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Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2016 



Hollywood Producer (and Casti Parent) BRAD LEWIS speaks to enraptured ninth graders, discussing how he got into Film and specifically Computer Animation...

As Brad stands in front of the Core Arts class, he details his experiences producing Antz for Dreamworks, Ratatouille for Pixar, and co-directing Cars 2 for Pixar.

Brad's presentation finishes with fantastic clips and a brand new trailer from his newest Warner Brothers' animated feature Storks -- coming this September!

Many thanks to Brad for getting Casti's ninth graders so excited about Film!



Posted Thursday, May 26, 2016 

Over the past week, the Castilleja community has come together in three different events celebrating the artistic endeavors of our students: the Spring Music Concert, the AP Art Show, and the 8th Grade Celebration of the Arts. 

At the Spring Concert, Middle and Upper School students performed songs demonstrating both vocal and instrumental talents. The AP Art Show gave our community a glimpse into the portfolios of some of Castilleja's most dedicated visual artists in the Upper School. At the 8th Grade Celebration of the Arts, we were treated to a evening variety show complete with performances from the Showchoir, a fashion show from Art, Fashion, and Print, screenings of films made in Movietime, and a special Theatre Production. 


Posted Thursday, May 5, 2016 

Students in Drawing and Painting practicing their life drawing skills with Mr. Smoot's dog, Artemis, as the model. Students also learned about the important role that dogs are playing in the mental and physical well being of humans.

Posted Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016 
On Monday, the Castilleja English Department celebrated Shakespeare's 452nd birthday and the 400th anniversary of his death by facilitating fun and festive student-led activities on the Circle. 

Students took a whack at a 'Poor Yorick' piñata, tried to pin the lips on Kenneth Branagh, and filled out Shakespeare mad libs.  Sonnets were celebrated through both writing and reading contests. Throughout break, several upper school students in costumes and party hats wearing colorful signs encouraged their peers to pick a famous Shakespearean insult and hurl it at them.

Posted Wednesday, Apr 20, 2016 
A hilarious madcap romp based on the book The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's musical Lucky Stiff features over 20 Upper School students, an orchestra of eight, superb music direction by Ahmed Elgasseir, and wild choreography by MS Math Teacher Katie Robinson!

Lucky Stiff will be presented in the Chapel Theater:
Friday, April 29, 7:30pm
Saturday, April 30, 7:30pm
Sunday, May 1, 2:00pm

Buy Tickets HERE! 

Posted Tuesday, Mar 29, 2016 

Yesterday was Castilleja Library's Third Annual Edible Book Festival! We had a huge turnout and over seventy entries. There were games, a Horcrux Hunt, coloring stations, and of course, cake! Awards were given for the following categories:

Most original -- Areli H. '22 for "Mini Peach" (James and the Giant Peach), Ella L. '21 for "The Book Theft" (The Book Thief).

Best food eaten in a book -- Areli H. '22 for Green Eggs and Ham Cupcakes.

Healthiest -- Ms. Arford's Gardening Elective for The Secret Garden (made entirely of vegetables).

Funniest/punniest -- Christie W. '18 and Kaitlin R. '18 for "Around the World in 80 Lays".

Best simple idea -- Natalia C. '22 and Carolina P. '22 for "Breadcrumbs".

People’s choice -- Eveliena P. '22 for "Madeleine" made of madeleine cookies.

Most Shakespeare-licous -- Naira M. '19 for her Othello themed "Her Virtue is a Web".

Be sure to check Castilleja Library's website or Facebook page for pictures!


Posted Friday, Mar 25, 2016 
This weekend, Gatorbotics won the Engineering Inspiration Award at the Oklahoma Regional Competition! Gatorbotics Team 1700 credits their accomplishment to "all our sponsors, mentors, parents, and supporters; we could not have done it without you!"

Hear more from the team's perspective at Gatorbotics Team 1700's facebook page which is linked here

Go Gators!

