Message From the Director

Happy new year! Although much of the tumultuousness and uncertainty of the last year remains unresolved, this is a rich time for reflection. Hardship can often be a catalyst for change. In the midst of great challenges, I like to explore changing my perspective to see where there might be opportunities for joy or bliss among the difficulties. 

To the MarinSEL alumni, soon to be alumni, and anyone who is navigating a career change: please follow your bliss. Even if it may take you on a meandering path. 

I started my journey at an arts-focused high school. I then decided to pursue my love of physics in college. While I was supposed to be drafting my thesis in college, I wrote a book! Instead of then pursuing a writing career, I attended MIT, which led me to later help design the Energy Star program with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. After working with the federal government, I dove into the world of nonprofits and eventually started my own. 

Although I meandered, I followed my joy. And this led me to the impactful, fulfilling work I do today at SEI and the School of Environmental Leadership. MarinSEL is designed to provide students with the tools to find and pursue what lights them up. For most, it will be a winding, exciting path. 

On a national scale, President Biden is designing green career pathways which gives me hope for our MarinSEL students and our world. MarinSEL students – with infinite opportunities for growth, exploration, and experience through entrepreneurial experience, real world internship work, and connections – will be extraordinarily well-prepared to co-create a vibrant, resilient future. 

May you find joy and bliss in unexpected places this year, and beyond.


Beyond Black History Month

February is an earmarked time to recognize and celebrate the historical contributions of Black people, as we aim as a nation to offset the systemic and systematic erasure of Black ingenuity, leadership, intelligence, creativity, care, resilience and so much more. Perhaps you chose to honor Black Environmental Leaders, such as Dr. Robert Bullard who was awarded the United Nations’ highest environmental honor in 2020 – the Champions of the Earth lifetime achievement award, and who also is known as the “Father of Environmental Justice”. Or maybe someone a little closer to home like Dr. Gail P. Myers – who co-founded Farms to Grow, Inc. out of Oakland in 2004 with the mission to “assist African American farmers and other under-served farmers/gardeners maintain and create sustainable farms and spaces to grow food and motivate the next generation of farmers to grow sustainably and with the community in mind.” Now we are in March… there is no reason to stop centering and amplifying this great work once the month has passed. Better yet, why not also work to tackle the root causes of erasure of Black people, to disrupt it entirely?

MarinSEL is proud of the work some of our students are leading for more equity-centered education and equitable life outcomes for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). They recognize that to change this country’s racialized outcomes and opportunities accessible to BIPOC, we must stop individual, interpersonal, institutional and systemic racism which dehumanizes Black people in particular and normalizes disparate outcomes, despite systemic barriers tied to racial identity, such as the economic, medical and educational legacies of Jim Crow and redlining. Tenth grader Sarah Mondesir is leading efforts at the county level for student-centered anti-racist curriculum development. Twelfth grader Amy Muithya, tenth grader Harita Kalvai, tenth grader Sarah Mondesir and tenth grader Sofia Weinstein are training to become anti-racist change agents in Student Leaders’ Anti-Racist Movement (SLAM!) at the school district level.

Thanks in large part to the financial support of MarinSEL families, all MarinSEL staff underwent a four hour training to build racial consciousness by examining racial beliefs, focusing on lived racial experiences and whiteness, and exploring a counter-narrative. The team is looking forward to diving deeper in the second part to this series led by a leader in racial equity coaching Dr Lori A Watson, who also facilitates SLAM! This work is an important contingency to a high quality sustainability education that will empower all students to be intersectional environmental leaders, the most effective and equitable climate solutionists. And yet many more steps must be taken, for which we are hoping to raise funds. With summer planning just around the corner, we would be grateful for your continued support of racial equity prioritization. As we move toward implementing a racial equity lens across the program, MarinSEL looks forward to and welcomes all opportunities to center and elevate Black experiences, contributions, leadership, voices, collaboration and joy.


Silver Linings of Online Learning – Reflections of a MarinSEL Student

By Meredith Case, Class of 2022

Being a student during this time, it has been overwhelmingly difficult to adhere to the countless changes the Corona Virus has caused. Luckily, we have a great school and a great program to keep us going when everything seems hard. In any dark cloud, it is critical to look for the silver lining to help us keep going, so, these are some of the best parts of doing online school.

Now if you are a MarinSEL student, I bet you can guess which one I am about to say. Not having to wake up at six in the morning and crawl out of bed for zero period has been such a great part of online learning. We still get to have our great zero period classes right from the comfort of our own room which allows us to get a much more restful start to the morning. Not only are we fixing our sleep schedules with this, our online zero period classes have been so great because we have been getting so much one on one time with our MSEL teachers and mentors. As well as our speaker series that all the grades received where we got to learn from environmental experts from all over the globe. Being able to do this was a huge privilege and a really lucky part of being on Zoom since we would not have been able to do this in person.

