Laila McClay

Humanities Teacher
Dominican University, MA
University of California, Berkely, BA
email: laila.mcclay [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 545-1770 x3407

Before joining us at Sonoma Academy, Laila studied Rhetoric and Environmental Science at UC Berkeley, where she also was a member of the debate team and worked for the student radio station, KALX. After graduating from Cal, she moved to Washington, DC to work at National Public Radio where she interned with All Things Considered. Later, she was hired as an associate producer for Weekend All Things Considered. She then returned to the Bay Area to produce and direct the daily morning show The California Report. Laila also worked as a reporter and producer on a KQED-TV science and technology show called Digital West. After a seven-year career as a journalist, she started teaching high school. At Sonoma Academy, she teaches Humanities I as well as some electives such as Race, Class, and Gender, Historiography, and Banned Books. 

Laila enjoys teaching freshmen because they come from so many different schools and they have a diversity of backgrounds, knowledge, and experience. Bringing them all together to explore some aspect of how geography shapes culture is such a great adventure. “Whether we are inventing a simulation to replicate the geopolitics that comes about because of conflicts over limited resources like oil or rare earth minerals, or learning about the history and subjectivity of map-making, it is so fun to watch the freshmen analyze and come to their own conclusions.”

Laila loves that the curriculum at SA is designed to push students and challenge assumptions. She says, “We take an interdisciplinary approach in the Humanities department which allows us to critically evaluate the intersections of history, philosophy, political science, international relations, rhetoric, and communication, language, and effective writing.” She also appreciates that the teachers in the Humanities department are constantly creating new electives to keep the curriculum fresh, exciting, and relevant.

After coaching policy debate for the first 15 years of her teaching career, Laila is now excited to be fully focussed on her classroom teaching. She thinks that it is such an incredible honor to be entrusted with teaching young people. “There is nothing more rewarding in education than seeing the ‘light bulb’ turn on in the middle of a lesson.” Leading students to grapple with complex ideas and supporting them as they learn how to make sense of it all is her favorite part of the day. In her years teaching here, she has been teaching here at Sonoma Academy, she has connected with many students and faculty and found her own place within our community.
Whether we are inventing a simulation to replicate the geopolitics that come about because of conflicts over limited resources like oil or rare earth minerals, or learning about the history and subjectivity of map-making, it is so fun to watch the freshmen analyze and come to their own conclusions.

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The only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.