Posted Wednesday, Feb 17, 2016 
In the spirit of celebrating the Year of the Monkey, students in Castilleja's Chinese program hosted four arts and crafts stations on the Circle during lunch for the whole school to experience the festive atmosphere of the most important Chinese holiday. Students learned how to write calligraphy using writing brushes, make lanterns with red envelopes, cut paper arts and paint cherry blossom trees by blowing ink with straws.   

Posted Friday, Feb 12, 2016 

For two days this week, Phil Kaye, Sarah Kay, and Jamila Woods of Project VOICE joined our campus community. Beginning their visit with a memorable performance, they later broke down their work and process with small-group instructional workshops that challenged and engaged Castilleja students. Project VOICE demonstrated the power a storyteller or poet can have and revealed a couple key 'secrets' to success. In particular, Sarah, Phil, and Jamila encouraged Castilleja students to enjoy themselves while performing, not to fear experimentation, and to use sensory details in their work to connect with an audience, especially when describing abstract concepts.  Thank you, Project VOICE!

Posted Monday, Feb 1, 2016 

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday both Middle and Upper School students presented a vision of a brighter future where quality education is available to all. Castilleja performers paired with Building Futures Now students to artfully deliver facts and testimonials through speeches and a range of dance numbers evoked emotion, reflection, and hope. Congratulations to the Dance Production Workshop, Ms. Shea, Mr. Ochi, and all of our fabulous performers and their families for a fantastic show. 

Arts with a Heart (AwaH) is dedicated to raising money and awareness for a worthy cause by creating an entertaining show utilizing all art forms, including dance, drama, music, and art. We aim to foster engagement in both the local and global community, while being inclusive of the entire Castilleja School student body.

Arts with a Heart 2016 benefitted Building Futures Now in partnership with the Halford Young Women's Leadership Program. Building Futures Now is an after school academic enrichment program based in East Palo Alto for rising 4th graders through college bound students. It provides underserved students with year-round, individualized academic support and mentorship so that they can not only thrive in school, but also engage and give back to their community. Halford is a mentoring program for Castilleja sophomores through seniors which works in partnership with Building Futures Now. Castilleja's US students work with 4th and 5th grade girls every week and help them with their homework, or tackle key topics such as enhancing self-esteem, confronting body-image issues to help each girl develop skills for success and a stronger belief her own capacities. The group also meets one Saturday a month and partners with the Robotics team to plan fun Science Saturdays or engages in exciting off-campus field trips. 

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Student Life
Posted 08/19/2016 03:00PM

The first week of school is next week! Here's some information about our first week's activities.

Day by Day 

Mon Aug 22-Wed Aug 24, Orientation and Startup Activities for all students

Thu Aug 25, Tie Ceremony, 8:00 - 8:15 am, Circle

Thu Aug 25, Grade-Level Parent Meetings, 8:20 - 8:50 am, following Tie Ceremony

Thu Aug 25, All Parent/Guardian Meeting, 8:55 - 9:55 am, following Grade-Level Parent Meetings, Chapel Theater

Thu Aug 25, Casti Gear and Spirit Wear Sale, 9:55 - 11:00 am, Admin bldg. lobby

Thu Aug 25, Seniors Drive the Circle, 10:05 am, following All Parent/Guardian Meeting, Circle

Fri Aug 26, Picture Day, 8:00 am - 3:30 pm, Upper Gym



OPENING DAY TIE CEREMONY Castilleja's traditional Tie Ceremony will take place on Thu Aug 258:00 - 8:15 am, on the Circle. At this ceremony, the faculty will pin red carnations on seniors, seniors will tie 9th graders' ties, and 8th graders will tie 6th graders' ties. You can identify the class of each student by the color of her tie as listed below. Questions? Contact Head of MS Anne Cameron or Head of US Jim Pickett.

