Our Program

The Living Wisdom High School Approach to Joyful Learning

Self-Discovery • Adventure • Excellence • Service • Joy

The fundamental characteristic of the LWHS program is that each student is appreciated as a unique individual on a life-long journey of learning and development. School staff and peers, family and friends, are all a part of this journey, along with the individual’s own set of strengths, challenges, interests, goals, and inspirations.


Every student, in partnership with a mentor and faculty, designs a personalized, balanced program with experiences in self-discovery, academic excellence, creativity, connections with others, and service-learning adventure. In this way, young people take charge of their education, engage deeply in personal development, and experience the joy of learning.

An Education at Living Wisdom Includes:


  • A personalized learning plan based on each student's interests, long-term goals, educational aspirations, and abilities. 
  • Counseling and mentorship support in skill development, self-discovery, and college & career readiness.
  • Internships and student-driven experiential learning projects which teach students how to be cooperative, self-directed, and proactive learners.
  • Centering tools including meditation, yoga, martial arts, and practices rooted in universal principles of happiness and success. 
  • Maturity and character development through service work, adventure, and travel.
  • Joyful learning in a supportive community.

Avenues of Learning


  • Synchronous and asynchronous instruction
  • Digital and in-person coursework
  • Collaborative and cross-curricular projects and labs
  • Academic coursework at the following levels: general education, college-prep, honors, advanced placement, and dual-enrollment college credit.
  • Small group instruction & one-on-one mentorship
  • Meditation and centering practices for concentration and calmness
  • Service-learning & adventure travel
  • Leadership training

Avenues of Learning

  • Meditation and centering practices for concentration and calmness
  • One-to-one and small group instruction
  • Cross-curricular and project-based learning
  • Service-learning and adventure travel
  • Leadership training

Balanced Learning

Physical Development Through...

Body and energy strengthening exercises, positive habits and skills for healthy-living, hygiene, sports, physical education, diet, etc.


Mental Engineering Through...

Concentration, positive attitudes, solution-consciousness, will power, positive thinking, development of memory, creativity, even-mindedness, learning from challenges and failures, self-reliance skills, time management, public speaking, etc.


Community Development Through...

The art of friendship, social-learning projects, non-violent communication, respectful dialogue, and maturity through empathy.


Inner Strength Through...

Balanced living, centeredness, joyful self-discipline, positive habits of mind, yoga, meditation, expanded awareness, and development of intuition, etc.

Personal Passions Project

Each student identifies an area of interest or passion in their life, and are then supported to research and develop a project related to that interest. During the process, LWHS partners students with mentors in the local community. The process culminates with a presentation of the students’ work and an appreciation ceremony for all of the community support that went into their success. These projects have included the study of neuroscience, poetry, computer science, art, music production, photography, and more!

Personal Development Courses

Annually, a personal development course is offered for students to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, explore their interests and inspirations, and learn how to manifest these as real meaningful change, both within themselves and in the world around them.


Students engage in meaningful discussions, self-reflective writing, creative projects, and service-learning in the local community. They also develop skills such as non-violent communication, emotional intelligence, self-compassion, and practical life skills (finances, resumes, cooking, etc). Overall, it is a place to build community, have fun together, and realize one's highest potential.

Meet the Team

Director

Kshama Kellogg

Kshama is an Education for Life specialist, and has spent the last decade exploring the field of education and consciousness. She has taught students K-12, mentored students & teachers, and developed local and international youth and family programs that incorporate principles of meditation, yoga, and wellbeing in daily life.


Living abroad as a child, and then attending our sister school in Nevada City, Kshama’s early life sparked in her a passion for travel and cross-cultural connection. It also inspired a commitment to holding service as a guiding principle in her life.


Kshama’s educational background is in Spanish, Latin American Literature, Sociology, and Education. She completed her specialization training through Education for Life International on site at Living Wisdom School of Palo Alto.


