Category Archives: Local School News

Diamond Bar Students Make Their Mark

Courtesy: Kelli Gile
Dot Day! Quail Summit Elementary third graders, shown with teacher Criss Sykes, create artwork inspired by Kandinsky’s Squares with Concentric Rings watercolor

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR – Quail Summit Elementary took a spot-on approach to promoting creativity, art, and collaboration during Dot Day held September 14.

“It’s a day where we celebrate making a mark in this word, believing in yourself, and others,” said elementary learning specialist Leann Legind.

The annual event was inspired by the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynoldsabout a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark.”

What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper inspires people around the world to discover the power and potential of creativity in all they do.

“Dot Day is about not fearing creativity, but rather embracing it,” said Principal Frances Weissenberger.

In the past few years, Dot Day has become an international celebration with over 13 million students in 178 countries participating each September.

“Students were so excited to create art on this special day!” Legind said.

The children and staff members arrived at school decked out in polka dot clothing, hats, socks and headbands, with dotted t-shirts and jeans, and even a few spotted faces.

Teachers read The Dot to their students and classrooms created canvas dot art to be featured in a unique gallery.

The Quail Summit youngsters joined an outdoor collaborative art project throughout the day by painting designs on pink, purple, blue, green, green, yellow, orange, and red circles.

Each grade level also had the opportunity to learn about famous artists such as Wassily Kandinsky who created the Squares with Concentric Rings watercolor in 1913.

Third graders in Criss Sykes class painted their own Kandinsky-inspired masterpieces.

“Dot Day inspired me because anyone can draw anything if their heart wants to,” Macie Marquez shared.

“Even simple things can be art and art doesn’t have to be perfect. It teaches us to persevere and never quit,” added classmate Ian Xia.

“We connected the dots at Quail Summit to inspire creative teaching and learning!” Legind said.


33 WVUSD Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

By Kelli Gile 

WalnutThirty-three Walnut Valley USD seniors from Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools have been distinguished as 2019 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

Congratulations to the following teens who have been recognized for demonstrating exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies:

Diamond Bar High: Grace Ge, Samantha Hong, Wesley Ip, Christine Lee, Ryan Li, Amy Miyahara, Isaac No, Ashley Pang, Phoebe Scaccia, Andrew Seo, Alice Wang, Yuwen Wang, Keith Wong, Ted Yarmoski, Timothy Yeh, Angela Zhang, Catherine Zhang, and Christine Zhou. 

Walnut High: Angela Cao, Jeremy Chang, Ashley Chen, Flora Jin, Karen Liu, Amy Lo, Dylan Song, Jordin Wang, Justin Wang, Christopher Yang, Michelle Yee, Tiffany Yeh, Brandon Young, Alice Zhang, and Angela Zhu.

 “We are extremely proud of these 33 seniors for receiving this nationwide honor!” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

 “This level of success is a testament to the caliber of educational experience they are receiving at our high schools each and every day.”
More than 1.6 million students entered the Merit Program as juniors by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

High scorers were designated semifinalists, representing less than 1% of the state’s graduating class.

In total, just over 16,000 talented seniors qualified nationwide.

These students will continue to compete for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships that will be offered in the spring.

The WVUSD senior scholars will advance to the finalist level upon completion of additional requirements.

They must maintain an outstanding academic record throughout their senior year, be endorsed and recommended by their principal, submit SAT scores that confirm their earlier qualifying test, and complete an essay and scholarship application detailing their leadership and community activities.

The 2019 National Merit Scholarships will be awarded beginning in April and concluding in July.


Full STEAM Ahead!

South Pointe students learn coding from ‘Scratch’

By Kelli Gile

Diamond BarSouth Pointe Middle School 7th graders are immersed in learning coding concepts in a STEAM 2 course.

This week, students have been busy designing interactive stories and games with Scratch, an online programming community.

“All students, some having no experience with coding, are given an opportunity to be creative with the smallest of details about their game or story and it is amazing to see what they can do,” said technology teacher Crystal Dira.

Students have been experimenting with ideas as they drag and drop programming blocks to create movement and animation effects.

“Our project is like a Flappy Bird game,” Trey Rosales and Jas Singh explained on Wednesday.

“There’s a bat that’s traveling across these trees while trying to get to the end of the level,” Rosales said.

Another design team, Helena Tran and Aayati Sangal, collaborated to create a catching game with balls and meow sound-effects.

“You can’t catch the orange ball!” Sangal exclaimed.

Throughout the year, students will participate in numerous hands-on activities and projects that integrate the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

STEAM 2 students will also be coding robots along with stop-motion animation, music, and short story videos.

The class has been designed to expose students to both to Engineering/Computer Science and Video Production which are two different paths in Technology available for 8th grade students.

“They really are using technology to create their future,” Dira said.


Vejar Elementary 4th grade celebrates the Golden State

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
“California history is the heart of fourth grade and we wanted to celebrate the day it became a state in 1850!” said teacher Janine De Vera.

California Day!

By Kelli Gile

Walnut – Vejar Elementary fourth graders are becoming map masters while learning about California’s unique coastal beaches, mountains, central valley, and desert regions.

To wrap up the recent geography studies, an entire day was devoted to paying tribute to the Golden State on Monday.

“California history is the heart of fourth grade and we wanted to celebrate the day it became a state in 1850!” said teacher Janine De Vera.

About 100 students kicked off the morning by making California-shaped cookies and marking each region with colored sugar.

“We’re singing songs and making cookies today!” Nathan Chavez shared after creating his confection.

“We shaped the dough with our hands,” he added.

“And we painted the coastal areas green, the central valley yellow, the mountain areas purple, and the desert region orange” explained Caden Sakai.