This next one may seem small, but getting to make homemade breakfast and lunch that can actually be warm and fresh has been one of my personal favorite parts of online school. Instead of just throwing half a sandwich and a few carrots in a lunchbox that is squished by the time I get to it, we get to make whatever we want with our extra long lunch. Although using Mr. McClintock’s microwave was great, being able to cook some fresh pasta at home may just beat it!

Moving onto a larger perk, I think the four by four schedule has allowed people to take a large variety of classes and challenge themselves with extra classes they may not have been able to include in their course load normally. I know a lot of people who have gotten to take multiple science classes as juniors and seniors as well as a ton of COM classes that are available to us. This new schedule has really given us the opportunity to take on what we want and expand our interests by trying new classes. 

Finally, I think online school has really reminded us all how lucky we are to have MarinSEL and our classmates at this time in our life. It is easy to feel disconnected when you are staring at your classes through a screen, but our MarinSEL companions never fail to stay connected and use each other as a resource for all of our classes. Without their support and assistance, this year would have been much more difficult because it reminded me that I am not going through this alone, because I have my whole class by my side. Online school has reminded me that our community never fails and I think it has really brought us together even while we are all apart.

Times may seem difficult with the uncertainty of everything going on, but if you look in the right places, there are so many things we have to be thankful for from our online experience. It is always important to remember the silver lining to a dark cloud, and to remember you are not fighting it alone, you always have your classmates by your side!


Leading in Uncertain Times – An Insight Into the “Energy Conservation at TL” LEAD Group During COVID-19

By Malhar Dev, Class of 2023

The MSEL Sophomore Energy Conservation LEAD Group is a group of students working to make TL a more energy efficient school. We do this through raising awareness over social media to encourage energy efficient behavior, and working with architects and energy efficiency experts to implement large-scale changes towards this end. 

COVID-19 has impacted our daily lives massively, from our outdoor activities to the way we interact with people. For MSEL students, this is no different, but it will not deter us from our work to protect the environment, of which LEAD groups are the forefront. The freshman groups typically focus on spreading awareness, whereas the sophomore groups aim to make substantial change policy-wise. For my group, this has been an especially interesting endeavor, as the area of our focus is somewhat unique. My group focuses on energy conservation at TL specifically, and thus has been affected by COVID somewhat more than others. 

As many reading may know, there is currently a new building under construction at TL, which incorporates a lot of different departments. These include the new library, cafeteria, and CCC or college career center, among others. As this building is already under construction, modifying the plans of the building to increase its energy efficiency would be very difficult, although the building is already built with energy efficiency in mind. To this end, we have mainly been learning about energy efficiency in buildings, and how to improve energy efficiency in TL’s older buildings. In addition, we have been promoting energy efficient approaches and lifestyles over social media to further our reach and spread awareness, taking into account the lessons learned from last year’s LEAD projects. Our group has also been meeting with the architect of the new building, as well as a member of the team in charge of finding energy efficient solutions. Building on all of this, as well as combining this knowledge with information gleaned from meetings with other people prominent in the construction of the building and our own research, we plan to present ideas for planned policy to the designers of the building. 

Obviously, Covid-19 has had a substantial impact on how we are approaching this issue, as well as how we communicate ideas. When COVID restrictions were less tight, we were able to visit the building and learn about its construction, but now this is no longer possible.  However, virtual communication has become vital to how we work as a group, as meeting in person has been more and more impractical. We have typically been accomplishing this through chat services such as Snapchat and through standard texting, although Zoom meetings have become a very effective way of communication. We have also been delegating tasks to individuals more, instead of meeting and having multiple people tackle one task. We’ve found that this is more efficient overall, as it allows for more tasks to be completed in a quicker time period. An example of this is our outreach to other social media accounts, which has mainly been conducted by my colleague Issalina Sowry. Having one person more skilled with outreach tackle this endeavor is both more efficient and yields greater results than having multiple people cover it. 

As far as overall goals go, we plan to audit TL’s energy usage, have some of our policy implemented in future plans for the new TL gym, and possibly have a hand in the actual implementation of our policy on a physical level. This could potentially even include the implementation of solar panels at TL, which would go a long way towards having a carbon neutral campus. Our main goal as a group is to make headway towards making TL completely carbon-neutral, meaning that it emits as much carbon as it consumes. And while COVID-19 has been a big obstacle, we, like many others, are undeterred in our efforts. 

In the next few months, we intend to meet with the planners of the building and discuss our policy ideas, as well as present to MSEL students and parents at our culminating LEAD presentation.


11th Grade Sustainable Business Profiles

MarinSEL Sustainable Business Products on Sale Now! 