Kshama is passionate about offering young people an educational experience that activates their enthusiasm for life, nurtures their unique interests and abilities, and deepens their sense of self-understanding and connection with the world.

Business Administrator & President of the Board of Directors

Gary McSweeney

Gary is the Business Administrator & President of the Board of Directors for Living Wisdom School (TK-12). As the former middle school teacher extraordinaire and alumni parent, Gary carries a deep understanding of the guiding principles of our Education for Life philosophy and the practical needs of the TK-12th grade Living Wisdom programs. Gary supports the school through a multi-faceted administrative role. He advises students, faculty, families, & community members and coordinates all things financial including tuition payments, salaries, and overall finances. 
English, Math & Physical Education Teacher

Hazemach

Hazemach has taught mathematics, literature, and physical education at Living Wisdom High School since 2019. He is a Living Wisdom School alumnus who began to discover a passion for teaching at the Karate and Fitness Place after he became a junior black belt at 11-years-old. After three years at Woodside Priory High School, he chose to begin college early at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, where he developed an interest in the humanities while studying advanced mathematics. After receiving his Associate of Arts with distinction, at 18-years-old he chose to travel to Germany to seek mentorship in mathematics research. Three years later, he received his Master of Science in Mathematics from Jacobs University with a thesis on the topological characterization of holomorphic dynamical systems, and began research work in mathematics. During this time, he discovered a prevailing interest in the history, popular communication, and pedagogy of science, so Hazemach chose to pursue teaching as a profession, and returned to Palo Alto to contribute to the Education for Life movement. He pursues further development in various disciplines, including mathematics, physics, philosophy and history of science, literature, literary criticism, linguistics, religion, Karate, piano, yoga, and meditation.
Social Studies Teacher & Assistant to the Director

Mandana Karma

Growing up, my dad’s passion for history shifted my night stories from children’s stories to historical stories. I loved them! I am Iranian and hearing about Iranian myths was increasing my love for my country and made me proud. My dad had a large library full of books about important historical figures from all around the world. Exploring his library made me familiar with characters such as Napoleon, Gandhi, Nader Shah as well as crucial historical events such as the French revolution. I loved spending time reading those books and getting lost in the stories. I was always curious about the world around me and would ask many questions. People around me would get tired and asked me to stop asking questions. Since then, I decided to take children seriously and to help them discover what they need.


I studied photography for my B.A and videography and video editing in community college. I had a passion for photographing people’s natural emotions. Later on, I realized that I was more interested in people’s stories than in capturing them visually. So, I went back to school and got a masters in mass communication journalism. There, I learned about people’s stories and the pain in the world, realizing that as a human, I was able to make a change.


As I was studying, I started working as a research assistant in social studies as well as tutoring K- 12th grade students. After graduation I worked in an after school/college prep program, teaching social science, English, writing and other courses. My goal in life is to help people know and understand themselves and find what their path is to reach happiness as opposed to what society forces on them.

Personal Development Teacher

Shanti Pollacek

Shanti is currently working on a masters degree in East West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She completed an interdisciplinary bachelors degree focused on psychology, education, Spanish, and youth empowerment. For most of her schooling, she went through and graduated from the Living Wisdom School system in Nevada City, CA where she developed a love and enthusiasm for learning and a deep desire to serve others. She loves to travel and has so far been to 17 countries, all of which have expanded her perspective and opened her heart to the goodness in the world and in each person.


Shanti spent her first year of college doing a program through Naropa University called Leap-year: a year of traveling, service projects, hands-on learning, retreats, and the opportunity to follow one's inspiration. She is also a trained yoga teacher, Sharing Nature facilitator, and enjoys backpacking in nature, playing music, engaging conversations, meditation and yoga, reading, karate, dance, and adventures of all kinds.


