Tag Archives: Collegewood Elementary

Creating Classroom Magic

Collegewood Elementary Students Become Word Surgeons

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTWalnut Valley USD elementary teachers have been on the hunt for buried treasure in classrooms this year.

The vast riches they have been uncovering are not rare gold coins, but the spark in their students’ eyes and a new enthusiasm for learning.

These daring and adventurous educators have been willing to dive into uncharted territories by crafting creative lessons and fearlessly transforming their learning spaces.

At Collegewood Elementary, second grade teacher Stephanie Johnson recently turned her classroom into an operating room hoping to put a spark into a Language arts lesson.

The teacher (and chief surgeon) prescribed the mini makeover by placing powder blue tablecloths over desks, providing doctor’s masks and gloves for her students, and playing a soundtrack of doctor’s office noises.

Johnson said the excitement level hit a new high when the children arrived at school and found the medical gear waiting at each draped operating table.

“I didn’t tell my students ahead of time, so they were extremely excited when I met them at the door in my surgical mask,” she explained.

In her pre-op consultation, Johnson told the rookie MDs that their “patients” (word cards) were prepped and in-need of emergency services.

The second graders eagerly donned the costumes and began “stitching” together dozens of compound words with plastic bandages.

Students practiced building new words with nouns, verbs, and adjectives that took on new meanings when combined, like moonlight, sunflower, toothbrush, seahorse, baseball, rainbow, and watermelon.

“It was super fun and the surgery was a success!” she said.

Johnson was thrilled that her students were highly engaged in the activity from “start to finish.”

“At our end-of-the-week assessment, even my struggling students scored well,” she reported.

Johnson said she was motivated to set sail on the class adventure after a staff reading of Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and hearing about engaging lessons inspired at Get Your Teach On conferences.

The spirited educator has gained a passion to chart a new course and will continue introducing students to learning in uncharted territories.

“This experience inspired me to set a goal of doing a room transformation once a month next year!” she said.

Collegewood 2nd graders celebrate Earth Day

 Kelli Gile

WALNUT Second graders at Collegewood Elementary paid tribute to Mother Earth with a day of “outdoor school” on April 22.

About 100 students rotated through stations while learning about recycling, repurposing, and more.

“Our kids need to practice Earth Day every day so that their future will be clean and bright!” said teacher Betsy Hale.

The youngsters planted herb and flower seeds in empty milk cartons and crafted simple bird feeders from pipe cleaners and cereal rounds to hang on trees and bushes on campus.

“They love watering the plants and watching them grow!” shared teacher Elvonne Vance.

Teacher Stephanie Johnson offered a lesson on water cycles using sandwich bags and food coloring that she found on Pinterest.

“I had them draw a water line at the bottom of the Ziploc and a sun at the top to begin the science experiment,” she explained.

Each student filled the bottom of the baggie with water and then carefully squeezed in a couple drops of blue dye before taping to a window.

The food coloring would enable them see the water evaporate in the warm sunlight, condense back into liquid, and fall back down in the form of precipitation after a few days.

The youngsters also created Earth Day posters using paper bags with handles, old crayons, paper scraps, and art pastels.

“Take care of the Earth, we only have one!” wrote Paloma Pasquil.

“We should take care of our Earth every day,” added Danika Pe.

The activities covered all curricular areas including math, science, reading, writing, and art.

The children enjoyed games of golf and croquet on the grass while listening to ecology-themed songs

“It was good old-fashioned play – no electronics!” said Hale who even received a couple thank you notes afterward.

“Events like this are remembered!” she exclaimed.


Walnut Valley Board Honors Outstanding Student, Parent


Collegewood Elementary student Pitzil Milagro Avila Castellanos received the Super Star Student Award on October 19. Shown with Board President Helen Hall. Photo courtesy: WVUSD

Collegewood Elementary student Pitzil Milagro Avila Castellanos received the Super Star Student Award on October 19. Shown with Board President Helen Hall.
Photo courtesy: WVUSD

WALNUT, CA–The Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees honored a standout student and her mother during the October 19 meeting.

Collegewood Elementary 4th grader Pitzil Milagro Avila Castellanos received the Super Student Award for going above and beyond in her learning.

She excels in all content areas, acts with integrity, and consistently demonstrates thoughtfulness, shared Principal Mary Wendland.

This year, Pitzil Milagro started her own business to raise money for a playhouse and donated books to a kindergarten classroom.

Teachers describe Pitzil Milagro as kind, intelligent, motivated, responsible, and an out-of-the-box thinker.  Classmates say the super star student has a “golden heart.”

Pitzil Milagro aspires to become a doctor or a soccer player.

“I have no doubt that she will work to make her dreams come true,” Wendland added.

“She is an example of everything we value at Collegewood and she represents the very heart of our school.”

Collegewood parent Betsy Avila Castellanos, Pitzil Milagro’s mother, received the Partner in Education Award.

“She sets a wonderful example of what it means to live out commitment with heart,” said Wendland during the presentation.

Betsy serves on the school’s Community Club with a positive outlook and willingness to help in any capacity. Last year, she played a pivotal role in developing the successful Grades of Green recycling program

The dedicated parent also donates countless hours to ensure the school carnival is a success and a place where students can create lifelong memories with their families.

“She is truly a reminder of the good that exists in our community and it makes perfect sense that her daughter would share those same admirable qualities,” added Wendland. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

Collegewood: Reducing Trash 90% Wins $1000

Inspiring students to care for the environment

By Kelli Gile  

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile Collegewood Elementary is a grand prize winner in the Grades of Green trash-free lunch challenge.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Collegewood Elementary is a grand prize winner in the Grades of Green trash-free lunch challenge.