In the fall semester, 11th grade students each created their own sustainable enterprise plan which they then pitched to a group of mock investors (much like the show Shark Tank).  After the pitches, eight of the most promising businesses were selected to be implemented in the spring semester. Students have been focusing on building their businesses around the 3 E’s of Sustainability: Environment, Equity, Economics. It is important to MarinSEL and the students that the businesses are especially focused on and designed to be equity driven, such as Old & New’s prioritization of making its women-led leadership known. Students have gathered insight from entrepreneurial guest speakers and continue to learn on their own. 

Check out the amazing products these student-run businesses are offering! To purchase the products, you can email the business to inquire.


Old and New: Reuse. Remake. Relove. 

Old & New is a small, eco-friendly, women-owned business in the bay area. We specialize in reusing old fabric and textiles to make affordable products such as masks, reusable grocery bags, and keychains. Our goal is to promote zero waste living and better the environmental habits of our community. 

Website Link: (in process)

Instagram Link:


Twitter: @oldandnewco

Facebook: Old and New Marin


Go-Go Straws: Made with Ex-Straw Love. 

Go-Go Straws exists to create enjoyable and fun straws that will make green choices easier for you and to contribute to a more sustainable future. We are committed to helping you fall in love with your Go-Go straw, which is compressible and travel convenient,  for the purpose of reducing the usage and waste of single-use plastic. 

Website Link:



Simple Grounds: Flourish in Positivity. 

Simple Grounds provides 100% organic, handmade face and body scrubs by utilizing excess coffee grounds that would otherwise be put to waste. Like our name states, our scrub is made on simple grounds. There’s nothing more to it besides its natural ingredients and benefits to one’s skin and health. 

Website Link:

Instagram Link: 


Facebook Link: 


Bee Clean Soaps: Happy Hives, Happy Lives. 

Bee Clean is a zero waste, locally sourced beeswax soap that aims to support our local bee population. We use native plant packaging that is zero waste and is planted after use. With a blend of local wax, honey and essential oils, the soap is harsh chemical free and is safe for kids and our earth. 

Website Link: (in process)

Instagram Link: 


Tik Tok: beecleanco

NextDoor: Bee Clean Co. 




Chikyu is a local, sustainable business that creates customizable planter boxes made of recycled wood from old shipping pallets that would otherwise be thrown into the landfill. These pocket-sized planter boxes are also offered with a variety of herbs and plants that are easy to grow, use minimal resources, and give back to the environment.

Website Link:

Instagram Link:




Our goal is to reduce the amount of waste in household cleaningand fabric industries as well as promote environmental awareness and healthy habits

Website Link: in progress

Instagram Link:



Cha Cha Chai: Give it a Chai.

Cha Cha Chai, is a local iced chai tea latte business in Marin County, California delivering a vegan, cruelty free, artificial sweetener free, iced chai drink right to your doorstep! Our goal is to possess a healthier alternative to the sugar filled iced chai teas from large chain businesses such as starbucks and Peet’s Coffee.

Website Link: (in process)

Instagram Link: 



ReWraps: Rewrap the World. 

Rewraps strives to create sustainable and unique alternatives to traditional food storage items such as plastic bags and saran wraps. Our products are durable, reusable, and best of all customizable, allowing our customers to personally request designs, patterns, and colors on their purchases. In addition to this, we offer options for vegan recipes and hand sanitizer holders to promote healthy living, both of which are included based on our clients’ preferences.

Website Link: (in the process)

Instagram Link:



Want to see more of these businesses? Join the entrepreneurs at the Green Business Leaders Event on Thursday April 29th from 6pm-7:30pm. Registration for the event will be available soon!


Green Buildings LEAD Project Group Blog

Have you ever wondered what impact your home has on the environment? Or how you can lower the environmental impact of an existing building? The 10th grade Green Building LEAD group has created a blog detailing how to make buildings more environmentally friendly. To learn more about their suggestions, follow this link to view new blogs every Friday! 


Alumni Corner – Special Family Edition

By Andrea Dunn

For this newsletter, Andrea interviewed two MarinSEL Alumni and one current MarinSEL student. They are all sisters and a dedicated MarinSEL family. Read on to see what they have to say about their experiences. 

The Anderson’s, Ava (22), Mina (20) and Sylvie (18), have either graduated or are about to graduate from the MarinSEL program. Ava is currently at the Oregon Ballet Theatre dancing, Mina is enrolled at University of St Andrews (in Scotland) studying sustainable development and international relations, and Sylvie is about to graduate this year from MarinSEL. We thought it would be interesting to hear from all three of them!

