Alumni Corner

James Rokas started playing guitar the summer before 5th grade when he began taking lessons from Mr. Prestianni. It has been a passion of his ever since!

After graduating from Saklan in 2012, James went to San Ramon Valley High School where he continued playing guitar in Jazz Band all four years. He also broadened his musical interests by playing cello in Orchestra (recommended to him by Mrs. Chaffey) and playing percussion in the Marching Band.

After high school, James decided to follow his passion for guitar and music by pursuing a degree from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. As a jazz performance major at Thornton, James has enjoyed performing in multiple ensembles including jazz combo, big band and Afro-Latin jazz. He has also written many jazz big band arrangements.

James R

Another big part of his experience as a student at USC has been as a member of the Trojan Knights, an organization known as the official hosts and guardians of traditions at USC. If you watch college football you may have seen James on the sidelines in body paint cheering on the Trojans!


He is currently getting ready to graduate in May with a degree in Jazz Guitar Performance and a minor in Music Industry. After graduation, James is planning to pursue graduate studies at UCLA for Film Scoring and working in the music industry.


Event Recommendations for the Weekend

Sticking around for the three-day weekend? Check out these great art exhibits.

great wave

Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts

1601 Civic Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Tuesday – Sunday 12pm-5pm

Adult $5, Youth 13-17 $3, Children 12 & under free.


MLK Day of Service Fair

January 20, 12–4 pm | Oak Street Plaza

In honor of MLK Day, OMCA will be offering visitors an opportunity to connect with local social justice organizations who will share information about their work and how to get involved. Enjoy a free one-hour performance by The Marcus Shelby Quartet from 1–2 pm honoring Dr. King and the legacy of the work of Civil Rights leaders and other activists.

Participating organizations include: CARECEN (Central American Resource Center), Ella Baker Center for Human RightsLeague of Women Voters of Oakland providing voter registration, the US Census, and Marcus Shelby.

The Service Fair is free and open to the public. Gallery admission is not included.


Geometry Is Building Polyhedra


As part of the traditionally high school course, Aaron (8th) is hard at work making a variety of different prisms, pyramids, and other polyhedral as he investigates the relationship between the number of vertices, edges and faces. If you look closely at the picture, you should see a regular tetrahedron, a cube, and a regular octahedron (or as regular as you can get with toothpicks and sour cherry balls.)

He then used the pattern he found (vertices + faces = edges + 2) to learn more about different octahedrons, heptahedrons, and dodecahedrons.


The lessons continue with the Geometry students finding surface area and volume of many different shapes, and concludes with finding the amount of cleaning solution required to clean the outside of the TransAmerica pyramid in San Francisco!


See Some Art This Holiday Break!

Take the family on a trip to see some of these great exhibits happening in the Bay Area! There will be plenty to talk about over dinner. 🙂 Check Holiday hours and special exhibit showtimes, pricing, tours, workshops, etc. before heading to the museum. Attached is the exhibitions link to each museum, as there are plenty of other awesome exhibits and permanent collections at each of these museums.


  1. Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)


No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man

October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020

Marvel at the spectacular artwork and large-scale installations from one of the most widely-celebrated cultural events in the world when No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man takes over OMCA.

* Friday nights @ OMCA

From 5–10 pm every Friday night, the Museum has special programming, food trucks, live music, and more.

  1. Exploratorium – SF


Curious Contraptions

Nov.21 – Jan. 26th

Curious Contraptions explores small, surreal worlds through fantastical, often amusing mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical flying, sailing, and cycling machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks, and other simple mechanisms. Each sculpture performs an absurd miniature drama while also reflecting its maker’s worldview and sense of humor. Exposed inner workings and low-tech mechanisms invite the viewer to understand how each one comes to life.

  1. DeYoung Museum – SF


Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983

Nov. 5th – Mar. 15th

This internationally acclaimed exhibition, organized by Tate Modern, celebrates art made by Black artists during two pivotal decades when issues of race and identity dominated and defined both public and private discourse. The de Young’s presentation includes a focus on Bay Area artists whose work promoted personal and cultural pride, collective solidarity and empowerment, and political and social activism.

  1. California Academy of Science – SF


‘Tis the Season for Science: Life on Ice

The Academy’s annual holiday exhibit, explores the remarkable adaptations that allow Arctic and Antarctic flora and fauna to thrive in such extreme ecosystems. This year, you can marvel at one such live animal without having to travel to the tundra: See how reindeer are uniquely equipped to migrate incredible distances each year—on foot, contrary to popular belief…


Why We Give?

