Bayhill High School graduate Jenner Easland appreciated the teachers, friends and school trips at the Berkeley private school. Credit: Aubrey Ferreira

This story is brought to you by Bayhill High School.

Like many Bayhill High School students, Jenner Easland, who is now in college, went through a series of troubles before finding a school that met his needs.

At Bayhill, the teachers and staff go to great lengths to create an environment in which students actually want to learn. Lessons are presented as explorations where students can use their hands and bodies to actively figure things out. This is not a place for rote memorization and regurgitation. Here students play, act, build, write and paint their way through the curriculum. 

When you walk into the school in North Berkeley on Virginia Street at Miliva, a trophy case filled with awards stands out. Next is the big glossy gym where the talent show, pep rallies and holiday parties all take place. Each classroom is peppered with projects, drawings, colorful models and posters. Fidgets and tangibles are neatly arranged in bins; everything is so inviting. 

Bayhill students make a group collage during clubs in the art room. Credit: Bayhill High School

We recently caught up with Jenner, who shared some thoughts with us about the program and what makes it so special. 

Q: How did you feel about school before coming to Bayhill and what were some challenges you were dealing with at this time?

A: I had a long history of stress surrounding school before coming to Bayhill. I was a complete perfectionist and had always worried myself sick over homework and tests. To make a long story short, I had to drop out of school at the beginning of sixth grade because of severe anxiety. My anxiety only worsened and I developed depression and suicidal thinking, which all cumulated into a sense of hatred and panic towards school. My parents eventually sent me to a wilderness therapy program and then a therapeutic boarding school for eighth and ninth grade where I was able to face my issues and take a step in the right direction before I went to Bayhill in sophomore year.

Q: How was Bayhill different from other schools you’d been to?

A: Bayhill allowed me to feel like I finally belonged. In wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding school, I had to deal with kids who had severe behavioral problems and I was only able to garner friendships with a select few. Coming to Bayhill, I immediately fell in love with the strong sense of community and I was able to quickly make friends. The aspect I treasured most about Bayhill was how they viewed anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia and other learning differences. Before Bayhill, I felt like my anxiety and depression were illnesses that barred me from truly belonging in school and society as a whole, but at Bayhill, I felt like I could learn in an environment that acknowledged my issues, not as issues, but only as things that caused me to learn differently.  

Q: Did you have a favorite subject?

A: The English department as a whole really changed my life. Each teacher I had gave me the resources and support I needed to thrive at essay writing and reading comprehension. They not only supported me, but they challenged me to go further with my analytical skills and taught me how to advocate for myself.

Q: What were some highlights of your time spent at Bayhill High School?

A: The highlights were the events at school, whether it be dances or all-school games of dodgeball and tug-of-war, field trips to the park or indoor skydiving, and the sophomore camping trip. All these events allowed a great deal of bonding with my fellow students and teachers, especially the sophomore camping trip where I was able to create unforgettable memories with friends playing football, playing cards or just sitting around in hammocks.

Hikes, like this one at the Lafayette Reservoir, brought the Bayhill school community together during remote learning last year. Credit: Aubrey Ferreira

Q: How did Bayhill High School prepare you for college?

A: Bayhill prepared me through the time-management skills, social knowledge, educational knowledge, and self-advocacy I was able to develop.  

Q: What is life like after Bayhill High School?

A: University life has been absolutely amazing so far and I have been the happiest I have been in my life. I have learned that I am much more of an extrovert than I previously thought and I have found a plethora of friendships. I undergo a sense of reward with all the school work I am able to finish and I feel like anything is possible with my studies and my life. I am currently planning on majoring in environmental ethics and policy and I hope to study abroad next year in Austria. 

To find out more about how Bayhill High School serves students with learning differences in the Bay Area, go to Bayhill is currently accepting students for the 2022-23 school year. Interested families can sign up to attend a virtual tour & talk on Jan. 20 or Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. 

This story was written and paid for by Bayhill High School whose mission is to educate students with learning differences, focusing on their individual learning needs, with the goal of maximizing their inherent abilities and their potential to succeed.