  1. What did you hope to get out of MarinSEL?


I hoped to develop public speaking skills and confidence in the classroom. In middle school, I was made fun of for being “dumb” because I had blonde hair (such a classic middle school insult) and was afraid to participate and get a question wrong. But now with MarinSEL, after being surrounded by classmates who knew me well in every subject, I feel comfortable participating in everything and that has carried over to my non-MarinSEL classes and hopefully to college as well! I was also a very nervous public speaker before MarinSEL, but after many, many, MANY presentations (again in front of classmates I felt comfortable around) I can confidently give a presentation in front of any crowd with very little preparation. Thank you, MarinSEL!


I think at the beginning, I was looking for a smaller high school community and more specialised learning, but once I began in MarinSEL I  became more interested in the real-world skills not typically focused on in high school. Communication skills, professionalism, and–like Sylvie mentioned–confidence in public speaking etc., were all part of the learning I was most excited about.


I wanted my high school education to be within a small focused group as well as academically challenging. I had always attended public schools and I hoped for something that was a little different. MarinSEL was that perfect in-between and I was very excited about that. 

  1. What did you gain from being involved in MarinSEL?


Definitely the smaller things I mentioned when answering the first question, but in the big picture I gained a stronger sense of self. With the ongoing work we do in MarinSEL figuring out our strengths and opportunities for growth, I have found my passion for communication. I always knew I was a social person, but after my classmates nominated me for the Communication Award I realized it was much more than a social skill, but a professional one as well. Now I am planning on majoring in Strategic Communications and then starting a career in public relations. And of course, I would like to mention that I have gained my lifelong best friends from this program.


I gathered the confidence to present myself as a capable individual despite being young or lacking experience (particularly senior year and first year at university). It helped me learn what I most value in a learning experience; where learning is goal-oriented and driven by curiosity rather than end-results or grades. These learning outcomes differ from most other high school experiences (or so I think based on hearing my non-california/non-US friends’ perspectives) and have created a strong foundation for future learning and personal confidence. 


I liked being with a smaller group of people throughout the day for a lot of my classes starting out as a freshman.  It made coming to TL a lot easier, as it seemed so big. I was in the earliest group of people heading through the program and it’s still interesting to hear what has changed over the years as well as what stayed the same.

  1. What’s one fun memory you have?


Oh my… how do I choose one?! I guess I will have to say the time in freshman year when one of the guys told me that football was harder than waterpolo. I created a Google Slides presentation and Mr. McClintock gave me 15 minutes of class time to present. By the end of the presentation, multiple water polo players were standing there with me and everyone in the audience was laughing, discussing and arguing all in good fun. We still have videos! Another funny memory is when half the class got chased by a skunk before zero period and two people got sprayed (although they still deny it). There are so many more I cannot list them all, I’m so sad my senior class didn’t get to add onto the memories this year in person. 🙁


Through hard times my junior year, our close-knit class was always there to support each other. We built a very strong community.  


So many fond memories, but definitely lots of bonding at the retreats!

  1. Anything else you want to say? 


I cannot wait for our first reunion after being in college!


After being at university for 2+ years, I have spoken to many people about high school/equivalent (in the context of comparing to university work/preparation/etc.). I firmly believe that the leadership-based approach MarinSEL took prepared me with diverse learning and skills and has provided an invaluable experience and strong foundation/expectation for what education should be. 


Teacher Profiles

By Shannon Takaoka and Sonali Dev

Allison Oropallo

Can you please share a few words about your background, experience in the education field, field of expertise.

I grew up in Upstate New York where I began building with my father from age 6. He never treated me differently than my brother which caused me to be able to do the things I loved even if they weren’t “girly”. I got a scholarship to play Division 1 Ice Hockey at UCONN and then pursued my Applied Technology Education k-12 credential at The College of Saint Rose where I became an industrial arts teacher. I got my masters in Curriculum and Development from SUNY Plattsburgh at night during my 1st two years of teaching. I have been teaching in this field since I was 21. I used to work on a construction crew in the summer that was run by my middle and high school woodshop teacher, Jeff Sova. Between Sova and my father I gained the confidence, knowledge, and passion for building, construction, and woodworking. I have taught in New York State, Massachusetts, and have been at TL for the last 9 years. I also am the lead instructor at Girls Garage, which is a build camp for girls in Berkeley. I teach nights every Monday and full time in the summers at Girls garage.

What are some of your hobbies and things you like to do on weekends?

I love improving my home and am constantly working on projects. I have completely redone my house and have made it an awesome place to live. When I am not doing a project,  I love hanging out with friends on the deck I built in my yard (non-pandemic times). I enjoy hiking, wine tasting, and hanging out with my wife and 2 dogs.

What is the impact of the remote learning model, especially for the hands-on courses like engineering and woodworking? What affected you and the students the most? Was there a silver lining?

Originally I planned on having the kids build with tools at their homes. To do this I would have had to buy tool kits for each student. Some parents and I managed to raise $10,500 to do this. However, due to Covid cases increasing to such high levels and the school being worried about liability we have decided to change our trajectory a bit. 

