by George J Elbaum
Taylor Middle School first opened in 1939 and is a true historical landmark with its Spanish Mission architecture, prominent dome and red clay tile roof. Over these 79 years the school has grown with the times and with the needs of an ever expanding and diverse population of families who live in the City of Millbrae. This is reflected in its mission statement, which calls for “….educating all students regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or gender. Our purpose is to provide information and skills necessary for students to become responsible, healthy, young adults. Our expectation is that every student will succeed, and it is our responsibility to provide a safe learning environment with high academic standards.”
Today the school serves approximately 800 students and has very strong academics, with student test scores 39% higher than state average in English and 58% higher in Math. The student body is highly diverse: 41% Asian, 21% Hispanic, 21% White, 9% Filipino, 5% two or more races, 3% Pacific Islander, and 25% are from low income families.
To end the school year, all 8th grade students participate in an 8-week Holocaust unit developed by the Language Arts department. This unit begins by exploring the historical context of World War II and includes the study of several allegories such as The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss and Terrible Things by Eve Bunting. The students then examine several supplementary films and stories such as “Life is Beautiful” and Teaching Tolerance’s “One Survivor Remembers.” By this time, students have received ample background and context in order to fully-comprehend, grasp, and empathize with the unit’s core text, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl.
My presentation to 300 8th grade students and several parents was organized by 8th grade Language Arts teacher Stephanie Heaton and arranged by Nikki Bambauer, Jewish Family and Children’s Services Program Coordinator. Attending also were the school’s 8th grade teachers of all core and elective classes. What made this presentation so very different from all of my previous (180+) ones was the surprise entrance that Stephanie Heaton and her students arranged for me: two students with a big red “Welcome, Mr. Elbaum” sign met me outside the auditorium and escorted me, arm-in-arm, inside and down an aisle to the applause of a standing audience of 300 (see photo below). Absolutely unbelievable! Thank you, Stephanie, and I can hardly wait till the next time 😊!