Walnut—This year, Collegewood Elementary decided to go green! Students, staff, and parents worked hard to implement a Grades of Green recycling program, and at the same time compete for a cash award.

Twenty-two Los Angeles County schools joined the environmental non-profit’s 2015-16 Trash Free Lunch Challenge.

The quest focused on encouraging kids to bring reusable water bottles, lunch containers, and napkins to school, and to sort any waste they may have into recycle, compost, landfill, liquids, and tray stacking bins.

By the end of the year, Collegewood decreased lunchtime waste by an average of 95% and was named a $1,000 grand prize winner!

The school rolled out the “green” carpet to celebrate during a May 6 spirit day assembly.

“We used to send 20 bags to the landfill everyday. Because of all your hard work, we have reduced our trash to 1-3 bags a day,” Principal Joan Perez said. “I’m so proud of our team effort and most importantly – our kids!”

Students were eager to pitch in to help increase recycling on campus.

“I learned to make more green choices,” said 3rd grader Advika Ganapathy who also taught her family to recycle bags.

Six different youngsters helped sort recyclables each day at lunch.

“A lot of kids really wanted to help!” said 5th grader Monica Mossmosen about volunteers who didn’t mind giving up recess to be a part of the green effort.

One day, when custodian David Morales had to leave early, the children stepped up and ran the stations by themselves.

“This became much more than a trash-free lunch challenge,” commented parent Leslie Lopez. “Our students learned things that are life skills. They are becoming ambassadors of trash!”

In addition, the school’s Green Team was successful in banning Styrofoam trays from Walnut Valley schools and creating the first-ever battery recycling center in Walnut.

“A group of kids came into my office and talked to me about Styrofoam,” said Mike Hodson, assistant superintendent of business services. “They convinced me right there on the spot!”

“Collegewood students truly care about the Earth and making sure we have a clean and healthy place to live,” said Anjuli Koentopp, Grades of Green program manager who pointed out that the school had reduced its trash by about 3,000 bags or 30 tons.

“That’s the size of 10 elephants!”

“It makes me proud to help Collegewood be more earth friendly,” said 2nd grader Connor Salazar.

Collegewood Completes 612 Acts of Kindness

Photo courtesy: WVUSD

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
Teachers took turns playing a pie in the face game as a treat for students.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT, CA—Collegewood Elementary showed support for second grader Coben Swanson with 612 acts of kindness during a read-a-thon at the school on February 12.

The school quickly rallied when the eight-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia in November, sending get-well video messages and fundraising to help the family with expenses.

All 612 students and staff members came together once again during a special reading time held on the upper playground.  With towels and blankets spread out on the grass, the children and their teachers opened favorite books and quietly read for about 20 minutes.

The event was the culmination of a two-week reading challenge where students were encouraged to read daily, log minutes, and collect pledges. All donations will benefit the Swanson family.

“He’s our friend and needs our help”, said Kaitlyn Tran. “We’re donating money to help his family. We miss him!”

“Coben’s going through a hard time and we should support him no matter what,” added fifth grader Cassidy Ng.

Afterward, teachers surprised the group with a pie in the face game.  The children crowded around to watch their teachers get doused with whipped cream after taking turns spinning the wheel on the tabletop game.

“Acts of kindness instill empathy and teach children the value of living a life of giving,” said teacher Jane Dyer-Smith.

Walnut: Collegewood Kids Learn About Traffic Safety

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Collegewood Elementary students learned about traffic safety with parents driving in cardboard cars on September 25.

By Kelli Gile

Walnut— Collegewood Elementary students got a lesson in traffic safety last month.

A crew of Community Club volunteers used cardboard cars to demonstrate the rules.

Principal Joan Perez announced the lesson for transitional-kindergarten (TK) through 2nd grade students on the front lawn of the school.

“We want to keep all of you safe when you come to school and go home each day,” she said.

In the first skit, parents Betsy Castellanos and Loi Ay demonstrated the no stopping in the red zone rule.

The misguided driver, Ay, swung his tiny convertible around traffic to the red crosswalk curb.

Castellanos, playing the backpack-carrying student, exited the car with a worried look on her face.

After each entertaining skit, Perez quizzed youngsters about the rules.

“What did they do wrong?” she asked.

“They stopped in the red zone!” the student answered.

“There is NO stopping in the red zone! If it’s red, move ahead!” Perez exclaimed.

“If it’s red, move ahead!” the 200 students repeated.  The parents then modeled how to use the correct white-zone area for dropping off and picking up students.

“We just want to educate the kids on the right way to make our school safer,” Castellanos shared.

“And we want to be funny enough for them to remember it!”

Next, parents showed the wrong way to get out of the car.

A bright blue car pulled up to the white curb on Collegewood Drive and the student stepped out onto the street.

“No feet on the street!” corrected Perez.

The principal explained the dangers of double parking – when one car is on the white curb and another car parked in the street.

“And that is not OK!” Perez urged. “Do we ever get out in the middle of the street? No!”

“If you double, it means trouble,” the children and their principal rhymed.

“He could have gotten run over,” said one youngster.

Another volunteer duo in a black-flamed cutout showed students the need to be “quick as light” when exiting the car.

When they pulled up the white curb, the mother took unnecessary time brushing her daughter’s hair and taking a photo while cars waited behind them. The children howled watching the silly adults.

Volunteers demonstrated crosswalk safety when one parent got in trouble making a U-turn in the middle of the street.

The crossing guard scolded the driver when he endangered two mothers with children inside the bright yellow lines.

“I think this safety lesson is important because we often have a lot of congestion in front of Collegewood,” said third grade parent Xochitl Syrett.

“All our parents need to read the signs, pay attention, and drive cautiously,” Rebecca Durani, a fifth grade parent, said.