Then the children dotted the different mountain ranges with chocolate chips.

They admitted that a few of the delicious morsels may not have made it onto the cookie dough.

“We got to eat a couple!” shared Jaxson Highstreet.

“They smell so good!” chimed in Colete Drake as parent volunteers took dozens and dozens of the sweet treats out of the oven.

In preparation for California Day, students researched and prepared state landmark projects.

They also searched for information about national parks, colleges, museums, and popular vacation destinations.

While the cookies baked, students presented their landmark reports in classrooms.

They ended California Day by inviting parents to see the projects on display in the multipurpose room at 2 p.m.

The children performed “I Love You, California”, “Oh California” sung to the tune of “Oh Susanna” the traditional Gold Rush song, “Latitude and Longitude” that helped them learn geography and map skills, and “California Regions” sung to the tune of a popular Katy Perry song.

“You can travel the world,” the group sang on the amphitheater stage.

“But nothing comes close to the Golden Coast. Once you vacation here, you’ll be falling in love!”

And, of course, they gobbled up the freshly-baked cookies!


WVUSD Announces Leadership Team Appointments

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT—The Walnut Valley Unified School District is pleased to announce the following administrative appointments:


Education veteran Dr. Resma Byrne has been named director of educational projects and assessments.  Byrne served as Castle Rock Elementary principal for the past four years. Prior to that, she was assistant principal at Clara Barton Elementary in the Corona Norco USD and a teacher in the Montclair USD. She is also an adjunct professor at California State University, Pomona. She holds a bachelor’s degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, master’s degrees from Cal State University, San Bernardino and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and doctoral degree in educational leadership from California State University, Fullerton.  Byrne succeeds Jacqueline Brown who was named interim assistant superintendent of educational services.


The Board of Trustees appointed two new school leaders with extensive experience during the summer. Jennifer “Jen” Alcazar was named the new principal at Castle Rock Elementary. During her career in Walnut Valley, she served as assistant principal at Chaparral Middle School and principal of the Walnut Valley Institute of STEAM and Humanities.  She was also a science teacher and technology coach at Chaparral for nine years.  Prior to that, she spent a decade working with University of California, Irvine facilitating professional development offerings in technology and science for K-12 teachers. She also taught science in the Santa Ana Unified School District. Alcazar earned a bachelor of science degree from Loyola Marymount University, master of arts degree from Concordia University, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree. She is married with two children that attended Castle Rock Elementary, Chaparral Middle School, and Diamond Bar High.


Sandra Lee was approved to take the helm as the new principal at Westhoff Elementary. This accomplished educator brings over 12 years education experience to her new post and comes highly recommended by administrators, teachers, and support staff. Most recently, Lee served as the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in Aspire Public Schools in Los Angeles. Some of her additional educational experiences include being an elementary principal for five years, a lead literacy specialist and Response to Intervention coordinator, and has taught multiple grade levels.  Lee earned bachelor of science, master of science degree, K-12 Literacy specialist credential from California State University, Fullerton, along with her K-12 literacy specialist credential and administration credential. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education focusing on common core standard of complex text.  She is married with a daughter. Lee succeeds Denise Rendon who retired in May after a 33-year career in Walnut Valley USD.


Matthew Brummett was named assistant principal at Suzanne Middle School. He brings eight years of educational experience, all at Diamond Bar High School, to his new post. Brummett served as instructional dean and assistant summer school coordinator for the past three years. Prior to that, he was a social studies teacher for five years. He also coordinated SBAC testing and co-wrote a WASC accreditation application. Additionally, he served as girls head varsity soccer coach for five years. Brummett earned bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from University of California, Irvine. He is married to a Diamond Bar High grade level coordinator and they have one daughter.


Lam Bui was approved as information technology manager. Bui brings 20 years of experience in the field of technology to his new position. He previously served as database engineer in Walnut Valley for two years. During that time, he successfully managed the process of converting the student information and student assessment systems. He was previously a claims analyst and senior IT specialist at Construction Program Group. He earned a bachelor of science degree from California State University, Los Angeles. Bui is married with two children that attend Walnut Valley schools.


Sarah Ammon brings 17 years of educational experience to her new position as coordinator of special education. She served as program specialist in Walnut Valley for the past three years.  She also served as a District school psychologist, inclusion specialist, and special education teacher.  Additionally, she was a program specialist, autism spectrum disorders at East San Gabriel Valley SELPA for two years. Ammon holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from California State University, Long Beach and masters of education in educational psychology from Chapman University. She succeeds Jean Hicks who retired in May with over 25 years of service in Walnut Valley.


Denise Loera joins the Diamond Bar High School staff as an instructional dean. Loera brings nearly 20 years of educational experience to her new post. She served as a mathematics teacher, department chair, BTSA Mentor, and technology coach at Chaparral Middle School for the past 11 years. Prior to that, she was a math teacher in MUSD at Eastmont Intermediate School and Schurr High School in Montebello.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from California State University, Los Angeles and master’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles. Loera is married with three children, two that attend Walnut High School and one attending Evergreen Elementary School.


Julie Galindo brings over 24 years of educational experience to her role as instructional dean at Diamond Bar High School. She served as interim instructional dean during the 2017-2018 school year. Prior to that, she was an English teacher at Diamond Bar High for 21 years.  She was also an adjunct English teacher at Chaffey College for two years. Galindo earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications from Azusa Pacific University and masters of arts in English from California State University, Fullerton. She is married with two children.


A Great Start!

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
2018-2019 Classes begin in Walnut Valley

By Kelli Gile 

Walnut — Summer break is over and students will soon be getting into the rhythm and routine of the new school year.

