Educational Philosophy

    • Banner

An emphasis on a growth mindset is prevalent throughout the Burke’s curriculum so students learn the power of “we might not be there yet” as they practice and develop their academic and social skills. 

Educational Philosophy

At Burke’s, we want every girl to shine in her own way. Our campus and educational program provide a place and space for expansive thinking, where each student can explore who they are and who they want to become. 

We believe that academic challenge and joyful learning are deeply intertwined and our approach is designed to respond to each student’s strengths and needs. Classes are designed to elevate substance and thinking deeply over recite-and-repeat.

The Burke’s curriculum integrates age-appropriate, real-life problem-solving and different points of view—enriched with social-emotional learning. Our inclusive classrooms and community are built to offer a vibrant, intellectually stimulating, and enriching experiences for both students and adults.

There is no limit to what a Burke’s student can achieve because this is the community where they will feel the courage and confidence to shine brightly.

Excellence in the Craft of Teaching

Burke's academic program is grounded in educational best practices while also meeting the evolving needs of our students. Excellent teachers who inspire a love of learning are essential to achieving our vision and work collaboratively with their professional learning community to continually reflect upon, revisit, and re-envision what and how they are teaching.

The foundation of our K-8 curriculum development is the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework. This model begins all lesson design with "enduring understandings" which are statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom. Launching learning experiences by considering the big picture, vs. focusing on what content and activities students will engage in is an essential practice when Burke's teachers' design curriculum.

List of 3 items.

  • Idea Labs

    In the summer, teachers can engage in conferences or workshops, apply for a summer grant to work collaboratively on a curricular project or engage in an Idea Lab to further develop an innovative idea for the coming year.  

    A few Idea Lab examples in action are:
    • Upper School Math Department: The math team met to plan a pilot for the Connected Mathematics Project's 4th edition next year as part of a trial group. “We got early access to the updated curriculum and are trying to incorporate open-ended questioning, high-ceiling and low-floor tasks (tasks that all students can access but that can be extended to high levels), increased differentiation, and group work.” The team is looking forward to exploring a couple of the CMP4 investigations with sixth-grade students over the course of the school year.

    • Upper School Makery/Language Collaboration: A collaboration between the Upper School Makery teacher and the Spanish department. The project is designed for eighth graders and incorporates three parts: a written biography, a podcast, and a creative poster in the Fillmore style. Spanish teacher Anthony Sabedra said,  “Music is one of my passions and I wanted to incorporate the presence of women in music from the Spanish-speaking world.”

    • Lower School Teachers College Phonics: A facilitator from Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project to spend the day with the K-3 teachers and those who support language arts instruction in the Lower School during an engaging full day workshop. New instructional and student materials and books were purchased for this program and the first-grade team along with the Lower School Learning Specialist developed a fall implementation plan. Some faculty attended summer workshops on this curriculum and some will attend the fall TC Phonics Institute to further their understanding. “We are hoping this phonics program will provide important scaffolding for our students for our students’ reading and writing throughout the school year.”
  • Professional Development Institute

    Summer doesn’t start for our faculty and staff when the final school bell rings! Each year, faculty attend the Professional Development Institute (PDI), which brings leading trainers and organizations to Burke’s for on-campus professional development the week after graduation. Offerings at past PDIs have included an Investigations Math training, an “Inclusivity by Design” workshop, differentiation of learning, the Burke’s EdTech summit, and a Service Learning Institute that integrated on-campus PD and service projects across the city. The time is used to collaborate on changes, additions, or innovations they plan to pursue in the coming school year
  • Curriculum Conversations

    Faculty gather under the leadership of the Academic Admin team to engage in conversations about curriculum, new project ideas, and collaborations across subject areas. Each session begins with a series of prompts that include questions such as “what is a cross-grade or cross-disciplinary collaboration that would be exciting to see happen?” or “what is an aspect of student life at Burke’s that could connect to the greater community around us?”

    These conversations occur in both grade-level meetings and at Lower School and Upper School division levels to share observations and ideas. Out of these conversations, great things happen.

Academic Admin Team

The Academic Admin Team is made up of the Head of School, Director of Curriculum and Innovation, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and Upper and Lower School Division Directors. This team meets together and in smaller configurations to drive and facilitate Burke’s strategic vision around curriculum and professional development. Topics range from organizational planning of all professional development (in-service days, outside speakers, the June Professional Development Institute); managing and considering changes to and/or the adoption of new curricular initiatives; and coordination of the scope and sequence of the K-8 curriculum.

List of 5 members.

  • Photo of Michele Williams

    Michele Williams 

    Head of School
    415-751-0187, ext. 201
  • Photo of Renita LiVolsi

    Renita LiVolsi 

    Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
    415.751.0187, ext. 329
  • Photo of Alice Moore

    Alice Moore 

    Director of Lower School
    415.751.0187, ext. 207
  • Photo of Sheena Tart-Zelvin

    Sheena Tart-Zelvin 

    Director of Upper School
    415.751.0187, ext. 203
  • Photo of Fran Yang

    Fran Yang 

    Director of Curriculum and Innovation
    415.751.0187, ext. 352
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.
Burke's admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.