Tag Archives: Walnut Valley Unified School District

Busy Hands, Hearts a Night of Giving

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT The sounds of holiday music, delightful conversation, warm hearts, and busy hands filled Walnut Elementary School’s multipurpose room during a Family Night of Giving held December 15.

Students penned letters to show support for first responders that would later be distributed through the Operation Gratitude project.

At another table, families worked side-by-side tying knots on fleece blankets for City of Hope patients while enjoying cookies and hot chocolate.

Students also made a take-home snowman craft to remember the evening of compassion they shared with family and friends.

In total, over 100 pairs of pajamas, a truck full of toys for needy children, and blankets for local shelter animals were collected for the giving event.

“We hope that our small contribution this holiday season will provide a bit of cheer to children, animals, and first responders,” said elementary learning specialist Jill Takayama.

Walnut Valley USD Trustees Elect New Officers

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Congratulations, Madam President! WVUSD Board President Dr. Tony Torng passes the gavel to Cindy Ruiz who was elected 2018 Board President during the December 13 meeting.

Pass the Gavel!

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT–The Walnut Valley Unified School District (WVUSD) Board of Trustees elected Cindy Ruiz as president, Larry Redinger as vice president, and Helen Hall as clerk during the annual reorganization meeting on December 13.

These roles are one-year terms and effective immediately.

Trustee Dr. Tony Torng was honored with an engraved plaque for his outstanding leadership as the 2017 Board president.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Torng for his wonderful service this past year as president and welcome back Mrs. Cindy Ruiz as president. We’re looking forward to a great next year!” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile
Outgoing Board President Dr. Tony Torng is honored during the annual reorganization meeting on December 13. Shown with trustees Larry Redinger, Cindy Ruiz, and Helen Hall.

The WVUSD Board of Trustees usually meet the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the District Education Center Board Room located at 880 S. Lemon Avenue in Walnut.  Please visit the website at www.wvusd.k12.ca.us or call the District Office at (909) 595-1261 to confirm exact dates, times, and location for meetings.


Diamond Bar High Wins Golden Bell Award

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR–Diamond Bar High is a well-established leader in student achievement in the state and nation.

Staff members are dedicated to providing personalized educational programs, challenging students to discover their unique gifts, and supporting each student to realize their potential.

But, the quest for greatness isn’t always academic.

Last year, the campus launched a Wellness Center to provide an extra layer of counseling support and wellness education services.

And in just 15 months, the school’s pioneering efforts have been validated.

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) selected Diamond Bar High to receive the prestigious 2017 Golden Bell Award for its innovative efforts in addressing the wellness needs of the over 3,000 students on campus.

The heart of the Wellness Center is helping students learn to cope with everyday problems, according to coordinator Sandy Davis.

“The educational services and resources provided promote student responsibility, resiliency and efficacy in students’ own wellness decisions,” said Davis.

The center services approximately 30 students weekly with the motto “Empowering Student Wellness from Within.”

This year, the growing program is staffed by 23 student interns who can relate peer-to-peer on most challenging teen issues.  These wellness consultants receive an additional 30 hours of intensive training, as well as earning Mental Health First Aide certification.

The center offers stress and anxiety relief, progressive relaxation exercises, and guided meditation designed to help students reduce stress.

Weekly therapy dog visitations are among the most popular of the services offered to students and staff.

Recent outreach efforts include mini-workshops on stress management facilitated for two AP European History classes.

The Wellness Program also garnered the 2017 California Gold Ribbon and 2016 Inspired Changemaker awards by Facebook and Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to support teens’ positive and successful transition into the next phase of their lives,” Davis said.

The CSBA Golden Bell Award presentation was made during the Annual Education Conference on November 30 in San Diego.


Walnut High Athletes Take Part in Fall Signing Day

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTSix standout athletes made their college choices official during a lunchtime signing ceremony at Walnut High School.

Congratulations to the following students who received scholarships to play their sports in college: James Arakawa, University of the Pacific – Baseball; Trussi Li, University of Denver –  Golf; Cara Le, Fresno Pacific – Swimming; Stephanie Dye, York College – Soccer; Tyiona Watkins, University of Washington – Basketball; and Katherine Muzi, University of Southern California – Golf.

Families, friends, teammates and coaches gathered on November 15 as the seniors made their commitments final.

“What a great accomplishment!” said principal Brandon Dade while addressing the crowd gathered to honor the Mustang athletes.

“I want to congratulate each of you. This is something that doesn’t happen very often,” he said.

After introducing the elite group, athlete director Jerry Person gave the signal for the athletes to sign National Letters of Intent to join their choice colleges for the 2018-19 academic year.

“Go ahead, get your pens, and sign your letters!” he announced.

Star guard/forward Tyiona Watkins committed to play basketball at the University of Washington.

She is currently ranked as the No. 14 wing player in the class of 2018 by ESPN and No. 20 by Prospects Nation.

“Tyiona is an outstanding athlete and leader,” said Walnut High coach Lori Huckler.

“She works hard on and off the court to always improve as a player and a student.”

The 17-year-old said she was having a “tough choice” selecting a team, but once she stepped foot on the Huskies campus, the decision became easy.

“When I went up there, I just felt like it was home,” she said.

Her father, Charles, shared that the family has been working toward a signing day since Tyiona was just six-years-old.

“It was our dream and today is a total milestone. We have a lot to be thankful for!”

Shortstop James Arakawa will be heading to University of the Pacific in the fall.

“This means a whole lot,” the 18-year-old said after the signing ceremony.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

Arakawa, who first picked up a baseball bat at age six, said playing with a chip on his shoulder has given him more motivation to succeed.

“My job is proving myself every day on the field,” he explained.

Arakawa’s parents, Sandra and Jamie, were also among the happy families present at the signing ceremony.

His mother attributes the prized athletic scholarship to hard work and dedication.

“We’re just so grateful!” she said. “He has passion and heart – and he’s good at it!”

Arakawa experienced the pinnacle of success when the Mustang baseball team captured the Division 3 CIF title last spring.

“All the practice and hard work definitely paid off,” he said.

