The Chandler Experience

Chandler is an unmistakably joyful school. Here, bright and curious children of diverse interests and backgrounds learn, laugh, play and grow together. Administrators, teachers and parents work in an open partnership of shared interests, values and goals.

Chandler parents are welcome and encouraged to be actively involved at Chandler. Many working parents ask, "Is it hard to be connected to my child's classroom and to other parents?" Our parent association is so strong and active, there are dozens of ways for parents with any type of schedule to meet other parents and participate in the life of the school.

The Chandler community extends beyond graduation. Alumni often visit us, and enjoy staying connected to the inspiring teachers and classmates of their childhood. Many Chandler parents also continue to get together, even as their children go to college! 
Chandler graduates, who go on to thrive in outstanding secondary schools, universities and graduate schools, often reflect that their Chandler years were "the best educational experience of my life!"

Core Academic Subjects

List of 5 items.

  • English at Chandler

    Chandler’s English program inspires students to become strong readers and expressive writers. Through a challenging sequence that teaches the fundamentals of language arts and offers broad exposure to high-quality literature, Chandler prepares students to succeed in demanding secondary school English classes.
    Yet, the greater reward of Chandler’s English program lies in how teachers use literature as a transformative experience - helping students to appreciate the broader world, and to empathize with the diverse human stories that fill it.
    For alumni such as Kami Durairaj (’13) who will attend Georgetown University after high school at Harvard-Westlake, Chandler’s English curriculum gave her confidence and the tools for success. It also qualified her to become the Opinion Section Head for the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle, the school’s highly-respected newspaper.
    “Starting ninth grade, I felt like my writing was already elevated thanks to Chandler,” Kami explains. “Chandler taught me to write eloquently and to extract a deeper meaning from texts. Mrs. Newhall’s rules about avoiding ‘bad’ words when writing essays forced me to be more conscious about my word choices.”
    In the kindergarten classroom, teachers provide the youngest learners with a solid foundation in phonics, building up to fluency in reading. And to encourage frequent writing, students in lower grades write in journals where they record experiences, observations, imaginative stories, letters and poems.
    “We encourage them by letting them read their writing aloud to the class,” notes first grade teacher Tonita Fernandez. “They are so fired up to read and write in first grade.”
    In upper grades, students and teachers read class novels together as they study the writer’s craft. Students begin to analyze literary techniques such as why figurative language is being used, and discuss the author’s point of view.
    “We also work on nonfiction reading skills, which are quite different than fiction reading,” says Connie Mohandesi, a fourth grade teacher. “With nonfiction, students learn to find the main idea, and see how details relate. They also learn to read for clues in captions and headings.”
    Technology integrates seamlessly into language arts instruction at Chandler. The No Red Ink website provides personalized online practice with grammar rules, and in the lower grades students might use iPads to listen to a story or use the Spelling City app to practice their own personal set of words.
    Beyond the essential grammar, spelling, reading and writing in each grade, Chandler students learn to read for pleasure. “It’s so important to have lots of free reading time and to help kids choose good books,” explains Mohandesi.
    And for kindling a love of reading, Chandler is the ideal environment. With two purpose-built libraries, dedicated and passionate librarians, and thriving student book clubs, no Chandler student has to search far to find a great book in a genre they love, whether that’s mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, nonfiction, humor, graphic novels, or poetry.
    “After they read a book, book reports are terrific for sharing,” says Mohandesi. For example, her fourth graders made mystery book reports as iMovies and left out the ending, to motivate classmates to want to read their book.
    Chandler students practice writing in many styles, often imitating a work they have just read. Writing genres include research papers, persuasive letters, nonfiction reports, fantasy stories, informational essays, and poetry.
    Even the interdisciplinary STEAM projects help students build their writing skills. Students must write descriptive passages about the design process and reflect on the steps they took, including mistakes and lessons learned.
    By the time students move into Middle School, they are strong readers, writers and thinkers. They can analyze the characters and conflicts in literature and put their own ideas into writing.
    Thematically, sixth grade English is built around the theme of the hero. Seventh graders extend that concept into thinking about identity and looking at injustices done to people because of identity. Eighth grade English classes study a broad range of literature that further expands their thinking around themes of identity, culture and society.
    By Middle School, Chandler students are deepening and developing themselves as writers. They have learned the basics of writing a research paper and a persuasive essay, and now begin to cultivate their own distinct voice in their written work.
    “At every grade, we try to teach and adhere to the writing process: you develop your idea, consider your audience, develop a thesis statement, decide on your support, outline your piece, write each paragraph, get feedback, revise and publish,” explains eighth grade English teacher Donna Dretzka. “Although the kids get older and more sophisticated, that process remains the same, and becomes a natural part of the way they attempt to write anything.”
    Lukas Hutzler (’13) concurs, “Chandler’s English teachers greatly improved my ability to analyze literature, find meaning in it, and write clearly about it.” Lukas will attend Bard College in New York after graduating from Flintridge Prep. “And I’ll always fondly remember reading Romeo and Juliet in Mrs. Dretzka’s class,” he adds.
    In seventh grade, students engage in a poetry project that nudges often-reluctant adolescent boys and girls to explore their voice in the world. “Poems are short, so they gain confidence from honing a small unit of work,” explains seventh grade English teacher Ashley Laird. “They can use imagery or similes to express feelings, so they don’t have to tackle emotions head on.”
    “Technology is helpful in providing fast feedback on students’ written work,” notes Laird. “I go onto Google Drive and make suggestions in real time, while a student is working on an essay, and we discuss it together live.”
    Across the board, Chandler teachers are passionate about the transformational power of great literature. “We want the books we read to help students build empathy for people in other walks of life, who may be different from us,” explains Dretzka. “Great stories bring characters’ lives into focus and we begin to understand what another person’s life is like.”
    And although empathy can’t be implanted by reading just one book, the English department intentionally teaches exceptional books that open students’ eyes to complicated human issues.
    “Our students grow to understand theme, characterization, figurative language techniques, different styles and genres,” notes Dretzka, “but above all, we want them to gain a generous spirit and an appreciation for the great themes of literature and life.”
    Theodore Jaffrey (’14) is now at Phillips Exeter Academy, and reflects, “Chandler was instrumental in developing my skills as a writer. I learned to integrate quotations into writing, analyze a passage, and structure an essay. Ultimately, Chandler’s English classes prepare students to excel in high school.” Theodore adds, “After Chandler, I was qualified to serve as an intern at a local newspaper, writing and proofreading articles.”
    Chandler’s graduates enter high school well prepared for the rigors of challenging English classes. In their years at Chandler, they master essential foundations, and develop a clear individual voice. And along the way, Chandler’s English teachers hope that their hearts and souls have been touched by the transformative power of human stories.
  • Math at Chandler