Darby family

In our family’s journey at Saklan, from Pre-K through 8th grade, Saklan’s nurturing community of teachers, staff, and families have instilled a love of learning in both of our kids and we truly feel that they receive something priceless each day.

Small class sizes, individualized attention, a culture of care, the celebration of creativity, and high academic expectations. Teachers and staff who know every child and are like family.  Science, art, and music in every grade. We brought our daughter, Isabel, to Saklan for Pre-K and all of these elements compelled us to keep her at Saklan throughout. She’s now a thriving freshman at Carondelet High School.

Seeing our daughter blossom, it was an easy decision for our son, Jordan, to also join Saklan in Pre-K. He’s now a maturing 7th grader looking forward to choosing a high school next year.

We support the Annual Giving Campaign because, in each of our family’s 11 years at Saklan, our kids could never wait for their first day of school, and we couldn’t imagine a school for them other than Saklan.

Stuart and Ana Darby

Jordan (7th)


¿Que Tiempo Hace Hoy?


Second graders meet for Spanish class 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time. The Spanish courses are taught with an emphasis on interactive activities, stories, poems, songs, and games that are used to introduce vocabulary and commonly used phrases in Spanish. Students also engage in art projects to help them draw associations to the Spanish material as they speak and create. Reinforcement and repetition are used to help retain material.

This past week, students were introduced to vocabulary associated with different seasons and weather. They learned the name of the four seasons in Spanish: el invierno, la primavera, el verano and el otono. The four seasons is a fun topic because there is so much to talk about. First, the students discussed the characteristics of each season. Then, they shared their favorite season and why they liked it. They also created a “dado” (dice) with the different weather types and they asked each other questions such as “¿Que tiempo hace hoy?” (How’s the weather?). These activities gave the second graders lots of opportunities to practice their Spanish.


Why Do You Donate?


“Saklan does an OUTSTANDING job of teaching to different learning styles. That my second grader can take charge of her learning by choosing which math activity she wants to do, that she can work on it lying on the floor or sitting on a ball, that she does work both independently and with partners and in groups, and that she is learning how it applies to the REAL WORLD makes my heart happy on a daily basis.

And I would be remiss if I did not sing the praises of our specialist teachers. Our kids get to make sugar skulls, engage in hopscotch tournaments and perform on stage in professional settings. And hats off to Mrs. Chaffey – last year I had to bite my tongue. A dear friend’s daughter was saying how at her school concert they were doing Disney songs – and I SO wanted to respond that ‘yeah, we’re playing African drums and singing slave spirituals and the kindergartners are learning songs from the Depression and our whole school is doing songs about perseverance and teamwork and classic country songs’ but somehow I thought that might just sound  a teeny tiny bit snobbish? Maybe? Just a bit? 

I’ve also seen tremendous changes in the Parents Association this year. I LOVE having themed meetings once a month. It really makes me motivated to go! And the blog just seems to be getting better and better and I really appreciated what was said at back to school night: The school could run on tuition alone, you could keep the lights on and pay salaries but that would be about where it ended. That by us parents helping out, our kids get to go on experiences like the working marine biology research ship, to gold country, and to make sugar skulls! And I remember thinking ‘here’s my wallet – help yourself!’

And last for me, I feel that Saklan loves, supports and appreciates my child. Kaylah is a friendly, bright, creative kid but she has her moments. And I feel like at Saklan, every single teacher has taken those moments and rather than do what as a parent I sometimes want to do which is throw up my hands and say ‘Why can’t you be like other kids?!’, they turn around and say ‘Huh – how do we turn this into something positive. How do we help you be a leader? How do we support whatever it is you’re going through? Because it’s what makes you amazing and special.’ And sometimes it’s through meetings with a teacher, sometimes it’s through family groups, sometimes it’s through general conversations at morning meeting, sometimes the solution is a mix of a whole bunch of stuff. But I feel like whatever happens, Saklan’s got my back and they’re there to catch Kaylah when she stumbles and challenge her and reward her and encourage her.”

Tara Nemeth and Timothy Grammer

Kaylah (2nd)


Why Do You Donate?


”What wouldn’t I give when my children are blossoming in an environment that nurtures the love of learning and allowed to be themselves confidently! I wanted them to have a different learning experience than the one I grew up having; where going to school is an exciting event rather than a dreadful one that I’ve felt growing up. Going to Saklan every morning, as we drive 45 minutes each way, is a day my children look forward to. That’s enough of a reason for me to give.” 

Jenny Choi

Makenna (7th) and Nikko (4th)