“I guess I’m going to keep having that chip on my shoulder – it’s working for me!”


Walnut Valley Trustees Celebrate Star Students, Community Partners

By Kelli Gile

 WALNUTIn keeping with tradition, the Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees honored outstanding students and community partners during the November 15 meeting.

C.J. Morris Elementary fourth graders Kailyn Park and Nyla Rivera authored “Everyone Has A Right”, a friendship book they wrote to raise awareness about students with special needs.

The caring students were commended with the Super Star Student Award.

Kailyn and Nyla spend time at recess getting to know students in the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) class.  They model how to care about others and value differences.

Their advocacy work has created a more inclusive environment on campus. To date, they have donated nearly $200 to the ASD class from the book’s proceeds.

“They truly embody what it means to be I.B. students by showing that they not only care, but dare to act to make a difference,” said Principal Shehzad Bhojani.

Longtime parent volunteer Sheila Wright received the Partner in Education Award.

Sheila has been president of the C.J. Morris Community Club for the past four years.  Under her leadership, fundraising efforts, parental involvement and school spirt have steadily increased.

“She embraces an inclusive philosophy to address the needs of our culturally, ethnically and socio-economically diverse parent community,” Bhojani said.

Sheila has strong interpersonal skills and utilizes multiple platforms to communicate with the parent community.  She is a good listener who validates the ideas brought up by her team, and is open to suggestions in improving the effectiveness of the programs that are offered.

“Sheila is fully committed to improving the educational experience of our C.J. Morris students,” he added.

Parent volunteer Tom Jordan received the Partner in Education Award for South Pointe Middle School.

For the past three years, Tom has been an active member of the school’s Community Club and currently serves as president. He is also a School Site Council and District LCAP Committee representative.

If Tom isn’t providing the parent voice at a meeting, he is selling snacks at home games and performances, or organizing fundraisers.

“His innovation, enthusiasm, and infectious positive energy inspire parents, teachers, and students alike,” said Principal Susan Arzola.

South Pointe 8th grader Yssael Gutierrez, a.k.a. Ironman, was unanimously voted by staff, out of over 900 candidates, to receive the Super Star Student Award.

“He has inspired all of us to embrace life’s challenges and tackle them head on,” Arzola said.

Last year was probably the toughest of this young man’s life and yet he was able to overcome a huge challenge, she said.

“Yssael came back this year with a strong, positive “can do” attitude. We know nothing can hold him back!”

He is proud to be a Panther and cheers on his peers every chance he gets.  He puts his whole heart into all that he does from fundraisers to athletics.

“Yssael exemplifies the strength of character and community we can all only aspire to,” Arzola added.

Additionally, the Walnut High School boys baseball and girls swim teams received special recognition for reaching the highest level of success as Division 3 CIF Champions.


Kindergartners Join Thanksgiving Feast

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

By Kelli Gile 

DIAMOND BAR—About 120 Evergreen Elementary students wearing pilgrim and Native American paper hats sat side-by-side for a Thanksgiving feast on Friday morning.

Kindergarten teacher Mona Warren, costumed in traditional dress and moccasins, opened the event with a Native American blessing.

The children echoed each line using hand gestures.

“And now may the great spirits, of all great spirits, be with all of you, now and forever more!” they said in unison.

Then the youngsters joined in a Thanksgiving song with Warren accompanying on guitar.

“The pilgrims came to America a long, long time ago. They sailed on the Mayflower a long, long time ago. They made friends with the Wampanoag a long, long time ago,” they sang.

Before the meal, Warren asked the children to share something they are thankful for with the person next to them.

Photo courtesy: Kelli Gile

“I’m thankful for my teacher and everything,” said five-year-old Jeremy Han.

“I’m thankful for my mom,” added classmate Christine Diaz.

“I’m thankful for my toys – all of them!” chimed Evan Tasker.

Then the youngsters began sampling the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, corn bread, and pumpkin pie.

Popcorn filled paper canoes decorated with teepee, buffalo, fire, love, and water symbols were at each place setting.

Some of the children gobbled up the traditional holiday meal, while others were content with a tiny taste of each dish.

“Mashed potatoes and popcorn are my favorites!” exclaimed Susanna Basilious wearing a white pilgrim bonnet.

“I like the popcorn and apple juice,” added five-year-old Orlando Perez.

The children also created keepsake handprint placemats and macaroni necklaces for their feast.

Evergreen teachers prepared the food, while about 20 parent volunteers were on hand setting up and serving the November 17 meal.

“We’ve been learning about the Wampanoag nation and the pilgrims,” said kindergarten teacher Diana Rogers.

Kathleen Riddle’s transitional kindergarten (TK) class wore decorated vests made from grocery sacks and headbands with feathers.

“The Wampanoag typically only had one or two feathers,” said the 19-year veteran teacher.

“I’m thankful for my TK students, I just love them,” Riddle added. “And for all my grandbabies!”


Suzanne Students Take Honors in Math Olympiad

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT-More than fifty students from Suzanne Middle School were among nearly 150,000 competitors in the 2016-2017 Math Olympiad.

Math Olympiad enables students to challenge themselves and compete against other students nationwide during five monthly contests.

Suzanne Middle School earned a Mathematical Olympiads Meritorious Award for their outstanding achievement in grades six and seven.

The top overall school winner was for seventh grader Joshua Hsu who came in first place and scored in the top 2% of the nation. He was awarded a trophy and gold pin.

Serena Huang took second place scoring in the top 10% nationally and earned a sliver pin. Tied for third place were Daniel Ji and Deven Tseng scoring in the top 10% nationally and earning sliver pins.

In addition, several more seventh and eighth grade students received recognition for their high scores. Allison Lin, Maxwell Chang, Benjamin Jin, and Jenny Shen scored in the top 20% nationally and received silver pins.

Satvik Muddana, Kawin Watkins, Kayla Hao and Kevin Yu scored in the top 25% nationally earning patches.

Ella Lin, Lewis Lui, Andrew Shi and Bryan Wang scored in the top 30% nationally.  Alice Chou, Brian Lee, Renee Chang, Lina Huang and Kevin Zeng scored in the top 40% nationally.  And Wendy Fei scored in the top 50% of the nation.