    Chandler’s mathematics curriculum provides a sequential program that challenges each student to develop their fullest potential as analysts, problem solvers and critical thinkers. Students learn to see mathematics as an elegant and logical whole rather than a series of random operations and disconnected ideas. The K-8 curriculum progresses from concrete arithmetic thinking in the Lower School to abstract geometric thinking in the Middle School.

    As Harper Umfress ’09 describes it, “I came out of Chandler with an intuition for algebra, which is so important in math. Algebra can be very non-intuitive, but my teachers guided me through in a way that made it second nature.” Harper attended Flintridge Prep, where he felt “more than prepared. In fact, the initial coursework was easier than Chandler math.” Now Harper is a senior at the University of Washington, majoring in aeronautical engineering with a minor in math.

    As Harper’s story indicates, Chandler’s math program is future-focused. Students learn today’s math by learning the “why” as well as the “how.”

    Chandler graduates build on this foundation as they move into secondary and university-level math. Later, many alumni enter and rise to the highest levels of prominence in math-oriented careers in science, engineering, technology, finance and medicine.

    K-5 MATH

    In 2013, Chandler’s Lower School adopted Math in Focus, Houghton Mifflin’s version of Singapore math. The program gives students a foundation, as they learn math facts, build number sense and develop mental math abilities.

    Following the Singapore approach to math - beginning with concrete math learning - teachers often introduce topics by using objects such as cubes, dice, or beads to give students a model they can see and touch. After working in the concrete phase, students work on “pictorial” learning, solving problems using images of concrete objects, before moving on to more abstract applications, using numbers and algorithms.

