The following course descriptions detail the likely offerings during any school year, though specifics will vary from term to term and course lineups are always changing. Click on the course titles below for full descriptions.
An introductory level course, French I uses the “direct” or “immersion method” (i.e. students use only French in the classroom from day one) to introduce students to the French language and francophone cultures with a view to building both oral and written proficiency in the target language. The course covers fundamental vocabulary and grammatical structures essential for rudimentary communication in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to communicate comfortably in French in hypothetical everyday situations, asking questions and responding in declarative sentences (both orally and in writing), accurately using both the present and past tenses.
French II resumes where French I leaves off, building on the foundations laid in the lessons covered in the first year. In addition to the present and past tenses, students study the future, present and past conditional, and present subjunctive tenses. In the second semester, students read selected works by Francophone authors. In order to enter the second year, students must have a firm grasp of both the formation and usage of le passé composé and l’imparfait.
In French III, students continue to develop the oral and grammatical skills emphasized in French I and II and begin to focus more carefully on improving their proficiency in reading and writing. Students in French III complete an intensive grammar review throughout the fall semester, which provides them with the tools to take on increasingly challenging reading and writing assignments as the year progresses. The reading list is varied and extensive, ranging from magazine and newspaper articles to poetry and full-length novels. Students regularly prepare essays on a variety of topics, including social issues, literature, and personal experiences, to help them to refine their writing skills and aid them in developing the analytical and interpretive skills needed to form sound opinions about literature, culture and society. Required oral presentations enable students to gain confidence in their ability to express themselves clearly and correctly in French.
Building on the fundamentals introduced in the earlier French courses, this year-long course reinforces the four basic language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students are encouraged to apply their critical thinking skills to the use of their second language. Students will deepen their understanding of French culture and society using French films that illustrate multiculturalism in society. Literary texts, classroom discussion, authentic media materials, and other written and visual sources will complement the class. Both oral and written assignments require students to express themselves formally in the target language and provide the opportunity for students to perfect their skills.
This year-long course is intended for students who combine significant oral and written proficiency in French with a keen desire to master the subtler details of grammar, diction, and idiom to develop both oral and written fluency. Students will explore the themes of reflection Francophone societies hold dear. They will get acquainted with the linguistic tools and cultural codes to access various types of authentic material; the humanistic philosophers who shaped contemporary values, literature, newspaper articles, essays and any artistic form of expression. Audio and video recordings, as well as francophone films, will be studied to discuss sociopolitical issues and to provide a range of cultural material for analysis. Students should expect frequent writing assignments in response to required readings as well as frequent oral presentations. Both oral and written assignments require students to express themselves formally in the target language.
This course guides students through the process of reading large portions of the original Latin texts of Vergil’s Aeneid and Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The major focus of the course is on fluency, precision, and elegance of translation, with emphasis on style and literary technique. Students also continue the quest to expand their vocabularies with frequent word lists. Students complement their translation and vocabulary work with a broader study of both Caesar’s effective propaganda and Vergil’s masterful poetry, reading each complete text in English and studying their larger themes in order to inform the close reading of individual Latin passages.
Following a traditional college-level course of study using Wheelock’s Latin textbook, students will learn the fundamentals of grammar while engaging actively in the reading of text and acquisition of vocabulary. They will become proficient in the art of deciphering the meaning of a Latin sentence through word endings and gain a thorough understanding of the grammatical elements of Latin nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. Though this is not an immersion class where students will “speak” Latin, students will learn how to correctly pronounce Latin words and read Latin sentences out loud. They will also concurrently engage in the study of Roman art, culture, and history, producing presentations to showcase original research related to different aspects of Roman life.
For much of the year, students will continue their work with the Wheelock’s Latin course textbook, reading passages of increasing difficulty, learning more complicated grammatical structures, and expanding their vocabulary. Midway through the year, the class will shift its focus away from the explicit study of grammar and begin devoting more time solely to translation, learning about Roman history by reading select passages from authentic Roman historians (Livy, Seutonius, and Plutarch), and focusing specifically on the Punic Wars and the rise and fall of Julius Caesar. They will also concurrently engage deeper in the study of Roman art, culture, and history, producing presentations to showcase original research related to different aspects of Roman life.
