Campus News

Mavericks Making Waves: May 2020
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager


Mavericks Making Waves is our latest roundup of exceptional student and faculty accomplishments and activities happening beyond Nueva's walls.

Senior Ryan G. to Appear on NPR’s “From the Top” on Sunday, June 7

Senior Ryan G. began playing the piano when he was 3 years old, and he said he has clocked more than 14,000 hours of practice since. 

“I’ve loved nearly every moment,” he shared.

Ryan’s practice has certainly paid off, as he’s set to appear on the NPR show From the Top at 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, on Bay Area stations KOSC (90.3 FM) and KXSC (104.9 FM). In addition, his interview with Peter Dugan and his performance of Liszt’s “Paraphrase of Verdi’s Rigoletto” will be broadcast on NPR stations nationwide during the week of June 1. 

Ryan first caught the attention of From the Top producers when he was studying at the Tanglewood Institute’s Young Artist Program during his freshman year. 

“Due to timing issues, I wasn’t able to participate then,” he explained.  “Ever since, I have been searching for the right moment to reach out to them, and I’m really grateful that it turned into a kind of culminating event.” 

Ryan has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City six times, and won 15 international competitions during his high school years. He is the founder of the Nueva Musical Outreach Club, a club that aims to nurture musical talent and share it with the community. 

We invite everyone in our Nueva community to tune in on Sunday and support Ryan!


Three Nuevans Named National Merit Scholars

Three Nueva seniors were named National Merit Scholars on May 13. Amy C., Nikhil P., and Merritt V. are three of 2,500 students selected from a pool of more than 15,000 finalists. 

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, students selected “demonstrate the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies,” and the number of winners named in each state is proportional to the nation’s percentage of graduating high school seniors. One hundred and sixty students from the Bay Area were named National Merit Scholars.

“Being awarded the National Merit Scholarship lets me celebrate my hard work in high school and motivates me to continue doing my best,” Amy said.

"I’m very grateful for the recognition,” Merritt shared, “and I’m thankful for scholarship programs like this one that support high school students. I do think it is important to recognize that a test is one very small metric, and I’m glad that at Nueva we value one another’s hard work and passion more than their test-taking abilities."

Nikhil said, “I think it's great to have this recognition and the monetary scholarship that goes with it, but I think it's important to remember that these tests should not be a measure of one's self-worth; at the end of the day test-taking skills are quite meaningless in the real world.”

Amy and Nikhil plan to pursue computer science in college, while Merritt plans to pursue engineering. To honor this prestigious achievement, each student was awarded a $2,500 college scholarship. 

Congratulations to Amy, Nikhil, and Merritt! 


Nueva Robotics Team, Bot-Provoking, Earns Prestigious Chairman’s Award

On May 19, the Nueva Upper School robotics team, Team 4904: Bot-Provoking, received word that the team had been awarded the FIRST California Chairman’s Award. FIRST—which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—is an international organization that operates robotics competitions for students, and the Chairman’s Award honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the mission of FIRST. 

“Their whole goal is to inspire kids to go into STEM fields,” Bot-Provoking faculty mentor Michelle Grau explained. “In order to keep the focus on that, and not just on winning competitions, FIRST encourages teams to do outreach. They’ve even structured the program so that winning a competition is actually the third highest award.” 

Nueva was recognized for its efforts in helping to create two First Lego League teams in San Bruno for students in fourth through eighth grades; hosting an FLL competition on campus; having a presence at maker faires and the county fair; and running a math and robotics course for the Peninsula Bridge program. 

“Because of how young our program is compared to other schools’ programs, and the fact that this award is a cumulative award based on what your team has done over the last few years, I honestly didn’t think we had a chance to win,” Michelle said. “This award means a lot to our team and our students. It’s very validating to be recognized. As a mentor, the best feeling is being able to have people from the outside tell us our team is doing great. This is especially exciting for our seniors, given the season didn’t go as they had hoped.” 

For earning the Chairman’s Award, the team will receive a coveted blue banner, which will hang above the Upper School I-Lab for years to come. 


Sophomore Nick H. Joins Fellow Harvey Milk Castmates to Sing Beautiful Tribute

Opera Parallèle, A San Francisco-based contemporary opera organization, had been slated to debut Stewart Wallace’s Harvey Milk opera on May 13, and Nueva student Nick H. ‘22 was preparing for his role as Young Harvey Milk. 

Even though the opera was postponed until November due to the coronavirus, the cast presented a beautiful tribute to Harvey Milk this week on what would have been his 90th birthday. It was a particularly special tribute to a San Francisco hero, as the video includes an introduction by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

“Having the governor of the state put in an introduction to this song is incredible,” Nick said. “A government official who is in a high state of office gave such a positive commemorative speech, and that’s reflective of the change of heart that Harvey brought to the nation about LGBTQ rights, both before and after his death.” 

Nick got his start in opera in 2015 when he was cast in an understudy role in the San Francisco Opera’s production of The Magic Flute

“It was a fantastic experience,” he noted. 

Nick has  been auditioning ever since, singing a solo with the San Francisco Symphony for Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, and eventually being double-cast as Young Harvey Milk. 

The show will eventually go on, and Nick will take the stage in Harvey Milk as Opera Parallèle will announce new dates once it’s safe to gather again.