    In this way, students learn the “why” of math before progressing to the “how” of math. As a result, students build a deeper understanding of math concepts, which leads to greater proficiency in problem solving.

    Additionally, teachers introduce students to a variety of experiences that develop their flexibility with numbers. Students are always encouraged to ask themselves, “How do I know?” and “Does this make sense?”

    Chandler’s Lower School teachers help students engage eagerly with math. They become confident in their math facts, and flexible in applying that knowledge. They are able to discuss math with their peers, and do not shy away from unfamiliar problems. Lower School students are well prepared for continued growth in Middle School math.


    Chandler’s Middle School teaches a carefully-designed curriculum that is proven to engage students with the joy of math, and to prepare them for rigorous high-school math coursework. In the content and delivery of the math program, teachers challenge students to learn ways of thinking that eventually can carry them far beyond high-school math.

    Corah Forrester ’13 shares her experience: “As a junior as Westridge, I’m enrolled in honors pre-calculus and AP statistics. I’ve been earning A’s in math and it’s one of my favorite subjects. Math at Chandler really provided me with all the necessary skills to excel in my high school math classes. I especially felt very prepared for Honors Algebra II.”

    Chandler’s math teachers in grades 6-8 follow a sequential program that covers major foundational topics, including graphing linear equations; solving and graphing the systems of equalities; solving and graphing systems of inequalities; exponential functions; trigonometric ratios; factoring quadratic equations; graphing quadratic functions; solving quadratic equations; applying rules of exponents; and investigating midpoint and distance. As in the Lower School, Chandler’s Middle School students are asked to learn more deeply than simple pattern memorization and repetition.

    Assignments require students to find solutions and then explain their rationale for an answer, and to consider multiple approaches to a single problem. In this way, students build logic and reasoning skills that serve them well as math gets more complex.

    Additionally, math teachers in Middle School challenge and engage students with project-based learning that strengthens their fundamental skills and whets their appetite for learning more advanced concepts.

    Through first-hand experiences, students also get to explore technology, design and engineering skills such as software coding, financial modeling and architectural rendering. When students see purpose behind the process, their excitement for math grows.

    For example, reflecting on a design project that required using slope-intercept form (y=mx+b) with graphing software and the use of limits and inequalities, an eighth-grade student writes,

    “My final impression of this project was definitely that it was extremely beneficial. I’m not talking about, “yeah, it’s nice to know this,” but as in, “Oh my gosh, this helped me so much and I really understand slope and limits better now. I think that not only was it really beneficial, but it was also challenging. In a way, the process of writing limits in the beginning took so long and I really felt like I would never finish. But, as soon as I passed equation number thirty, BOOM. It finally clicked. I really understood all the brackets and the inequalities.

    This project turned out really well. In addition to pushing us to practice more with slope, the physical process turned out very nicely. Mentally, I felt like I really strengthened old concepts and gave new concepts such a great introduction. I’m very glad I could do this project because it was very hands-on as well as a mental task. Through limits, slope and coloring, I can clearly say this is a memorable project and one that is very, very helpful when dealing with linear equations.”

    Because Chandler’s faculty teaches many concepts that are typically covered in an Algebra II or geometry course, Middle School students are prepared for successful entry into demanding high-school math programs.

    Chandler’s math department keeps current with how Chandler graduates fare in local high-schools. Colleagues at these high schools consistently tell us that Chandler students are well-prepared, well-placed, and thriving in the most challenging math programs.

    Chandler faculty stay informed about the range of math programs at local high schools to ensure that our students are prepared to adapt and succeed when they enter their chosen secondary school.

    For Katherine Sobota ’08, math at Chandler gave her an advantage over classmates when she entered Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. "I was really well prepared. I placed into the highest math class and continued performing well, eventually taking the most advanced class the school offered during my senior year,” she recalls. “Mr. Carlson and Mrs. Owen at Chandler were so committed to making sure we fully understood what they were teaching. Since math concepts build upon themselves, it was helpful to have such a strong foundation."

