Interview with High School Placement Counselor – Erin Stoller
Where are you originally from? I was born in Southern California, grew up in Sonoma County, and from high school on I lived in San Francisco, except for two years in France.
Where did you study? I went to a big public high school in San Francisco; Mills College – a women’s liberal arts college in Oakland for undergrad in French and Int’l Education; Junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence at the Institute for American Universities (same as Mark); Fulbright Teaching Fellowship for a year after graduating from Mills; M.Ed in Integrative Education from Endicott College.
Why did you want to work in education? My childhood had a lot of instability and school was a place where things made sense and were consistent and fair, so I have always felt a comfortable sense of belonging in a school environment, and much of my identity was formed around being a good student. In high school I got involved in student government and building community, at Mills I was the French T.A., in Aix I started doing tutoring in French, and then after coming back from France the second time — after teaching for a year through the Fulbright — I knew I wanted to use my French but I also knew I didn’t want to be a French teacher. I found my first administrative bilingual education job at a French MBA program in San Francisco, then moved on to the French-American International School in San Francisco where I was Middle School Coordinator, then High School Dean of Students for the last 10 years I was there (and where my daughter attended from K – 12, finishing with her French BacS), before coming to SDFAS as Middle School Dean of Students, almost 8 years ago. Professionally, I identify as a student advocate, no matter what role I have been in, and I do think that comes from my own background where I saw school as a safe(r) place; in all my roles, I have always wanted to help make that true for others. Next year will be my last school year at SDFAS, as I will be retiring from my career in French-American education after 31 years!
What is your most touching memory from college? My junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence, living with a French family, was life-changing. It was tough, as it was my first time away from home, but looking back it’s where I became an adult and where my French really became a part of my identity. An aha moment came while studying art history — our professor was a working artist who really taught us to SEE — and being immersed in the very paysages that Cézanne and others had painted, walking the cobbled streets of Aix and seeing and hearing the fountains, and feeling that integrated connection between art, history, nature, literature, art as an outward expression of inner thoughts and emotions, the past and the present…and realizing that I was connected to all of it and that THAT is what Education — what Life — is really about.
What is your best memory at SDFAS? I remember my very first day and how kind and welcoming Francis and Sophie were to me, and that they asked me to sit with them for lunch. Starting at a new school after 20 years at my old school, I felt exactly like a new student with no friends, a little lost, with a new school, new city, new job. Their warmth and kindness meant a lot to me. Since then, one of my favorite projects was working on the Mission Statement Task Force with Mark and a few others.
What do you love about your job the most? Aside from the very best part, which is feeling useful to the individual students and families I support on their journey on their path toward high school and hearing about the people they become after SDFAS, I love being in an environment where I can speak French and be in connection with people who are French, Francophone, Francophile. I am a big word nerd, so one of my favorite things is getting to the final draft of a letter of recommendation that really captures the individuality and potential of the student I am writing about. I also love editing and proofreading report card comments in French and English and I love the 360-degree view of students when we gather for conseils de classe.
We recently learned that there is a chance that IB French at Mission Bay will not continue to be offered after this year. Tom, Marion and I met with the IB Coordinator, and Mark is meeting with the MBHS principal to see if there is anything that we can do at SDFAS to support the continuation of French at MBHS, but as of today, we do not have a firm answer. Many of our alumni end up taking IB Spanish at MBHS and taking advanced French with Mme Addo, instead of IB French, but still, this is disappointing news. MBHS offers the International Baccalaureate Program (I.B.)The I.B. is offered at San Diego High School, Mission Bay High School in San Diego, and further north at La Costa Canyon, Vista, and San Guajome. It is a very robust academic, college preparatory curriculum for free at these public schools. Many colleges give credit for IB classes/passing IB exams. Doing the IB looks good on college applications in the U.S., Canada, and abroad because it is a known, rigorous curriculum. It is not for everybody – it is very challenging, writing-intensive, and has cumulative exams at the end of 12th(and sometimes 11th)Grade. The program is complex – please let me know if you wish to talk about it in detail. Learn more about the IB here:IB GeneralIB College AdmissionsEnrolling at your assigned public school Please go to the school’s website for instructions – or see above for MBHS or LJHS.SDUSD requires the following documents for enrollment. (Usually just #2 – #6 for private schools.)1) Proof of Residency – One of the following:
2) Immunization Records (Shot records)3) Birth Certificate or Passport4) Copy of most recent report card – you can access these on FACTS.5) Copy of Transcript – Stephanie has mailed this to your home.6) 8th-Grade Course Information Form (SDFAS prepared one for each family; they help the high school guidance counselor place our students in appropriate 9th-grade classes. Stephanie has mailed this to your home.Enrolling at any school –Stéphanie mailed a copy of your transcript and a copy of your 8th-Grade Course Information Form to your homes before the break. These are important documents – please keep an eye out for them in the mail, and please keep them safe! Together, along with report cards, these will help your assigned high school guidance counselor place your students in appropriate 9th-grade classes. Some schools will offer you a meeting in person and some will do this process online this year. Students are usually assigned by alphabetical order or by grade.We sent these documents earlier than usual so thatifyou will, or if you might attend your assigned/neighborhood public school, you can completethe school’s online enrollment form just as soon as it is available, and then choose your classes with your assigned counselor once your forms have been validated.For both private and public schools…In June,Stéphanie will prepare a final transcript, with final report card grades included, to be sent to your high school. This is one of the reasons we ask that you please keep us informed of your high school results and decisions as soon as you know.Please consider – Whether you are anticipating results, deciding amongst possible options, or just anticipating life in 9th grade, the waiting period can be stressful in its own way, so please be mindful of your own and your 8th graders’ possible ups and downs during this period between now and the end of the year, and perhaps consider focusing on the adventures to come: new freedoms, friendships, opportunities, and responsibilities, and, above all, reassurance that it is possible to get a good education at any of the high schools in the area.Please be encouraged to enjoy the last months of being with 8th-grade teachers and classmates at SDFAS!No matter what your high school pathway might be, I would like to encourage you to take intentional time over the next several months to create opportunities for your 8th graders to take baby steps toward becoming more independent. It’s important for them to feel CAPABLE of managing some aspects of their life and making some of their own decisions, but they need to PRACTICE these skills and have your confidence in their ability to do so as a foundation. In high school there will new freedoms and responsibilities, the need for more self-advocacy, weighing options, making good decisions and mistakes, prioritizing, balancing homework/fun/health/friends/family, etc. I encourage you to practice letting go in tiny ways now, allowing your 8th graders to have a voice and take responsibility, for example, setting your own alarm and getting up, learning how to do laundry, budgeting, groceries, basic cooking, and cleaning…perhaps consider having a family meeting to discuss these shifts? Fair and reasonable boundaries and logical consequences are still important, too, but perhaps reached by discussion, collaboration, negotiation. We as parents need to stay involved and engaged, as we also, sometimes heartbreakingly, loosen the reins.Pro-tip!As you finalize your choice for high school, please consider attending the school’s virtual college info night and/or other events via zoom. (Check their website!) This will give you a bird’s eye view of some of the students, staff members (and probably alumni), and tone of the conversation around student and parent support, in addition to giving you a sneak peek into the college application process and campus life. Explore the website to look for videos of events, too, to help you get a better feel for the place and its people.
High School French – For information related to SDFAS High School French classes please click here.