The Student-Teacher Connection

At Menlo, a teacher’s role goes beyond the classroom. That’s why our faculty members spend so much time meeting one-on-one with students, coaching them in their academic and personal lives.

WBAL track meet at Menlo School. Photo by Jon Goulden.At the center of Menlo’s mission is a deep commitment to the development and welfare of each student. The adults at Menlo—teachers, coaches, counselors, and staff—create close, respectful and inspirational relationships with their students, promoting courage, integrity, and ethical behavior. Special programs focus directly on students’ personal well-being.


Menlo School is a relational campus. Teachers and all staff thrive if they feel closer to their students (we are hard wired for relationships). This way of thinking—how to enhancing relational teaching, while continuing to nurture the student and advocate bond—will lead to a harmonious, well-balanced campus, head and heart.
— Dr. Ellen Honnet, Director, Stanley King Counseling Institute

The Menlo School Advocacy Program provides a safe place to develop supportive relationships between a student and his or her advocate as well as between a student and his or her peers.  The advocate provides a positive adult presence in the student’s life which is seen as vital for a successful Menlo School experience.  As a significant adult, the advocate can become a guide, a facilitator, or a mentor for the student, his or her family, and the faculty.  The advocacy program bridges home, school, and real-world concerns.

Each Menlo School student belongs to an advocacy group which respects individual differences, explores issues, and increases caring for self and others.  Each group establishes norms, supports member through good and bad times, fosters positive learning experiences, engenders cooperation in special projects, and works to establish collaboration with others.  Groups meet at regular times, in an environment conducive to the group experience.


Menlo’s credentialed School Counselors Tracy Bianchi and Jake Fauver in the Upper School and Katherine Peterson in the Middle School are available for students who wish to discuss personal issues in a relaxed, confidential atmosphere. The Counselors also coordinate programs relating to health and social issues, including:

  • Grade and school stress
  • Media Literacy
  • Personal challenges
  • Transitions
  • Loss and other crises that face adolescents today

The School Counselors provide a confidential setting. They coordinate programs aimed at increasing student awareness of life-style choices such as body images, nutrition and wellness, and social issues such as substance abuse, tobacco use, and eating disorders. Middle School students and their families may wish to browse the Human Skills page for more in-depth information.

The School Counselors also sit on various parent education committees aimed at increasing parent awareness of issues related to adolescent development.

Middle School Human Skills Program

Human Skills is a comprehensive wellness curriculum that students take all three years of Middle School. During the Human Skills program, students learn skills that aim to develop their personal, social and emotional competencies. In addition, the human skills classes provide a trusting environment for students to explore the pre-teen and teen experience. The Human Skills program is created and facilitated by the Middle School Counselor. 
Human Skills 6: meets daily for one quarter. In this course, students explore personal development, emotional intelligence, and relationships with peers. Topics include new friendships, effective communication, self-esteem, bullying and how to navigate the transition to middle school. 
Human Skills 7: meets daily for one quarter. The course centers around the theme of choices and consequences. Topics include identifying personal goals, digital citizenship, brain fitness, media literacy, drug education, and refusal skills. 
Human Skills 8: meets once a week over the entire course of the year. In this course, student learn about human sexuality. Topics include male/female anatomy and physiology, healthy relationships, sexual health, contraceptive choices, gender identity and setting limits.

Upper School Adolescent Topics and Conversation

Taught by Tracy Bianchi, the Upper School Counselor, this is one of several classes offered in the wellness portion of the Freshman Rotation. There are many facets of the Freshman Seminar Rotation series, ranging from ethics and identity to service learning. All are designed to educate the freshman on internal and external facets of Menlo life and beyond. Adolescent Topics and Conversations is designed to educate students on current adolescent topics and support students in making healthy choices and aid in the development of social consciousness. The course provides a safe place to learn about, question and experience social issues affecting our society, especially in the teen years. The course helps keep students abreast of issues that may be challenging in adolescence, increases an awareness of self and others, and encourages discussion, reflection, empathy and proactive decision making.

The Seminar offers opportunities for students to explore their attitudes on topics ranging from peer pressure, substance use and abuse, sexuality and positive decision making to the exploration of teenage brain development. In a rapidly changing world in which young people face many challenges, the inclusion of these topics within our curriculum is welcomed and embraced by the freshmen.

In Tracy’s work as part of the Upper School Student Life Program, she creates relationships with students to discuss personal issues in a relaxed, confidential atmosphere. Tracy also coordinates programs relating to health and social issues, including:

  • Grade and school stress
  • Personal challenges
  • Transitions
  • Loss and other crises that face adolescents today

Counseling discussions are private and confidential. Tracy also coordinates programs aimed at increasing student awareness of adolescent decision making, lifestyle choices, overall wellness, and developmental social issues. Our young people are faced with many challenges and questions. The counseling center can provide students with a comfortable setting to talk about these issues. If you have any questions about the counseling program, please contact Tracy Bianchi at 650.330.2001 ext. 2227 or

Freshman Rotation

All 9th graders participate in the Freshman Rotation. This course is designed to give students an opportunity to acquaint themselves with diverse members of our adult community and to explore varied topics that fall outside of the traditional academic program.