    Today, Katherine attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she is completing a bachelor of science degree in both aeronautical and mechanical engineering, and a minor in economics. She recently finished a seven-month co-op with American Airlines in Dallas, working on the Boeing 777 fleet engineering team.

    Chandler’s math program asks much of students. They master essential concepts and also learn to think flexibly and apply their learning to difficult real-world problems. Students are primed for success in higher levels of mathematics, and for careers that increasingly call upon adults to use mathematical problem-solving skills.

    To learn in more detail about the topics and teaching methods of Math in Focus in grades K-5, please visit the Math in Focus Resource Board.

    To see eighth grade students’ linear equation projects, please visit the project webpages of Michelle Wong, Marcos Moline and Lucas Lee. The password is “learn”. Thank you to the students for sharing their work.
  • Science at Chandler

    At Chandler, K-8 science is a hands-on affair. Talented teachers kindle students’ curiosity for actually doing science – and when enthusiasm ignites, the sky is the limit. Proving them right, many graduates excel in high school and college science classes, and later enter scientific careers.
    Nico Salinas is one such student. He enrolled at Loyola High School after Chandler, pursuing the honors track in math and science. “Chandler’s science labs were comparable to what I saw at Loyola in eleventh grade. My teachers here say I had access to college-level labs. That kind of preparation is invaluable.”
    Nico was invited to join Loyola’s Summa Cum Laude Society, for the top 10% of the senior class, took a research internship at UCLA’s engineering school and has been accepted to M.I.T.
    Chandler students are building strong foundations for future science study, as well as the confidence to challenge themselves.
    K-5 Science
    In a spacious and well-designed Lower School science lab, science teacher Stephanie Ho helps students explore the world around them. “I excite younger students by showing them how science surrounds our lives,” says Ms. Ho.
    “We’re big into observation, testing things. Kids are curious,” explains Ms. Ho. “They want to touch leaves, pick up rocks, handle bones and shells and pellets. We encourage them to ask questions driven by their own wonderment.”
    In the lower grades, learning is mostly tactile, with less written work. Students may walk Chandler’s campus to look for sticks or insects, or test paper airplanes on the field to learn about weight, shapes, and materials.
    “We discuss topics together,” says Ms. Ho. “It gives students ownership when they can talk about things they’ve seen, even on a family vacation. As they open up, they become comfortable exploring new ideas.”   
    By fourth and fifth grade, Ms. Ho asks students to follow procedures to conduct a lab, or discuss how an article or video shaped their thinking on a topic. Students in these grades pursue basic science research and share their knowledge with classmates.
    “The Catalina trip is an incredible science and leadership experience for fifth graders,” says Ms. Ho. “What better way to study the ocean than to get in the ocean? We snorkel, kayak, and look at shells along the shoreline. Students learn about their state. They realize that they will make a difference in the future choices they make.”
    As an independent school, Chandler has freedom in its science curriculum, as well as flexibility to seize teaching moments. “When it rains, we discuss the water cycle or talk about rainbows or puddles,” says Ms. Ho. “We live in an ideal place to talk about nature, weather, climate, plants and animals. There is fascinating science all around us.”
    During a typical year, Lower School science classes cover a vast range of topics, such as:
    In kindergarten: animals, plants, fruits, seeds, shapes, sizes, weight, the parts of a flower, plant lifecycle, vascular system of plants, pushes and pulls, the human senses, sinking, floating, and gravity.
    In second grade: germs, soil, plant and animal lifecycle, exploration of how seeds travel, classification of animals, adaptations, balanced ecosystems, dinosaurs, prehistoric life, fossils, bones, owl pellets, rocks, minerals, solids, liquids and gasses.
    In fifth grade: biodiversity, labs with worms, the water cycle, ecosystem causes and effects, space, seasons, astronomy, weather, conservation, ecology, ocean research, and some chemistry such as the study of reactions.
    While Ms. Ho taps on-campus resources, she also connects students with local scientists and far-flung experts – using Skype, for example, to link her classroom by video with researchers on a deep-sea research vessel, and to naturalists in a Costa Rica biodiversity preserve.
    The Lower School years at Chandler are the perfect time and place to teach students that science is fun, interesting and relevant. As they progress to Middle School, they are eager for specialized instruction.
    Middle School Science
    Chandler’s Middle School science curriculum covers earth science in sixth grade, life science in seventh grade, and physical science (chemistry and physics) in eighth grade.