  • 6th grade - yellow
  • 7th grade - pale blue
  • 8th grade - navy blue
  • 9th grade - green
  • 10th grade - orange
  • 11th grade - purple
  • 12th grade - RED!

GRADE-LEVEL PARENT MEETINGS Following the Tie Ceremony on Thu Aug 25, everyone is invited from 8:20 – 8:50 am to attend their grade-level parent meeting hosted by the Lead Parent Reps (LPRs) for their class. The LPRs will describe the upcoming year, class-level events, and volunteer opportunities. Questions? Contact CSA Resource Chairs Lauren Segal or Victoria Chiongbian here.

ALL PARENT/GUARDIAN MEETING Following the Grade-Level Parent Meetings on Thu Aug 25, Castilleja’s parent group, CSA (Castilleja School Association), will welcome new and returning parents and guardians to their first meeting from8:55 - 9:55 am in the Chapel Theater. Head of School Nanci Kauffman will introduce the leadership team and priorities for the upcoming year. You will also hear about CSA events and opportunities to get involved. Casti Gear will be available for sale after the meeting. All parents are members of the CSA -- join us! Questions? Contact CSA President Alison Abbo.

SENIORS DRIVE THE CIRCLE Following the All Parent/Guardian Meeting on Thu Aug 25, return to the Circle at 10:05 am to cheer for the senior class as they take their ceremonial drive around the Circle. Questions? Contact Head of MS Anne Cameron or Head of US Jim Pickett.

Posted 07/05/2016 03:00PM

June 30th marked a milestone for Castilleja School, as it is the day we submitted to the City of Palo Alto our application for a new Conditional Use Permit (CUP.) So that Castilleja can continue to deliver a vibrant and continually evolving 21st century program, we have asked the City for permission to grow enrollment in our Upper School over time. In addition, we have applied for permits to build an underground garage, and for entitlements to rebuild our classroom buildings. This is an exciting time for Castilleja, but there is a lot to accomplish before our community's vision can be realized.

Feeling inspired? Please consider writing to the Palo Alto City Council in support of Castilleja's plans. See for more information, including guidelines for letter writing.

Castilleja: Educating Tomorrow's Leaders from Castilleja School on Vimeo.

Posted 07/02/2016 03:00PM

Congratulations, Elijah Docter Thornburg '16, for publishing this article in the Palo Alto Online & Palo Alto Weekly about your experience as the first Castilleja student to graduate as a young man. We are so proud of you for beautifully articulating and sharing your story.

"I ultimately made what retrospectively was one of the best decisions of my life: to be openly transgender and to stay at Castilleja. Castilleja was — and always will be — my home. I felt welcomed and respected and loved for all of my time there and couldn't imagine giving that up. I knew that finishing my last two years of high school as the one boy at an all-girls' school would present its own set of challenges, but I thought it would be worth it. It absolutely was."

Read Elijah's article here.

Photo: "Castilleja School graduate Elijah Docter Thornburg gets high-fives from his fellow classmates after receiving his diploma on June 4." Photo by Veronica Weber.

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Posted 06/07/2016 04:48PM

Photo by Veronica Weber

Castilleja School celebrates students who lead

The Class of 2016 reflects on importance of friendship and gratitude

On Saturday afternoon, 67 girls clad in an array of white dresses strode across the circular lawn at Castilleja School arm-in-arm with their peers, each one holding a bouquet of red roses as they made their way to the stage.

Touching on themes of gratitude, education and leadership, Castilleja's 109th commencement began with a simple but telling statement from senior class Vice President Lea Sparkman, whose reading from Craig Silvey's novel "Jasper Jones" said what was palpably felt throughout the ceremony: "What I'm feeling, I think, is joy."

 After a choral performance of "America the Beautiful," valedictorian Claire Huang recounted the simple joys she experienced during her years at Castilleja like a friendly hello on her way to class or a joke between friends in the hallway after school, and how those small gestures made a big difference to her self-confidence. She explained that the best advice she received was not from a speech or classroom lecture, but was shown to her instead by the compassion and love of her peers.

