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Middle School


The Saklan School offers a unique, integrated approach to your child’s middle school experience. Through our small classes, hands-on curriculum and distinctive teacher/student relationships, the Middle School program prepares students well for the academic demands of high school. With many experiential learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, our students develop a passion for learning, become adept problem solvers, and learn to work collaboratively and think creatively.

Core Curriculum Approach


All Middle School Math classes use the inquiry based College Preparatory Math (CPM) curriculum. Students explore mathematical ideas in ways that maintain their enjoyment of and curiosity about mathematics, help them develop depth of understanding, and reflect real-world applications. To become good problem solvers, students need many opportunities to create and solve problems in both mathematical and real-world contexts. They also need to develop and build upon a strong number sense. This involves posing questions, defining problems, considering different strategies, and finding appropriate solutions. Working together in teams and groups enhances mathematical learning, helps students communicate effectively, and develops social and mathematical skills.

Language Arts

The Language Arts curriculum is focused on developing mature and confident communicators. Students are continually challenged to be critical and creative thinkers, powerful writers, and self-assured speakers. Throughout middle school, students take part in a variety of public speaking activities, including class presentations, role-playing projects, all-school assemblies, and musical performances. These opportunities culminate in heartfelt graduation speeches presented to family, friends, and faculty -- a truly magical Saklan moment!


Middle School Humanities thrives on collaborative, multimedia, inquiry- and project-based learning experiences to bring history, geography, and cultural studies to life. Classes include critical analysis of film, music, literature, photographs, paintings, artifacts, primary source materials, and contemporary media. The program seeks to develop a respect and understanding of human history and world cultures, while helping students come to their own conclusions about their rights and responsibilities in the 21st century.


Science goes beyond the textbook in our science lab. Hands-on discovery and experimentation encourage students to go in depth into the scientific method and develop skills in observation, description, and investigation. Students in the Middle School participate in many meaningful activities to build on their love of science and its real-world applications. Two of our three middle school experiential travel programs are developed from the Science curriculum.

Enrichments and Specialist Subjects

In addition to core subjects, we also offer Spanish, Music, Visual Arts, Physical Education, and Library, enhancing your middle school student’s ability to discover more about themselves and the world around them.
In Middle School Spanish, students learn to communicate in various contexts such as greetings, time and weather, family, friends, and relationships. As vocabulary and grammatical structures become increasingly complex, students learn to navigate their way through real-life situations including money and shopping, school and education, restaurants and museums, and family life. Students are prepared with the background necessary to be successful in high school Spanish courses.
The Saklan Middle School Music Program is based around three mixed-grade ensembles that are organized with appropriate challenge levels, as well as student preference in mind. Engaging options in choir, band, or orchestra provide our students with a solid understanding and appreciation for music theory, history, and performance.

Students posing with muscle armsThe Visual Arts department at Saklan offers a truly unique, challenging and contemporary arts curriculum. We believe that the arts are best expressed through one’s own voice, imagination, and eventually his/her mark. At Saklan, we believe the knowledge 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.
Physical Education classes provide our middle school students a chance to explore the relationship between practice (routine, repetition, and intensity), and motor skill acquisition. The physiological changes resulting from physical activity are discussed in detail, and how these changes relate to skill mastery. Students have the opportunity to play games and sports throughout the school year that promote motor skill acquisition, fitness, healthy competition, and fun.

Your child’s learning at Saklan, by grade

Sixth grade

Sixth grade is a period of self-assertion and curiosity, when students are becoming more socially expansive and aware. At the Saklan School, we support your child through their transition into adolescence by gently encouraging them to develop their personal interests and abilities, and allowing a safe environment to develop excellent interpersonal skills.