    A signature series of advanced genetics electives is available to qualified students in eighth grade, in which students analyze DNA using sophisticated biotechnology equipment.

    The science faculty prioritizes hands-on labs and the application of science concepts, which builds students’ understanding, critical thinking and analysis skills.
    “We have an engaging, experiential program,” confirms Mr. Calderon. “Excited students will work harder and engage deeper with the material. We set high expectations with the belief that students will reach their potential if they’re given advanced challenges with good support.”
    Students start by learning a fairly simple version of the scientific method to conduct labs in sixth grade earth science. By eighth grade, students are asked to determine for themselves whatever sequence of steps will produce optimal results in any lab.
    In J.J. Newman’s sixth grade class, students examine the geosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere, including topics such as rocks, earth’s layers, volcanoes, oceans and natural resources.
     “I like to incorporate tangible, interactive activities to make abstract concepts more clear,” explains Newman. “The sixth grade Boojum trip to Joshua Tree is a fantastic chance to see rock formations in the field, so when we talk about geological forces in class, they have clear mental images from that trip.”
    Mr. Calderon’s seventh grade life science class covers cell structure and function, molecular biology and genetics (DNA in particular) and a survey of animals from the simple to the complex. The class culminates with human anatomy and physiology, and a fetal pig dissection where students apply the skills they’ve learned from all eight dissections they’ve done.
    “We go even further with DNA in the micro-biology electives. Students are using advanced bio-tech equipment to grow bacteria, extract DNA from cells and analyze some of the DNA. Frankly, this is college-level equipment that our students get to use. Chandler is the only middle school I know of that’s teaching this level of genetics to students.”
    Chandler’s eighth grade science curriculum covers a broad range of chemistry and physics foundations, and prepares students for success in high school and beyond. Supplementing the core curriculum, Chandler offers innovative electives in topics such as forensics, marine biology, engineering, physical computing and 3D design and printing.
    While a lot of science is content-oriented, the multi-disciplinary STEAM projects are process-oriented. Classmates work in teams to engineer a product under deadline pressure. The project demands different talents than a typical science lesson. During STEAM projects, students stretch their interpersonal, leadership, project management, design and engineering skills.
    “I love how kids who may not stand out in a typical science class are often the stars during STEAM projects,” notes Mr. Calderon. “We bring in professional engineers and architects to talk about how things get done in the real world - blueprinting, prototyping, iterating in the design process. It exposes students to possible careers and future paths.”
    Says Grace Hitchcock ’16, now at Phillips Academy Andover, “Science is incredible at Chandler. Despite the wide range of topics, each class is extremely hands-on, with labs every week. I appreciate the amazing academics but also how the classes were always fun and exciting.”
    That sentiment is music to the ears of Chandler’s science faculty. To do science at Chandler truly means students are learning it, and above all, loving it.
  • Social Studies at Chandler