Teachers and staff members on 15 campuses welcomed nearly 14,400 students in the Walnut Valley Unified School District on Monday morning.

By 7:30 a.m., Vejar Elementary Principal Whitney Prenger was out front offering high fives and hugs as families began arriving.

The energetic school leader also brought something special to kick off the new school year – a bubble-blowing machine.

The children toting new backpacks and lunchboxes were happily surprised as they walked through the stream of iridescent soap bubbles at the front gate.

“I wanted the children to have a memory from their first day at Vejar that would last a lifetime!” Prenger said.

During the opening lesson, transitional kindergarten teacher Irene Carter admitted to her new young charges that she was a little nervous.

“There are lots of parents here in our class and I had to get up early and leave my dog, Phillip!”

“And I don’t like leaving Phillip,” she shared.

“So, I’m happy, excited, and a little nervous.”

Next, the clever educator encouraged the youngsters to raise their arms like a sliding snake if they were a little scared or nervous too.

Several little arms cautiously went up in the air.

Then she invited the children to raise their arms like a wiggly worm if they were exited to begin school.

More arms went up.

And finally, she asked the kids to wave their hands to signal they were happy.

All of the hands eagerly shot up in the air!

“Monday went well, Tuesday was OK, and Wednesday was super with barely any tears!” Carter happily reported later in the week.

Over 45 new educators were hired for the new school year, including Chaparral Middle School 7th grade math teacher Macy McGuire.

“I’m excited to meet the kids and get the ball rolling!” she said.

“I already have my first month planned out – every homework assignment and every activity,” McGuire added.

“The fish tank is set up and we’ll name our beta as a class!”

“I think it’s going to be a great school year!”

Over the summer, the Board of Trustees appointed new principals Jennifer Alcazar at Castle Rock Elementary and Sandra Lee at Westhoff Elementary.

“I am thrilled to have served in Walnut Valley as a teacher, administrator, and parent,” Alcazar said.

“It is truly an honor to be given the opportunity to return to Castle Rock where my children experienced so much love and growth!” said Alcazar.

“We are so excited to welcome our students back to their second home,” said Lee, a District newcomer who brings over a dozen years of educational experience to her new post.

“It’s going to be a fun school year filled with amazing memories!” she added.

Westhoff Elementary kindergarten teacher Roxanne Dennen is beginning her 25th year in Walnut Valley.

After a morning snack and water break on August 13, students took their places on magic carpet squares to join their teacher in the classic “The Wheels on the Bus” song.

“My 25th first day of school was as exciting as my very first day,” Dennen said.

“I do what I love because I love what I do!”

Over 2,700 Diamond Bar High students gathered in the gymnasium during two opening-day assemblies featuring pep and band performances.

Principal Reuben Jones encouraged the teens to set goals for themselves this school year.

“We want everyone to achieve, create opportunities for learning, and respect yourselves and each other,” he said.

Walnut High Principal Brandon Dade visited every classroom to welcome the Mustang-powered teachers and staff members.

“I’m going to do this every week throughout the year!” he said.

At Suzanne Middle School, students dashed to classes during passing periods with schedules in hand.

“I’ve been all over the school this morning!” said 6th grader Melody Yu.

“I’m excited to see my friends and meet my teachers,” shared Chloe Siu.

Suzanne Language Arts teacher Alice Chen utilized Google Classroom to connect with students a week before school began.

She was able to post a welcome message along with course information for her 120 students.

When Chen saw that some students responded with personal messages, she was absolutely thrilled.

“Digital tools gave me the ability to get to know my students before I met them face-to-face,” the tech-savvy educator said.

“I love that my students were just as excited as I was for the start of the new school year!”

Language Arts teacher Lauri Ujita begins each year with three simple rules she asks her 6th grade students to live by: Work Hard. Stay Humble. Be Kind.

“These are the rules I try to live by too!” she shared.

Fifth-grade students in Kari Penzes’ class at Westhoff Elementary were eager to log onto new laptop computers on Tuesday.

“These one-to-one Chromebooks benefit students by providing immediate access to the most current technology and keeping pace with the 21st century world,” the teaching team commented.

The children were lined up outside Janine De Vera’s 4th grade class before the first bell rang at Vejar Elementary.

“The beginning of the year is such an exciting time – everyone gets a fresh start!” De Vera shared after greeting each youngster..

“I’m looking forward to California day, track, and recess!” beamed nine-year-old Taryn Schilz.

“I’m excited to go to class and see the panda decorations,” added classmate Eleanor Reyes after peeking through the window.

Quail Summit elementary learning specialist Leann Legind used social media to communicate with educator friends the night before school began.

“Tomorrow get ready to change the world – one sweet student at a time!” she offered.


Walnut Valley USD is a Great Place to Be!

Photo: Kelli Gile
Nearly 1,000 teachers, classified personnel, and district leaders gathered to kick off the 2018-2019 school year during a Welcome Back celebration held this week at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar.

Staff members kick off 2018-2019 school year

 Kelli Gile

WALNUT – Nearly 1,000 teachers, classified personnel, and district leaders gathered to kick off the 2018-2019 school year during a Welcome Back celebration held this week at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar.


The 15th annual rally featured recognitions of over 200 long-service employees, Teachers of the Year, Cornerstone Award winners, and keynote message by Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.


As staffers from all 15 schools and departments mingled and visited during the outdoor continental breakfast on August 8, they enjoyed music provided by the Diamond Bar High commercial music rock band under the direction of Steve Acciani and Daryl Hernandez.


Inside the venue, the program began with pep music provided by 100 members of the Walnut High Blue Thunder marching band under the direction of Corey Wicks and Katie Takahashi.


