The Saklan School

Skip to main content
Mobile Menu

Lower School

The Saklan School offers a unique, integrated approach to your child’s elementary education experience. Our small class sizes mean Saklan teachers have the ability to focus on your child as an individual, and create an authentic sense of community in the classroom.
Students at The Saklan School appreciate each other’s unique qualities and contributions. Students have access to a learning environment that is caring, challenging, differentiated and provides a successful balance between academics and enrichment. Our small class sizes encourage students to feel comfortable to take intellectual risks and think outside the box.

Core Curriculum Approach


The Lower School math curriculum connects mental math and logical reasoning skills to mathematical concepts and applications. Curriculum standards are set for each grade level to align and surpass California state and national standards. The curriculum developmentally spirals and teachers create meaningful learning opportunities through manipulative, cooperative learning, problem-solving, and real-life applications.

Language Arts

Our classroom teachers provide many opportunities and experiences for students to learn language in all its varied forms-reading, writing, presenting and listening. Built around the strong connections between reading and writing through core literature pieces, the Language Arts curriculum provides students with the language abilities needed to communicate effectively. Literacy is also integrated into many other aspects of the school day including meetings, art, science, math and social studies.

Social Studies

The social studies program follows a specific continuum. An integrated approach is used to connect with all the academic areas that are being taught. The program also seeks to develop a respect and understanding for individual differences and commonalities.

Science & STEM

Science is taught by the classroom teacher and the Middle School Science Specialist. The classroom teacher provides interesting lessons incorporating Next Generation Science Standards. Science lessons provide rich content and hands-on experiences. Students also go to the science lab and go in depth into the scientific method with the science specialist. Students in the Lower School have many meaningful activities to build on their love of science and its real-world applications.


Enrichment and Specialist Subjects

In addition to core subjects, we also offer Spanish, Music, Art, Physical Education, and Library, all enhance your elementary student’s ability to discover more about themselves and the world around them.

The Lower School Spanish program makes foreign language learning a cultural adventure. Through cultural-awareness activities we focus on the gradual development of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in each level to foster a positive attitude toward language learning. Students in the classroom are exposed to a variety of activities in which they engage to access the content. When possible, tiered activities are provided to allow students to work at the same content but with different level of support. We also leverage technology to allow students to experience the concepts and content of the program to provide opportunities for students to work independently to practice and reinforce their emerging skills.

The Lower School Music Program is a living and active curriculum based on real performance experiences. Using voices, percussion, and pitched instruments such as ukuleles, Orff xylophones, drums, piano, and guitar, students explore and discover the different elements of Music Theory, History, and performance.

The Visual Arts department at Saklan offers a truly unique, challenging and contemporary arts curriculum. We believe that the arts are best expressed through each child’s own voice, imagination, and eventually his/her mark. At the Saklan School, we believe that an understanding of art tools, techniques, and theories can and must be applied across all disciplines. The goal of the art classes is to help develop creative, confident and independent learners.

Our Physical Education provides our elementary students to explore the relationship between practice (routine, repetition, and intensity), and motor skill acquisition. Students learn how to learn by helping each other. They practice how to organize and cooperate for healthy competition. If conflict arises, students experience how to resolve issues in a constructive manner. Emotions surrounding games and attitudes towards facing challenges are discussed. Every student has the right to feel comfortable in order to learn at their own pace and accept new challenges. To promote student movement, time for recess is provided daily, and physical education classes meet three times a week.

Your child’s learning at Saklan, by grade

First grade

First grade is an important time in a child’s life. They are evolving in important ways, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. At the Saklan School, we look to support our first graders in their growth, and develop a strong sense of community within the classroom.

Math is integrated throughout the day from morning calendar activities to various projects that require counting, measuring, estimating and other skills. First grade focuses on place value, graphing, algebra, geometry, addition and subtraction facts through double digits up to 99 and problem solving using various strategies. 

First graders read and write a variety of texts. Emphasis is placed on phonemic awareness, sight words and spelling patterns in reading and writing. Editing for grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure in informational and creative writing increases throughout the year. Students present oral reports and memorize, recite, and perform poetry frequently. 

Students develop an understanding of Social Studies by studying their own place in space and time. Students learn about their place in the community and compare rural, urban and suburban communities. Global emphasis is placed on multicultural folktales and homes around the world.

Science is taught through thematic units and is integrated into other parts of the curriculum. Units include space, simple machines, plants, weather, earth materials and animal habitats. They also take part in labs where they learn about light and energy. Students sort, classify, compare, investigate and observe as they use the scientific method in many hands-on experiments. In the Science/STEM Lab, students are introduced to coding, discover what is inside our bodies, and human life stages.


Maria Puno
1st Grade Teacher

• B.A. in Psychology

• M.A. in Family Life and Child Development


Maria Puno has been an educator since 1996. She began her career as a preschool teacher and taught at various schools in the East Bay. Prior to teaching at Saklan, she worked at Sylvan Learning Center as a tutor where she taught Beginning Reading and Math to children between the ages of 5-8 and Academic Reading to 1st to 5th grade students. After a couple of years she was promoted to Director of Education. She moved on to Kindercare where she was hired as a Program Specialist and later on promoted to Assistant Director.
Maria became part of the Saklan community beginning in 2008. She started in the ECE program and transitioned to 1st Grade Teacher in 2012. Her philosophy is for children to learn and have fun at the same time with an ultimate goal of helping every student reach their fullest potential.
Outside of work, she enjoys cooking and her family likes going out to different restaurants to taste and explore different types of food. She also loves to watch HGTV and Food Network.