"If there's one thing this class will be remembered for, it is our readiness to love ourselves and each other," she said. "Thank you for sharing your boundless generosity with me and everyone else on this campus and for showing me you don't need a big voice to have a huge heart."Photo by Veronica Weber

Other speakers talked about the importance of a Castilleja education, which keynote speaker and alumnae Laura Arrillaga Andreessen attributed to her success as a philanthropist, educator and social entrepreneur. Her schooling -- from its demands for excellence in academia, sports and service to its emphasis on camaraderie and friendship -- radically changed the way she approached life's most difficult and trying circumstances, giving her the foundation to be a leader in the world, she said.

"Education is the lighting of a fire, and at Castilleja we are ignited, we are stoked and we are illuminated," she said. "Castilleja educators light our fires, and they literally change the course of our lives."

Arrillaga Andreessen also imparted three "transformational gifts" to the graduating Class of 2016: competence creates confidence, hardship hones heroism and gratitude is everything.

Inciting laughter from students and the audience alike, she described the "two-year migraine" she suffered from her junior and senior years from the stress of school, and the constant diet of frozen yogurt, movie popcorn and broccoli that fueled her formative years at Castilleja, a battle greater in difficulty than any of her Stanford University degrees, she admitted.

Despite the difficulties of academic life, her education also gave her unique opportunities to learn from the world around her, to think critically and to gain entrepreneurial skills, all of which paved the way to her career today, Andreessen said.

"Learning how to multitask at a CEO level -- think academics, athletics, government, service -- before I had my driver's license, gave me the courage to have three full-time careers simultaneously," she said. "After succeeding at Castilleja, we can succeed anywhere and at anything because Castilleja gives us an invaluable gift: an acumen that creates unstoppable volition."

Castilleja Award winner Nicole Goodman, who was chosen by the school's faculty as a senior who best embodied the five Cs of Castilleja -- conscience, courtesy, character, courage and charity -- reflected on her gratitude for the opportunities and mentors that surround her and her classmates, dedicating her speech to the teachers who shaped the core of their learning experience.

"You have taught me the importance of learning driven by curiosity, and the value of understanding material for life rather than memorizing it for a test. You are my role models, my life coaches and my friends," she said.

In the final speech of the afternoon, Head of School Nanci Kauffman began with a reference to the Golden State Warriors, who are currently playing in the NBA finals, and asked the audience, "How can the Warriors' popularity and success become a source of wisdom to impart on our graduates?"

Kauffman went on to explain that in the complicated world, success is often defined by acquiring the "right combination" of leadership, risk taking, passion and teamwork. The Warriors have found that balance by equating strong leadership with shared leadership, a skill that the Class of 2016 also embraces, she said.

She praised graduates for their ability to shift leadership roles at a moment's notice and understanding "when to step up and when to step back."

After performing their last rendition of the Castilleja School Song, graduates filed out in pairs toward their family and friends for a reception hosted by the school, where each graduating senior had her own table adorned with pictures, graduation caps and presents."A true warrior does not allow fear to guide her choices, and neither should you," Kauffman said. "If you take nothing else from Castilleja, please take with you the confidence to take chances and to take your own shots."

Juliet O'Brien, who is attending the United States Naval Academy next year, said she is going to miss the all-girls aspect of Castilleja, in addition to the "really extraordinary" teacher-student relationships that the school fostered.

"To be able to have the all-girls experience in the back of my head as I go through college is something that will really help me in the classroom, like being more confident and courageous about sharing my voice and speaking out," O'Brien said.

Senior Laurel Nelson said that the closing remarks by Kauffman stood out for her, adding that the support she received from everyone on campus was unparalleled.