Diamond Bar High junior Taylor Moore took the stage to perform the national anthem and Boy Scout troop #777 led the opening flag ceremony.


“Regardless of what your job is and what you do – all of you touch kids in a way that betters their education. And for that, I really thank you,” Superintendent Dr. Taylor said to the assembled group.

The schools chief reminded educators that the impact they have on their students lasts “forever and is truly immeasurable.”


Over the summer, Walnut Valley was recognized as a National Schools to Watch District – one of only 17 out of more than 11,000 school districts in America.


“This is truly an amazing achievement,” Dr. Taylor said.


To mark the occasion, every employee received a “I work for a nationally recognized school district” t-shirt symbolizing the District’s 48 years of excellence, tradition, and history.


In addition, the WVUSD staff members were given backpacks filled with classroom supplies made possible through a generous donation.


“We want to say thank you for all that you do and hope this helps you have a fresh start to the new school year!” Dr. Taylor said.


Deputy Superintendent Dr. Matthew Witmer and Administrative Director Dr. Sergio Canal hosted the special event that included over 30 raffle prizes provided by local businesses.


Criss Sykes, the District Teacher of the Year and Kathy Frith, the Classified Employee of the Year, offered encouraging words to their peers during the program.


“It just takes one teacher, who teaches with passion and warmth to spark a child into a life of amazement. And here in Walnut Valley our students have 600 such teachers!” said Criss Sykes, a third-grade teacher at Quail Summit Elementary.


“This is a fantastic community and I am so proud to be a small part of it,” commented District Office receptionist Kathy Frith about the caring and supportive culture at the schools.


“Classified or certificated, it is the people here in Walnut Valley that make it such an amazing place!”


Mt. SAC Sporting Complex

Photo: Mt.SAC Athlectics
The opportunity to build a sporting complex nestled amongst mountains and valley’s in such a natural setting is a unique opportunity in California.

By Anthony Saude

Walnut – Mt Sac may have lost the Olympic Trials but that will not deter them from moving forward with the planned upgrades they had in place when the trials were coming to town. The athletic tradition runs deep at Mt. Sac and the new upgrades will carry that tradition well into the future.

“All the construction on the major buildings has begun, the finish work is pending, the project is about 25-30% completed,” said Gary Gidcumb, the manager of the design and construction of the project. ““We have the opportunity to build a sporting complex nestled amongst mountains and valley’s in such a natural setting is a unique opportunity in California. The complex is in the city but the location makes one feel that they have escaped to an urban setting if even for an hour or two,” said Gidcumb. Nobody knows what the future brings and if it brings the Trials back someday, they will be ready.

Mt. SAC has always prided itself on providing service to the sport by hosting world-class events. Like the Mt. SAC Relays and Cross Country Invitational that they have hosted for more than 60 years. Gidcumb said that the motivation for the design is to preserve the integrity and history of the past but overlaid with new, said Gidcumb. We wanted to preserve the most loved traditions of the program without remaining stagnant.” We are proud and passionate about the role this new complex will play in the future histy here at Mt. SAC,” concluded Gidcum.

The college’s plans to build a stadium for their students and community and to keep hosting top notch sporting events remain remains unchanged. Mt. SAC officials are confident that they can continue to be the place where the world’s best athletes compete.


Free, Reduced Price Lunch and Breakfast

Kelli Gile

WALNUT – Walnut Valley Unified School District announces its policy to serve nutritious meals every school day under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

The household size and income criteria identified below will be used to determine eligibility for free, reduced-price, or full-price meal benefits.  Children from households whose income is at or below the levels shown here are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Children who receive CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR benefits are automatically eligible for free meals regardless of the income of the household in which they reside.

Effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals if the household income is less than or equal to the federal guidelines.


Free Eligibility Scale for Breakfast, Lunch, and Milk                          Reduced-price Eligibility Scale for Breakfast and Lunch

Household Size Year Month Twice Per Month Every Two Weeks Week Household Size Year Month Twice Per Month Every Two Weeks Week
1 $15,782 $1,316 $658 $607 $304 1 $22,459 $1,872 $936 $864 $432
2 $21,398 $1,784 $892 $823 $412 2 $30,451 $2,538 $1,269 $1,172 $586
3 $27,014 $2,252 $1,126 $1,039 $520 3 $38,443 $3,204 $1,602 $1,479 $740
4 $32,630 $2,720 $1,360 $1,255 $628 4 $46,435 $3,870 $1,935 $1,786 $893
5 $38,246 $3,188 $1,594 $1,471 $736 5 $54,427 $4,536 $2,268 $2,094 $1,047
6 $43,862 $3,656 $1,828 $1,687 $844 6 $62,419 $5,202 $2,601 $2,401 $1,201
7 $49,478 $4,124 $2,062 $1,903 $952 7 $70,411 $5,868 $2,934 $2,709 $1,355
8 $55,094 $4,592 $2,296 $2,119 $1,060 8 $78,403 $6,534 $3,267 $3,016 $1,508
For each additional family member add $5,616 $468 $234 $216 $108 For each additional family member add $7,992 $666 $333 $308 $154



Mt. SAC Board Considers Bond Measure

The meeting is to consider a resolution that would place a general obligation bond measure on the November ballot.

By Anthony Saude

Walnut – The Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees scheduled an additional regular meeting for Tuesday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m., in Founders Hall. The meeting is to consider a resolution that would place a general obligation bond measure on the November ballot.

The college’s Educational and Facilities Master Plan has been approved by the board and it lays out how to best serve Mt. SAC’s students for the next decade and beyond. A bond measure would help fund infrastructure repairs, expand career technical education programs and improve the college’s security and emergency systems.