Students grow their Math skills through many topics in this first year of Pre-Algebra, with each area connected in a logical manner to enhance student learning. Some of what they are exposed to include patterns, proportional relationships, comparisons, data collection and analysis, equivalent fractions, writing expressions with variables, probability, volume, area, prisms, dividing fractions, percent applications, and coordinate graphing.
Focusing on intensive analysis of language at its roots, sixth graders are challenged to read closely and ask how/why questions to better understand both text and subtext. They practice a wide range of writing and revision processes and learn to dissect sentences to understand them on a microscopic level. How do stories work? How do they convey information and ideas? How do sentences work? How do they convey clarity and power? What's a simple sentence versus a complex sentence? What are the roles of the various parts of speech and punctuation? How do words in a sentence "talk to each other"? What’s the best word choice for maximum clarity and creativity? Our student-fueled, inquiry-based, practical approach to analyzing stories, grammar, and sentence structure is dynamic and fun.
Humanities is a combined exploration of the history, geography, and literature of specific time periods. Students learn the overarching trends from the dawn of human history through the fall of the Roman Empire. Regional emphasis includes the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome. Students hone their critical thinking skills as they gather and analyze evidence while searching for alternative perspectives. This course also explores how the above-mentioned timeless themes relate to contemporary issues.
Sixth grade focuses on the principles of geology and environmental systems. Classes are a mixture of exploratory activities, collaborative activities, long-term research, lectures, and in-depth labs. Weekly labs expand upon and reinforce the information covered in class.

Seventh Grade

Seventh graders are building their sense of individual identity as they continue to build independence. At the Saklan School, we reinforce their growing desire for autonomy by encouraging critical thinking, while providing your child with a caring environment and classroom community..

Students continue to grow in their Math skills by reinforcing concepts introduced in the first year of Pre-Algebra, while they fine tune their skills and go further in depth during this year. New topics include the Pythagorean Theorem, solving inequalities, linear and exponential growth, scientific notation, interest, slopes, solving equations, exponent rules, cones and pyramids, scale factor, circles, solving complex word problems, and transformations.


Language Arts in seventh grade expands on sixth grade's reading, writing, revising, and grammar skill-building. Students learn to read even more closely, ask thought-provoking questions, identify themes in stories and novels, and write authoritatively to prove arguments with examples from the text. Literature examples range from Shaun Tan’s Lost & Found to Aesop’s Fables to contemporary and classic multi-genre books of their own choosing.


Seventh grade social studies is designed to help students understand the overarching trends in world history that occurred between 300 C.E. and 1700 C.E. They explore the role of government, spiritual life, and cultural identity to analyze the progress of different civilizations. Regional emphasis includes the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, medieval societies of Japan and Europe, the Americas, and the Renaissance. Significant attention will be placed on the development of Islam, the growth of Christianity, and the interaction between the two.


Science learning is designed to give students a systematic introduction to the processes and categories of life, students learn to hone their observational skills by recognizing specific traits in organisms and by using these traits as criteria for classification and inference. They expand their lab skills through work with compound microscopes, slides, stains, and dissection. Students improve their understanding of the scientific process through independently designed experiments that isolate experimental and control conditions.


Eighth Grade

Eighth graders are transitioning into adolescence and developing foundational skills that will last them throughout their lives. At the Saklan School, we help your eighth grader to thrive through continual encouragement of creative thinking and problem solving skills within an inviting and safe atmosphere.

Saklan Eighth graders take a course in Algebra. This course is a thorough introduction to algebraic techniques and their applications. Basic algebraic skills will be emphasized, with some use of the graphing calculator. Topics include linear, exponential, and quadratic functions, along with polynomials, factoring and radicals.


Advanced eighth graders have the option of a geometry course. This high school level geometry class involves rigorous proofs, properties and relationships of plane figures, and trigonometric ratios taught in a challenging manner. The course is structured around problems and investigations that build spatial visualization skills, conceptual understanding of geometry topics, and an awareness of connections between different ideas. Students are encouraged to investigate, conjecture, and then prove to develop their reasoning skills.


In Language Arts, students take everything they previously learned about crafting strong sentences, paragraphs, and arguments, and put their skills into action in a variety of Humanities contexts, from personal reflections on class activities, to speeches and presentations related to contemporary issues, to mature analysis of news, social media, historical documents, literature, music, and visual art. Engaging literary works are explored, including Orwell’s “Animal Farm”; Civil War fiction by Ambrose Bierce and poems by Henry Timrod; Harlem Renaissance texts by Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen; Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”; and Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.”