The top winners, from grade six, tying for first place grade were Chandrark Muddana, Katherine Viala and Eric Wang all scoring in the top 10% nationally and earning silver pins.

The second-place winner was Max Eibert also scoring in the top 10% nationally and earning a silver pin. And, in third place were Jayaraman Donath and Andrew Wang both scoring in the top 25% nationally and earning recognition patches.

In addition, several more sixth grade students received recognition for their high scores. David Hu, Sophia Parungao and Jason Wang scored in the top 40% nationally. Jorich Quimbo and Andrew Yick scored in the top 50% nationally.

Congratulations to Suzanne students and coach Amy Erickson!

Walnut Valley USD Board Honors Outstanding Student, Parent

By Kelli Gile


Walnut—The Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees recognized a standout student and parent volunteer from Vejar Elementary School during the September 20 meeting.

Fifth grader Talisa Perez received the Super Star Student Award for going above and beyond on her campus.

“Talisa is known by students, teachers, and the staff for her kindness, respect, and good citizenship,” shared interim principal Whitney Prenger.

She is a model student of the Vejar Values: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, BeSafe.

Teachers describe her as being a student leader who is kind, hard-working, and trustworthy.

She always gives 110% and encourages classmates to do their best!

Talisa has also been selected to represent the school in the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.

Parent volunteer Kelley Cua was honored with the Partner in Education Award for generously offering her time and expertise organizing various events for the school.

Kelley has helped out in every class on campus, been a steadfast community club volunteer, and annual book fair coordinator.

During the summer, she celebrates students’ summer reading accomplishments by throwing an ice cream party when they return to school.

One Vejar teacher described Kelley as being “selfless and kind. Even as a working mother, she came every Thursday to help in the classroom.”

“She’s always been known to be reliable, kind, organized, and willing to go above and beyond!” Prenger added.


WVUSD Trustees Name New Assistant Principal at Walnut High –Kelli Gile



WALNUT, CA—The Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees has appointed Dr. Daisy Carrasco-Ramos as the new assistant principal at Walnut High School.

Bringing a decade of educational experience to her new post, Dr. Carrasco-Ramos has an extensive teaching background in the area of mathematics and a commitment to meeting the needs of all students.

She spent the last three years as assistant principal at Northview High School in Covina Valley USD where she oversaw curriculum, instruction, and guidance with a focus on increasing student achievement.

Prior to that, she was a secondary math teacher, AVID elective teacher, and activities director at Century High School in the Santa Ana USD.

Dr. Carrasco-Ramos completed a doctoral degree in educational leadership at Azusa Pacific University. She earned a master’s degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills and bachelor’s degree from University of San Francisco.

“I am so blessed to be a part of the Walnut Valley family and look forward to working with the amazing team and staff at Walnut High School,” she said.

Dr. Carrasco-Ramos resides in Anaheim with her husband, Omar and two children.


C.J. Morris Elementary Collects Supplies For Hurricane Victims


WALNUT, CA—After watching news coverage of the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Harvey last week, C.J. Morris Elementary has stepped up to the plate to help victims in Texas.

The school’s leadership group quickly teamed up with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who will be sending a truck with supplies on September 7.

Fourth grader Malia McBride and fifth grader Sofia Rodriguez recorded a message sent to parents Friday detailing a two-day collection drive of items including diapers, tooth brushes, batteries, flashlights, and cleaning supplies.

“We knew we had to do something,” shared Principal Shehzad Bhojani, following up with his own reminder message after the Labor Day weekend.

“Tomorrow is the last day to send supplies, let’s show Texas how much we care!” he said.

The group of ten student leaders collected donations in three boxes before school on Tuesday and Wednesday in front of the Walnut campus.

“Everyone was so generous, there were piles of supplies!” exclaimed McBride.

“The donations just kept coming! We had a mountain of toothpaste and toothbrushes,” said 4th grader Kailyn Park.

“The boxes were literally overflowing,” said added 5th grader Izabella Robles who said the students made several trips to the school’s Annex to empty the boxes each morning.

“I hope these donations will help them get their life back on track,” she added.

Along with the supplies, the school wanted to send something special to lift the spirits of the children in Houston.

Children in every classroom, over 500 in total, colored rainbow cards and wrote personal words of encouragement.

“I send you all my hopes, wishes, and prayers. Don’t worry everything will turn out fine because I’m sure the water will dry up,” Rodriguez penned.

“God is with you,” wrote Jasmine Torres.

The last step was attaching a bag of Skittles candy to each card that read: After every storm comes a rainbow. Sending all our love to Texas.

Teachers Carole Meade, Monica Power, and counselor Lorena Chavez advise the 4th and 5th grade leadership group.

“We are overwhelmed, truly, by our generous C.J. Morris community,” said Mead after receiving the final donations Wednesday.

“They were walking up with just bags and bags!”

WVUSD Students Experience Great American Eclipse

Celestial Celebration!



WALNUT, CA–Wearing protective ISO glasses, 10-year-old Eli Gerhardt peered outdside his classroom window at just after 9 a.m. on Monday morning.

The Great American Eclipse was already happening.

“It looks like the moon took a bite out of the sun!” the Walnut Elementary fifth grader exclaimed as the moon began casting its shadow.

“This is amazing!”

Then, a few at a time, his classmates took turns viewing their first solar eclipse.

“I saw the sun and the moon was covering it a little,” said Chloe Lam.

“I’ve been excited to see the eclipse!” she added.

“The solar flares happen when the moon is covering the sun – there are orange flames,” explained classmate Giselle Quintanilla.

From Oregon to South Carolina, the total solar eclipse darkened skies across the continental U.S. for the first time in 99 years.

Although her class stayed inside due to safety concerns, Vejar kindergarten teacher Lisa Gomez made the “big event” memorable with crafts and fun lunar snacks including mini “Moon” pancakes, Sun Chips, and Sunny Delight.

Many classrooms also watched the historic event during a live NASA broadcast.