Gina Gabriel PictureGina Gabriel
1st Grade Teacher

• B.A. in Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

• M.A. in Early Childhood Education, The George Washington University


Gina has more than a decade of teaching experience. She sees herself as a lifelong student who loves learning together with the children she works with. One of nine children, she had to be very adaptable and flexible growing up.  As a young girl, she would play teacher to her sister with Downs Syndrome, but discovered as she grew older that her sister was her best teacher of all time.
When not in school, Gina loves spending time with her husband and two kids, discovering nature and working on various home improvement projects. 


Second Grade

Second graders are at an age where they are striving to understand the curious world around them and, in the right environment, have an amazing capacity to learn and thirst for information. At the Saklan School, we provide an abundance of learning opportunities in a safe, personal environment to help each second grade student blossom.

Math is integrated into all subjects. Students learn place value, fact families, computation and regrouping (+/-) up through four digits, graphing, fractions, money, time, geometry, estimation, algebra and measurements. Single digit multiplication and division up through at least 5 is also taught. Special attention is given to critical thinking and problem solving.

Students learn reliable spelling and editing strategies that they can apply to both familiar and unfamiliar words, and are expected to be accurate and precise in spelling and grammar. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs are emphasized. The students learn to read and write a variety of texts, and write and publish many multiple page stories, book reports, and books. Public speaking is a major emphasis, with many oral reports and poetry recitals being a feature of this year. Cursive is also introduced in second grade.

Students progress in Social Studies, from learning about where they live to where they are from while researching their Family and Heritage. In class the students become immigrants, passports included, and write stories about coming to America. Other units include continents/maps, Native Americans and pilgrims, presidents, and people who made a difference (biographies).

Our integrated Science curriculum develops students’ ability to understand scientific concepts through various forms of learning which include creative writing and mathematical equations. They learn about dinosaurs and fossils, mammal and animal classification, inherited characteristics, natural resources, plant growth, pollination and land forms. In the Science/Stem lab, students focus on observing rocks and minerals and investigating forces and work.


Yette Prizeman
2nd Grade Teacher/Lower School Dean

B.A. Brighton University

• PGCE Greenwhich University


Yette is originally from England and completed her teaching training at Greenwhich University. She moved to the Bay Area in 2012 with her husband and three boys. She has been teaching at Saklan since 2015.
Her educational ethos includes starting with the individual child and creating a fun, active learning environment with high expectations, where all children can achieve fully, while developing a love of learning that will last a lifetime.
Outside of school she enjoys hiking, swimming, running, yoga, and generally trying to wear out her three teenage boys and their dog!

Third Grade

Third grade students often have an enthusiastic, energetic approach to learning. They’re building skills and gaining confidence. At the Saklan School, we leverage that enthusiasm to fuel a lifelong love of learning.

Third grade math focuses on problem solving approaches emphasizing strategies, applications and problem formulation. Students learn computation & regrouping, double digit multiplication and division up to 12, decimals and fractions, geometry, fractions, statistics & probability, graphing, estimation and algebraic applications. Students use hands-on activities, mathematical projects & manipulatives that make math fun and memorable.

Through a variety of literature, students learn to read for comprehension, explore word meanings, write using correct grammar and mechanics, and use their listening and speaking skills. Students learn to use resources such as dictionaries, thesauruses, and the internet. Well organized, appropriately structured paragraph writing is emphasized. Students practice and master cursive handwriting.

Students study the geography of the United States and the world, westward movement, local Native American tribes, and pioneer life. These units are enriched through various arts, crafts, writing, literature and drama.

In third grade, emphasis is also placed on hands-on activities including numerous experiments using the scientific method. Plants, animal life, solar system, and rainforests are some of the Science concepts explored in Science. Students are involved in various research projects during each unit of study, where they choose the subject, within a given framework, that they wish to research, thereby promoting interest and encouraging responsibility. Science/STEM Lab studies focus on investigations into elements and compounds; observing physical changes and investigating changes in our atmosphere.


Lisa Rokas
3rd Grade Teacher

• B.A. UC Santa Barbara

• California Teaching CRED, San Francisco State University


Lisa grew up just down the road from Saklan in Orinda, CA. She received her Bachelor's degree in Biology from UC Santa Barbara and her teaching credential from San Francisco State University. Lisa taught high school Biology for several years before taking a break to raise her children James and Emily. In 2015, with her children nearing college, Lisa decided to resume her career and began teaching 5th grade at Saklan. The decision to teach at Saklan was an easy one for Lisa based on her long history and deep involvement with the school. It all started back in the 1980's when her younger brother was a student at Saklan (previously named The Carden School), and she drove him to and from school every day. In 2004, she enrolled her own children at Saklan and spent the next ten years serving in various roles, including room parent and auction chair, as well as multiple positions on both the Parent Association Board and the Saklan Board of Trustees. She believes wholeheartedly in the school's mission of thinking creatively, acting compassionately and living courageously, and strives to incorporate these ideas into her classroom lessons each day.

