Around Town: national recognition; trail closure


In this week's Around Town column, get to know a Palo Alto High School teacher who actor James Franco calls his hero, an eight-week construction project at the Baylands and two new online library services.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION ... Palo Alto High School journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki, commonly known to her students as "Woj," has been recognized by the nonprofit Honored, an organization that puts the spotlight once a month on a K-12 educator for his/her impact in the classroom. In addition to the title, the honoree is given a $5,000 cash reward and an article by a "world-class writer" on their work. Actor James Franco, Wojcicki's former student, called her his hero in a video and praised Wojcicki for giving control to students running The Campanile, the campus newspaper. "Not only did we write the stories, we got to come up with the stories and we did the layout of the paper." The work young journalists did in Wojcicki's classroom gave them "a sense of ownership," Franco said. "It wasn't work that would just end up in a ... teacher's drawer after getting a grade. It was work that would go out in the world. Franco used Wojcicki's teaching style while teaching a film class at Paly and continues to apply her methods while leading film lectures for graduate students. Wojcicki's teaching philosophy can be summed in an acronym: TRICK, which stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness, according to an article by Vanity Fair contributing editor Bethany McLean. The 33-year teacher also is known for doing a "Woj check" before the paper leaves the room. "She's a kid magnet," Paly principal Kim Diorio said in the article. "People feel really connected to her and supported by her."

TRAIL CLOSURE ... The Adobe Creek Loop Trail at the Palo Alto Baylands has been blocked to visitors since Tuesday for repair work to the Flood Basin Tide Gate that won't be completed until after Halloween. The Santa Clara Valley Water District implemented the closure as its contractor repairs the gate that has sustained structural damage over the years to keep high tide waters out of the basin, which empties out twice a day at low tides. Crews will repair cracks and weakened concrete surfaces, rehabilitate the tide gate structure deck and replace the 36-foot chain-link fence with a longer one that measures 48 feet over the next eight weeks. The fixes will cover an area about a half-mile northeast of the Byxbee Park parking lot at the trail. The work is expected to help protect the Matadero, Adobe and Barron creeks from flooding and protect animals above and below water at the basin. "We apologize for this temporary inconvenience," district board member Gary Kreman said in an email. "It is critical that we complete this project before the rain season so that we may all continue to enjoy the peace and natural habitat of the basin." A detour has been set up for trail visitors that partially parallels U.S. Highway 101 and winds northeast near Mayfield Island. More information on the project can be found by calling the district's public information representative Diego Barragan at 408-630-3063.

LANGUAGE SERVICES ... The Palo Alto City Library has expanded its online resources with two new tools that debuted last month. People who read Chinese and/or Japanese can enjoy the Kono for Libraries tool with articles and periodicals (such as Elle, National Geographic and PCM) published in those languages. They can also catch up on digital magazines in the languages from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. French and English speakers or learners can find amusement with Storyplayr, an online library with hundreds of illustrated books, such as the Caillou book series and classic fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk," tailored to children between 3 and 10 years old. The bilingual resource also offers readers a chance to record themselves reading a story aloud and sending the audio to whoever they'd like. Both tools allow library cardholders to make a free account and download content to their PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones. Readers can choose to read a story in large text and other typefaces such as OpenDyslexic, which is designed for dyslexic readers. "These are significant new resources," library director Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne said in a press release. "It's exciting that so much international content is now freely available to our cardholders." More information can be found online at


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