An independent community survey was recently taken and it shows that residents strongly support the affordable, quality programs Mt. SAC offers. The survey provided insight into constituent perspectives on current academic needs. Concerns about safety, vocational education and affordability are at the top of the list. Eighty five percent of respondents want Mt. SAC to expand access to its high quality, affordable education so that more students can attend college.

Residents identified a number of their priorities including: preparing students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities, repairing deteriorating gas, electrical and sewer lines, repairing decaying walls, drainage systems and leaky roofs, improving student safety, improving access for disabled students, and expanding career technical education programs.

Residents recognize the need to keep students safe and expressed their support for upgrades and improvements to the college’s security and emergency systems through the installation of cameras, lighting and other measures.

Up to 76 percent of respondents indicated they would support a 55 percent requirement education bond to make essential upgrades to Mt. SAC.

For the complete report of community survey results, visit


Mt. SAC Students Win Seven Medals at Nationals

By Anthony Saude

WALNUT– Mt. San Antonio College health careers students won seven medals at the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) national competition. More than 9,000 secondary and post-secondary students competed in 57 different health-related events at the national leadership event held June 26-30 in Dallas, Texas.

Derek Hawkins (Pomona),  Sho Kitada (Rowland Heights), and Griselda Venezian (Chino Hills) won silver medals in the biomedical debate competition. Hector Alvarado (Montclair), Ezra Dureault (Pomona), Hector Herrera (La Puente), and Robert Solis (City of Industry) won bronze medals in the creative problem solving competition.

“The majority of the teams that they competed against were from universities around world, and amazingly, they surpassed the university competitors,” said Mt. SAC psychiatric technician professor and HOSA advisor Mary Ellen Reyes.

HOSA, established in 1976 by the U.S. Department of Education, is the national organization for secondary and post-secondary health career students. The mission of HOSA is to empower HOSA-Future Health Professionals to become leaders in the global health community through education, collaboration, and experience.

The organizations core values are We value learning. We are committed to learning and becoming respected, knowledgeable and skilled health professionals.  We will respect the experiences and contributions of our teachers, peers and patients and seek to learn from them.

We value leadership. We will serve as role models in our academic program, profession and community. We will be ethical, accountable and trustworthy.  We will use our influence to empower others to strive for excellence.

We value service. We are dedicated to serving others with compassion. We believe that individuals are important, and we will treat everyone with respect and care.

We value innovation. We are dedicated to enriching the lives of others. We will continuously seek the knowledge and skills to address challenges and improve the health professions.



Students Take Top Awards in National Math Olympiad

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT – More than fifty students from Suzanne Middle School joined nearly 150,000 students in the United States during the 2017-18 Math Olympiad.


The annual contest enables “mathletes” to challenge themselves and to compete against other students nationwide.


Math Olympiad is comprised of five monthly contests held from November through March, each containing five high-level math problems.


For the first time ever, Suzanne 7th and 8th grade students scored in the top 10% of all teams in their division nationwide earning a highest team achievement award.


The 6th through 8th grade students also competed among schoolmates during nationwide challenge.


Eighth grader Joshua Hsu earned the title of top school winner with a perfect score of 25. He was awarded the individual George Lenchner Award of Excellence.


Additionally, Joshua received a 1st place trophy and gold pin signifying his outstanding top 2% in the nation score.


Seventh grader Chandrark Mudddana took the 2nd place award and silver pin for scoring in the top 10% nationally.


Eighth graders Daniel Ji and Deven Tseng tied for the 3rd place award scoring in the top 10% nationally.


The top 6th grade winners were Lucas He and Louis Xie, both scoring in the top 10% nationally. They earned 1st place trophies and silver pins.


Second place winners Adora Ma and Harris Song also scored in the top 10% nationally and earned silver pins.


Phillip Chen took the 3rd place award and recognition patch for scoring in the top 25% nationally.


In addition, several 7th and 8th grade students were honored for their high scores.


Serena Huang, Benjamin Jin, Lewis Lui, and Kevin Yu scored in the top 10% nationally and received silver pins.


David Hu, Bella Liu, Andrew Shi, Max Eibert, and Eric Wang scored in the top 20% nationally and received silver pins.


Oscar Chen and Siarra Huang scored in the top 25% nationally and received patches.


Allison Lin and Joseph Shen scored in the top 30% nationally.


Jayaraman Donath, Kevin Zeng, Matthew Carreon, Andrea Florendo and Ella Lin scored in the top 40% nationally.


Megan So, Andrew Wang, and Aaron Zhang scored in the top 50% of the nation.


Several 6th grade students were recognized for their high scores.


Andrew Qi, Nathan Chung, Aidan Do and Eric Tsou scored in the top 40% nationally. Vito Lin and Lorraine Wu scored in the top 50% nationally.


Congratulations Suzanne Middle School students and coach Amy Erickson.


Suzanne MS Students Join Special Olympics

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Blue Ribbon Day! Four Suzanne Middle School student-athletes participated in the Special Olympics Southern California held May 18 at John Muir High in Pasadena.

By Kelli Gile 

WALNUT – Four Suzanne Middle School student-athletes participated in the Special Olympics Southern California held May 18 at John Muir High in Pasadena.


Several months before the games, the children began training with adapted physical education (APE) teacher Greg Sasaki.


“Preparing is its own challenge,” said special education teacher Melanie Kobayashi.


The children had to learn that the very loud sound from the starter pistol was the cue to begin racing.


“Loud sounds can be very disturbing to people with autism and the students had to get accustomed to that and react appropriately,” she explained.


The racers learned how to take their place at the starter line and run in the lane, focusing on themselves, not the stranger competing next to them, all the way to the finish line.