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade students often show rapid emotional and social growth during this phase of their life. At Saklan, we create a nurturing, comfortable, and safe environment, allowing your child to feel secure so they can continue to flourish intellectually and academically.

Students study Math through work on numeration, computation, and regrouping numbers through the millions. They multiply and divide multiple digits, add and subtract fractions and decimals. Fourth grade math gives students a greater understanding of measurement techniques, geometry, and algebraic thinking. Students learn the standard and metric measurement units, learn to graph and interpret data using a wide variety of tools.

Students transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. Students read a lot of non-fiction text to collect information. Content related literature is integrated into the social studies and science curriculum. The focus is on reading comprehension. Students are exposed to various kinds of literature and continue to write letters, responses, essays, fictional pieces, poems, and several research reports.

Students expand on their Social Studies by learning about California’s geography and history. They start with Native Californian tribes and recognize how various geographic regions determine the Natives’ resources. They study explorers who sailed to the Americas, look at the mission and rancho period, and experience the prospectors’ adventurous lives in the foothills with an overnight trip to Coloma.

In Science, students use the scientific method and learn to formulate predictions and justify them based on cause and effect relationships. Topics covered are: changing earth (weathering), electromagnetism, magnetism, and plant and animal adaptations. With the Science Specialist, students focus on investigations into electricity and exploring energy.

Students learn keyboarding, working on Chromebooks in the classroom. They integrate technology with every subject, specifically learning to create Google Docs and Slides, and use technology to research.


AshleyAshley Villalobos
4th Grade Teacher

• M.A. Educational Technology, CSUEB
• B.A. Liberal Studies, Minor California Studies, CSUEB
• California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, ECE Certificated, Google Certified Educator
Ashley was born and raised in Concord, CA where she currently lives with her husband and two children. A passionate educator and coach, Ashley is experienced in teaching preschool up to eighth grade. However, her heart has always been with fourth grade. When she completed her Bachelor’s degree, she studied California history so that she could be a more knowledgeable fourth grade teacher.
When she is not teaching, Ashley enjoys a variety of activities including swimming, coaching (swim team), hiking, camping, reading, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and, most of all, spending time with her family.


Fifth Grade

Fifth graders are growing leaps and bounds in their social-emotional, cognitive, and language development. At the Saklan School, we leverage these common characteristics to promote community, leadership, and problem-solving to teach to your whole child.

Fifth grade is a huge transitional year for students. They are getting prepared to move seamlessly into Middle School and are academically and emotionally ready to take on that challenge. Fifth graders are given many opportunities to build on their skills used for group and independent projects. Fifth graders are taught the importance of organizational skills, time management and study skills throughout the year.

Fifth graders go on many exciting field experiences. In the spring fifth graders attend a two night experience for outdoor education at the Marin Headlands. This program encourages an understanding of the basic principles of ecology through instruction and hands-on experiences that expands on the science content and build their sense of community at this seaside location.

Math learning emphasizes problem solving strategies, where students work independently, as partners, and in groups to develop critical thinking skills. Fifth grade math curriculum incorporates analytical thinking and applying concepts in real-world applications through numerous project-based opportunities. Students also have regular access to highly engaging online math programs that are differentiated.

Writing emphasizes the succinct development of multi paragraph essays. Students use a variety of writing elements in order to enrich their writing. Students become proficient with utilizing enhanced vocabulary, sensory words, creating exciting leads and adding effective dialogue. Students develop their writing skills by: self editing, peer editing and writing groups. Reading comprehension through fiction and non-fiction works emphasizes plot recognition, character development, inferences, main ideas, theme and text dependent answers. 

Fifth grade Social Studies focuses on United States Early History. Fifth graders have many project-based experiences to enrich their understanding of our nation’s early history. Instruction closely examines our cultural and ethnic diversity and how this “great experiment” has created a country of one national identity while valuing the uniqueness of each individual. Main topics covered are: Early Colonization; American Revolution (Causes and Effects); Constitution (Branches of Government); Westward Expansion; Civil War (Causes and Effects). 

Science instruction incorporates the ability for students to analyze, interpret, evaluate, and comprehend the world around them in meaningful ways. Instruction is presented by the classroom teacher and the Science specialist, focus on the following topics: weather, plants and animals, solar system, water, and the scientific method. The classes are inquiry based and thematically focused. Students’ assessment consists of projects, portfolios, class participation, homework, and labs.


Picture of PetaPeta Wansbrough
5th Grade Teacher

• B.A. in Education, Curtin University Perth

• California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, San Diego State University

• Western Australia K-7 Teaching Credential


Peta has 20 years of experience teaching in Australia, Japan and California. She is a lifelong learner, and dreams to inspire the same in every child who enters her classroom. Peta has a strong love for the arts and all things creative. On Sundays she volunteers with students with special needs; they and their families hold a special place in her heart.