Two Nueva Teachers Named MIT Excite Award Winners

Every year, the Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes 25 K–12 educators from across the United States with the Excite Award for their exemplary work facilitating project-based programs in their schools. This year, I-Lab engineer, Christine Braun, and Upper School science teacher Michaela Danek were named recipients of the Excite Award. 

“I am super excited about the award,” Christine said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from other educators about invention education.” 

At Nueva, Christine teaches design engineering courses to Middle School students. She is also the coach for the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team.

For her eighth-grade class, she developed the project “Gravity Racers,” in which students work in teams to build a car that they then race from the top of the lower loop to the Mansion. 

Christine said, “The cars are decorated and it’s so much fun!” 

Michaela, who teaches Upper School biology and chemistry courses and is the tenth-grade dean, is excited about the opportunities winning this award brings her. 

"I’m really looking forward to the experience to further develop the biology curriculum, something that we’ve been working on for years," she said. "I applied for this award with our Agar Art project, a centerpiece of the tenth-grade biology curriculum. I’m hoping the professional development experience will enrich this project even more and I can’t wait to bring my learning back to the team!"

Congratulations, Christine and Michaela!


Nueva Team Receives Math Modeling Challenge Distinction

For the last 10 years, Upper School math teacher Ted Theodosopoulos has helped prepare teams of students for the annual M3 Challenge. For the first time in his coaching career, a Nueva team has earned recognition for its work. The Nueva team—composed of juniors Elliot C., Ryan C., Sebastian D., Joseph K., and Nikhil T.—was recognized by the judges with an honorable mention distinction and the $1,000 scholarship prize to go with it. They were one of only 22 teams to receive this recognition, and of 760 teams entered into this year’s competition, only 4.8 percent were awarded scholarship prizes. 

This contest, open to high school juniors and seniors from across the United States, challenges teams to tackle a real-world problem under specific time and resource constraints, which, according to the M3 Challenge website, are “akin to those faced by professional mathematicians working in industry,”

“I love sharing this competition with my students because it shows them that math is everywhere in the world,” Ted said. “The competition also puts front and center the importance of communication, as students need to write and present their work to the judges in the form of a 20-page paper. No matter how smart a team is and how good their model may be, if they don’t communicate their models effectively they won’t earn recognition.” 

At the end of February, the Nueva team was given a 14-hour window to complete the challenge over a weekend.

“This challenge requires students to work collaboratively in a very genuine way,” Ted shared. “Given the short time they have to complete it, they need to rely on one another to get everything done. I’ve noticed that the students who participate in this challenge become more effective collaborators in the classroom.”

The 2020 challenge asked teams to create a model to predict what percentage of semi-trucks will be electric in the next few years and decades and determine the number and location of charging stations along major U.S. trucking routes. 

“These challenges always deal with problems related to real-world topics, such as daylight saving, food waste, and higher education,” Ted said. “At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily the learning of math that’s most important, it’s learning the importance of math in the world.”

Congrats to our Nueva team for earning such high recognition!

Read More

Pride at Nueva

For the first time in 10 years, Nueva families and students were not able to participate in the parade as it and many other Pride events throughout the world were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. While members of the Nueva community were certainly disappointed, the support our students, faculty, staff, and parents have for the LGBTQ+ community remains strong.

Teachers and Students Participate in Environmental Citizenship Workshop

Nueva’s first internal Environmental Citizenship Curriculum Development Workshop was held virtually on June 22–26. Important topics included “What are the characteristics of an environmental citizen?” “How are we already developing environmental citizenship at Nueva?” and “How does/can environmental citizenship relate to your curriculum?”

Maverick Weeks

During the week of June 15, our parents and students met with teachers on Zoom for their end-of-the-year conferences. More 350 Nueva students, across all divisions, participated in nearly 45 online-classes hosted by our enrichment partners and visiting educators.

Alumna Audrey Chin '19 Reflects on Nueva Athletics

Each year, a Nueva alum is asked to speak at the end-of-year athletics celebration and reflect on his or her time as a Nueva student-athlete and what he or she learned through involvement in our program. This year, we were honored to welcome back Audrey Chin '19, freshman at Harvard University and a member of the Harvard Women's Swimming and Diving Team. Audrey shared these reflections.

Fireside Chats Ignite Interesting Discussions

In the midst of the COVID-19 “new normal,” the popular Fireside Chat series has sparked many engaging discussions. Hillary Freeman, Jennifer Paull, Tanja Srebotnjak, Alegria Barclay, and Aron Walker took the lead a few months ago to provide the Nueva community with a relaxed forum to discuss some timely topics

​​​​​​​Environmental Citizenship during COVID-19 

For environmental educators, the pandemic creates a unique opportunity to engage with students in real time and on multiple fronts. Teachers can bring their disciplinary lens to examining the environmental effects of the pandemic with questions such as “What are the changes, where do they occur, and how do we measure them?”

Gary Kaplan and advisory

Gary Kaplan—Nueva’s favorite lawyer-turned-educator—retires from Nueva after 10 years as a humanities teacher and coach at the Middle School. Hear Nueva students reflect on the ways Gary had an impact on their lives.


Diane Rosenberg speaking at a podium.

After 19 years, we bid farewell to our beloved head of school, Diane Rosenberg. Students, teachers, alums, and trustees from the last two decades return to reflect on Diane's many contributions to Nueva and her lasting legacy.