South Pointe Middle School received a generous donation of 300 eclipse glasses from Mt. San Antonio College.

“All our 6th,7th, and 8th graders will get a chance to see the moon pass in front of the sun this morning,” said science teacher Tom Woodward.

“We talked about safety on Friday. I told them never to look at the sun without the glasses,” he shared.

Students watched an astronomy video and took a 10-question quiz moments before going outside.

“Which eclipse are we seeing today, lunar or solar?” he asked the 6th graders.

“Solar!” they replied.

“Tomorrow we’ll talk about the difference,” the teacher promised.

Beginning at 10:05 a.m., each grade level, about 900 students in total, rotated outside for viewing parties.

“It looks like a crescent moon, but it’s the sun!” exclaimed sixth grader Emily Lee.

“My students were in awe,” shared Diamond Bar High physics teacher Angela Jensvold after the morning’s celestial celebration.

“Students were running to come to class in order not to miss a minute,” she said.

“We observed the sharpness of our shadows and crescent shaped images of the sun in the dappled shade of trees.”

Most of her students used ISO glasses, while some made their own eclipse viewers decorated with kittens and turtles.

“Even though I didn’t give them any extra credit!” Jensvold added.

At Walnut High, chemistry teacher Jeri Burnside bought a class set of 35 certified eclipse glasses over the summer.

“We got a chance to use our ISO glasses to see the sun at maximum coverage for our viewing area, about 67% at 10:21 a.m.,” she said.

“We saw the daylight around us fading and felt the temperature cooling as over half the solar energy was blocked.”

Burnside told students that the next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will occur in 2024, and that there is only one town, Carbondale, Illinois, that will actually be in the path of totality.

“My students will be around 22 to 23 years-old then, so hopefully they will be able to travel to see a total eclipse if they so desire!”

Back to School Time: Classes Begin in Walnut Valley

By Kelli Gile


WALNUT, CA—On Monday morning, backpacks, books, and school bus rides, signaled the end of summer vacation in Walnut Valley Unified School District.

About 14,300 students in transitional kindergarten through high school arrived on campuses to begin the 2017-2018 school year.

At Maple Hill Elementary, third grade teacher Lisa Peterson threw a Happy New School Year party for her class.

During the summer, she mailed the children invitations to the unique first-day bash, complete with instructions to bring their “enthusiasm and love for learning.”

Students found party hats, noisemakers, and colorful leis on desks when they arrived in the new classroom.

After enjoying mini muffins, apples with caramel dipping sauce, strawberries, and Capri Sun drinks, (because every party needs refreshments!), the class gathered under a giant balloon drop bag and began a traditional New Year countdown.

“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” they chimed in union.
Then as 100 balloons magically floated down from above, the children began blowing their horns and shouting “Happy New School Year!”

“I wanted the day to be more than just rules and procedures. When my students’ parents ask about their first day, I want them to be able to tell them that it was the best day ever!” Peterson shared.

“It was great! thought it was just going to be studying, but we had treats,” 3rd grader Luna Sun commented about the surprise party.

“It’s something I hope they will remember for years to come,” added Peterson.

“Making an ordinary day extraordinary is what it’s all about!”

At Quail Summit Elementary, teachers and staff welcomed students with high-fives and hugs as they paraded onto the Diamond Bar campus.

“The energy coming into Quail Summit was felt by both staff and students as they started the new school year,” said new Principal Frances Weissenberger.

“What a joyful way to welcome our students and families!” added second grade teacher Kathy McLean.

At Collegewood Elementary in Walnut, teacher Kim Horn helped her students begin making lasting connections.

During a Just Like Me activity, each 4th grader received a small tub of Playdoh with instructions to create something they like to do.

The youngsters molded beach scenes, ice cream cones, soccer balls, motorcycles, and more.

As students took turns sharing their interests, classmates who liked to do the same things stood up and said “just like me!”

“The goal of the project is to start building community so that the kids understand that they have lots in common with their classmates,” Horn said.

“It is also fun and a way to lower the kid’s stress on the first day of school!”

Chaparral Middle School 29-year veteran-educator Gary Imai plans to engage his social studies classes by offering numerous hands-on manipulatives.

“It makes the learning more interesting than just reading from a textbook,” he offered.

Imai, who taught 7th graders for over a decade, will be working with 6th grade students again this year.

He’ll kick off with Ancient History lessons and students will soon be digging through sand to hunt for “fossils.”

During the summer, Imai found some old teaching treasures while rummaging through his attic.

“I thought, I can still use these because history doesn’t change!” he quipped.

Over 50 new educators were hired for the new school year, including Walnut High School environmental science teacher Alyssia Infante.

“It was exciting and a lot of fun meeting my students and working with the amazing staff on campus,” she offered.

Infante, the daughter of a Walnut Valley educator, chose to pursue teaching so she could share her passion for science with students.

Her most memorable moment on the first day was arriving on campus and being greeted by the teens she worked with as a student teacher.

“They all wished me a good luck and were eager to look at my classroom and tell me about their summer!” she said.

“I am looking forward to a wonderful first year!”

Jonathon Chung, a new 7th grade Language Arts teacher at Chaparral, also stepped in front of his first class on Monday.

“I was too used to substitute teaching and informing the students that I would be their teacher for the day.  To get up there and tell them I would be their teacher for the rest of the semester was kind of a, ‘No duh,’ moment for a lot of them,” he said.

Chung hails from a family of Walnut Valley educators and said he has always taken great pride in the work they have done.

He also applauds the entire Chaparral staff for “popping in” to offer their help while he was setting up his classroom.

“It is a very friendly and caring staff and I am fortunate to be able to work at this wonderful campus.”

After a morning recess at Collegewood Elementary, Jayne Knight’s kindergartners were sitting crisscross applesauce-style on the carpet as she delivered rules for being good listeners.

The wiggly youngsters immediately began raising their hands to ask some pressing first day questions.

“Can I get a drink of water?”  “Do we have to take a nap after lunch?” “Do we have to come back tomorrow?”

Yes, and just 179 days to go. Welcome back and have a wonderful school year!