Saklan eighth graders explore the concept of United States history as a continuum, from the founders to the latest news, through the lens of “Democracy in Action” (i.e., the interconnections of democracy, freedom, capitalism, and consumerism across the social, cultural, economic, and political spectra). The following are the primary points of inquiry:

  • What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?
  • What is the American Dream?
  • What is United States culture?


Eighth grade Science focuses on introducing students to the principles of chemistry and physics. During the first half of the year students master the fundamental principles of matter including atoms, molecules, the periodic table, and molecular interactions including displacement, acid-base, and combustion. The second half of the year focuses on the principles of basic physics including Newton's Laws of Motion, the forces on our planet, and how we use those in our everyday lives.


Middle School Educators

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

Picture of KimKim Parks
Middle School Dean

• B.A. and Teaching CRED, San Francisco State University


Kim Parks was born and raised in Pinole, California. Since the fifth grade, she was involved in Student Government and Leadership activities culminating in becoming the senior class president. Kim earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Sociology, as well as earning a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from San Francisco State University.


Kim has done many different jobs at Saklan over the years. Here are a few: Summer Camp Director, Extended Day Director, Learning Specialist, Fifth Grade Teacher, Language Arts Teacher, Humanities Teacher, Leadership Teacher, Advisor and Middle School Dean. Kim prides herself on being adaptable, a cooperative team player, fair, loving, and firm. She is interested and continues to study brain research and student learning, learning differences, and the importance of social-emotional learning in an educational environment.

Picture of ChristinaChristina Nguyen
Middle School Language Arts

• B.S. English, University of Houston – Magna Cum Laude


Christina graduated with a B.S in English, minoring in Education, at the University of Houston. She comes from a family of teachers and wanted to be a Language Arts teacher since she was in 2nd grade. Since then, she has lived out her passion in elementary, middle, and high school settings, but decided that middle school is where she can have the greatest impact on students. Christina has worked in both underserved communities and independent schools, where she has concentrated on project-based learning, curriculum building, and social-emotional learning in the classroom. In her free time, Christina enjoys exploring other cultures, especially with food, music, and story-telling.



Saul Zippin
Middle School Math

• B.A. UC Berkeley


Saul Zippin started at The Saklan School in 2012 and has taught middle school math since 2002. He received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley where he won a rowing national championship. He has continued his education all over the Bay Area, earning continuing education credits in CPM teaching and becoming an EMT.

Saul is a father of three, one girl and two boys, and is married to the Director of Admissions, Melissa. He enjoys spending time outdoors, doing crossfit, watching sports, and playing fantasy football.

Vickie Obenchain
Middle School Science Teacher/ Science Specialist

B.S. Elon University

M.A. Montclair State University


Since joining The Saklan School in 2007, Vickie has made science her passion with a BS and an MA in Environmental Education. She wants to allow every student to ask questions about the world around them, see the relevance of what they are learning in their life and find science fun! In the science lab, Vickie works with students in grades K-4 as their Science Specialist. K-4 students visit the lab twice a year for a 3-week unit each time. Students engage in activities that require them to work collaboratively, think independently, experiment, and problem-solve. The 5th grade students transition to visiting the science lab for their entire science curriculum and continue to enjoy the challenging and interactive activities and labs. In middle school, she sees the students 5 times a week, and incorporates labs, lectures, simulations, hands-on activities, research, field experiences and other activities to bring concepts to life.


Vickie started teaching while in college as a lab assistant and later at environmental education centers, teaching how the environment works and how people play a role in the health of their surroundings. She not only teaches at The Saklan School, but also shares her love of science with others during the summer. In past summers she has taught for Sallie Ride Summer Camp and A+ Middle School at Stanford University and UC Berkeley, teaching such topics as: Forensics, Engineering, Robotics, Marine Biology and Astronomy.



