When Tommy Leep started kindergarten in 1989 at the Peninsula French-American School*, he didn’t yet understand that French and English were separate languages.
“I thought that I had been selected to learn a secret dialect that my sister and I could use to bypass our parents’ eavesdropping,” Tommy jokingly remarked. “Conveniently, many other people in the world speak French.”
Tommy, also a Stanford University graduate who studied economics and sociology, fondly remembers his time at ISTP, both the challenging and fun moments.
“We were a tough class,” Tommy admits. “My classmates will remember that we required an intervention from a group called the ‘Green Circle’ to teach us how to be nice to each other. For this, I admire the enthusiasm and patience of my teachers: Debbie Doré, Susan Brooks, Yves Duhaldeborde, Hayat Saba, Chantal Decleve, Brigitte Chémouni, and JoAnne Schmidt.”
Some of his favorite childhood memories included “playing soccer at recess, to trading cards, to slamming Pogs.”
“For the record,” Tommy continued about his playground escapades, “Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski had the most impressive collection of 1994 Marvel Masterpiece trading cards in the entire school. Getting caught up in these schoolyard crazes proved important later on: it served as a common ground for me with my new classmates at Menlo School.”
All joking aside, Tommy was clear to note that PFAS/ISTP challenged him academically; his experiences at school helped to provide him with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“In one exam, I had to decipher Jack London’s Construire un Feu and answer comprehension questions. The native French speakers finished the test in 20 minutes, which earned them the privilege of playing computer games in the back room for the remaining 40 minutes. At the end of the period, I left the room frustrated with my test in hand. I found To Build a Fire at the library and compared it with the French translation line by line, and I finally figured it out.”
What he learned at ISTP stayed with him throughout his academic journey.
“PFAS didn’t have a 6th grade,” Tommy explained, “so I went to Menlo School for middle and high school. Surprisingly, I was great at English grammar because I had already learned advanced sentence structures and conjugation patterns in French. I continued taking French and added Spanish. I even took a year of Japanese for fun.”
Tommy continued, “studying in Paris with three friends was one of my highlights. We traveled all over -- north to Mont St. Michel and Saint Malo and south to Cannes and Juan-les-Pins. In every instance, I was proud to not be the one in the group to give up that we were Americans. My French accent passed the test.”
Post-schooling, Tommy worked as a product manager for Intuit and is now working in marketing at a wireless networking company called Meraki. As an adult, Tommy continues to have opportunities to use his French language skills, especially in the workplace.
“Recently, I spent a week at Montreal training our reseller partners,” said Tommy. “They appreciated that I could speak their language.”
When Patricia Colin, Director of Advancement, approached Tommy to take part in a special PFAS/ISTP Alumni Committee, Tommy and sister Kristen (who also graduated from PFAS/ISTP and is a former faculty member) willingly participated. Tommy appreciated the opportunity to help expand PFAS/ISTP’s alumni program.
“When I was in school, I liked hearing stories from alumni because it painted this picture that there were many possibilities after school, and they were all within reach. In a way, hearing about alumni accomplishments gave me permission to have big aspirations.”
Patricia said of Tommy, “he was wonderful. He challenged us to answer some important questions: what can we do for our alumni? What is it they want and how can we provide that? This led us to realize that a good number of our alumni are at an age where they are just starting or are at an early stage in their careers. This eventually led us to create PFAS/ISTP’s LinkedIn group, and to develop our first ever ‘ISTPIn’ Networking event for our alumni and community.”
With this in mind, Tommy was integral to ISTP’s current LinkedIn presence, providing networking opportunities and a push for an increased Facebook presence specifically targeted for our alumni.
Tommy said, “I hope that Facebook and LinkedIn can serve as a platform for us to inspire each other with stories and opportunities. We’re very thankful for Patricia’s work in helping alumni connect with the school. If you’re local, come to the events. If you’re out of town, stay in touch via Facebook and LinkedIn; the school has something to offer everyone.”
*ISTP originally began in 1979 as the Peninsula French-American School (PFAS). In 1996, upon addition of the Mandarin Chinese immersion program, the school was renamed to the International School of the Peninsula.