WVUSD Staff Kicks Off 2017-2018 School Year


WALNUT, CA—As Walnut Valley USD students get ready to head back to class next week after summer break, educators have been busy gearing up for the new school year.

 On Wednesday, nearly 1,000 teachers, classified personnel, and district leaders gathered during a Welcome Back celebration held at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar.

 The 14th annual kick-off rally featured recognitions of over 200 long-service employees, Teachers of the Year, Cornerstone Award winners, and keynote message by Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

 “We’re looking forward to a phenomenal school year!” Dr. Taylor said to the assembled WVUSD employees.

 “There’s no better environment to get us fired up for the new school year than being in this building with you.”

 “This year’s All Means All slogan is a reminder of what we do every day,” Dr. Taylor added.

 “It’s about differentiating so that all kids have the tools to be successful at each stage of their education, being intentional and bringing in systems of health and well-being into a child’s education, and upholding high standards for all kids.”

 As staffers from all 15 schools and departments mingled and visited during the outdoor continental breakfast, 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 band under the direction of Corey Wicks and Katie Takahashi.

 Walnut High senior Julia Provencio performed the national anthem after boy scout troop #777 led the opening flag ceremony.

 Deputy Superintendent Dr. Matthew Witmer and Administrative Director Dr. Sergio Canal hosted the program that included over 50 raffle prizes provided by local businesses. 

Bill Foley, the District Teacher of the Year and Mike Bromberg, the Classified Employee of the Year, took a few moments to address their peer.

“It’s amazing to be up here today!” said Foley, a digital photography teacher at Diamond Bar High School. 

The 34-year veteran educator said he was advised in college to find a career that he was passionate about, and to know it well.

 By all accounts, he’s done just that.

“What I really care about the most when I’m teaching is my students and their work,” he said proudly showing a website featuring student photography.

When Foley asked his charges if they thought he deserved the Teacher of the Year award, they confirmed his passion and dedication to serving all students. 

“One student told me that I’m the most pure-hearted teacher he’d ever had,” the humble teacher shared

“None of us do this job alone. Every time you smile or say something positive to a teacher, it builds them up. I treat my fellow teachers the way that I want to be treated.

“It takes a whole district to raise a Teacher of the Year!” he added. 

“I’ve worked in all our schools and have seen firsthand how important classified employees are to everyone,” said Bromberg, a former carpenter and electrician, who currently serves as the operations manager at Diamond Bar High School

“We all work as a team in Walnut Valley and we want to give the best customer service that we can.” 

“In my opinion, we are the heartbeat of the school district!”

Bromberg, a WVUSD alumnus, recalled growing up always taking a keen interest when maintenance crews arrived at his school.

The men in blue would often have to remind him to “take a step back” when he got too close to the equipment

And now, Bromberg feels like he’s come full circle. 

“I’m dedicated to providing a great school environment for the next generation, just as it was provided for me!”

Run, Teach, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Walnut High educator Jerry Knox breaks 3 world records in 2017


WALNUT, CA—To say that Walnut High teacher and alumnus Jerry Knox is passionate about running might be an understatement.

He laces up his running shoes five days a week, clocking five-to-eight miles a day, and 15 miles every Saturday.

Knox usually runs a marathon each month, and in the past 11 years has crossed the finish line over 80 times.

Every medal is displayed in his classroom and the AP geography and cross country coach has been known to wear the event t-shirt to school on Mondays following a race.

In 2009, the 22-year veteran educator decided to up the ante and go for a world record “just to make it interesting.”

Knox said he had always liked the Guinness Book of World Records as a kid.

When his son Alex was 8, he announced “Dad, you can beat that” after reading that someone held the world record for dribbling a basketball during a marathon.

And he did. Knox won his first world record in 3 hours, 42 minutes, 20 seconds. That record was beat in 2011.

Before going for another world record, Knox decided to focus on running a marathon in under three hours.

He accomplished that goal in 2015 at the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach with a time of 2:59:20.

That same year, he won back the basketball marathon title with a time of 3:11:16, which was bested in 2016 by a runner from Estonia.

“It’s about the running, the basketballs are just a gimmick,” Knox said.

He also learned in order to be included in the actual Guinness Book, not just the website, he had to participate in the London marathon with official representatives.

In April 2015, he crossed the Atlantic and became the fastest man to dribble not one, but TWO basketballs while running the 26.2-mile course.

He captured that title in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 44 seconds.

“It was hard keeping the concentration, especially at the end of the race,” he said.

Cobblestone roads, 38,000 racers, drums, disc jockeys, a dark tunnel, coupled with fatigue quelled the distance runner during the last miles.

“I thought, is this thing going to end?” Knox commented.

“It was like an obstacle course!”

Some of the London racers cheered as he attempted the challenging world record, while others were irritated with the noisy bouncing basketballs.

“They’d trained hard and you’ve got this guy next to them passing them with a clank-clank!”

Knox has broken three additional world records in 2017: running the fastest marathon while jumping rope with a time of 4:20:31 on February 19 and the fastest marathon wearing German lederhosen at the Los Angeles Marathon on March 19.

“I thought it would be funny and an excuse to buy some!” he said about going for the quirky record.

Most recently, he crossed the finish line wearing a graduation cap and gown during the OC Marathon on May 8.

For the first time in history, Guinness sent a team to Los Angeles to verify world records.

No need for witnesses, photos, videos, or coordinating with the race director, Knox said.

“It’s so much easier. You say you’re going to do it, they watch you, and you’re done.”

The athlete is currently prepping for his sixth 100-mile race which will take about 22 hours to complete.

Next fall he’d like to break the record for skipping during a marathon.

“I think it would be a hard one to beat, you use different muscles.”

Knox doesn’t actively recruit students to join his healthy lifestyle, he prefers to quietly lead by example.

Snacks of fresh fruit and vegetables and a “Want to get fit? Join cross country – no experience necessary” recruiting flyer can be seen near his desk.

“Sometimes it’s best not to be a nag and I know it’s expensive to run marathons,” he said.

The coach also joins the cross-country team for their daily training runs.