    Chandler’s mission includes a focus on character, community and citizenship. Through inspiring social studies coursework, Chandler teachers aim to shape students into thoughtful citizens who are also well-prepared for rigorous high school history classes.
    Preston Ho (’15), now at Flintridge Prep, recalls, “All my teachers made social studies interesting by showing the relevance of current events; they helped us see how the past impacts our present.”
    The Lower School social studies curriculum introduces students to the smallest unit of community: themselves. Teachers in kindergarten and first grade help students to think, talk and write about their families and their neighborhoods. Students learn to respect differences between individuals, and consider how people get along together.
    Chandler’s third grade classes study their city: Los Angeles. Mrs. Carla Fernandez explains, “We study the history of L.A. and its different cultures, people and influences. We look at its natural resources, geography and economy. Our field trips include a visit to a Buddhist temple, Griffith Observatory, African American Museum, and Olvera Street.”
    During STEAM projects, third graders design a city. To prepare, Mrs. Montevirgen and Mrs. Fernandez invite a Pasadena city planner and Pasadena city councilman to speak to students about issues like trash, safety, traffic and animal control.
    “We teach a unit on Native Americans and students create incredible artifacts like fishing hooks, nets and baskets.” Mrs. Fernandez adds, “We use projects to help students understand abstract concepts in a concrete way.”
    Teachers incorporate technology and design to dig deeper into big ideas. Fourth graders build historically-accurate replicas of California’s missions. Students record historical re-enactments on iPads and design Powerpoint presentations. And, for a truly immersive experience, the fourth-grade trip to Sacramento provides a full day of adventure.
    By fifth grade, Chandler students are able to research, write and reflect on United States history with broadened perspectives. Mrs. Collins, a fifth grade teacher, says, “We look at causes and effects, both good and bad, and students realize that what happened in the past affects how we live today.”
    Chandler students head to Middle School with a solid foundation in how to think critically about historical and current events.
    Middle School students learn to identify and analyze the causes and effects of major historical events. Linking past to present, Middle School teachers use those events to teach character and principles of good citizenship in communities. 
    Throughout Middle School, students practice articulating historical questions and defend findings through multiple formats including reenactments, digital portfolios, oral presentations, essays and projects.
    Mr. Hulm, Chandler’s sixth grade social studies teacher, makes students think like historians as they study ancient civilizations and Medieval Europe. He helps his students realize the impact of geography on the development of civilizations and modern society, introducing them to themes of location, place, human-environment interaction, movement and region.
    Preston Ho (’15) remembers, “Mr. Hulm made social studies exciting with his passion, as reflected in his elaborately-decorated classroom and costumes! We’d figure out the time and place of mystery objects, and he made learning facts fun with Jeopardy games.”
    In Mr. Mook’s seventh grade social studies class, students learn to look at history through five themes; cultural interaction, political structures, economic structures, social structures and human-environment interaction. They study the impact of global empires, colonialism, nationalism, revolutions and global conflicts ranging from the Renaissance to the Cold War.
    “Mr. Mook taught me how the past connects with the present, and I learned to think critically through discussions,” remembers Preston. “Chandler’s teachers sparked my interest in Speech and Debate and the Youth & Government Program at the YMCA.”
    “Each year, I ask students to choose a current global issue that affects their generation, and undertake an in-depth study. They find sources, conduct research, build a website, produce public street art, and write an essay,” explains Mr. Mook. “Topics this year include self-driving cars, alternative energy, the Syrian refugee crisis and social justice movements.”
    In the eighth grade, Chandler teaches the pre-colonial age of exploration, the foundations of the United States government, and the American Civil War. Students continue to grow as scholars, honing their research, analysis and writing skills.
    “Social studies at Chandler prepared me very well for success in high school,” reflects Aryana Nicholas (’16), now at Mayfield. “Social studies was my favorite class because it was interactive. I loved debating and discussing. Hearing other perspectives helped me learn. In fact, these classes helped me discover what kind of student I am.”
    Students enter kindergarten at Chandler eager to share about themselves and their families. As graduates, they appreciate the significance of history and their place in it. They move on to secondary school ready to pursue advanced coursework, and to live as engaged and thoughtful citizens in a diverse society.
  • Spanish at Chandler

    Chandler’s K-8 Spanish program leads students in a sequential progression of understanding, speaking, reading and writing Spanish. Many students become conversationally fluent by eighth-grade graduation. All students are exposed to a variety of new perspectives, cultures, customs and people.

     To meet its goals, Chandler’s five Spanish faculty supplement a fast-paced curriculum with a wide selection of activities to push students out of their English comfort zones and into an immersive experience of speaking, writing and hearing Spanish.

    The marriage of rigor and variety has proven fruitful: Chandler alumni impress their high-school Spanish teachers. One such teacher is Dr. Maite Bernath, Chair of World Languages at Polytechnic School. “Most students I teach from Chandler consistently show dedication to language studies and show great promise. They come with a strong foundation. They are diligent, enthusiastic and eager to learn. They have a deep appreciation for the culture. It is always a pleasure having students from Chandler!”

    Matilda Berke ’13, explains how Spanish classes at Chandler led to a passion for Spanish literature when she took AP Spanish Literature at Polytechnic School. “It was probably the best class I’ve ever taken – we read and analyzed texts ranging from Don Quixote to 19th century “Romanticismo” poetry to Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s magical realism,” Matilda notes.