Students continue developing translation skills, reading a variety of Roman authors. The primary focus is on reading for detail and accuracy, which students are expected to demonstrate both through verbal class work and through quizzes and tests on prepared translations. Late in the year, we will introduce scansion of poetry, and in the last trimester, we will read a portion of the first book of Vergil’s great epic poem of Rome, The Aeneid.
This course introduces students to Mandarin Chinese (the official modern language of China and Taiwan, also known as guoyu or putonghua). The class begins with pronunciation, tones, Chinese character writing (including practicing calligraphy with brushes and ink), and simple vocabulary study. Basically, all the fundamentals of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are constantly practiced and learned. Attention is also given to introduction to some basic Chinese culture aspects. This course is taught in Mandarin, except only occasional English words where they are absolutely necessary. The focus of this beginning Mandarin course is on listening and speaking.
With accelerated introduction of vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns, the course enables students to converse, read, and write in modern Mandarin about various real-life situations. Written exercises, dictations, oral- and listening-comprehension drills, and short-story reading accompany assignments. Chinese culture is an integral part of this course. At this level, Mandarin is used exclusively in the classroom. By the end of the second year, students should be able to use approximately 500 characters linguistically and pragmatically correctly.
This course is a continuation of Mandarin II and emphasizes the development of skills in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing modern Chinese while enhancing cultural awareness. At this level, Mandarin is used exclusively in the classroom. The traditional Chinese writing system is introduced from the beginning of the third year and students are expected to be able to convert the simplified characters to the traditional and vice-versa. By year-end, students will have covered the major grammar rules and structures of modern Chinese and should be able to read and write approximately 1000 characters linguistically and pragmatically correctly.
This course is designed to enable advanced Mandarin-learning students to further develop their overall language proficiency through intensive and extensive study of selected texts representing various aspects of Chinese culture, society, history as well as literary genres. We will use the college-level text A New China. The class emphasizes the development of students’ reading and writing skills. Oral presentation and written homework are assigned regularly. Students will be trained and encouraged to solve linguistic as well as cultural problems encountered in the course material.
This class centers around the study of pivotal periods in Hispanic history with the hope that we can, “live more humanely in the present.” Through the examination of film and works of fiction set in distinct time periods and precise locations in the Hispanic world that highlight human rights violations that took place during the era depicted, the students will address the essential question: What lessons can we learn from the past to help us to understand more clearly the issues that confront the Spanish-speaking population today? The major units focus on the repression of indigenous people, political repression, and societal discrimination, including treatment of members of the LGBTQ community and those suffering with mental health issues. Related sub-questions include: Which socio-political factors contributed to the creation of a situation that allowed for the repression of a segment of the Hispanic population? How successfully have the fictional presentations of these historical time periods replicated the reality of the situations? Does the fictionalization of the events call attention to the severity of the repression suffered? And, what can we learn from these experiences that can help us address similar issues in today’s world? The enduring understanding the students acquire centers around the recognition of the prevalence of systemic repression in Spanish-speaking countries and the historical context that facilitated its existence. Moreover, students increase their appreciation for the role of historical fiction (film and literature) as a vehicle to highlight human rights issues. The culminating project will be the production of a short film highlighting an area of repression.
The first-year program emphasizes the development of a strong foundation in Spanish in a language-immersion classroom and the mastery of the study skills required for language learning. Students are introduced to pronunciation as well as basic grammatical structures, vocabulary, and language-study techniques. This course develops basic communicative oral and written skills in order to enable students to interact in simple situations at home or when traveling. To be placed above the first level, new students must demonstrate solid mastery of fundamental language skills including speaking, listening, and basic grammar, as well as mastery of the present indicative and el pretérito.
Building upon the base established in Spanish I, this course focuses on the improvement of the students' communicative skills with the goal of bolstering their confidence and comfort level in a language-immersion classroom. While continuing the same skills-oriented approach as the first-year program, teachers place increasing emphasis on vocabulary-building, mastery of complex points of grammar, and on free conversation, discussion, writing, and reading. The year begins with a brief review of the present indicative and el pretérito and then moves quickly into new tenses. By the year's end, students will have mastered all of the tenses in both the indicative and subjunctive moods.
