Inspiring Faculty, Inspiring Summers

As students fill Kirby’s halls in search of new lockers and old friends, the building seems to breathe in the electric energy students possess; its pulse returning to a peppy tempo. It is exciting to see their smiling faces and behold the friendship reunions and effusive joy that Kirby students have when they are here.

While summer activities gently fade, replaced with new horizons and anticipation, we pay homage to the quiet–or not so quiet months–that separate a school year.

What made your summer special?

While not in classrooms with students, Kirby teachers got busy. They wrote books, became an ordained minister, and created enormous murals with children during their time off. At Kirby, inquisitiveness is the heart of learning–and it never turns off. Our inspiring faculty use their summers to pursue vast interests, hone their craft, and take on new challenges. Here are a few of their stories.

Heidi Schindler: Visited a School in Ghana
I just got back from a life changing journey in Ghana! I was invited to go with a friend who taught there 50 years ago! We were welcomed by his students, and the faculty of the school he taught at…which now has grown from a school of 100 to 500 students, and from being mostly a boys school to half girls. I met people who inspired me deeply. I visited a clinic that offers free healthcare and a place to stay for the poor, sick and mentally ill. I met people who are bridge people between Muslim and Christian. It was beautiful! Then there was the elephant reserve! At a time when there is so much suffering on the planet I’m feeling inspired and moved and even a little more hopeful about the world!

Whitney Aguiniga:  Fifty Students, Two Weeks, Four Murals
I spent the beginning of summer covered in paint, sand, and sun soaked. Fifty students attending summer school at Seaside High joined me in designing, prepping, and painting murals around the campus. We began the project in spring with the objective of designing one mural that communicated the school’s priorities and vision. We sent out polls, work-shopped several designs, and began the actual mural in June. The students worked so hard in the first week and enjoyed the process so much that they began bringing proposals for other surrounding walls. We ended up adding three more murals to the original plan and completing them all in the two week time frame. The school has now mapped out a plan to cover all the blank walls with more student visions! It was incredibly fun, challenging, and fulfilling. Everything I own is covered in paint and memories from the awesome two weeks!

A Mural In-Progress with Whitney Aguiniga

Jessa Kirk: Wedding Bells
I got married in July and we traveled to Montreal for our honeymoon. In Montreal, we visited an Insectarium to see palm-sized spiders, ate citrouille at a Haitian restaurant, and saw the streets of the Le PlateauMont-Royal erupt in celebration when France won the World Cup.

Jessa Kirk with Emily Hose

Emily Hose: Became Ordained
I became an ordained minister and married two Kirby couples: I felt honored that they wanted me to be a part of such an important day in their lives.  Also, I felt flattered that they trusted me to do the job well. I was also nervous! I married Jessa and George on 7/7 and Monica and Jamie on 7/13.

Damara Ganley: Praise for “Still Standing”
My summer was filled to the brim with the joy and chaos of young children but in addition to that Molly Katzman and I sent our entire summer working on a project with Joe Goode Performance Group in collaboration with SF Heritage Foundation. It culminated an intense and really special month of performances. This past Sunday we finished after 31 shows. Take a look at the San Jose Mercury News review to get a sense of the event.

Lis Bensley: Completed Two Manuscripts
I finished two books this summer, a rewrite of a novel I’ve been working on (for many years), about a young woman in the Abstract Expressionist movement trying to juggle a career as a single mom when having a child was considered the artistic kiss of death.  I also found an illustrator for my children’s story, based on the antics of my cat and dog. Hoping to publish both soon.

Chris Jackson: Traveled to Russia for the World Cup
I went to Russia and saw a few world cup games, visited all the sights in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and met the majority of my fiance’s family that still lives there!

MarNae Taylor: Theatre Workshop in NYC
I traveled to NY for a Broadway Teachers Workshop. We were able to connect to teachers in theater from around the world. There were workshops in set design, devised theatre, directing, choreography, and several Broadway stars gave talk backs about their road to Broadway.  We also saw four Broadway shows I was able to stick around for an extra five days and see two more Broadway shows. We were able to have four different talk backs after the show to learn even more about the show and and the actors. This was a huge help to me to broaden my mind in directing shows and to improve my teaching of theatre at Kirby. It was re-energizing and inspiring to me about sets and acting styles.

Kirstin Olsen: A Twelfth Book
I’ve mostly been working on my forthcoming (twelfth) book, Daily Life of Women in the Progressive Era.  My husband and I also met up with our adult children in Olympic National Park for some hiking and backpacking.

Gary Young: Following a Haiku Master
Our youngest son, Cooper (Kirby ’16), received a grant from Princeton to travel to Japan this summer and follow Matsuo Bashō’s itinerary detailed in, Narrow Roads to the Deep North, a book of haiku and haibun (poetry and prose). The whole family met him in Kyoto. I took everyone to my favorite place there, Shisen-do, a Soto Zen temple with a lovely garden, and a room with paintings of “36 Immortal Poets.”  All four of us sat for quite some time writing poems, then wandered down off the mountain and landed at Konpukuji temple where Buson, another great haiku poet is buried. It’s small, and lovely. There’s a large stone inscribed with a poem of Buson’s next to the temple, and most people mistakenly think that’s his grave, which is higher up the hill, and pretty much unkempt. The path up to the grave is a little treacherous, but there’s a hut there that once belonged to Bashō, which Buson fixed up when he found it in disrepair. We were just about to leave, when a torrential downpour began. We all jumped into the hut, and wrote poems together while the sky opened up. It was pretty magical, and as a poet, it was especially moving to be there with my boys. There is a woodcut of Bashō sitting in this hut same, and it was easy to imagine him there beside us. We were there for three weeks; Cooper for two months. I have a book of translations from the Japanese coming out next month, and I’m hoping to do readings with Cooper once it’s released. (Gary Young and family are featured above).