Shanti's dream is to support youth, and especially teens, with self-discovery and empowerment — overall, helping them to become their highest potential. Her enthusiasm for this dream has manifested as an annual summer camp for teens called Inner Adventure Camp– focused on self-discovery, empowerment, community, creativity, adventure, and coming of age. Beginning her fourth year working at LWHS, Shanti is very inspired, excited, and grateful to be a part of the amazing school community and to give back to an education system that left an indelible mark on her life.

Guitar Teacher

Bruno Panunzio

Bruno Panunzio began his guitar studies at the age of ten with his father. As a versatile musician, his experience ranges from rock/pop, jazz, and classical guitar. He also traveled extensively to the Spanish cities of Malaga and Sevilla, where he studied flamenco guitar. Mr. Panunzio’s performance experience includes solo and ensemble performances at both private and public events throughout California for over 15 years. He has participated in masterclasses with artist such as the Beijing Guitar Duo, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Alvaro Pierri, and Adam Del Monte. 


Mr. Panunzio is also a recipient of awards and scholarships including the Santa Barbara Musicians Union Award 2006, Santa Barbara's La Fair/Rokoff/Gilbert Fund Scholarship 2007, and most recently the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Scholarship where he attended 2014-2016.  He graduated from San Francisco State University in 2014 with a B.M. in music performance studying under Lawrence Ferrara, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2016 where he received his M.M. in music performance studying with world-renowned composer and performer Sergio Assad. A dedicated educator, Bruno enjoys working with students of all levels and backgrounds.

French Teacher

Devyani 

Devyani grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. She attended Calcutta University, earning a Bachelor’s in Commerce. Alongside high school and college, Devyani pursued French language studies for five years at The Alliance Française (French Ministry of Education) and achieved her ‘Diplôme de Langue’, ‘Certificat Pratique de Français Commercial et Economique’, as well as ‘Diplôme Supérieur’. She taught French at The Rama Krishna Mission School of Languages, Kolkata, before moving to Chandigarh, India. There, she worked as a French professor at The Alliance Fraçaise ‘Le Corbusier’ de Chandigarh. She obtained her French teaching credentials from universities in France. After moving to the USA in 2012, Devyani has since taught at various schools in the Bay Area, and tutored innumerable students.


Devyani is a linguist and, in addition to French, she is also well-versed in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, and Bengali. Spanish and German have also been a focus of her studies. In addition to her love of language, Devyani is also a trained musician. Since she was a child she has played the sitar, a stringed instrument, and has performed at innumerable concerts and stage shows. She is a trained singer and holds diplomas in sitar and Indian classical vocal from Pracheen Kala Kendra, India. Finally, Devyani is a student of meditation and yoga. She and her husband are also budding entrepreneurs and are parents to two amazing kids.

Computer Science Teacher

Hrishikesh Mehendale

Hrishi is an experienced software engineer, and has been working
across various roles and countries since 2001. He graduated from the
University of Pune in 2001, and followed with a Master's degree from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm in 2006, and has been in
the Bay Area since 2008.
Science Department Advisor

Dejana Becker, Ph.D.

Dejana earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, followed by a post-doctorate at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Later, she was part of the team that produced research for GSK (London) in one of their satellite labs at The University of Cape Town. She has published her work in both European and American peer-reviewed journals. The focus of Dejana’s work was in the field of Supramolecular Chemistry and more specifically polymorphism and enclathration of both industrial and pharmaceutical compounds. During the same period, she tutored, taught, and demonstrated both coursework and laboratory techniques for various college level chemistry courses and managed the crystallography lab among other things. 
Science Consultant & Mentor

Nirmal Vadgama, Ph.D.

Nirmal holds a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology from University College London, Institute of Neurology. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, and an associate lecturer in human biosciences at University of Northampton.


In 2012, Nirmal received problem-based learning (PBL) tutor training from St. George’s University of London, where he served as a tutor for medical students for 7 years. Nirmal’s training there involved engaging students in solving clinical-based problems and using self-directed research to make a diagnosis. He was also a laboratory demonstrator, marked BSc dissertations and summative MCQs/SAQs, and contributed to standard-setting for medical degree assessments using the Angoff method.


