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April 16, 2015

To Whom It May Concern:


I have had the great pleasure and honor of working with Jonna Smyth since the Fall of 2012. In her interview
earlier that year, I was immediately drawn to her calm demeanor, easy candor and extensive teaching and
research background. At that time, our small science department unanimously saw the value in this highly
qualified candidate and went directly to Tim Johnson to request her hire. He heeded our recommendation, and I
have been lucky to work with Jonna since she started at Bay in the Fall of 2012.
As a teacher, Jonnas depth of knowledge in the subject of Biology as well as other sciences allows her to work
easily at a variety of course levels, and to serve as a resource for students and teachers alike. She has an innate
understanding of students needs as learners and tailors her lessons to support those who need additional
challenge, as well as those who need remediation. She consistently looks to improve curricula so that lessons are
relevant to our 21st century students. In the classroom, students find her organized, empathetic, approachable and
engaging.
Jonna has shown her collaborative skills in her work in several courses. She has taught all three of our core
courses (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) in collaboration with a team of teachers. Her ability to listen, reflect
and critically analyze questions allows her to respond to both emotional and practical components of discussions.
On each team, she helped to mesh competing opinions on content and pedagogy while keeping her eye on the big
picture of how these courses fit together to support content and skill learning over the two year course cycle. Her
participation on these teams has improved the courses, the student experience and the relationships among those
who teach them.
As another example of her desire to push herself as a teacher, and her teaching, Jonna pioneered the first
interdisciplinary project-based class at Bay called Climate Change. Collaborating with a Humanities teacher, she
designed the course to provide students with an understanding of the science of climate change, as well as the
social, political and ethical considerations around the issue. Students completed culminating action projects that
were showcased at a community forum event. In its short two year history, Climate Change has become wildly
popular with students who often say the course was the most meaningful one they have taken in high school.
Jonna had a quick impact at Bay, and it was not surprising that at the end of her first year here, she took on the
role of discipline team leader. The position was established only a few years ago as it became apparent that we
were no longer a small start-up school but had grown into a place where the reporting structure could no longer
be one in which every voice weighed in on each decision. Many people still struggle with this transition, making
the team leader role a challenging one at times. Jonna has become a strong bridge between the administration and
the science teachers. She approaches the role in her typical thoughtful manner, and effectively absorbs,
assimilates and communicates ideas in both directions. She is able to have tough conversations with colleagues
that build her relationships with them. She is one who can appreciate and ruminate about the trees, but always
keeping in mind how they make up a part of the forest. Because of this, her work in the role of discipline
coordinator strengthens the individuals, the curricula and the school as a whole.
In the short time that I have known Jonna, she has inspired me, mentored me and encouraged me to work to
become a better teacher. Her engagement at Bay has demonstrated her excellence as a leader within the world of
education.
Sincerely,
Nettie Kelly
Science Instructor
35 Keyes Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129-0610

Tel (415) 561-5800

www.bayschoolsf.org

Fax (415) 561-5808