This class is divided into three discrete trimesters, each taught by a different teacher and dedicated to the study of a single Spanish-speaking country. Topics covered include general history, culture, literature, film, country-specific dialects, and current events. Our goal is for students to emerge, at the end of each trimester, with a good understanding of the cultural norms for each country and, at the end of the year, an appreciation for the rich cultural diversity of the Hispanic world.
This class is designed for those students who wish to continue their study of Latin American and Hispanic culture but are not ready to go on to the Advanced Spanish courses (A-B). Spanish IV is a transitional course that provides a platform for the students to dig deeper into current events and topics relevant to the Spanish-speaking world. Unlike the foundational courses (Spanish I, II, and III), this course focuses on discussing social, cultural, and environmental themes that shape Latin American countries and Spain. Students will engage with authentic material that allows them to reflect upon their role in the world. There is heavy emphasis on informal discussion, and projects (written and oral) are assigned each trimester. The students study films that address the sociopolitical issues of Spanish-speaking countries and read short stories and articles to stimulate class discussions. In the spring trimester, the course incorporates study of advanced topics, like emocional intelligence or reading a novel, to provide the students with the opportunity to employ their skills at a more advanced level.
Chair of the Language Department and Spanish Teacher
A child of faculty member parents, Molly grew up on the Thacher campus and graduated from the School; she then went on to receive her BA in comparative literature (English and Spanish) and her MA in Spanish language and literature. Molly worked at the Cate School for five years before returning to her alma mater to teach Spanish. She serves as chair of the Language Department, teaches Spanish, advises senior girls, and chairs the Senior Exhibition Program. She is the current chair of board of Independent School Gender Project (ISGP), a group with which she has been involved since its inception in 1996. Molly lives on campus with her husband, Derick CdeP 1983, and is mother to daughters Jordan CdeP 2017 and Evan CdeP 2019.
A teacher of French and English, Katherine had never ridden horses before coming to Thacher, but she soon discovered the challenges and rewards of working in the equine world. Now she not only instructs students in riding but also leads horse-packing trips. A graduate of Stanford University, Katherine taught at Belmont Hill School and Phillips Academy, Andover prior to Thacher. She likes to say that she followed her daughter, then a boarding student, to Thacher. Katherine enjoys reading, writing, singing, and spending time with her grown children and their families. She plays the guitar and has recently taken up the mandolin. Katherine’s passion for language study and international travel took her to France on School Year Abroad as a senior in high school, the first of eight years total spent living there. Striking out in a whole new direction, Katherine spent her sabbatical year, 2006-2007, in South Africa, where she volunteered for mothers2mothers, an organization that works in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. She worked in curriculum development for m2m and had the chance to travel extensively throughout sub-Saharan Africa, serving as a spokesperson and liaison for the group.
Spanish Language Instructor
Pitzer College - BA University of California, Los Angeles - MA Universidad de Guanajuato - MA
Juliet teaches Spanish here at Thacher. After 12 years teaching, coaching, and living at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT, she is excited to be back on the west coast. Juliet grew up in Oregon, but lived in southern California for 16 years, where she attended college and graduate school (Pitzer and UCLA), and started teaching high school Spanish (Westridge School in Pasadena). Juliet, her wife Stephanie, and their children Lola ’22 and Lucy, an 8th grader, love to travel. They spent a year in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain on sabbatical, often visit family in England, and Juliet recently finished a three-summer program in Guanajuato, Mexico through the Southern Oregon University where she obtained an MA in Spanish language teaching. In addition to travel and all things Spanish/Latin American, Juliet enjoys staying physically active, eating good food, playing board games, reading, and listening to audiobooks.
