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.
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 Chinese, except only occasional English words where they are absolutely necessary. The focus of this beginning Chinese 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 Chinese 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, Chinese 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 Chinese II and emphasizes the development of skills in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing modern Chinese while enhancing cultural awareness. At this level, Chinese 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 year-long course is designed to enable advanced Chinese-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 Integrated Chinese (Level II Part II) and AP Chinese material. 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 their assigned readings, with the help of given annotations and dictionaries. Watching and discussing a popular Chinese-teaching sitcom Home With Kids is an integral part of Chinese IV. The ultimate goal of this course is to successfully get students prepared for AP Chinese exam.
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.
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.
Following a traditional method using Wheelock’s Latin, students learn the fundamentals of grammar by precept while engaging actively in the reading of text. They see the ways in which the word order of Latin differs radically from English, and they learn the art of identifying sentence structure through word endings. One day per week is devoted to study of the culture and history of the Roman legacy.
For much of the year, students continue with the Wheelock’s Latin system, reading passages of increasing difficulty, learning more complicated grammatical structures, and expanding their vocabulary. Late in the year, the class will shift its focus away from the study of grammar and begin devoting more time to translation, reading select passages from authentic Roman authors such as Livy and Ovid.
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 year-long course guides students through the process of reading large portions of Vergil’s Aeneid and Caesar’s Gallic War using the original Latin text. The major focus of the course is on fluency, precision, and elegance of translation, with emphasis on style and literary technique. Students complement their translation work with a broader study of Vergil’s masterpiece, reading the complete text in English and studying its larger themes in order to inform the close reading of individual Latin passages. Students also continue the quest to expand their vocabularies with frequent word lists. Students are well prepared for the Advanced Placement examination in May.
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 year-long class will be 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 year-long 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 AP level. 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.
This year-long class is designed to provide students who have advanced level language proficiency the opportunity to practice the four major language skills: speaking, writing, reading, and listening. The class focus changes each trimester: the first centers on understanding Hispanic identity; the second, on significant socio-political issues in the Spanish speaking world (immigration, racism, sexism, narcotráfico); and the third, contemporary life, featuring an opportunity to partner with The Green Valley School in Costa Rica to encourage cross-cultural communication. To facilitate discussion and comprehension, we will read works of literature, watch films, and engage in casual charlas. Students will take the AP exam in the spring.
This year-long course offers advanced level students the opportunity to study works of literature that share a single thematic focus. The theme changes from year to year, and next year it will divide by trimester. In the first trimester, we’ll study poetry; in the second, short stories; and in the third, novels. In addition to improving their reading comprehension, students in the course will hone their skills by writing analytical essays, reaction pieces, and creative responses to the works they read. Classes center around discussion and analysis of the literature, relying on the works studied to act as a window into issues of import in Hispanic culture.
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, co-chairs the Senior Exhibition Program, and serves as a coordinator of the Mastery Transcript Collaborative. Molly lives on campus with her husband, Derick, and their two daughters.
Originally from the pea-sized town of Bishop, California, Edgar is a 2015 graduate of Kenyon College. While at Kenyon, Edgar studied psychology and philosophy and played for the Kenyon Lords, captaining the team during his senior year. Since graduating, Edgar has worked primarily in education as a tutor, coach, summer trip leader, substitute teacher, lead teacher, and college teaching assistant—both abroad and in the States. Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree at Middlebury College during his summers.
At Thacher, Edgar lives in Upper School and advises freshman boys in Lower School dormitory. When Edgar is not on a horse or coaching soccer and track, he can be found teaching AP Psychology and Spanish III, hosting philosophy club or cheese table, assisting the Winters with the Christian Fellowship Club, and organizing campus weekend events with the Indoor Heads.
Thrilled beyond measure to serve as the School’s first Fisher Fellow, what Edgar loves most about Thacher is “being part of such a vibrant and unique community, dedicated to the cultivation of intentionally resilient, mindful, and genuinely kind individuals.”
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 Lo (14) and Lucy (12) 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.
University of California, Santa Barbara - BA University of California, Santa Barbara - MA
Luis joins the Language Department as a part-time teacher of Spanish. A native of Michoacán, Mexico, Luis earned a BA and MA in Spanish at UCSB. In addition to his work at Thacher, Luis teaches at Santa Barbara City College. Luis has also taught at Cate. He resides in Oxnard.
During his time at Thacher, Jeff has taught courses in Spanish, history, and economics. He is also the head coach of varsity football—having himself played four years of football at Trinity University and then worked as 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 The Hill with his wife, Kara, and their two sons.
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 team, and advises sophomore girls. A Thacher graduate herself (CdeP 2010), Iona went on to the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in the program of liberal studies (their Great Books program) and committed herself to service work both at home and internationally, often working with underserved youth in outdoors-focused programs. Iona went on to earn her MEd from Notre Dame and has since worked with middle school and high school age students, teaching English, 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 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.
Prior to Thacher, Juan taught Spanish at the Cambridge School of Weston (Massachusetts). In addition to Spanish, Juan has a strong background in sustainable development and developed a study abroad program in Costa Rica and Panama that combined Spanish immersion with environmental science, tropical ecology, and sustainable development, an area where he has experience in both the private and the public sectors. In addition to teaching Spanish at Thacher, Juan as serves sustainability coordinator and as faculty advisor to the Environmental Action Committee. He also coaches soccer and advises in Upper School. He looks forward to continuing to advance sustainability at Thacher and to leading Thacher students on language immersion trips to Central America. Juan lives on campus with his wife, Xena Grossman, their daughter, Sierra, and their dog, Asha.
Aaron teaches Latin and English and coaches football and basketball. 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—and their dog Cubby.
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.