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Alumnus Jacqui Levitan ('12) - from history buff to software engineer

It’s been 12 years since Jacqui Levitan graduated from 8th grade, but she’s carried with her an intellectual curiosity and love of learning that were formed early on at Marin Horizon School. 

“I have Marin Horizon to thank for teaching me to make learning fun for myself,” said Jacqui. She explained that even when work in her computer science classes or difficult projects was hard and stressful, she was able to focus on the excitement of learning new things, or reframed them as a fun challenge such as solving a puzzle.

Today, Jacqui is a software engineer who has worked at Affirm, start-up Catch, and is currently at software start-up Middesk. After graduation from Marin Horizon, she enrolled at Marin Academy High School, and then attended Duke University where she majored in Computer Science and minored in Spanish and Political Science. 

“I took Computer Science 101 my freshman year of college and immediately loved it. I always loved math, and word and logic puzzles, and my computer science assignments felt like they were combining these two things for me,” said Jacqui. She joined the Duke Technology Scholars (DTech) Program while at Duke, which supports women interested in engineering careers. With their guidance, she obtained software engineering internships where she enjoyed getting to apply what she’d learned in the classroom to real world problems. 

After working at a large company straight out of college, Jacqui realized that she preferred working at a smaller company, where she could build things from scratch and help shape the company’s products. She also appreciated the sense of community and chance to work with people throughout the company—not just other engineers!

Jacqui is now living in San Francisco, and spends a lot of time running (she ran her first marathon last year!), doing yoga, baking and cooking, reading, and going skiing, hiking, and camping. 

Here are additional excerpts from our interview with Jacqui:

For which grades did you attend Marin Horizon School?

I attended Marin Horizon School from toddler to 8th grade12 years!

What is your favorite memory of Marin Horizon School? Educational or otherwise?

So many of my favorite memories of Marin Horizon School were when we got to do things outside. These include the annual outdoor education trips when I discovered my love for backpacking, doing science labs outside in middle school (even though I got poison oak during one of these), learning about monarch butterflies in Primary 3 and releasing salmon that we raised in our classroom in 2nd and 3rd grade. I have such an appreciation for getting to spend time outdoors 

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

This is such a hard question—I can’t pick only one when I had so many amazing teachers at Marin Horizon! But some that especially stand out to me all these years later were Kathleen (Hazelton-Leech) in primary who taught me to look at the world with such wonder and to make everything fun; Susan (Guadagno) in second/third grade who brought such great energy to the classroom; Annie (Gordon) in fifth grade who was constantly patient with me while I was at my most energetic (and annoying); and Carla (Wilkins), Mark (Sherburne) and Mo (Poxon) who were so formative in my middle school years. 

What was your favorite class and why?

My favorite class throughout my time at Marin Horizon was history! I loved that we got to read books that paired with the events we were learning about, which helped me gain a better understanding of events that shaped the world we live in today. There were several famous historical figures that I got to pretend to be during my time at Marin Horizon—including Amelia Earhart in second grade, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in fifth grade, and Louisa May Alcott in sixth grade.  

How did Marin Horizon prepare you for your next steps—high school and beyond? 

Marin Horizon prepared me for my next steps in so many ways. First, I was extremely well prepared academically and also loved learning when I left for high school. Marin Horizon taught me the value of independence and resourcefulness through our outdoor education trips. And Marin Horizon prepared me in terms of my values—I learned to value community, keeping an open mind, and being accepting to all. 

Are there things you learned at Marin Horizon that stay with you to this day? (Love for a subject, educational strategies, habits or mindsets, etc.)

While Marin Horizon taught me more than I can put into words in an academic sense, I think the biggest impact Marin Horizon had on me was to value kindness and strong friendships above all else. I constantly am explaining to people that the middle school I went to had a fuzzy bunny award that was given to the nicest person in each grade. As I went through high school, college, and now my young adult life, I always keep in mind what I learned at Marin Horizon and value surrounding myself with a kind community.  


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