And they had to do it with hundreds of unfamiliar faces around them in a place they had never been before.


All four students participated in either a 25-meter walk or run earning the highest reward – a 1st Place blue ribbon.


They also received green participation ribbons in the softball throw event.


To prepare for the ball throw, they had to learn to step and throw overhand from behind the line.


“They were amazing!” Kobayashi shared.


“It was a lot of work and they made us very proud!”


Walnut Valley Tapped For New National Award

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT—Walnut Valley Unified School District will be honored with a new national recognition as a Schools to Watch District on June 30.


The award celebrates Walnut Valley’s dedication to providing an exemplary educational experience for students.


In the past two years, all three middle schools – Chaparral, South Pointe, and Suzanne – earned the prestigious Schools to Watch designation for demonstrating academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents, and social equity.


These model schools have been recognized at the state and national level and have become examples for middle schools across the country.


Walnut Valley is among only eight school districts in California and 17 in the nation that have earned this distinction.


“This is truly a compliment and a reflection of the commitment, dedication, and pride that all of our teachers, classified employees, support staff, administrators, board members, and personnel commissioners have placed in our 15 schools and our wonderful school district,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.


The Schools to Watch District award will be presented by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform in Washington D.C.


Walnut High Students Discover Sports Medicine Careers

 Kelli Gile

WALNUTWhen stepping into the sports medicine classroom at Walnut High School the space is filled with padded therapy tables, rolling stools, skull and skeleton displays, muscle and tissue charts, a variety of cool gadgets, and state-of-the-art medical equipment.

This is hands-on learning at its finest.

Students are actively engaged learning therapeutic treatment and intervention skills to help patients feel better, perform better, and improve movement.

ROP teacher Elva Salcido has led the advanced Therapeutic Exercise and Rehabilitation course, known as Ther-Ex, for the past year.

This month, 11 seniors will be completing the rigorous three-year career technical education (CTE) pathway.

They will proudly be wearing sports medicine sashes during commencement to mark the accomplishment.

“All these students have chosen to pursue physical therapy or other careers in the medical field,” Salcido said.

“That’s the goal of this program!”

There are currently 160 students enrolled in the CTE sports medicine pathway.

During the first year, sophomores learn about anatomy, common injuries, how to spine board and splint, and become certified in first aid and CPR.

In the second-year assessment and evaluation course they “really dig deep practicing in their evaluation and hands-on skills with patients,” Salcido said.

The teens learn to take patient histories, use observation skills to assess injuries, and utilize palpation skills while using their hands to assess.

“Medical professionals see with their hands, not as much their eyes. You can get a better feel for what’s going on beneath the skin,” she said.

The third year is where students put all the learning together.

“We have a small group of students in this class because we want to offer a personized experience for those going into this field,” Salcido said.

“They are passionate about it and want to help people in the community.”

“We’re using all the tools you’d see in any PT clinic that help athletes get back on the field or track,” said senior Edmund Garcia who has racked up about 200 hours volunteering with the school’s certified athletic trainer.

All sports medicine students are required to complete mandatory work-based learning hours.

“I like to expand the classroom learning and apply it to real-life situations,” Garcia added.

“Everything here is part of the big picture.”

Last semester, the teens had the opportunity to work with the Walnut Walkers senior citizens club.

They were able to see first-hand how the treatments and interventions helped the patients.

“It really opened their eyes and was a rewarding experience,” Salcido said.

On Thursday, the professionally-dressed group was eager to demonstrate some of their training.

“We’ve done a lot of therapeutic modalities this year– the muscle re-education techniques used to break down scar tissue and help mobilize patients,” said senior Jasmine Perez.

At one station, senior Justin Shen administered a flexibility test using a goniometer to measure range of motion on hamstrings.

“Then it’s a leg raise, stretch, foam roll, and then we test again,” he explained.

“PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretches are not passive, but moving and activating muscles into a deep stretch,” Garcia said.

During another modality, the deep muscle stimulator, teens used a power tool known as the “human jackhammer” to break down any spasm in muscles that restrict range of motion.

Jason Shen and Lawrence Liu showed the TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) medical grade machine that uses electrodes for pain relief.

“We’ll be doing it for about 10 seconds and then combine with a heat pack. If it’s too much the muscle jumps,” Shen said.

One team wrapped and taped ankles and used the Gameready icy cryotherapy machine.

“The compression will reduce swelling,” said Christian OCompo.

Perez partnered with Sunny Savarius to demonstrate how traditional Chinese medicine cupping technique can be used to break down scar tissue and increase circulation.

The forearm skin quickly puffed up and turned red as it was suctioned under the clear device.

“If you get a dark color it’s a good thing – that indicates stagnation and there will be more blood flow,” Savarius said.

Aspiring pediatrician Melissa Flores credits the sports medicine pathway and dedicated teachers for her decision to go into the medical field.

“During these past three years, I have learned and had the chance to experience so much. I know I am better prepared for college and everyday life!”

“We are the students we are today because of the passion they share for sports medicine.”


Trustees Recognize Star Students and Parents

Courtesy: Kelli Gile
Board Members Layla Abou-Taleb, Dr. Tony Torng, Larry Redinger, Cindy Ruiz, Helen Hall, and Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor recognize Coordinating Council President Lily Eibert for dedicated service to the Walnut Valley Unified School District.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT The Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees recognized exemplary students and parent volunteers from Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools during the May 16 meeting.