    She explains, “I’m currently learning French, Italian and German independently so I can read literary works in those languages. My strong foundation in Spanish at Chandler definitely makes picking up new languages easier!”


    To teach Spanish to kindergarteners, Chandler faculty harness kids’ natural energy and playfulness. Students sing songs, have scavenger hunts, play guessing games, and dance to music as they learn vocabulary.

    As the months unfold, faculty teach Spanish words while students draw, cook, garden, sing, and tinker with crafts. Faculty bring out bags of colorful props to teach words related to weather, clothing, foods and parts of a home.

    From the outset, Chandler’s Spanish faculty give students many opportunities to listen and speak, since these are prime years for developing an ear for the language. Furthermore, early language practice helps students shed embarrassment over inevitable mistakes as they learn.

    As students progress, they produce more written work. In third grade, students learn to write sentences and have written homework. By fourth grade, they are conjugating verbs. Faculty continue to work across departments to give students diverse experiences with the language. Music and art classes incorporate Spanish language and culture, for example, and each year the STEAM projects incorporate use of Spanish.

    Chandler faculty ensure that each new grade level offers students fresh topics and activities. However, one popular Lower School tradition repeats every year: in December, students make 800 tamales by hand, and families buy them to raise funds for an orphanage in México.


    Chandler’s Spanish faculty in the Middle School help new students transition into the program with differentiated classes and extra support for beginning speakers. Starting in sixth grade, Chandler students study Spanish as a core academic subject, with class four days a week, nightly homework, tests and final exams.

    Although Chandler faculty set a challenging pace in their Spanish classes, they also engage students with a huge variety of Hispanic cultural activities and celebrations. Alumni quickly recall the popular Latino food festival (and whether they won the guacamole contest), Cesar Chavez Day, Día de los Muertos, and the special field trip to Olvera Street in Los Angeles.

    Sarah Gilman ’10, now a junior at USC, laughs, “I didn’t even realize how much I learned at Chandler until I discovered I could hold in-depth conversations with native speakers, and tested into advanced courses at Flintridge Prep. Every day of class with Señora Vasquez was filled with new ways to get us speaking Spanish, almost without our noticing!”

    Dexter Renick '15, now at Polytechnic, concurs. “The best part was speaking Spanish in real life situations. For me, all the practical use of Spanish made Chandler classes so interesting.”

    Technology has opened up new possibilities for teachers and students. Students practice online Spanish grammar lessons at home and receive instant feedback, while teachers monitor progress. YouTube movies, songs, newscasts and commercials provide exposure to a world of diverse Hispanic cultures and dialects. Students present grammar lessons to their classmates with Powerpoint, make iMovies, and use Spanish vocabulary apps on their cell phones.

    In the second semester, teachers in the advanced classes aim to allow no English in their classrooms. For Chandler’s eighth graders, the intensity provides a sense of accomplishment as they prove that young students can read, write and converse in Spanish at levels typically expected of much older pupils.

    Jake McCarthy ’12, remembers being “beyond prepared to walk right into Spanish 3 at Polytechnic and grow as a Spanish speaker and citizen of our bilingual city.” Jake completed Poly’s Spanish program with the AP Literature exam in his junior year.

    Later, as a freshman at Duke, he enrolled in Spanish 301 – an advanced writing class – which, he notes, “fulfills my college language requirement, but I won’t stop taking language classes.”

    Theodore Jaffrey ’14, now at Phillips Exeter Academy, points out that “Chandler’s Spanish program is run by committed faculty who cover an extensive variety of topics.” In Theodore’s case, strong grades in honors classes has been proof of great preparation. Equally important, he has discovered a love of Latin American cultures. “I travelled to Bolivia with Señora Vasquez and also to Nicaragua on a Flintridge Prep program,” he says.

    Chandler’s Spanish faculty are always improving their program – introducing new books, projects and technology tools to expand their students’ capacity for understanding, reading, writing and speaking Spanish. The department prepares students not only to succeed in high-school Spanish, but to work and live with an appreciation for diverse cultures in a global society.