"Having the courage to go after what we want because we have the ability, not just through Castilleja, but through our own individual merits resonated most," said Nelson, who is attending University of California, Berkeley, in the fall.

Andreessen left graduates with the determination to constantly strive for greatness, but she also left them with an unusual request: "Today, as each of you begin to write the next chapter of your spectacular lives, my welcoming words to each of you glorious graduates is do not become the person you always dreamed of being."

"Become the person you never dreamed it was possible to be," she said, smiling with a knowing grin. 

by Avi Salem / Palo Alto Weekly
First and second photographs by Veronica Weber

For original posting by Palo Alto Weekly and more photographs by Veronica Weber, click the following link.

Posted 06/01/2016 08:00AM

All Middle Schoolers participated in Explo where the girls studied various aspects of the environment.  Each grade level made a unique connection to the theme based on what they had learned in their science classes this year: the sixth grade students explored the sources, effects, and solutions of climate change and pollution; the seventh grade students investigated aspects of environmental quality and the effects on various forms of life; and the eighth grade students, in their final year of Explo, delved into relationships between chemicals and waves and their effects on the environment.  This six-week process was completed during science class in groups.  During this time, they went on a field trip to collect data, participated in a service project, and spent time learning at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in mixed-grade groups. Back at school, they picked a topic of interest based upon what was observed, researched that topic, designed an experiment, ran multiple trials, analyzed results, and at the Celebration of Explo presented their results to the Castilleja community.  The purpose of Explo is to enable the students to have a collaborative learning opportunity as well as serve as an assessment of their growth within their scientific process skills. Teachers and parents alike marveled at the girls’ skills in scientific thinking!

Watch Explo Video Here!

Posted 05/31/2016 08:00AM



Hollywood Producer (and Casti Parent) BRAD LEWIS speaks to enraptured ninth graders, discussing how he got into Film and specifically Computer Animation...

As Brad stands in front of the Core Arts class, he details his experiences producing Antz for Dreamworks, Ratatouille for Pixar, and co-directing Cars 2 for Pixar.

Brad's presentation finishes with fantastic clips and a brand new trailer from his newest Warner Brothers' animated feature Storks -- coming this September!

Many thanks to Brad for getting Casti's ninth graders so excited about Film!



Posted 05/23/2016 08:43AM

As part of their American Political System class, sophomores have participated in a “mock congress” (“The Castilleja Congress”) focused on improving aspects of Castilleja. The House of Representatives was comprised of two class sections acting as two committees (“Environment and Facility” and “Student Life”), while the Senate, also two sections, acted as the upper house two committees (“Campus and Environment” and “Curricular and Extracurricular”). The House committees drafted and debated legislation. 

Students volunteered to play certain leadership roles, such House Speaker, Majority or Minority Leader, Majority or Minority Whip, or Sergeant at Arms. The mock legislative process occurred across six weeks, using two Extended Opportunitiy Periods for the formal House and Senate sessions in the Chapel Theater during which debate and voting occurred: members offered speeches, proposed amendments, and conferred with each other.

This year’s Congress (the “Fourth Castilleja Congress”) passed three bills: HB1 proposes that sex education be added to Wellness curriculum in the Upper School, HB4 suggests that snacks provided by our food service no longer be individual packaging as a way of reducing waste, and HB6 requests that water fountains in Rhodes Hall be upgraded to allow for water bottles to be filled.

After the bills passed Congress, the House and Senate leadership met with President Kauffman last Wednesday to present and discuss the legislation. In this meeting, President Kauffman immediately signed HB4 and HB6 and later signed HB1 after discussing the proposal with the Fitness and Wellness Department.

Although the Casti Congress is only a class activity, it not only introduces students to how Congress functions (using Roberts’ Rules of Order and other formal procedures), but also gives sophomores an opportunity to design and craft real reforms for their school. Ultimately, students both experience how Congress works and have a significant impact on their school in the process.