I have made a significant transition to my class due to COVID-19 & remote learning. I plan on doing a more in depth level of engineering instruction this spring. I hope to have experts join our Zoom classes so that students meet actual engineers and become interested in the STEM field. 

With a class of mostly girls I would love to show females how important it is for them to infiltrate the STEM careers to better engineering and the designing of our world. 

The projects this spring will be challenging and fun. One of the projects will include Rube Goldberg machines where students will learn about energy, forces, movement, solar, electrical circuits, and many other physics concepts. They will also learn about hydraulics and pneumatics by building a robotic arm that will need to function a certain task. We will learn about sustainability by designing an earth home, and much more. (See below examples of the first engineering challenge completed by students this semester.)

What tool or piece of equipment do you use the most? 

I definitely use my Makita impact driver the most in general. When preparing materials for projects my most used tools are the table saw and chop saw. These tools are critical in the hours of time I use outside of class to prepare materials for students.

Do you think it’s possible to learn engineering concepts without having access to equipment?

I do think it’s possible however what the students won’t get is the confidence building that occurs when using scary loud tools and machines. This is my favorite thing about teaching. I teach kids to overcome their fears and they leave my room more confident people. I am super bummed that they won’t get this experience however the one they will get will still be full of challenges and critical thinking skills.

What qualities in students excite you the most?

Effort! If a student never quits and can overcome failure they are the most fun and inspiring to teach. I don’t care if a student builds something that looks good. If they come in everyday ready to give 100% no matter how many times they may fall on their face they will earn an A. Building is a lot like a sport. You don’t get good unless you practice. Not all students can just pick up a drill and be good at it. If they never stop trying then that is where the magic happens. Effort is a skill that can be used in any aspect in life. By the end of my class most students become pretty good builders, but most become builders later in life with more practice. It’s the effort that gets them where they want to go.

What do you do to de-compress?

I am someone with endless energy. This causes me to have a hard time sleeping. My number one outlet in my life is working out by boxing and doing high interval, high intensity training (kind of like crossfit). Due to Covid the gyms are closed which was devastating for me so I have been slowly building my own gym in my garage. It has been my savior during the pandemic. I also love to clean and to do yard work which sounds crazy I am sure but it shuts my mind off better than any other activities. 

Another thing I love is popcorn (homemade only!). I am beyond obsessed with popcorn and look forward to sitting on the couch every single night with a huge bowl (like really big!). I share it with my dog Aubin and that is how we wind down everyday. 


New Teacher Profile

Dallas Hartwell Joins MarinSEL to Teach Environmental Leadership Seminar 

A new semester is upon us and the MarinSEL program is excited to welcome Dallas Hartwell to the faculty. Dallas will be leading the sophomores in their Environmental Leadership Seminar. We recently caught up with Dallas to get to know more about him and to find out more about what brought him to the MarinSEL program:  

Tell us a little about yourself, your teaching background and what drew you to the MarinSEL program.

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska but have traveled and lived in several countries. I was in the army and served in Afghanistan from 2008-2009 and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Political Science. My wife works in Microbiology in Davis. We have a daughter (Alice, 2) and a dog (Cookie). Prior to teaching, I worked in the Legislative Assembly Office of Alberta (Canada) and coached football. My experiences as a coach inspired me to pursue my teaching credential. I value MarinSEL’s emphasis on allowing students to have control over their education and in helping them produce real world solutions through project based learning. Also, having a young daughter, I value the environmental emphasis, as I would like to contribute to leaving the world in a better place for her to live in. 

What class do you teach for MarinSEL? How are you incorporating environmental issues/concepts into this class? Do you have a favorite lesson you’ve taught this semester?

This will be my first semester teaching Seminar. I’m looking forward to bringing in guest speakers and addressing contemporary issues as they emerge. 

The past year has been an especially challenging one for teachers and students. How are you doing? Is there anything that you’ve learned from adapting to virtual school that you’ll carry into 2021? What has this year taught you about responding/adapting to the unexpected? 

Personally, I consider myself very lucky during this period of time. We’ve remained very healthy and have been able to spend more time together. I appreciate the amount of paper that is being saved this year and am hoping I can use applications like Canvas more regularly in the future to avoid paper waste. This year has reinforced the value of community and the importance of mental health for young people. 

What’s the thing you are most looking forward to when students can get back to the classroom?

Collaboration among students when working together to tackle projects. The bonding and social skills that take place during these activities are invaluable. 

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher at TL/MarinSEL?  

Too soon to say, but I enjoy working with Ray McClintock. He and I have a lot of similar philosophies and approaches to teaching and life in general. 


Alex Robins

Can you please share a few words about your background, experience in the education field, field of expertise.