Diamond Bar High senior Marisa Umeh was honored with the Super Star Student Award. Marisa has a passion for filmmaking and publishing. She created a film about women’s health at the Girls Impact the World Film Festival organized by the Harvard Social Innovation Collaboration. Last summer, Marisa was selected to attend the Women’s Science STEAM Initiative in Malawi, Africa as a U.S. Department of State Youth Ambassador. Marisa serves on the Junior State of America State Cabinet, yearbook editor, mock trial team, and hosts a web series titled #LikeHer in which she interviews influential women in typically male-dominated fields. She will attend UC Berkeley and plans to work in international human rights law and virtual reality corresponding.


Parent Rachel Chang received the Partner in Education Award. Rachel has served as the Mag 7 President for the past four years.  Mag 7 is the parent organization that coordinates the school’s seven parent groups:  Brahma Boosters, CAAP, CAPA, HOPE, KAPA, SAPA, and Brahma Foundation. Rachel has helps support Open House, Rodeo Round-Up, Back-to-School Night, Staff Appreciation Luncheon, and many more school activities. She has also served as president of the Korean American Parent Association (KAPA) for the past six years. KAPA has donated numerous supplies for the school including microphones for classrooms and monitors for front office. “Rachel is truly a partner at Diamond Bar High and helps us in so many ways!” said Principal Rueben Jones.


Walnut High senior Adam Ng received the Super Star Student Award. Adam is an extremely motivated, academically driven, and disciplined student. His rigorous academic program and campus activities are a testament to his maturity and focus. Brandon has been involved in FBLA, Model of United Nations, Speech and Debate, Mock Trial, Class of 2018 President, Varsity Basketball, MIT Launch club and Health Occupations Students of America. As the Inland Section President of FBLA, he has created a liaison system for 32 schools in the Inland Empire. Adam is the southern California Area 7 Director of the Rotary Interact Organization, CEO of the “For All Mankind” club, and President of the WHS Hoops4Hope club and FBLA. “Adam’s service club involvement is spectacular!” said Principal Brandon Dade. Adam aspires to work in public policy or corporate law. He hopes to become an attorney and eventually an ambassador for the government.


Walnut High parent Sammy Lee was honored with the Partner in Education Award for her involvement with the Korean American Parent Association (KAPA). Over the last three years KAPA has graciously provided the school with monetary donations, gift baskets, and staff appreciation events. Sammy hosted and coordinated this year’s Staff Holiday Party that featured entertainment, food, goodie bags, and wonderful hospitality. “Thank you for giving so generously during this past school year. I know your time is valuable and your willingness to contribute to Walnut High School staff shows your commitment to the well-being of your child and all of our students,” Dade said. “The efforts of volunteers like you are a vital part of our community!”


Coordinating Council President Lily Eibert received a special recognition from the Board of Trustees. “Lily has been the leader of all of our parents for the past two years,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor. “I believe we have the strongest parent support and involvement of any school district in the entire state.” Board President Cindy Ruiz lauded Lily for the growth of Coordinating Council under her “amazing” leadership. “I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with Lily during the past few years.  She goes above and beyond not only for the school district but for the community!”



Walnut Valley Schools Make State Honor Roll

The 2017-2018 Honor Roll recognizes public elementary, middle, and high schools that demonstrate consistently high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time, and reduction in achievement gaps.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT —After an extensive analysis of student data for every public school in California, the following Walnut Valley USD schools have been recognized as clear leaders in getting students to grade level and beyond: Collegewood Elementary, Cyrus J. Morris Elementary, Evergreen Elementary, Quail Summit Elementary, South Pointe Middle, Suzanne Middle, Walnut Elementary, and Walnut High.


These schools have been named to the 2017-2018 California Honor Roll presented by Educational Results Partnership (ERP) and the Campaign for Business and Education Excellence (CBEE).


The 2017-2018 Honor Roll recognizes public elementary, middle, and high schools that demonstrate consistently high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time, and reduction in achievement gaps. For high schools, Honor Roll recognition includes high college readiness in students.


This year, 1,798 higher performing schools are distinguished for their academic achievement and for closing achievement gaps.


“These Honor Roll schools and districts are improving student achievement and we have the data to prove it. It’s critical that the business community support and promote educational success as today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce,” said Greg Jones, ERP and CBEE board chairman.


Evergreen 5th Graders Vie in Robot Rally

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
About 40 students were invited to show off their skills during four rounds of maneuvers, including sumo wrestling and a gate crashing bridge during the single elimination tournament.

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BARTop fifth grade teams took over the multipurpose room during Evergreen Elementary School’s 1st annual robotics competition on Wednesday.

About 40 students were invited to show off their skills during four rounds of maneuvers, including sumo wrestling and a gate crashing bridge during the single elimination tournament.

Students have been working all year learning to build and program Xbot robots using Lego Mindstorm kits, according to teacher Laura Mowrey who introduced the STEM program five years ago before joining the staff.

“Our team offers robotics lessons twice a week as part of our science education,” she said.

Teacher Dr. Cathy Patterson explained in one of the challenges, the Xbot, teams used precise measurements to make their robots follow a track.“They are programmed to go distances and make turns according to angular measurements using the wheel circumference and rotations as calculated through the year and logged into their robotics journals,” she said.

The robot closest to the finish line took the win during each heat.

“All of them were within 10 millimeters – it was really close!” Patterson said.

“Our robotics program is not just a great way for the kids to use their math and science skills, but it is also a chance for them to practice working as team through cooperation and collaboration,” said teacher Lynn Otsu.

Throughout the three-hour competition, students used their CAD skills and calculators making final programming adjustments to edge out competitors.

“We’re telling our robot what to do,” said Team Pi member Adam Loch moments before the finals.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
About 40 students were invited to show off their skills during four rounds of maneuvers, including sumo wrestling and a gate crashing bridge during the single elimination tournament.

“Right now, we’re programming it to go slower.”

