Three Kleeman Kids Grow Up to Become Teachers in Menlo Park City School District

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This is the 35th article in Bears Doing Big Things, a weekly column celebrating the stories of notable M-A alumni. Read the last article here.

Lexy Keller Eaton (left), Georgia Walton (second from left), Alice Kleeman (second from right) and Nick Keller (right).

Former M-A college adviser Alice Kleeman raised her three children to value education highly. While the three followed different paths, they all ended up teaching in the Menlo Park City School District.

“My kids all went to M-A, and they all had great experiences,” said Kleeman. “They had different extracurricular activities, kinds of friends, and academics. I think that’s one of the best things about the school—that there are so many different paths you can take through it.”

The oldest of the three, Lexy Eaton (Ms. Keller to her students), dreamed of teaching from a young age and followed a direct path to the profession. She teaches eighth grade at Hillview Middle School. Nick Keller, the middle child, took several gap years, worked different jobs, and traveled the world before settling in as a preschool teacher. He now teaches fifth grade at Laurel Elementary School’s Upper Campus. Georgia Walton, the youngest, knew that she wanted to be in a “helping profession,” and explored nursing before settling into teaching elementary school. She teaches third grade at Encinal Elementary School.

Lexy Keller Eaton '94

Eaton at age five.

“I wanted to be a teacher since I was five—ever since I really knew what teachers were,” said Lexy Keller Eaton.

“I was a really hard worker in high school,” she remembered. “I just wanted to learn and absorb as much as I could. I probably didn’t have enough fun—I was a high-achieving, perfectionist kind of kid—but I connected with a lot of people and learned a lot.”

Eaton with her high school sweetheart and future husband.

During her sophomore year, Eaton started dating Alan Eaton, a four-year starting quarterback on the M-A football team. “I sat next to Alan in Joe Fuchs’s English class, and every Friday, Mr. Fuchs would tell us to turn to a classmate and make a plan to go hang out on the weekend. We did that one weekend, and then kept it going,” she remembered.

Lexy and Alan Eaton became high school sweethearts, and dated for 13 years before getting married in 2004. Alan became a teacher as well, and currently teaches Latin at Woodside High School. 

“In high school, I did everything that looked like teaching—I tutored, coached basketball, and taught younger kids study skills over the summer,” Eaton remembered. 

Eaton went on to study psychology and history at Stanford University. “I loved psychology. Every time I looked in the coursebook, I would think to myself, ‘I want to take every single one of these,’” she said. “I was super interested in studying adolescence, and I also did a great program called Children in Society.”

Almost every day throughout college, Eaton returned to M-A to help out in her senior year calculus teacher Jerry Brodkey’s algebra classes. “Mr. Brodkey was this calm, brilliant, no bells and whistles, thoughtful, zen human, and I just couldn’t get enough of watching him around the classroom,” she said.

After graduating from Stanford, Eaton became a math teacher right away. She taught at Castilleja School for a few months, and then at Pinewood School for a year and North Star Academy for a year. “You don’t need a credential to teach private school, and I was just dying to be teaching and out in the real world,” she explained. 

“Then, the Hillview principal offered me a job, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, working at Hillview is my dream job,’” Eaton continued. “There was a teacher shortage at the time, so I got an emergency credential from Cal State, and I have been teaching at Hillview ever since—for 23 years.”

“I love teaching math and being a math role model to kids—especially to middle school girls, who are often at a sort of shaky turning point in their math careers,” Eaton explained. 

Eaton in her classroom.

“I was a very good math student in school because I knew how to study, but I wouldn’t say that I was particularly naturally talented at it,” she continued. “I cried through algebra with my dad trying to help me. I think that actually made me a better math teacher, though, because I can empathize with not getting it. I could see where people were going to have problems, and find a way to communicate with them and help them.”

“I also love teaching writing. Like math, teaching writing comes down to clear communication. For most of my career, I taught both history and math, and I loved that balance. After we came back from the pandemic, I had to teach only one so I chose to focus on history because I like that the kids bring so much personality to it—they bring so many different opinions and thoughts. I still teach math in the summer.”

“My all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird because I love the coming-of-age aspect of the story,” she said. 

Eaton’s advice to current M-A students: “You get out of anything what you put into it. Never be a passive participant. Bring questions, curiosity, and engagement wherever you go. In my classroom, the kids who show up ready to absorb elevate the whole room. Schools are so vibrant, and especially at M-A, I know that the teachers just give and give and give—I think teaching attracts people who like to give in that way. I feel like the fact that there are so many teachers like that at M-A must be because there are kids who are just soaking it in. Be those kids! Be the soakers!”