I have been teaching for 8 years, 6 of those years at Terra Linda (all within the MSEL program in some form). I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree in Education. I am credentialed in both Social Science and English, but my favorite class to teach is AP US History. It’s the best!

What are some of your hobbies and things you like to do on weekends?

Most of my time outside of teaching is spent with my family (wife and daughter). We try to get outdoors as much as possible but are definitely down for a day of playing with Legos or reading (solo or together).

What is the impact of the remote learning model, as related to the subjects you teach? 

What affected you and the students the most? Was there a silver lining?

Remote learning has been incredibly challenging for many teachers, including myself. So much of what I love about education is working with brilliant young people in the classroom or on campus. Having all of this relegated to a 13-inch screen is tough. It’s hard to build the classroom community that I find so vital to good teaching and successful learning. However, these challenges have really helped me understand the value of adaptability and modification. I’m generally a pretty anxious and rigid person and having to create lessons on the fly, deal with technical issues, and figure out how to assess mastery has been so helpful to my instructional practices.

Can you share your experience teaching AP class in the new 4×4 schedule in the 2020-21 school year?

The 4×4 schedule has been really tough on AP students/classes. While we get to really immerse ourselves in the course skills and content, working together four days a week, the time crunch has been pretty intense. The workload on students has had to increase due to this compact schedule and now my Fall Semester students will have to meet up with me in the Spring to review for the AP Test they haven’t been working on for a few months. Before this year, I had wanted TL to consider switching to this schedule. Be careful what you wish for!

As students start planning their 2021-22 courses, what tips would you give them when considering AP classes for their educational roadmaps?

I think an important factor to consider is burnout. I know that we’re in a very competitive time with regards to colleges and that many students feel that cramming their schedule with as many AP classes as possible is the best option. I’ve found, however, that being strategic with courses in balance with other activities in and outside of school really gives colleges the best sense of a student. It’s better to take 2 AP classes and do well in them/pass the Tests than to take 4 or 5 AP Classes and only pass 2 Tests while getting no sleep and eating poorly. Thriving, not surviving, should be the focus!

What would you say is the thing that students struggle with most often in AP US History? 

The most difficult thing about AP US History is the amount of content we’ve got to cover and students are expected to know. There are so many specific things to remember: laws, Supreme Court cases, important events, significant people…it’s impossible to remember all of it. But in a way, that’s kind of freeing. It is impossible to remember it all, so let’s focus on building the skills to use what we can remember to write strong arguments, make connections, and recognize trends and themes in our history.

If you could teach anything, what would it be?

I’m teaching it: APUSH 4 EVA.

What qualities in students excite you the most?

Curiosity, being ok with discomfort, humility, compassion, authenticity, and integrity.

What do you do to de-compress?

Umm…read history books. I know, I’m a masochist. But it helps me be a better teacher!


12th Grade Internship Updates

12th grade students were recently asked to interview their internship supervisor in order to learn more about their career path. As young environmental leaders who are discovering the green career pathways that exist, the interviews provided valuable insight into the variety of experiences that one can have before landing on a career that is right for them. This strong internship program not only gives students real work experience, but helps them to learn more about what it is like to work in the environmental field. Here are a few takeaways from some of the interviews… 


12th Grade Intern Emily Charlton Interviewing Jacqueline Levy – Education Program Manager at Bouverie Preserve with Audubon Canyon Ranch:

If there’s one reoccurring lesson I have learned, it’s that life is unpredictable. Sometimes things work out perfectly according to our plans, other times the universe seems to align and the perfect opportunity falls into your lap. 

For Jacqueline Levy, the universe seemed to align because of her hard work. Jacqueline has a special passion for science, one which has been present since her childhood. In college, she decided to pursue a teaching career while simultaneously participating in summer science programs and studies including a study on tortoises. After college, Jacqueline started in the education field by getting her teaching credential and starting a job teaching science to high schoolers, beginning her career as an AP Environmental Science and AP Biology teacher. 

It was in her high school classroom where Jacqueline sparked her connection with Audubon Canyon Ranch.  Jacqueline was teaching AP Biology at the high school when Julia, the Education Manager for ACR reached out to her. Julia was in charge of the Conservation Science Intensive program, a week long immersion in conservation science for high school girls interested in STEM. Jacqueline introduced the CSI program to her class as an extra educational opportunity, and many of her students applied and were accepted into the program. 

Jacqueline kept in touch with Julia, and her AP Environmental Science class began going on field trips at ACR preserves the following year. That was when things seemed to align perfectly for Jacqueline, and she decided to make a risky career change. She had been feeling less enthusiasm for her teaching job than before, and decided to quit her job as a teacher. Around the same time Jacqueline quit, Julia got promoted which left her position at ACR open for new job applicants. Jacqueline applied for Julia’s old job as Education Program Manager, and patiently awaited ACR’s decision on whom to hire. With only enough money for two months of rent and food, Jacqueline was finally hired as the new ACR Education Programs Manager for the Bouverie Preserve. 