Assistant Head of School, Spanish and Economics Teacher
During his time at Thacher, Jeff has taught courses in Spanish, history, and economics and currently serves as assistant head of school. He is also the head coach of varsity football—having himself played four years of football at Trinity University and then worked as an assistant football coach at TMI—The Episcopal School of Texas in San Antonio, where he also taught Spanish. Jeff appreciates the tightly knit community at Thacher and enjoys the Outdoor Program, whose trips into the Sespe, the San Rafael Mountains, and the southern Sierra have taught him a lot about camping. Guided by his love of Spanish, Jeff has explored Mexico and studied in Latin America. He lives on campus with his wife, Kara, and their two sons, Hayden ’23 and Hiram
University of Toulouse, France - BA University of Toulouse, France - MA Ashford University - MEd
Following her undergrad and graduate work, Françoise taught French language and spent years working with United Nations officials and adolescents through the UN. She focused on creating uniquely customized, mission- specific courses with diplomats and UN officials and taught French Language and Literature in the International Baccalaureate Program at the United Nations International School. Her time in New York also saw her spearheading the French and history programs at theFrench American School of New York.
For Françoise, three C’s describe the Thacher community: camaraderie, caring, and commitment. At Thacher she advises sophomore girls and teaches (no surprise) French, enjoying the small-classroom learning experience that she feels benefits both student and teacher. Throughout her summer breaks during her time at Thacher she has continued teaching French to American teenagers across the Atlantic; Françoise acted as the Head Coordinator of the Language Program for the Southern France Youth Institute, an immersion program in the south of France. Her duties also included designing and sporadically teaching the customized, student-centered curriculum.
Beyond the classroom, she enjoys cooking, traveling, tap dancing, and studying linguistics and language acquisition. Françoise lives in Ojai with her husband, Alejandro, and their two children, Julian and Clemencia, who graduated from Thacher in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
English and Latin Teacher
University of Notre Dame - BA University of Notre Dame - MEd
Iona teaches English and Latin, coaches the girls' varsity volleyball and girls’ lacrosse teams, and advises sophomore girls. A Thacher graduate herself (CdeP 2010), Iona went on to the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in liberal studies (their Great Books program) and committed herself to service work both at home and internationally, often often spending summers working with different organizations in South Africa. Iona went on to earn her MEd from Notre Dame and has since worked with middle school and high school age students, teaching English and AP Art History, and coaching volleyball and lacrosse. She says of her return to Thacher: “I’m thrilled to be a member of the English faculty at Thacher and to coach the volleyball team I was so proud to lead as a co-captain. It is with a heart full of gratitude and humility that I have returned to Casa de Piedra, eager to serve the place and the people that have given me so much over the years.” She lives on campus with her husband, Tyler, and their golden retriever, Scout.
Juan joined the Thacher community in 2013. He has a bachelor's degree in natural resources management from UNED, Costa Rica and a master’s in urban and environmental planning from Tufts University. In 2015 Juan completed a professional certificate in campus sustainability leadership at The University of Vermont and is currently working on a certificate in systems thinking from Cornell University. Juan teaches foreign languages, is the boys varsity soccer team head coach, the director of education for sustainability, and head faculty advisor to the Environmental Action Committee. During his time here, Thacher has been awarded the Green Ribbon School at the Gold and Green Achiever level, the highest honor in campus sustainability in California. Juan lives on campus with his wife, Xena, their daughter, Sierra, and their dog, Asha.
Aaron teaches Latin and English and coaches football and baseball. He also provides musical accompaniment for various student productions on piano and bass. He attended Groton School, where he won the school’s Classics Prize. Aaron earned his bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University, his MA from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English, and his MEd from the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University. After his first two years of teaching English at Cushing Academy, near his longtime Massachusetts home, Aaron came west to Thacher seeking a new adventure. Soon after his arrival at Thacher, he met his wife, Theana, already a member of the Thacher faculty for four years previous to his arrival. Theana and Aaron now live in Los Padres dorm with their three children: Gavin, Zoey, and Luke.
Chinese Language Instructor
Principia College - BA Chinese University of Hong Kong - MA University of California, Santa Barbara - MA
Christina teaches Mandarin Chinese at Thacher. A native of southern California, she has spent the last 5 years teaching Chinese on the east coast. She has an MA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in East Asian studies, as well as an MA in Chinese studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She and her wife Joy are looking forward to being part of Thacher's close-knit community. Christina is especially excited to share with students three of her biggest loves: horses, Chinese, and basketball.
A college preparatory, coed boarding school for grades 9-12
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.