“It’s better when he’s out on the course with us,” said sophomore Jason Yen.

“And he understands our pain.”

Knox didn’t begin running marathons until he was 36 years old, thinking distance running was only for “Olympians.”

It all began when fellow teacher So Hee Tan mentioned that she had just completed one.

“If she can do it, so can I,” he said.

The first step was joining a running club and beginning training, but the first marathons didn’t go as he had hoped.

Knox walked the final four miles during his first two attempts.

On his third try, he was able to jog the entire way and was “hooked.”

Last year, his wife Carolyn Campbell, a Vejar Elementary transitional kindergarten teacher, joined him on the course, completing her first marathon in November.

In recent years, he has also transitioned to eating more organic food.

“Every year I seemed to click off something different,” he said about first giving up ground beef, then fast food, fried food, and soda. He recently went vegan.

“So, I’ll comment to my students on that and some of my failures. I still really miss pizza!”

Yen says his marathon-running teacher is a setting a good example for fellow students.

“He has a goal and achieves it by practicing and not giving up.”


Chaparral Students Make Global Connections

Photo courtesy: WVUSD


DIAMOND BAR, CA—Chaparral Middle School 8th grader Izzy Reedy and a dozen classmates learned about culture, education, weather, and even sports in Tanzania this year.

But, it wasn’t by opening a textbook or conducting research on a computer.

The Diamond Bar students gained knowledge through a global connection with the Gyekrum Arusha Secondary School, located over 8,500 miles away in East Africa.

Education specialist Kimberly Ramos formed the partnership with teacher Zaituni Njovu and her students through the World Education Connection program.

The students and teachers got to know each other by communicating back and forth using email and Google Hangout.

“They would ask lots of questions and post photos,” Ramos said about the 21st century-learning technology.

“Anything I received from the teacher, I would post on Google Classroom to share with my kids.”

Ramos said her students embraced the program and were amazed with how many similarities they had with their new friends.

“The kids loved seeing each other. And the things we learned this year have had more meaning because we were able to connect with the other half of the ‘Kilimanjaro Squad’ on a personal level.”

The relationship deepened when students recently held a campus clean-up project to provide supplies to the school in Karatu Urusha.

On May 10, global teams shared their thoughts of the power of connection during an inaugural World Education Day event.

Classmates Julia Brandt, Alex Ginez, and Reedy arrived before the 7:45 a.m. opening bell, eager to participate in the live global broadcast.
“Asante Sana!” the students exclaimed in Swahili while waving to one another.

“We got to experience the way they live and learn,” Brant said. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing about this experience!”

“I hope we can stay connected with the kids in Tanzania.”

“The best thing has been the sharing,” Ginez offered.

“We talked about our siblings, our pets, and hobbies. We have a lot in common.”

Students said they also gained appreciation for their own lives after seeing the East African partner school squeeze 80 students inside a class with dirt floors and dilapidated furniture.

“It showed me to be grateful for what I have, and to respect elders and family,” Reedy said.


Walnut Valley Students Honored At Lunch With The Principal Event

Photo courtesy: WVUSD


WALNUT, CANine students were treated to a sizzling reward for achieving their personal best during the 19th annual Benihana Lunch with the Principal on Tuesday.

Each of the nine elementary schools in the Walnut Valley Unified School District chose a hard-working student to celebrate during the special lunchtime adventure held at the City of Industry restaurant.

Congratulations to this year’s fifth grade honorees: Aayati Sangal– Castle Rock, DJ Ruffin – Cyrus J. Morris, Estrella Gallegos – Collegewood, Alicia Agalos – Evergreen, Alice Shen – Quail Summit, Leah Owens – Maple Hill, Brianna Velez – Vejar, Sunny Morales – Walnut Elementary, and Emily Santos – Westhoff.

Personal chefs entertained audiences while creating flaming onion ring volcanos, drizzling eggs into a cartoon characters, and flipping shrimp tails in stovepipe hats.

After enjoying the teppan-style meal, principals took turns sharing success stories about their students.

“Not only has Emily achieved academic excellence, she perseveres through hard times, she’s a fabulous friend, and always follows the Golden Rule,” said Westhoff Elementary Principal Denise Rendon.

“Estrella is very hard-working, resilient, and shows genuine compassion to classmates,” said Collegewood Elementary Principal Mary Wendland.

Evergreen Elementary Principal Carolyn Wills shared that her honoree was selected for demonstrating attributes from the school’s the Keys to Success character education program.

“Alicia shows perseverance and kindness to everyone and is sure to be very successful!”

Students received certificates, Benihana chef’s hats, and keepsake photos.


Gold Ribbon Schools

Diamond Bar, Walnut High Win State’s Highest Academic Honor

 By Kelli Gile

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
The Diamond Bar High Wellness Center regularly invites therapy dogs on campus to help students de-stress. On April 27, King, a gentle 100-lb English Labrador visits students in classrooms.

WALNUT, CA–Diamond Bar and Walnut high schools have been recognized as 2017 California Gold Ribbon Schools. State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson announced last week that 275 middle and high schools across the state received this year’s honor, out of nearly 500 hopefuls that applied. These schools represent examples of excellent teaching, learning, and collaborating, as well as highly successful school climate efforts.


Schools are commended for improvement in Common Core-based math and English language-arts test scores. They also were evaluated on their implementation of programs and curriculum that prepare students for college and beyond. Schools applied for the award based on a signature program that can be replicated by other schools.


Diamond Bar High submitted for consideration the school’s Wellness Center and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. The Wellness Center opened its doors in January 2016 to offer an additional layer of support services and personal management strategies. Last fall, it was awarded the national Inspired

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
The Diamond Bar High Wellness Center regularly invites therapy dogs on campus to help students de-stress. On April 27, King, a gentle 100-lb English Labrador visits students in classrooms.

Changemaker Award by Yale University and Facebook for pioneering efforts to provide social emotional support, educational resources and events for students. “Diamond Bar High is the only high school in the state staffed by student wellness consultants who are trained in peer counseling and assisting student’s social and emotional needs for the entire school day. We are very proud of the support we are offering our students,” said DBHS Principal Reuben Jones.