Picture of LindaLinda Lathrop
Middle School Humanities Teacher, Grade 6/Project and Inclusion Integrationist


B.A. San Diego State University

• M.A. UC Berkeley


Linda earned her M.A. in Education and Multiple Subject teaching credential from UC Berkeley in 2008. She taught at Peralta Elementary School, a small arts demonstration school and rich training ground for project-based learning and DEI work in classrooms and curriculum, from 2008-2013. During her time at Peralta, Linda also earned an Arts Integration Special Certificate, collaborated with different artists and organizations including the SF Opera, de Young Museum, and Envision Learning Partners. Linda is excited to provide opportunities for students to engage in project based learning that encourages critical thinking, explorations on identity, art, and social justice.

Linda enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering within the Lamorinda community on the Moraga School District Cultural Proficiency Committee and as the Los Perales Elementary School PTA Vice President of Community Programming and co-lead for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. 



Picture of JenniferJennifer Lettieri
Middle School Humanities Teacher, Grades 7 & 8


B.A. State University of New York, Binghamton

• M.A. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Jennifer has a B.A. in English and History with a minor in the German language, and an M.A. in American History. She began her teaching career in Brno, Czech Republic, where she taught EFL and American culture for three years, followed by one year of teaching EFL in Granada, Spain. Upon her return to the Bay Area in 2003, Jennifer continued working with international students in Oakland, teaching courses in American history and culture, business English and ESL. Jennifer also has sixteen years of teaching experience at the middle school level, including courses in American and Indigenous history and English Language Arts.

Coming to Saklan from a small progressive school, Jennifer is looking forward to being able to connect with our students by designing interactive, project-based lessons while guiding her students to find their own voices and inspiring them to take an active role in making our world a better place.
In her free time, Jennifer enjoys hiking and cycling in the East Bay hills, doing yoga, cooking vegetarian meals, listening to music, and reading as much as she can.

Grace ChaffeyPicture of Grace
Music Specialist, Grades K - 8


B.M. Butler University

• Certificate of Music Studies, University of Sydney

• M.A. Music Ed. Boston University


Grace Miazga-Chaffey began teaching music at The Saklan School in 2008. She is originally from Ohio by way of Wisconsin, and has a Bachelor of Music from Butler University and Master's in Music Education from Boston University. She spent time studying and performing Opera in Sydney, Australia and San Francisco. She is now a teacher and performer in the East Bay and lives in Concord. 


In her free time, Grace enjoys swimming, traveling and spending time with her husband and their three children.



Christian Crabtree
Physical Education Specialist

A.A. in General Education, Las Positas College

B.S. in Kinesiology, CSU Hayward


Mr. Crabtree is a Bay Area native and his family has lived in California for many generations. His mother inspired him to love aquatics and dance. His father gave him a sense for self-improvement and sportsmanship. As a child, Mr. Crabtree loved to be outdoors and went on his first backpacking trip when he was six years old. While growing up he played many sports, such as baseball, bowling, soccer, swimming, wrestling and taekwondo. Christian has been a Physical Education specialist since 1999 and joined The Saklan School in 2011.

When he is not on the sports court, he is busy helping his brother fix up the small family homestead. To relax, Mr. Crabtree enjoys sitting on the patio sipping lemonade.

Picture of IvonneIvonne Padilla
Spanish Specialist, Grades 4-8

M.T.E. Master in Technology Education, University of British Columbia


Ivonne started teaching Spanish in Mexico in 1993 after receiving her graduate degree in Instituto Tecnológico y Estudios Superiores de Monterrey joint program at The University of British Columbia. In 2007, she started teaching Spanish to non-native speakers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies-SILP in Monterey. She also taught Spanish at the Bishop O’Dowd High School for two years. Ivonne is thrilled to be teaching Spanish language and culture at The Saklan School. She encourages a nurturing environment which allows students to feel comfortable learning the language to the best of their abilities.

When Ivonne is not teaching, she enjoys hiking, reading and cooking. But best of all, she rejoices in helping students learn about Mexican culture and encourages them to take risks in their language learning journeys.