If there is one core idea I learned from my interview with Jacqueline, it is that taking a leap into something new can change the course of your life and be extremely rewarding. Jacqueline’s piece of advice to me was to “say yes to things!,” and to be unafraid to leap into new opportunities. Keeping your connections is key to discovering new things about yourself and what inspires you, and connecting with others will help you find your own path. Sometimes the universe works in your favor, but hard work and saying “yes” to new things is what allows you to harness the unpredictability of life!



12th Grade Intern Joey Scardina Interviewing Howard Bunce with Clean Marin:

For my interview I asked my supervisor Howard Bunce, who works at Clean Marin, some questions regarding his field of study, place of employment, and other questions related to his job. Howard got his degree in environmental technology focusing on water quality and material management and started with Clean Marin just four weeks after graduating, which is how he got started in his field. He likes working with Clean Marin a lot because it is what he went to school for, as Clean Marin is a county wide program based solely on water quality and litter in marin. In his words, he couldn’t ask for a better fit as to what he wants to do as a career because he works with a great team who is very supportive. He also enjoys how he gets to work with the municipalities and city and how the job has a lot of aspects to it so he is always doing something different depending on the time of year. 

One project Howard just completed was all the dry weather flow monitoring for all municipalities in the county, which he had to complete before the rain came. It included a lot of visual monitoring, driving around the county, and checking outfall in drainage. A current project of Howard’s that he is constantly doing is managing the MCSTOPPP and Clean Marin websites and social media. He also assists all municipalities in the county with permit compliances because each has their own storm water permit to prevent pollutants in stormwater, and new permits means new supporting documents and guidance manuals. Statewide and regional water agencies discuss different aspects of the permits and keep track of upcoming requirements and rules, and Howard attends meetings on behalf of the municipalities. 

When I asked Howard what his opinion on paper straws is, he said that one of his jobs is to go around every municipality, and in commercial, industrial, and mix use lands they had to do a walking visual survey assessing trash levels (counting pieces of trash within a block) on a scale of low, medium, or high. One thing he saw was plastic straws everywhere which has led him to having a strong dislike for them. Howard is all in favor of paper or any other type of natural straw, and mentioned that he also sees straws in creeks.

Howard chose Clean Marin because two weeks before he graduated he had his first interview, and originally planned on taking a few months off to take it easy after school. Although, his mom was on the job list for Marin County and saw the job and sent the posting to him. He also knew he loved working in water pollution quality and was drawn to MCSTOPPP, and he loves working with kids and students, which is part of his job at Clean Marin. 

Howard says that the most rewarding part about working with Clean Marin is being able to protect the environment and water quality, and getting to work with the public in doing so. The most challenging part is dealing with the public (ie: trash behavior overtime, being patient and knowing efforts will take years or decades to make significant change) and having difficulty in the costs of programs and things to keep pollutants out of the water. The ultimate goal is cost prohibitive to the point of being non-realistic, but Howards says that he accepts knowing he can do his best but can never be perfect. 

After telling Howard that I have interests in political and environmental science I asked him how I could best leverage my previous experience for those fields. He said that nothing happens in a bubble and that everything happens in relation to the public, government agencies, and private sector. I’ve learned communications and learning how to work well with others, which is paramount in whatever avenue I follow in those fields.


12th Grade Intern Ruby Prose Interviewing Ashley MacDonald – Program Manager with All One Ocean:

The Monday before Thanksgiving holiday, I had the pleasure of sitting down with my internship supervisor after teaching our last class of the first course of Ocean Warriors. Ashley MacDonald has been working with All One Ocean for about two years now, and it has fit into her life perfectly with her family and career goals. 

Since graduating college and finding her first job, Ashley has known that she wanted to do something in environmental protection and education. In college, she studied anthropology and religion, which is not directly related to her career now, or the path she would follow. But in finding her first job, she moved to San Francisco and started working at Earth Island Institute, a nonprofit environmental organization and fiscal sponsor to more than seventy-five projects working in the areas of conservation, energy and climate, women’s environmental leadership, international and Indigenous communities, sustainability and community resilience, and more. Earth Island Institute is the umbrella organization that All One Ocean, my internship organization where Ashley works now, is a part of. She worked as an administrative assistant, answering phone calls, and sorting mail, but said that it was a great experience for her because she got so much exposure to environmental work. Getting to observe the people around and learn from experts who worked there is what inspired her to start her career path in educating about and advocating for the environment.

