Guidepost Montessori at Yerba Buena is four floors of vibrant learning stacked up on an equally vibrant corner of the SoMa district in San Francisco. It’s bustling here: The clamorous city, the commuter families, long lunches down the block and vivacious energy burned at the Children’s Creativity Museum across the street. At Yerba Buena, your eyes stay wide, just to take it all in. What a view! What a city! And what a school indeed.
Yerba Buena is a former AltSchool transitioning gradually into the Guidepost family, and things are going well.
“Our transition has been super positive for our staff and families,” says Head of School Emily Dahm. “Everyone is really excited to learn and to be part of an organization that is solely focused on operating schools.”
(Top photo) Emily Dahm is Head of School at Yerba Buena. (Above photo) Kristen Smith is Assistant Head of School at Yerba Buena. Photos by Connor Burtis. (Photo at top of story) Yerba Buena students Marissa (from left), Linus, Pearl, Poppy, Millie, and Alina stand in line before visiting the Children's Creativity Museum with their guides. Photo by Bobby George.
Nearly 40 of the former AltSchool students remain — ranging in grades K through six. They did have seventh and eighth graders last year, but the eighth graders graduated, and the seventh graders actually moved over to the Academy of Thought and Industry, a sister organization to Guidepost that serves grades eight through twelve.
“Their parents visited ATI and loved it, and I know it will be good for the students’ social dynamics,” Emily says. “I’m happy they all went over together, too. I know they’ll do well there.”
As for the staff at Yerba Buena, nearly all of the former AltSchool employees remain, adding along with them a new STEM guide as well as a new Assistant Head of School, Kristen Smith.
“She just started the first week of school, but she’s been so great,” Emily says. “Kristen was a science teacher at KIPP and has years of teaching experience, so she is understanding well how everything works here. She’s a real go-getter with such a great energy for this school.”
Cultural alignment and love for the work
As for Emily, this is her sixth year with Yerba Buena. She was one of the founding teachers and helped to open this campus on the corner of Fourth and Folsom.
“I have always felt very loyal to this community and have always been happy working here,” says Emily. “I feel like I helped to build this school and put so much of my own blood, sweat, and tears into it, that I feel very fortunate to still be here today.”
Yerba Buena was ready for a change. Parents are excited for the stability of a growing school network, staff is already participating in Montessori training, and students are responding well to the gradual implementation of Montessori programming into the classrooms. A full remodel of the four-story school will take place next summer.
“There is also a nice cultural alignment between AltSchool and Guidepost, and all of us former AltSchools are very collaborative and supportive of one another,” Emily says of her relationship with fellow former AltSchools, Fort Mason, Palo Alto, and Brooklyn Heights.
Emily began teaching as an upper elementary teacher in San Francisco’s public schools in 2007, a season when many teachers were losing jobs.
“I got laid off my first three years of teaching, so I went back to school for my masters in instructional technology, where I became really interested in using technology in the classroom,” she says. “That’s when I found AltSchool.”
Emily says the initial startup culture was intense and long days, but she reveled in the challenge and continues to appreciate the progressive school environment and the time with students every day.
“I went into education because I love being in school,” she says. “I love the seasonality of it! I love celebrating everything, even the small, silly things, and I really like kids. They appreciate you, no matter what.”