Testimonials

Mel Ferrer WalterProud Sycamore Supporter
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I met Mary Ann McQueen in 2013 when my sons were in 2nd grade and Kindergarten. When I say that she was the ultimate "level up" for our school, I mean it for multiple reasons. Mrs. McQueen stepped onto our campus with a clear mission to improve and optimize the school experience for all our children. She was transparent from Day 1 about her plans, and from Day 1 she led with action, not simply words. What she was able to accomplish over 1 summer, was more than most Principals manage to do in a year. Mrs. McQueen has the keen ability to lift people up, and by that I mean not only the children (i.e. always greeting each and every one of them by name and with a firm handshake for the older kids or a hug for the little ones) but she also lifts up the faculty and teachers (of whom she is fiercely loyal having been a teacher herself for over 30 years. Also important to note, she lifts up the parent community, who she listens to, challenges, and rallies together. Mrs. McQueen knows the ultra importance of working cross-functionally and uniting everyone towards a common goal. She is equal parts operational savant, and equal parts over indexer of emotional intelligence. She is a leader that understands the needs of students, teachers, and parents, and I have full confidence that the Sycamore School environment will foster a child's educational and emotional needs in this modern, complicated world.

I have no doubt that under her leadership, Sycamore School will embrace the best parts of a traditional education while incorporating a more forward-thinking, innovative approach that will help children realize their full potential at this important phase of their lives.
Kasi and Dan BeaneyProud Sycamore Supporters
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Caitlin was my oldest child’s 5th grade teacher at St Paul the Apostle School. My child was a bit shy and reserved and lacked confidence in math. Caitlin found a very genuine way to connect with my child and not only was able to help build her confidence in math, but more importantly made her feel seen and understood and helped our daughter develop greater self-esteem overall. We saw her completely blossom under the instruction of Caitlin, so much so that we asked her to tutor our daughter for the next two years in math.

Our daughter has received near-perfect A’s in math under the support of Ms. Maher. What’s more important is that our daughter started to believe in herself and her ability to tackle hard challenges. In areas where our daughter did not connect with the instruction or personality of her 6th and 7th-grade math teacher, Caitlin more than made up for.

During the pandemic her support of Brooke was critical. I heard Brooke laugh more in her Zoom tutoring sessions with Caitlin than any other online class. We wanted to find a way to utilize Caitlin during the summer of 2020 and asked her to teach a small group of girls yoga and a creative writing course 2 days/week for several weeks outside in our yard. The fact that she was able to support the girls with a mindfulness practice and spark creativity during such a difficult time was so appreciated. The girls ended their session by writing their own murder mystery and acted it out with costumes and also filmed and edited it. It stands out to those girls as a true highlight to their 2020 summer.

It takes someone special to find ways to personally connect with kids and to bring out the best in them. Caitlin has those attributes – she communicates in ways with students that builds their confidence and makes them really feel supported. We are grateful that Caitlin has also now been able to start working with our 4th grader to properly prepare him for 5th grade math. We hope that she will be a positive influence in our kids’ lives for years to come; we recognize that such a role in students’ development is critical for success and can’t think of a better person to have on their side.

We are always open should anyone want to reach out for more personal insight. Congrats on taking on a great educator and wonderful human being…the students and staff will be greatly blessed by her!
Jay Jackson, Ed.D.Proud Sycamore Supporter and Board Member
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I have been an educator in the Los Angeles community for over forty years and have worked with many school administrators. Many were solid managers, but not all were influential leaders. Mary Ann McQueen is not only effective; she is a visionary leader.

It was a joy and privilege to be a St. Mark School team member under Mary Ann McQueen’s leadership. Having worked at the school before she was appointed as principal, I witnessed the ongoing transformation of the school’s culture to one that embraced change, growth, and opportunity. The instructional program was invigorated with possibilities, not only for the students to develop strong content-area skills/knowledge, but also to expand their capacity for self-awareness, self-reflection, and critical thinking. She honored each of her students by knowing them individually, by their uniqueness’s, strengths, and challenges. A role model for lifelong learning, the bookcases in Mary Ann’s professional library also included a treasure trove of children’s literature. Mary Ann empowered her team of faculty and staff by demonstrating her belief in their talents and potential as gifts to the program, supporting creativity and innovation.

Mary Ann always embraced an idea, a vision, of how the school could continue to be more inclusive for children and families of diverse backgrounds: ethnically, culturally, sexual orientation, and social/economic status. A compassionate educational community, St. Mark welcomes children who reside in shelters and children with special needs.

I am thrilled for Mary Ann and her team as they embark on this adventure of launching a new school. I know Sycamore Community School will grow as a community-based learning center where children thrive and succeed. Mary Ann McQueen’s visionary leadership will yet again motivate and inspire a community of learners, creators, and innovators.

"A woman must have her dreams – memory of dreams of the past and eager dreams of the future. She never wants to stop reaching for new goals." [adapted quote from Maurice Chevalier]
Melanie FletcherProud Sycamore Supporter
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We first met Caroline when she taught our eldest son 4th grade at Saint Mark School. Our son is the youngest in his year and was not an avid reader or writer, he also struggled with math. Caroline’s dynamic, enthusiastic and caring approach to learning encouraged him to see learning in a different light. During the course of that year his attitude, confidence, and abilities soared and it set him on a new path that has continued.