After a year, and finding her true interests there, she moved to a job with Americorps at the San Francisco Conservation Corps, which “ motivates and connects youth with inspiring work, quality education, and a better future,” and worked with high school kids which would be a precursor for her work at All One Ocean. Ashley would work with these older kids in high school who would then pass on this information to middle school level kids. She absolutely loved it and knew that her dream job, where she wanted to end up, was teaching kids. She only worked with the high school and middle school kids for one year, but they did several cleanups, habitat restoration and recycling projects. She laughed to herself when she told me that it was a long time ago, but reminded me that at that time, teaching people about the importance of recycling was just becoming big, and was really important work.

Ashley realized then that she loved working with nonprofit organizations. Because she had done a little bit more work with other different groups besides Earth Island Institute, she felt they could be better managed. She left San Francisco to attend business school, so that she could take her love of working for the environment and combine it with management of programs such as nonprofits. Her point of view was that it was so nice that so many people wanted to help make a difference, but that they should be better paid for that work that they were doing. Following school, she moved back to San Francisco and worked with an environmental accounting company, of which their biggest client was Chevron. They worked to add up the cost it would take to clean up all of their environmentally hazardous sites, so that they would have a number to put on their balance sheets. She didn’t mind the job, but it wasn’t something she loved and she wasn’t passionate about it. She missed working with kids because she had loved that so much.

When Ashley first got pregnant with her older daughter, Gracie, now 10 years old, she stopped working all together. Being able to spend time with her daughter and with her family made her so happy and she wasn’t finding a job that she really wanted to work, instead focusing on this wonderful time with her family. 

Two years ago, Ashely found All One Ocean. The appeal was that she would get to work with high school students who would teach younger kids, and still spend time with her family. She started mostly working on organizing and holding beach cleanups, something that my other supervisor, Annie Greene now works on, but then moved to Ocean Warriors after a few months. The model of Ocean Warriors is one or two interns teaching elementary school kids about the environment, with a focus on oceans. Ashley creates a lot of content and curriculum, as well as supervising classes. It used to be in-classroom, but now is over zoom, and we just finished our first course about watersheds. We are planning to start our next course about the four R’s – reducing, resuing, recycling, and rot – in the coming weeks. Ashley only works for All One Ocean for five to ten hours a week, which is another key factor for her, more time with her kids! This job is great for her lifestyle and interests. She loves who we work with, and loves the attitude of our director, Nicole Cibellis, which follows the idea that if you can think of something to do, do it! The job provides tons of freedom, collaboration, and allows Ashley to work on what she loves. Watching her work at an organization that focuses on something I’m passionate about is inspiring for me, and seeing that a job can be fun, and fit in with certain desires like flexibility for free time with loved ones, makes me want to follow in her path. 


Teaching in the Virtual World

At MarinSEL we are proud to have creative teachers who are prioritizing assignments that will inspire students in this time. Despite being physically isolated, MarinSEL teachers are focusing on student collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Teachers have also been leveraging remote learning and providing students with unique opportunities for creativity and problem solving. Click here to take a peek into a few of the MarinSEL virtual classrooms… 


Allison Oropallo – Engineering

Wow, the engineering class has been hard at work with their first project of the semester. Students were tasked with creating cardboard lamps and they got very creative! Ms. Oropallo has no easy task teaching a virtual engineering class, however, she has done an incredible job designing and organizing the course. While all virtual, this work exemplifies high quality project-based learning. See below for some pictures of the students’ cardboard lamp creations!


Ray McClintock – AP Gov, 9th Grade Seminar, 12th Grade Internship

The 9th graders are hard at work on their new LEAD projects in Environmental Seminar. Currently, students are working on their research projects that will inform the project moving forward. We have an incredible group of community partners working with the students this semester. The Microbeads project is supported by Sahar Golshani from Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District. The Air Quality project is supported by Climate Corps Fellow – Associate at San Rafael City Schools, Ben Bronstein. Carolyn and Dave Anderson, founders of Monarch Gardens, are both supporting the MarinSEL Garden group. Michael Whiteley, a motivated parent volunteer, is supporting the Wildfire group. The Recycling at TL group is currently being supported by Climate Corps Fellow – Environmental Education Associate, Beatrix Berry. 

In the AP Government class, we have just taken a pause on economics as we pivot towards AP Government. Coming up, we have guest speaker Debbie Raphael, the Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, coming in to speak about the intersection of government and the environment. 


Sara Frack – AP Environmental Science

What a semester this is turning out to be! The juniors and seniors taking AP environmental science right now must complete a year’s worth of curriculum in four months with mid-winter break and spring break reducing that time to three and a half months. The good thing is that they’re getting a taste of what college classes are like! The abbreviated time frame means that we don’t have time for many of the projects and guest speakers that we usually enjoy in the class. The topics we study are interesting and applicable to life, so the students are always engaged and curious. It is a pleasure to see how resilient and positive they are despite the difficult circumstances. I am looking forward to seeing many of them in-person soon starting next week!