Nick Keller '97

Keller in elementary school.

“My favorite thing to do with kids of any age is sift compost,” said Nick Keller, the “wild child” of the family. “Compost piles are just these incredible worlds.” 

Keller loves gardening and the outdoors, and he brings a hands-on, adventurous spirit to his classroom. He taught preschool for six years before transitioning to fifth grade, which he has been teaching for the past nine years.

“My older sister [Lexy] was a very play-it-straight kind of person, so I was like, ‘I wonder if I could do things a little differently, or find an alternative’—that’s kind of been my life philosophy,” Keller explained. 

At M-A, Keller enjoyed being active and playing sports. “I ran cross country and played tennis and soccer. I had so much fun,” he remembered.

Keller spent his junior year of high school in Australia as an exchange student. “I knew that junior year had the reputation of being very hectic and stressful, so I saw the opportunity to get away from that,” he explained. “I had a really great, adventurous year in Australia, and I kept in touch with friends at home by writing letters.”

Keller exploring the outdoors on a hike.

After graduating from M-A, Keller took a gap year. He worked in his father’s woodshop building cabinets and canoes, learned how to play the guitar, drove around the western U.S. to camp and visit friends and national parks, worked as a gardener, and hiked the John Muir Trail through the High Sierra mountains. 

“That gap year was great,” he remembered. “I felt like I wasn’t racing to get somewhere, or racing to get a degree. I was just enjoying life experiences.”

Keller then attended the University of California, Santa Cruz on a full academic scholarship. “I majored in philosophy because I was interested in ethics and what rules we should follow to live good lives,” he explained. “I liked my Earth Science and natural history classes as well.”

Keller also enjoyed working with UCSC’s Recreation Department. “I was really involved in the wilderness orientation program. I led student groups on hikes and took them on adventures,” he remembered. “Through one of the programs, I got credit to hike and identify, use, and eat plants for a whole quarter.”

Keller took another gap year between his sophomore and junior years of college to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and travel to Australia and Europe.

After graduating from college, Keller stayed in Santa Cruz for a year to continue working with the Recreation Department, and then embarked on a new adventure: a two-year-long bike trip around the country. 

Keller on his bike trip.

“I dreamed up the trip and spent two years biking a counterclockwise loop around the United States,” Keller explained. “I traveled small roads through lots of mountains, stopped in small towns, met people, stayed places for a week here and a week there, and really got to know the country.”

“I didn’t have much of a plan,” he added. “Most nights, I didn’t know where I would be the next night. I kept a journal; I would write for an hour or so every night.”

“One winter, I worked as a bread-maker at a bread shop in a small town in Vermont while it was cold and snowy. Then, when spring came, I packed up my bike and headed west,” he continued.

After returning home, Keller reflected, “My travels helped me realize that it’s really important to me to be involved in a community. So many small communities made me feel welcome on my trip, and those little communities are what make up our world.”

So, Keller moved to Woodside with his girlfriend—who is now his wife—and taught preschool for six years. He then got an Elementary teaching credential and has been teaching elementary schoolers ever since.

“I honestly like kids more than adults,” Keller continued. “The idea of spending every day with adults sounds kind of dreary to me. Kids are fun and full of crazy ideas that you would never imagine. At a party, I’m likely to seek out the kids.”

“There’s nothing more important that you can do than be there for kids,” he added. “They need inspiration, great role models, and people to love them and care for them.”

Keller’s advice to current M-A students: “I have two pieces of advice, and they almost conflict. One: look for opportunities while you’re young to do things you really enjoy doing, don’t be afraid to take chances and gap years and really explore. And two: in retrospect, I think I took longer than I should have to be clear about my career goals. Make sure to think ahead and plan at least a little bit. So, I guess my advice would be to be thoughtful about striking the right balance between looking ahead and going with the flow.”

Keller’s favorite children’s book is Where the Wild Things Are, and his favorite adult book is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

In his free time, Keller said, “I love music. I play the fiddle and the mandolin. I love to be outdoors—I’m always hiking, running, and backpacking. Some of my favorite spots are Black Mountain, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, and really everywhere in the Santa Cruz mountains.”

Georgia Walton '01

Walton as a toddler.

“I just love connecting with people and helping people,” said Georgia Walton, the baby of the family.  