Walnut High highlighted its IB Career-Related Program (IBCP)/Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Science. Since launching in 2013, Walnut High has remained the only school in the state to offer both IBCP with the PLTW Biomedical Sciences program as its career-related component. On April 4, 37 seniors received white coats and medallions marking the completion of the rigorous three-year program.  “We as a school community work hard each and every day to ensure that all of our programs are meeting the needs of all students. This prestigious award helps us remember that our collective efforts are appreciated by people within and outside of our community,” said WHS Principal Brandon Dade.


Photo courtesy: WVUSD
The Diamond Bar High Wellness Center regularly invites therapy dogs on campus to help students de-stress. On April 27, King, a gentle 100-lb English Labrador visits students in classrooms.

The Gold Ribbon award replaces the California Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while that state eases into new testing and accountability systems.  Schools will be recognized on May 15. Congratulations to the dedicated, creative, and talented staff, and the supportive school communities at Diamond Bar and Walnut high schools!


WVUSD Trustees Recognize Students, Parents For Making A Difference

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
Fifth grade artists are recognized as honorable mention winners in the Music K-8 Magazine Cover Contest.

 By Kelli Gile

WALNUT—Super star students and parent volunteers from Maple Hill and Westhoff elementary schools were honored by the Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees on April 19.

In addition, the Board recognized 14 talented young artists named winners in the 2017 Music K-8 Magazine Cover Contest and the 2017 Board Representatives.

Maple Hill Elementary all-star parent Natalie Johnson received the Partner in Education Award.

“When there is fun at Maple Hill, Natalie is front and center,” said Principal Kelly Morris.

Photo couresty: WVUSD
Maple Hill Elementary all-star parent Natalie Johnson receives the Partner in Education Award. Shown with Principal Kelly Morris, Board President Dr. Tony Torng, and family members.

Natalie, a Maple Hill alum, serves as the community club 2nd vice president in charge of fundraising.

This year, she planned and organized a new VIP Dance, along with the annual fall fundraiser, luau lunch, Hawk Walk pep rally, and jog-a-thon.

Natalie’s personal priority is to be a champion for kids. She also strives to make sure they receive the same love and excitement she received at the school, Morris said.

“Her events generate excitement and joy in the lives of all our children and teachers. She is a true memory maker!”

Fifth grader Leah Owens received Super Star Student Award.

“Leah has been capturing all our hearts since the first grade. She is incomparable, dynamic, effervescent, and beyond loving,” Morris described.

She has the gift of connecting with people, whether they are strangers or life-long friends.

“Leah has such a light within her, but also knows how to encourage the light within others,” Morris said.

This year, Maple Hill created a new school slogan: Kind Hearts, Strong Minds, Brave Spirit, Hawk Pride.

“Leah is the poster child and embodies all of these qualities!” Morris added.

Current and former teachers were also on hand to pay tribute to the student of the year who volunteers, greets students, makes announcements, and shares “Hawk Pride” all around the campus.

“On numerous occasions, I have watched Leah showing kindness to students who are struggling to make friends,” said 4th grade teacher Samantha Valadez.

“She sees the best in people and easily finds ways to make meaningful connections.”

Two valuable members of the Westhoff Elementary community were honored with the Partner in Education Award.

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
Maple Hill Elementary all-star parent Natalie Johnson receives the Partner in Education Award. Shown with Principal Kelly Morris, Board President Dr. Tony Torng, and family members.

Parent Valerie Lu quickly became a volunteer in her children’s classes when they started school in 2013, and now serves as the community club vice president.

Valerie collaborates with other parents and stepped up to coordinate phone banking during recent bond campaigns. She helps lead and serve at all schoolwide events including culture fair, walk-a-thon, movie night, Santa’s workshop, and colonial fair. She is also the co-chair for the 5th grade promotion committee and is currently making keepsake invitations for students.

“Westhoff staff members feel that she is responsible, reliable, humble, and never seeks recognition for all that she quietly does behind the scenes,” said Principal Denise Rendon.

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
Westhoff parent Preston McChesney is lauded with Partner in Education Award on April 19. Shown with Principal Denise Rendon, Board President Dr. Tony Torng, and family members.

Dedicated volunteer Preston McChesney has been helping out in his two children’s classes for the past several years. He is always available when needed and has a positive attitude that rubs off on others.

“Our teachers say that they can count on tons of support from this Dad!” Rendon said.

Preston can often be found sitting on the floor helping classroom reading groups, chaperoning field trips, setting up class parties, and even taking pictures for parents who aren’t there. And most importantly, he is an excellent role model for Westhoff students.

“He inspires all of us with his positive attitude, his devotion to his beautiful family, and genuine kindness he shares so freely. Thank you, for the generous donation of your time!” said Rendon.

Photo courtesy: WVUSD
Fifth grader Valentina Galvan is recognized with the Super Star Student Award. Shown with Board President Dr. Tony Torng.

Fifth grader Valentina Galvan was recognized with the Super Star Student Award.

Valentina exemplifies good character and sets a wonderful example for her classmates, according to teacher Kimberley Dalton.  She “buddy” reads with struggling readers or those learning English, and brings a smile to those around her because she is so encouraging.

This year, the active student council member led school spirit rallies, organized a school-wide book drive for an orphanage in Rosemead, collected socks for the homeless people, and helped run a note-writing campaign for those serving in the military.

Valentina is always willing to help those around her, and at the same time, maintains excellent study habits, great grades, and citizenship.

“Valentina has a natural sense of goodness and she will do extraordinary things!” Rendon said.

Fourteen elementary students were recognized as winners in the international 2017 Music K-8 Magazine Cover Contest.

Music Specialist Greta Baker introduced the talented 5th grade artists who received certificates of special recognition and color prints of their original designs.