Prior to that, Nirmal was a science and maths classroom teacher at Oxford International College in China. While there, he also offered extracurricular guitar lessons and served as a teacher-in-residence to manage boarding house duties.

College & Career Counselor 

Jessica Chermak

Jessica Chermak is an Independent College Counselor with over a decade of experience in academia and helping students navigate the college admissions process. She also spent four years conducting research at University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science, and the prior two years working as an Operations Research Analyst at White Sands Missile Range. Jessica graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Psychology, and from University of Denver with an MA in Forensic Psychology. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and a Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). In her spare time, Jessica enjoys reading mystery novels, cycling, trail running, hiking, and watching her sweet puppy stare out the window all day. She is passionate about helping students discover post-secondary options that are a great fit socially, academically, and financially, and is motivated by the incredible growth she has seen in her students as they navigate the college admissions process.
College & Career Counselor 

Priya Singh

As a qualified and experienced College Consultant, Priya offers an individualized boutique experience for each student as they go through the college admission process. She has worked with students in the US, Singapore, and India with excellent desired results. Her journey towards becoming a college consultant started with her high-functioning son who graduated from college in the summer of 2020. Also, with a background in holistic health care and yoga, Priya has been working with both adults and teens for over two decades, and brings a calm, grounded and empathetic presence to the consulting sessions.  

There is total transparency with the steps, essays and applications. Priya goes out of her way to get to know the student so she can research colleges that are best fit for the student’s goals and needs. Additionally, knowing that the essays provide the foundation of a strong application, Priya spends time brainstorming ideas for the personal statement and supplemental essays. Her editing skills encourage students to keep enhancing each draft with the suggested changes, and these subtle nuances help in making a good essay great. Priya feels truly privileged to support the students at Living Wisdom to maximize their potential in fulfilling their dreams and aspirations.

Curriculum Advisor

Lakshmi (Katelyn) LaPine

Lakshmi (Katelyn) LaPine has taught in public education for 10 years, both at the middle school and high school level. She currently holds a position as an English teacher and Conflict Mediator at Menlo-Atherton High School, in Atherton, CA. Throughout her professional career in education, Lakshmi has fostered a love for social justice, mindfulness practices in academia, and community building. Her professional emphasis on these aspects of education have offered many opportunities to work with students in dynamic and innovative ways, both in the classroom and in her role as the Conflict Mediator. Lakshmi has worked with a number of programs in her teaching career that support academic growth and challenge students to strive toward success, include: AVID, SAT/PSAT preparatory classes, summer travel programs for students, athletic coaching, and restorative justice practices. Working as a consultant for Living Wisdom High School, Lakshmi will marry her background in public education with her understanding and implementation of Education for Life practices. 


Lakshmi (Katelyn) LaPine received her undergraduate degree (English Literature) and teaching credential (Single-subject, English) from University of Redlands. She holds a masters degree in Educational Leadership and Social Justice, as well as an administrative credential, from CSUEB.


See what our

Students & Parents Say

“I am a senior now at U.C. Davis, graduating with honors this June in Genetics and minoring in French. I now have my own research project, studying the evolution of centromeric proteins, which I am hoping to have published in a scientific journal… 


I certainly attribute my love of learning and confidence in myself towards my foundation in Living Wisdom. I was also taught that as people, we really do have the autonomy to choose our own happiness, and I try to remind myself of this every day. However, it is curious how many students I see in college refusing to do this.” 


- Hadley, alumnus

TESTIMONIALS
4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California 94303
(send snail mail to: Box 29)
© 2021 Living Wisdom High School in Palo Alto, an alternative, holistic, private high school serving the Peninsula, Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Atherton, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, East Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Milbrae, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos). Focusing on mastery-based learning, self-discovery, service learning, adventure, academic excellence, and supportive community.

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