Caroline has a very special energy, balancing the critical curriculum with the child’s needs to be creative, to wiggle a lot, and to be brave when trying to learn new and sometimes challenging things.

When the pandemic arrived, I immediately thought maybe Caroline would like to bubble with us and continue to teach the children. We were so fortunate that she agreed and we saw our children thrive and love learning during this time. When the restrictions lifted we invited other school children from different grades to join our homemade school. We had a mix of boys and girls of all different grades and something really magical happened in the house. She ran a very tight ship, there was respect, resilience, a sense of humor, and a culture of kindness and helpfulness from all the kids. We know how fortunate we were to have Caroline and I could not recommend her more highly as a teacher and a leader of this new and exciting school.
Tara ThomasProud Sycamore Supporter
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I had the unique honor to be both a parent in Lily Hubbard’s class and a partner in teaching Writing Workshop. Lily approaches children and teaching with tremendous curiosity. She knows the secret- relationship building. She forms bonds with teammates, parents, and most of all, students. Feeling seen, heard, and loved under her guidance creates a risk-taking approach to learning that lasts throughout their education.
Kate D'AnnaProud Sycamore Supporter
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Kristin Penn brings her years of expertise in child development to her role as K-1 teacher. Kristin's true gift is her ability to meet not only the academic needs of her students but also their social-emotional needs. In Kristin's classroom, students learn to become compassionate, inquisitive problem solvers. Kristin has a record of fostering young students into confident and fluent readers using various instructional approaches such as individualized conferences, differentiated lessons, and strategy grouping. To know Mrs. Penn, is to love Mrs. Penn!
Marjorie JonesProud Sycamore Supporter
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In 2018 as a recent math graduate from Pepperdine University and first-time teacher, I was matched with Ms. Paulson as my teacher mentor. At the time Ms. Paulson was teaching fourth grade and reinventing her math curriculum. Each day for two years I took part in Ms. Paulson’s math class, then turned around and applied the same instructional methods in my own middle school classes. This included fostering a team approach to math learning where new concepts are taught with intention, building on what students already know and can relate to.

My favorite teaching format is our daily choral counts where students choose a number (whole number, fraction, decimal) to then count up or down (trust me this is harder than it seems!). This count aloud is then followed by a round of “what patterns do you notice”. It’s amazing how naturally students pick up on patterns such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division when presented in this engaging, group activity. Not only does this exercise develop number sense, but also teaches students to support and rely on each other during a time of vulnerability. Also, through this exercise students had the opportunity to speak the math language (such as decimals) before working with the material. This is just one example of the strategic math instruction in Ms. Paulson’s classroom!

While the continuum of math learning builds in difficulty, these instructional strategies are just as important and effective from elementary to middle school. Ms. Paulson understands this continuum of math instruction and the value of instilling math confidence in students for their success in K-8 and beyond. This type of instruction is student-centered and it takes a confident, skilled teacher like Ms. Paulson who is willing to think beyond your typical textbook. Be prepared for your child to thrive in math and actually find it fun! I can’t wait to hear how students grow in such a supportive math environment at Sycamore Community School!
Susan SalazarProud Sycamore Supporter
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The two people in my life who I admire most are my father and my friend Mary Ann McQueen. It is my honor to share with you my personal testimony of Mary Ann who I met at CYO summer camp when we were 8 years old. Mary Ann’s character has never wavered since the day we met.

During grade school, we participated in speech contests and Mary Ann at a very young age earned respect as she possessed a natural ability to take command of a subject due to her incredible knowledge, preparation of a subject matter, and a natural-born ability to deliver. In high school, she excelled, some of it due to yes, her innate intelligence but also because she was a hard worker, focused, and disciplined.

At a very age, Mary Ann learned the value of hard work. In addition to being a stellar student, Mary Ann always had a job; be it early in the mornings before school or after her athletic commitments in the evenings.

To this day, she is one of the hardest working people I have ever known – tireless! Whether she was packing up organic oats into a brown paper bag tying it up with a string, serving coffee at the neighborhood natural foods restaurant, taking on the early shift at 5 a.m. before school, or taking a summer job in Alaska working in a cannery to earn money to pay her expenses, Mary Ann never ever complained. Working hard is what Mary Ann knows; working hard is inherent in her DNA.

Mary Ann unsurprisingly found an amazing partner to share her life with and together they have raised two fine young men, both now launched and successful. Now here we are today, Mary Ann is ready for her next chapter, opening a new school in Los Angeles.

If anyone is capable of such a venture, it is Mary Ann McQueen. Words cannot express my admiration for this incredibly talented, passionate, dedicated, driven, compassionate human being. Her vision of The Sycamore Community School is a result of her intention and desire to create a school where ALL are welcome – her vision has manifested.

Any student who is fortunate enough to become a part of this ground-breaking adventure is being given a gift of unique learning, being given an opportunity of a lifetime to learn, grow and be their best within a community that will take their learning to a whole new level.