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In one classroom at O’Farrell Charter School, elementary school students might be melodiously tooting their recorders, working to tackle an intricate-sounding rhythm. In another, high school students are learning to become critical thinkers, understanding how even the most challenging mathematics now, can help them in the future.
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For parents wanting to find out more information about enrolling their student in a high-performing California charter school, visit ofarrellschool.org.
Nearby, middle school students are thinking like scientists, and engineers—using problem-solving skills to explore solutions to real world challenges. Just outside, the life lessons taught on O’Farrell’s campus continue, giving students the confidence they need to succeed.
Music teacher Xkylyr Rauh, math teacher Giuseppe Basile, science teacher Jennifer Chranowski and campus supervisor Eli Sanders touch the lives of O’Farrell students every day, encouraging them to question, think and create.
These four teachers have received the Superintendent’s Award for their exemplary efforts to aid students’ educational success. But each of these teachers also stress they’re representative of the school’s sentiment as a whole: to promote higher education through a positive learning environment.
“I’m the fun and games teacher,” Rauh says. “I don’t have chairs in my classroom. For the students, it’s a break from what goes on in their normal day.”
Rauh’s goal is to foster a life-long love for music in his students. Their lessons not only tap into the unique joy experienced through music, but aid in critical thinking, problem-solving, language acquisition and more. When Rauh is not teaching music, he’s supervising at recess and before school, running clubs, helping colleagues and putting together music performances and theater productions, often giving up his own time to ensure the success of the school and its scholars.
On days when his students experience difficulties, Rauh’s music class is what pulls them through the classroom door, and keeps them pushing toward success, in a similar way that Rauh says music anchored him in life.
“Music is something that is larger than you,” he says. “You are playing one part in a bigger structure. When my students are playing, I can look around the room and feel the energy. You see the smiles on their faces when they’re playing something and getting the notes and the rhythm. It builds their confidence, and by the time they get finished with the piece, everyone is so excited.”
O’Farrell students give back at the Make a Wish Walk.
Math teacher Giuseppe Basile says he tries to bring that same energy into his high school class, greeting each student at the door with a high-five, a smile and a positive mindset.
“I want to welcome them and let them know they can let their guard down,” Basile says.
He became a math teacher to help students overcome their struggles with the subject and to help them understand that all math has a place in the world and in his students’ daily lives.
Basile says the key is to put math into a relevant context for his students.
“I use a lot of real-world situations so they can see how it can be used every day,” he says. “You can look at the quadratic equation and say ‘when am I ever going to use this,’ but working with these equations develops problem-solving skills you can take with you all through life.”
Basile also acts as an ASB advisor, inspiring students to volunteer and contribute to the success of their communities.
“I want them to be free thinkers and critical thinkers who can reason on their own. I not only want them to be good students, and hard workers but good people.”
Campus supervisor Eli Sanders says the positive campus culture starts from the second the kids arrive at O’Farrell, making sure students are happy, ready to learn and know they are in a safe environment.
“It starts with talking to them every day, building a conversation and rapport,” he says. “I want them to feel comfortable coming to me if there is an issue.”
Sanders supervises lunch, breakfast and during dismissal as well. He says his job isn’t to make friends with students, but to make sure they make it through school.
“I hope to help them reach their potential,” he says. “I offer up advice for what they’ll be experiencing down the road, and try to get them ready for life after high school. I love working with kids, and we all try to go above and beyond for them.”
O’Farrell teacher Mrs. Blakeney and her students.
Science teacher Jennifer Chranowski takes her students above and beyond the classroom with science lessons that transform her students into engineers, scientists, masterful teachers and writers.
A scientist at heart and marine biologist by trade, Chranowski says she works to help everyone understand that “science isn’t scary, it’s the language of solving problems.”
“It’s proposing ideas, coming up with solutions, cause and effect, realizing these ideas can be applied throughout your life, not just in science,” she says.
She covers not only life science, earth science, engineering standards, biology, and more, but puts a special focus on the skills scientists must have to be successful: writing, modeling and research. Chranowski creates inquiry-based lessons, having students engage with a question and use their prior knowledge to find the answer. They consult their notes, discuss with their peers, research solutions and pitch their ideas. They also reflect on the lesson while exercising their writing and research skills, creating billboards, mock ‘letters to the editor,’ even lesson plans that students taught to O’Farrell kindergarteners.
“My hope is that the students can be problem-solvers, not problem-makers.”
Chranowski was also recognized as ‘Teacher of the Year’ by the entire state of California for her role with the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement club at O’Farrell, and three of her students were recognized as MESA ‘Students of the Year.’
These teachers are all extremely humble, but honored to be recognized by Superintendent John Dean. They say it’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for their efforts, but an even greater feeling to see it paying off with smiles on students’ faces, hard work, enthusiasm and the relentless pursuit of educational success. O’Farrell’s faculty and staff work to encourage their students’ passion, although by all accounts O’Farrell students bring it with them—to science competitions, College signing day, ASB events, music concerts, through the classroom doors and beyond.