Posted 05/19/2016 08:00AM

Lelia Glass, a PhD candidate from the Linguistics Department at Stanford, visited Castilleja and delivered presentations about Linguistics to all four sections of freshman English.  Ms. Glass was incredibly passionate about her subject and engaged the entire ninth grade in several exercises about the structure and study of language. Students have just finished reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, so they gained greater insight into the authentic African American dialect present in the novel and were especially intrigued by her discussion of African American language systems. They were also curious about the ways different language systems are connected by their historical roots and "vestigial" qualities and were fascinated to learn from Ms. Glass that English and Hindi are closely related under the "Indo-European" language family! 

Posted 08/22/2016 02:00PM

This week, on and off campus, students are participating in grade-level orientations, retreats, athletics, and special break-out trainings of all sorts in preparation for the upcoming year.

On Monday, 7th and 10th grade left for their retreats and 8th graders had their opening and orientation. Ms. Kertsman and Ms. Clark led an active and reflective ACE Student Leadership Training (pictured) and 6th graders opened their year. 

Tuesday is 6th/8th grade Big and Little Sister orientation, Freshman orientation, and Junior Global Orientation begins with an Athletics meeting this evening. 

Opening Day isn't until Thursday morning, but by then Castilleja students will have already laid the foundation for a successful school year. Go Gators!

Posted 05/25/2016 08:00AM
Senior Seminars kicked off on Wednesday May 18th with personal finance workshops. Educators from the educational nonprofit Next Generation Personal Finance and economics teacher Ms. Hammer taught seniors about college budget management, credit scores, and banking. In the afternoon, Stanford gynecologist Dr. Sophia Yen spoke to seniors about contraception and the state-by-state laws concerning reproductive health. The day concluded with a discussion on leadership and community by Ms. Kauffman.
On Thursday May 19th, seniors listened to a panel of recent Castilleja Alumni give advice to college-bound seniors. Seniors also attended a self-defense workshop led by Andre Salvage to learn how to physically defend themselves from assault. Lastly, seniors were able to choose between electives on voter registration, personal health and wellness, and car mechanics (changing a tire). In the afternoon, seniors walked to lunches hosted at Castilleja faculty's houses both to learn life skills such as sewing and to enjoy time with their beloved teachers. Afterwards, seniors returned to campus to talk to other Castilleja faculty members about their life experiences and advice for high school graduates.
Seniors Seminars concluded with a photo-decorating activity with music and TBT hashtags in the cafeteria.

Posted 05/12/2016 08:00AM

On Tuesday afternoon, the kindergarten students from Brentwood Academy in East Palo Alto joined their Castilleja 7th grade "big" buddies for an afternoon spent singing, dancing, playing field games, touring the Castilleja campus, and saying goodbye to each other for the year. Now in our 4th year of partnership work with Brentwood Academy, we are starting to feel like this work is very meaningful for our 7th graders and for the Kindergarten community alike.  We start the year by prompting the 7th graders with a question, "how do I partner within my community?" and through the year our 7th grade students grow so much as they discover what this means to each of them individually.  It is wonderful to watch this relationship flourish and, as many of the Castilleja community can attest to, it is such a joy to see 100 kindergarten faces and their teachers enjoying our campus as much as we do. 

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Posted 04/26/2016 10:44AM

On April 25th four students from the Girls Learn International (GLI) Ace Org and their advisor represented Castilleja at the annual Feminist Majority Foundation and MS. Magazine Luncheon. The girls listened to thoughtful speeches by various women leaders from around the nation. The students left truly impacted and empowered by one speaker in particular, Dr. Mender Mandefro. Dr. Mender Mandefro was the producer of the movie DIFRET, an award winning movie that emphasizes the need for an end for child brides in Ethiopia. In addition throughout the luncheon, the girls volunteered, and interacted with other students who lead Girls Learn International clubs in their respective high schools. Be on the look out for further GLI programming around the circle in 2016 - 2017.

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