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Alumni Spotlight: Madeleine Simpson '06

Alumni Spotlight: Madeleine Simpson '06
Who was the PHS teacher who had the biggest impact on your life? 
Truthfully, it’s hard to pick just one, since I had so many memorable teachers over my 9 years at PHS. But second grade with Patty Jepson stands out in my mind, as she fostered my individuality and encouraged me to lean into my quirky, left-of-center self. She didn’t seem to mind when I took it upon myself to organize the classroom top to bottom, she read our class the first Harry Potter book and I’m sure her Bernese mountain dog’s occasional cameos helped foster my fierce love of dogs (especially big ones).
What is your favorite PHS memory?
Having just gone through all my childhood mementos that were gathering dust in my mom’s garage, I was reacquainted with a lot of PHS memories. One thing I’ll always cherish about my time at PHS was the emphasis on going beyond the classroom and taking advantage of the surrounding environment. Not many kids can say they put on a school play at the Palace of Fine Arts, went to Mountain Lake Park for science class, saw Alvin Ailey perform, spent the night at Camp Valley of the Moon or walked in the San Francisco Pride Parade. And yes, somehow I can still sing the tune of my second grade follies song. 
If you could go back in time, what is something you would tell your PHS self?
You don’t realize it now, but [PHS] is cultivating some of the skills you value most. I learned to advocate for myself, think critically and with curiosity, and the importance of being inclusive and compassionate. 
Where did life take you after PHS?
I ended up moving to Melbourne, Australia to finish college. I lived there for nearly seven years. In that time I worked in a pub, completed a graduate degree, traveled the country, worked as a mental health counselor, made close friends and adopted my dog, Finn!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to run a restaurant. Having worked in hospitality in my late teens and through my twenties, now I just cook and bake for fun (and to calm my pandemic anxiety).
What is your current job title and employer?
Senior Philanthropy Associate, Jewish Community Federation & Endowment Fund
What do you enjoy most about your work?
In the last few years, when hope has often felt out of reach, I am grateful to be working within an organization that aims to harness the power of community to impact positive  local and global change.
What is your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
One of the things I have worked hard on personally and professionally is trying to unsubscribe from the culture of staying on track with your peers and doing what you’re “supposed” to be doing in life and instead, making decisions based on what feels right for me.
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I try to get outdoors by going for hikes with my dog, cooking new recipes and spending time with family and friends.
What film, tv show, book, or album are you really into right now?
An audiobook I listened to a little while ago and continues to live rent-free in my mind is, Crying in H Mart; I may not have cried in H Mart, but I cried listening in my car, walking in Golden Gate Park, and cooking in my kitchen. Such a beautiful portrait of womanhood, motherhood, and growing up. 
A TV series I recently finished (and was a laugh-out-loud antidote to the aforementioned book) is called “This Way Up” written by comedian, Aisling Bea.
What talent or skill do you wish you had?
Math. Thank goodness for the invention of pre-calculated tips.