This year’s top WVUSD winner is 2nd Runner-Up – Nadia Tsai from Vejar. Top Finalists are Justin Kung- Castle Rock and Sarah Fan – Westhoff. Finalists are Gloria Nien – Maple Hill, Melody Song – Quail Summit, and Ashley Chiu – Castle Rock. Honorable Mentions are Ashton Chen – Evergreen, Riley Phan – Walnut, LeAnna Fan – Vejar, Mia Zhang – Castle Rock, Alyssa Ma – Maple Hill, Sabrina Lin – Maple Hill, Amin Rasheed – Vejar, and Isabella Torreyson – Vejar.

WVUSD Trustees recognized the 2017 Student Representatives Abigail Nakaishi – Diamond Bar High and Katelyn Rowley – Walnut High for dedicated service.

The seniors are appointed to serve one-year terms, acting as liaisons between their campuses and the Board. Each month, the teens attend open meetings and present detailed reports of campus activities.

Valuing Differences

C.J. Morris students write friendship book for special needs class

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT–Two C.J. Morris Elementary 3rd graders believe that everyone has a right to have friends, especially students with autism.

Nyla Rivera and Kailyn Park feel so strongly that they’ve written a book to support special needs students on their campus.

Last year as a 2nd grader, Rivera noticed a few students sitting alone at recess and lunchtime.

One boy was even quietly talking to himself, while another child replied a gruff “leave me alone” when she offered a hello.

Rivera didn’t understand why.

“I would see them so quiet, just waiting for a friend,” the eight-year-old explained.

“This year, I found out they have autism and they need friends.”

The eight-year-old decided to take action. She recruited her best friend and classmate, Kailyn, and the two girls quickly began spending their free time with kids in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) class.

“Now they know we’re not strangers,” said nine-year-old Park.

“And little by little, they began to trust us and started talking to us.”

This month, the girls collaborated on another project together.

They’ve written “Everyone Has a Right” and are currently completing illustrations to honor the dozen students in Rochelle Mortensen’s ASD class.

They recently offered the students a “sneak preview” of their gift.

“It was a huge thing when they got the book. They really appreciated it,” Park said.

The story is intended to be an encourager for the students to make friends.

“If you try, you can do it!” Park says in the story.

Making friends is a real challenge for our students with autism, Mortensen explained.

Students identified on the spectrum are impacted in their development of social and communication skills.

“We have social lessons every morning. But with students like Nyla and Kailyn, they can practice these skills and learn to fit in,” she added.

“These two girls have a special bond with the students and wanted to brighten their day with this book,”3rd grade teacher Shayleen Ojeda said.

“They are such amazing students with so much empathy.”

Once the drawings are complete, Ojeda plans to have the book professionally printed and bound, and offer copies for sale.

All proceeds will be donated to special needs classes in Walnut Valley USD.

“It’s very exciting,” said Mortensen who has promised to purchase copies for each of her students.

One ASD student recently announced “You’re going to be my best friends forever!” Park shared.

“He doesn’t like a lot of things, but he likes us.”

“It feels good!” said Rivera.

“They know we’re not bullies and we like them just as they are.”



WVUSD Trustees Celebrate Outstanding Students, Parent Volunteers

Partner in Education Awardees Sonal Choksey, Lily Eibert, and Caryn Mason with family members, Board President Tony Torng and Suzanne Middle School Principal Les Ojeda.


Walnut —Each month, Walnut Valley USD Board of Trustees celebrate hard-working students and dedicated community members.

During the March 15 meeting, South Pointe and Suzanne Middle School leaders took to the podium to introduce their hand-picked honorees.

South Pointe parent Annalisa Gore was lauded with the Partner in Education Award. She has served as community club president for the past two years.

Annalisa is a collaborative leader who leads by example and has a magical way of making all parents feel like they belong.

Additionally, she puts “Kids First” by raising important funds to support learning, character development, and extra-curricular activities on campus.

“Annalisa is willing to roll up her sleeves and help in any way she can, including selling bobas!” said Principal Susan Arzola.

(Above and below) WVUSD Board President Tony Torng presents Super Star Student Award to South Pointe 8th grader Ivan Vazquez on March 15.

South Pointe 8th grader Ivan Vazquez received the Super Star Student Award. Although he has faced many challenges in his short life, it has not limited Ivan from achieving success.

The young man is a positive role model who puts a smile on his face for anyone who crosses his path.

If Ivan sees a classmate that is having a hard day, he lifts them up. If he sees an adult that needs a helping hand, he’s there to offer it.

“Ivan is always positive, pleasant, compassionate, helpful, considerate, and greets you with a smile,” Arzola said.

“We are very proud of Ivan and all of his accomplishments and all the contributions he makes to the school!”

The Roboheroes robotics team from Suzanne Middle School received the Super Star Student Award.

Team members are Matthew Carreon, Nathan Fong, Collin Lee, Spencer Lee, Codey Ma, Marcus Robles, Roman Robles, Ethan Tungpalan, Sarah Wang, and Ronnie Zhang.

South Pointe Middle School parent volunteer Annalisa Gore is honored with Partner in Education Award on March 15. Shown with Principal Susan Arzola and Board President Tony Torng.

The Roboheros won 1st place Robot Game at the Legoland FLL Cup in February.

Team members spent countless hours building and programming a Lego robot, researching and finding a solution to help animals, taking part in community outreach events.

“These students have gone above and beyond to represent our school in a positive way,” said Principal Les Ojeda.

The team is coached by advisor Vicky Silcock, and parent volunteers Jonathan Fong and Daffodil Robles.

The Roboheroes recently won the Core Values Inspiration Award at the Los Angeles Regional Championship and has been invited to represent the region at an international championship tournament sponsored by NASA in West Virginia this summer.

A trio of Suzanne dedicated parent volunteers Sonal Choksey, Lily Eibert, and Caryn Mason received the school’s Partner in Education Award.

“These wonderful ladies put in endless hours of service for our school,” Ojeda said.

This year, the community club board members planned and organized numerous school events including a successful booster drive that raised over $65,000 to provide technology, teacher intervention, curriculum books, and other valuable student resources.

“You have led with passion and enthusiasm, and as a result, you have made Suzanne a better place for our students!”

Board President Tony Torng presents Partner in Education Award to Suzanne Middle School parents Sonal Choksey, Lily Eibert, and Caryn Mason.291329