“It’s a good robot. This lift helps it bump people off during the sumo match!” added teammate Caleb Sohn.

On stage, an eager group of students watched robots roll through the gate crashing bridge as teacher Kristine Kobzeff recorded each attempt.

The Xbots were programmed to go five feet in seven seconds before the gate opened, then stay up for three seconds before going down.

“The robots had to make it through before the gate crashed down on them!” Mowrey said.

Students Anthony Chang and Jack Liu designed the impressive engineering project.

On black round mats, sumo wrestling robots were programmed to fight to the end.

“We made the final sumo round!” exclaimed Sienna Simmons, a member of an all-girl team before the match.

“Our robot’s kind of small which makes it go fast! We had a good feeling about it,” added teammate Hana Bouindani, 11.

“It’s a long process, but by the end of the year they really know how it all works,” Patterson added.



Diamond Bar, Walnut High Schools America’s Best!

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT – Hats off to teachers at Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools for grabbing medals in U.S. News & World Report’s Best High School rankings for 2018.

The annual list looks at nearly all public high schools in the country – more than 20,500 in all – to sift out the best with an eye on college readiness.

Diamond Bar High earned a gold medal, ranking 59th in California and 376th in the United States.  Additionally, Diamond Bar placed 146th in STEM high schools.

Walnut High earned a silver medal, ranking 111th in California and 639th in the United States.

Both standout schools have been included in the report every year since the publication began its ‘Best High Schools’ search in 2009.

U.S. News looked at overall student performance on state-required tests, high school graduation rates, and evaluated on how they prepare students for college using participation and performance data from AP and IB exams.

Diamond Bar and Walnut offer an extensive roster of IB and AP courses to provide teens with an opportunity to challenge themselves with college-level course work during high school.

This year, 85 California schools received gold medals, 439 received silver medals and 82 received bronze medals.

“I’m so proud that our premier high schools continue to be recognized on a state and national level for preparing students for college and beyond,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.


WVUSD Parents, Community Members Shine at Gala

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT– A stellar group of Walnut Valley Unified School District volunteers and community members were honored during the A Night of the Stars gala held April 26 at the Diamond Bar Center.


The 4th bi-annual event, sponsored by the Walnut Valley Educational Foundation, lauded exemplary parents, alumni, business, education, leadership, and service partners.


“It is an honor having the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful people tonight,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.


“Thank you so much for helping make Walnut Valley such an incredible school district!”


Distinguished parent partner awards were presented to Mike Ramirez – Castle Rock Elementary, Karen Motus – Cyrus J. Morris Elementary, Betsy Castellano – Collegewood Elementary, Ling Yeung– Evergreen Elementary, Richard Nakama – Quail Summit Elementary, Carolyne Morris – Maple Hill Elementary, Melissa Hanson – Vejar Elementary, April Alvarado – Walnut Elementary, Melinda Powell – Westhoff Elementary, Terri Lotto, Carrie Cheng, Ray and Carol Gonzales – Chaparral Middle School, Gordon Mize – South Pointe Middle School, David Morales – Suzanne Middle School, Wanda Tanaka – Diamond Bar High, Pastor Donald R. Gridiron and Gloria G. Gridiron – Ron Hockwalt Academies,

and Raymond and Kary Wong – Walnut High.


Distinguished partner awards were presented to Ryan O’Shea MD, Diamond Bar High Class of 2003 – Alumni, SolarMAX Technology, Ching Liu – Business Partner, Nancy Hogg and Denis Paul – Community Partners, Walnut Valley Secondary Music Programs: Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools, Chaparral, South Pointe, and Suzanne Middle Schools – Education Partners, Walnut Valley Financing Corporation – Leadership Partner, and Walnut Valley Kiwanis Club – Service Partner.


“After hearing all the accomplishments shared about our honorees, the term ‘it takes a village’ is truly felt here,” said Board President Cindy Ruiz who emceed the presentations with Deputy Superintendent Dr. Matthew Witmer.


Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

The celebration of education also featured music by the Diamond Bar High Commercial Music Program.


The Kenneth Goodson Memorial Scholarship was introduced in honor of the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services who passed away in February.


The event concluded with a surprise Distinguished Leader recognition for Dr. Taylor as Superintendent of the Year.


“I can’t tell you how long we’ve kept this a secret!” Ruiz added.


“It took all these people on stage to come together, including the School Board, Employee Associations, Parent Organizations, and Educational Foundation to pull this off!” Ruiz said.


Star parents were honored for generously giving their time and talents to benefit students and schools.


Three years ago, Cyrus J. Morris Elementary honoree and school alumnus Karen Motus was motivated to spearhead and lead a Science Olympiad team because her children, Kaylee and Elonzo, love science.


“I stayed on as coach because I have been surrounded by students, faculty, and families who enjoy learning about STEAM and the importance of teamwork!” she said.


April Alvarado has been involved in every event at Walnut Elementary during the past seven years. She volunteers to be a room parent for classrooms when they don’t have one – even though her children aren’t in that class.


“She never hesitates to help,” lauded Principal Robert Chang.


Chaparral Middle School band booster parents Terri Lotto, Carrie Cheng, Ray and Carol Gonzales were honored successfully fundraising over $20,000 this year to support out-of-state competitions. They arrive daily to stock, catalog, and sell snacks from the after-school band store.


“The contributions of these three families represent the commitment of this wonderful group of supporters to music, and to the Chaparral band program!” said Principal Ron Thibodeaux.


Rich Nakama volunteers in the Quail Summit Elementary library, virtual desktop (VDI) lab, playground area, and is the logistics person for the Carnival.


“Rich is always the first to arrive and last to leave!” said Principal Frances Weissenberger.