“Georgia has this warmth about her—so many people just adore her,” said Kleeman. “She is kind, delightful, cheerful, and such a sweetheart.”

“I loved the atmosphere of M-A,” Walton remembered. “It was great to get to know people from all sorts of different backgrounds and to try so many new things.”

“I remember watching Latinos Unidos de M-A (LUMA) perform amazing baile folklórico dances, and I was so amazed that I joined the club,” she continued. “I was welcomed in so wholeheartedly, and it was so fun. I loved learning the dances and wearing the dresses and shoes.”

“I had some amazing teachers in high school as well,” Walton added. “John Florio, my history teacher, had the perfect combination of high expectations and an interesting teaching style. We were very close, and he attended my wedding.”

“Christina Galliano, my freshman world studies teacher, was great,” Walton added. “She cared about me and checked in on me, which I appreciated. I later became her TA.”

During her junior year of high school, Walton joined M-A’s badminton team on a whim. “I had never really played before, but it turned out to be fun,” she remembered. “Badminton is a great sport.” 

“I love language, so Latin was my favorite subject in high school,” Walton added. “Learning all the root words was so useful.”

After M-A, Walton studied Human Development at the University of California, Davis. “I loved having room to experiment in college,” she remembered. “I enjoyed continuing to study Latin, all my human development and psychology classes, and a children’s literature class.”

Walton also enjoyed a course called Introduction to Animal Science. “Anyone who goes to Davis should take Introduction to Animal Science,” she said. “You get to learn how to shear sheep, and how to tell if chicken eggs are fertilized, and all of these odd farm animal things.”

When it came time to make career choices, Walton said, “I looked up to my mom who was volunteering in schools at the time, and to my sister who wanted to be a teacher. I always knew I wanted to go into a helping profession—either nursing or teaching—and I liked kids.”

Walton met her future husband, Mike Walton, during her first week of freshman orientation at UC Davis. They both decided they wanted to be teachers, so after college, they went to a teaching program together at Sacramento State University and then student-taught in Davis public schools. 

Walton’s Encinal school portrait.

In 2007, the Waltons moved to Menlo Park. Georgia got a job teaching fourth grade at Encinal, where she has been for the past 16 years, and Mike began teaching fifth grade at Cherry Chase Elementary School. He now teaches P.E. at Sunnyvale Middle School. 

Some of Walton’s favorite classroom activities are “book tasting,” where she sets the room up like a restaurant and lets kids “sample” books from different genres, and the “Hero Museum” project where the kids read a biography of a hero and create a little museum exhibit. “I love that project because the range of people the kids pick as their heroes is so cool—this year, some of the heroes were athletes, Archimedes, Anne Frank, and Frida Kahlo,” Walton explained.

“I also love doing art projects with the kids,” she added. “This year, I started doing a monthly art project related to the different heritage months. We did a project based on a Native American artist’s work, another for Black History Month based on Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a piece inspired by Maya Lin’s work for Women’s History Month.”

On her favorite books, Walton said, “I enjoy light and fluffy contemporary romance. Emily Henry’s Book Lovers had me cracking up. I also liked The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, about a woman from England who moves to Kentucky and becomes a packhorse librarian, riding on horseback to deliver books.”

Walton’s advice to current M-A students: “Start learning about finances now. I didn’t start learning about money (investments, loans, taxes) until the last few years, and I really wish I had known more at an earlier age. I hope all high schoolers can take classes, read books, create a budget, and learn how to invest and save money wisely. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things! There are many paths to college and not just one right place for you. Be adventurous, try new things, travel, and push your boundaries.”

Kleeman said, “When I think of all three of my kids landing in the teaching profession, and when I watch the enthusiasm and love they bring to their classrooms, I feel like exploding with pride.”

Disclaimer: Bears Doing Big Things is not meant to be a list ranking the most accomplished or famous M-A graduates on Earth. It is a collection of people with a wide range of expertise, opinions, and stages of life who were kindly willing to share their stories. As Maria Popova once wrote, “There are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives.” Every M-A alum—and every person—is “accomplished” in their own way, and everyone has a story to tell.

Caroline Pecore is a senior in her first year of journalism. Her column, "Bears Doing Big Things," runs every Monday. She enjoys meeting new people through journalism and writing about the M-A community. Outside of school, she spends most of her time rowing for Norcal Crew and also enjoys reading, drawing, and exploring the outdoors.

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