Ashutosh Kumar, grade 9, is a first year student at BISV, he really, really loves Biology, is a skilled 5095.jpgraconteur and debater, and loves a good challenge, be it a rigorous debate on stem cells or learning a new language.

“What I love about BISV” said Ashutosh, “is that this is a school where you can get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in a safe environment. The teachers take the time to meet students where they are in their academic development, and the support is there to help us along the way.”

Ashutosh said that he has never taken an AP class. He’s taking AP United States Government and said that the “teacher explains the why and how, which gives us context.  Also, the other students are helpful, there’s lots of class participation and it’s encouraging. I was nervous at first, but that quickly disappeared with how well the teacher prepares us.”

When asked about his favorite class, without hesitation Ashutosh said, “That’s easy. Biology.” Ashutosh loves learning the complexities of living organisms and how everything is interconnected and interdependent. He also said that his teacher is exceptional at explaining complex ideas and “Infuses humor into her classes at key moments, which engages us and helps us enjoy the class. Biology is fun!”

Ashutosh also enjoys math and the way in which the teacher integrates real-world problems to teach mathematical concepts. He said, “For example, today we learned about the physics of velocity and used real-world examples to illustrate the concepts. I also love how all the textbooks are cumulative, and that they build on what we learned before.” He said this cumulative learning model makes is easier for him to study and retain what he learned before and that he has less stress when it comes time to test.

by Ashutosh Kumar, grade 9

I have my Creative Writing elective with Ms. Salinas for my 0 period. We usually start with a free-write, which helps us kick-start the creative process, then we move on to writing strategies. We also discuss themes, the editorial process, and effective story structures. I love that we learn to be independent in forming our stories.

Next is Honors Literature with Mr. Vermouth. Mr. Vermouth does a thorough job of preparing us for future AP classes by teaching us how to close-read and analyze a text in-depth. It’s important to note that all my classes are fun.  It’s challenging work, but it’s fun.

Honors Literature is followed by AP US Government with Dr. Parson. History is something that I’m not normally excited about but the way the teacher presents the information is very interesting. Dr. Parson helps me understand the historical context of how we arrived to our present state of government and connects me to my role in the electoral process. What makes this subject come to life is the peer-to-peer small group discussions.  These really allows for us to participate and debate with each other, and that’s fun. We also learn to work with small groups on collaborative research projects and how to assess and evaluate political discourse. At BISV, it’s not purely about memorizing historical facts, it’s about how we are all connected in a personal way to American politics.

After AP US Government, I have French 2 with Mr. Balas, which is very challenging for me, but manageable. It’s manageable because Mr. Balas takes the time to help every student. For example, he is very good at helping us understand the expectations for the test, so when test time comes, there are no surprises. I feel very well-prepared because of the teacher’s attention to detail and clear expectations.

The last class before lunch is Pre-Calculus with Ms. Wendel which is preparing me well for next year’s AP Calculus class. Pre-Calculus is challenging but I’m always well prepared for my tests. Ms. Wendell takes the time to do thorough assessments and test prep and is available during office hours. At BASIS, all teachers have office hours and it’s extremely helpful when I need extra help.

At lunch there’s plenty of time to relax and hang out with friends. I’m new to the school, but it feels like I’ve been here a long time; that’s how easy it is to make friends, everyone is very friendly and willing to help out.

After lunch, I have English Language Honors with Ms. Myers. What I find interesting and compelling about BISV classes is that a lot of the skills that we are learning overlap from class to class; I believe this reinforces our ability to think critically, analyze, and come to solid conclusions, all while learning to be independent and work well as part of a team. Ms. Myers teaches us how to be good close readers of a text. Close reading a text allows us to understand the nuances and sub-text in literature. The skills of analysis and close reading also help me be a better reader and writer in my other classes.

Next is Honors Biology with Ms. Zhao but really, we’re learning AP Biology content.  It’s challenging but we have the support in place to be successful. The teacher takes the time to ensure we truly understand the concepts. This course helps us understand the trajectory of this career field through hands-on in class experiments. For example, we recently had a rigorous debate on embryonic stem-cell research, complete with a judge’s panel. Ms. Zhao makes the class fun and interactive.  

As for extracurricular activities, I’m in the Neuroscience club.  A lot of what we do in this club is geared toward preparing for participating in the annual Brain Bee (The Brain Bee is an annual competition for high school students similar to a spelling bee, but the subject is the brain and nervous system.  It is promoted by the Society for Neuroscience, and the local Bay Area Brain Bee ('Bay-Bee') is hosted by the California State University East Bay.)

As for homework load, I usually spend about 2-3 hours on homework on any given day, which I think is perfectly manageable. I still have plenty of time for afterschool clubs and time with family and friends.

I’d also like to say that coming to an open house before choosing BISV was very helpful. It allowed me to get a realistic idea on what it would be like to be a student here and also get to know some of the teachers.