The Blues are blue: faculty members announce their departure from Urban

Max Miller, Staff Writer

As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close and the hectic inconsistency of virtual and hybrid learning becomes a thing of the past, the desire among my classmates and I to celebrate is ever-increasing. Valuing these last few weeks of school when we are lucky enough to be in person, however, is just as important. In-person school has also given all of us the opportunity to connect with people who may not be here next year, such as seniors or faculty members who are moving on from Urban. To celebrate them and their contributions to the school, here are the profiles of a few of the many teachers who are leaving Urban.

Scott Nelson:
Scott Nelson has taught at Urban for as long as anyone can remember, aside from Richard Lautze, of course. He has seen the community change and grow before his eyes. In his astonishing 32 years as an Urban teacher over a 35 year period, Scott has learned a thing or two about what it means to be a teacher and has a love for Urban unrivaled by many. When Scott first got to Urban there were just 22 teachers and 162 students. Scott says that he often misses “the freedom and craziness” of being an Urban teacher in the 80s. According to Scott, after just three weeks as an Urban teacher, without any notice, he was forced to attend a whole-school camping trip. While it felt like a crazy idea at the time, especially because Scott had solely taught at more conservative schools before Urban, Scott said it was “an amazing experience, I loved it.” While Urban no longer hosts spontaneous camping trips, Scott greatly appreciates the current Urban’s “increased diversity, respect, and success.”
Teaching the same subject at the same school for over 3 decades may seem unfathomable, but Scott says that “teaching students who are excited to learn, especially at a school like Urban where I have colleagues that are just as involved as me, and a structure that is so fluid is extraordinary. It’s my favorite thing.” Scott’s enthusiasm towards teaching is evident in students’ enthusiastic feelings towards him. From “having great outfits” to “making my sister fall in love with math,” (anonymous junior) to “being the reason I am who I am today” (anonymous junior) Scott Nelson makes an impact on everyone he teaches. His appreciation for math shows in his ability to effectively teach complex concepts while enriching students further with the material’s connection to philosophy and real-world applications. Scott will miss teaching in the moon room, which was indirectly named by him. In the coming years, Scott plans on going “mountaineering in Alaska” and “getting on a motorcycle and riding through the desert.” Scott, your time at Urban is valued by all, and you will be missed greatly.

Ratna Kamath:
Ratna Kamath has taught English at Urban for 4 years and is known by students for her “quirky but extremely effective teaching style.” (anonymous junior) She said she was drawn to Urban because of its student-centered and project-based learning style that made Urban feel “like a really meaningful school to embed [herself] in.” Coming from the Bay School, Ratna was shocked and excited by how involved students were in the Urban community. Her first peer-ed show acted as an initiation into the Urban community. Seeing “kids on stage divulging their deepest, darkest secrets and weeping” was a “wild experience” for her. She said it made her realize that she “had never been anywhere like [Urban] before.” Instead of shying away from these intense displays of student vulnerability and involvement, Ratna had nothing but appreciation for these unorthodox aspects of Urban. She says that some of her favorite memories at Urban occurred while “watching Month of Understanding events and seeing the way that students really took ownership and leadership of things they cared so deeply about.” Her appreciation of and involvement in MOU during her relatively short time at the school was described by an anonymous junior as both “thoughtful and thought-provoking.” Ratna’s love for teaching Toni Morrison rubbed off on students, who described the class as “the most interesting and engaging english class [they] have ever taken at Urban.” Ratna is sad to leave behind “the incredible students, Street Taco, and the Treehouse rooms” just as much as we are sad to see her go. Next year, Ratna will be teaching English at Castilleja High School, an all girls upper school in Palo Alto. You will be missed, Ratna!

Stacie Muñoz:
Stacie Muñoz has worked at Urban as the Director of Educational Technology, an advisor, a coach, and a history teacher for 10 years. She came to Urban because she wanted to live in San Francisco, and “loved [her] first visit to the school.” An anonymous junior said that “taking Screening History with Stacie was amazing because she was both an extremely knowledgeable and chill teacher.” She has a positive impact on students wherever she goes. Her Yearbook students have called her “the heart of Urban” and “the voice of reason.” Leaving Urban will be hard for her, as it means leaving the building where she completed her infamous assist to Chris Williams during the faculty-student basketball game. Her own achievements, however, will not be all that she misses. “I’m just really gonna miss being in this community in the Haight with all of the amazing kids and adults that make up Urban,” she said. Stacie’s presence at Urban is nothing short of positive and vibrant. Students will miss Stacie “walking by Arcadia with her microphone and speaker,” “calling out BS in yearbook,” and of course her “cute a** dog.” Her technology help will also forever be missed. Next year, Stacie will be continuing her career as the Director of Educational Innovation at the Oakwood school next year in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. She will miss going to Street Taco and HSM as well as “spending time in the library with Sarah Levin.” We will miss you, Stacie!

Elizabeth de Bord:
Elizabeth de Bord, an Urban Spanish teacher, and part-time advisor, will be leaving Urban next year after a year and a half of being a part of the community. A student described her as “a joy to have in the classroom. Her unrelenting smile, sense of humor, and all-around amiable character make her one of the most fun and easy-going teachers around.” It was mostly by chance that Elizabeth found out about the job opening at Urban – which resulted from a teacher going on leave – but she did not think twice about the opportunity. Elizabeth attended University High School, lives close by Urban, and has a son who attended Urban in the class of 2019 so she has been involved in the San Francisco independent school scene for years. As the majority of her career at Urban occurred virtually, Elizabeth experienced the Urban community differently than the majority of her colleagues. Still, she “felt that [her] students tried to bring the most to each class,” which she valued greatly. She remembers one moment where, towards the beginning of virtual school, when Zoom was still confusing, she had the class do a presentation over google slides. She remembers that one student was overjoyed by this and it made her day. She’ll miss teaching Spanish 2A, and the energy of the Urban community that “nourishes [her].” You will be missed, according to 47% of Urban students!(anonymous survey)

Sarah Clowes:
Sarah Clowes has worked at Urban for 14 years as a science teacher. She will miss teaching in the Helium lab for its airiness and spaciousness to conduct experiments. She was drawn to Urban because of its emphasis on the arts and outdoor programs, and it also gave her the ability to design her own field course. Her craziest memory at Urban occurred on a car ride back from a Marine Biology field trip when a car driving near the one her and her students were in was pulled over and swarmed by armed police officers. She later found out that it was a large drug bust. She’s moving to Vermont to be closer to her family. She’ll miss “sunsets in Joshua Tree” during outdoor field trips, teaching “science shenanigans” to her “remarkable students,” going to HSM and working with her “inspiring colleagues.” Sarah, your work at Urban is valued by your students who describe you as “kind and inspiring.” You will be missed!

Brooke Steele:
Brooke Steele is departing from her job as teacher of the Urban Singers. While the Urban Legend was unable to obtain an interview with her, here are some student appreciations for her:

“Brooke, thank you so much for encouraging me to feel confident and comfortable when I sing. I’m so glad I have got to have you for most of these past 3 years, and I wish you all the best!” – Anonymous Junior

“Thank you so much for the years worth of choral fun, music theory, and Aoife cameos! We’ll miss you so much!” – Anonymous Junior

“Unfortunately, I have never been able to be taught by Brooke, and that will forever be one of THE Urban experiences I regret missing out on. I’ve seen the way students leave her classroom, and I got a sample of her teaching when she substituted one of my history classes, and that is enough to convince me that she is really one of the pillars of the Urban School.” – Anonymous Junior