Madeleine Stokes

Graduating Class: 2003
Current Position: Director of Innovation Initiatives and Corporate Relations at The Johns Hopkins University for a NGO
Current Location: Washington DC
Education / School 1: UCLA, Georgetown University
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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's picture

Bret Turner

Graduating Class: 1995
Current Location: San Francisco, CA
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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's picture

Saleh Tyebjee

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Senior Propulsion Engineer at Blue Origin
Current Location: Sacramento, CA
Education / School 1: UC Davis
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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's picture

Zia Tyebjee

Graduating Class: 1996
Current Position: Asia Regional Sustainable Design Leader at Gensler
Current Location: Shanghai City, China
Education / School 1: Yale University
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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's picture

Tristan Vellrath

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Maintenance Scheduler at Textron
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Education / School 1: UC Davis, City College of San Francisco
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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's picture

Jonathan Wachter

Graduating Class: 2002
Current Position: Soil Scientist and Agroecologist
Current Location: Oakland, CA
Education / School 1: Washington State University
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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's picture

Julian Walter

Graduating Class: 1999
Current Position: Photographer
Education / School 1: UCLA
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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's picture

Laurie Walter

Graduating Class: 1997
Current Position: Trip Leader at Backroads Active Travel
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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's picture

Tatiana Webb

Graduating Class: 2003
Current Position: PhD student
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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's picture

Bijan White

Graduating Class: 2009
Current Position: Mathematician and Data System Analyst at Acronym
Current Location: NYC
Education / School 1: UCLA
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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.

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