Tag Archives: WVUSD

Diamond Bar, Walnut High Make U.S. News’ Best of 2020

Walnut – After crunching the numbers, U.S. News and World Report released its annual report of top performing public high schools in the country on April 21.

And it’s no surprise that Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools continue to lead the way through exceptional dedication to the success of all students.

This year, Diamond Bar High ranked #25 in Los Angeles Metro Schools, #68 in California, and #519 in the nation. Additionally, Diamond Bar placed #77 in STEM high schools.

Walnut High scored #35 in Los Angeles Metro Schools, #84 in California, and #601 in the nation.

The U.S. News Best High Schools rankings include data on more than 24,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Nearly 18,000 schools in the country, and 1,612 in California, were reviewed for performance in state assessments, graduation rates, and how well they prepare students for college.

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

“I’m very proud that Diamond Bar and Walnut High continue to be recognized on a national stage in preparing students for the next chapter in their lives,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

“This is a wonderful recognition for our students, parents, teachers, and school leaders!”

Additional information at: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

Feeding Our Walnut Valley Families During School Closure

Walnut – Walnut Valley USD Nutrition Services Division is ready to feed children each day during the COVID-19 school closures.

On Monday, over six hundred “grab and go” meals were distributed at Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools.

“We’re passing out a breakfast and lunch item with milk, chips, juice, and fruit,” explained

Josette Macias, a Nutrition Services Worker, as her team met cars in front of the gymnasium at Diamond Bar High.

The free meals are available to all children under 18 years old, who must be present during pick-up, for the drive-through service that runs 7:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.

“Yesterday we served over 300 and are expecting a lot more today,” shared Walnut High staff member Ana Aguilera on March 17 as a steady stream of cars entered the staff parking lot.

“We’ve got to take care of our kids – kids come first!” said Eva Generalao who was in kitchen helping prepare meals at 6:30 a.m.

At the end of the morning shift, over 1,800 meals, triple the number from the previous day, had been served at both high schools.

“It’s a good feeling because the District can share this food with our students,” Aguilera said.

“And the people are so appreciative!”

“It’s nice to help at a time like this,” shared Rachelle Serrano as she provided the curbside service to families.

Parents signaled the number of children in each vehicle and then staff quickly handed off the packaged meals.

Serrano also delivered something special to each car – a friendly smile, a wave, and a “have a good day!”

For more information, please visit www.walnutnutrition.org.

Instrumental Music Building Construction Begins at Diamond Bar High

Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor, Principal Dr. Reuben Jones, Board Members Helen Hall, Cindy Ruiz, Larry Redinger, Dr. Tony Torng, Layla Abou-Taleb, DBHS alumni Janeen Yamak, Katie Samrick, Teachers Marie Sato and Steve Acciani.

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR, CA—Walnut Valley USD marked the groundbreaking of a three-story Instrumental Music Building at Diamond Bar High School on February 19.

Over 150 residents, parents, students, staff, and community leaders attended the celebration for the state-of-the-art addition to the premier music program.

“It’s truly going to be amazing!” exclaimed Principal Dr. Reuben Jones at the site of the building located on the northwest end of the campus at Brea Canyon Road.

“I am so excited to say that we’re going to have the best instrumental music building in the country!”

The nearly $9.8 million project was made possible by voter approval of Bond Measure WV passed in November 2016.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor celebrates groundbreaking of new instrumental music building at Diamond Bar High School on Feb. 19.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support of our community,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

The new 15,700 square-foot “Music Box” will feature three strategically designed levels with a 4,320 square-foot band room at the ground level, mid-level floor ensemble rooms, recording studio, library, and office space, and upper level 3,631 square-foot orchestra classroom with adjacent rehearsal spaces for piano, harp, percussion, and individual practice.

The 465-day construction project is slated for completion in Summer 2021.

“I am truly moved to think about how many thousands of students will pass through this building in the next 10 or 25 or 50 years and the impact it will have on the lives of so many young musicians,” Taylor commented.

DBHS Principal Dr. Reuben Jones, Alumni Janeen Yamak, Katie Samrick, Teachers Marie Sato, Steve Acciani, and Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

The District chief also praised music teachers Steve Acciani and Marie Sato for their “relentless commitment and dedication to the program” and for engraining a love and appreciation of the arts into the school community.


“It is truly a part of the culture here and we’re thankful for that,” he said.

“I’d to thank our spectacular Diamond Bar High students and staff who gave up their time to help the Measure WV campaign and our amazing community for responding to their efforts,” said Board President Larry Redinger.

Diamond Bar High’s comprehensive, 700-student, instrumental music program comprises nearly one-third of the school’s population.

The program has earned the prestigious Grammy Signature Award as the top school in the nation.

For the past nine years, Diamond Bar High has broken records with the number of high school students selected for the SoCal and All-State Bands and Orchestras.

“The best thing about the new building is that it is designed around the specific needs of the uniqueness of our program at Diamond Bar High,” Acciani explained.

“Even though we have tremendously successful large groups, the program is structured around the maximizing potential of individuals.”

Two teen leaders spoke of their passion that generated impressive student involvement during the campaign.

“Measure WV gave us the opportunity to give back to our school and leave a legacy behind,” said 2017 graduate Janine Yamak.

“I remember spending every weekend knocking on people’s doors and calling people,” Yamak said.


“We did it for a purpose because we knew that all our hard work would pay off with a new three-story band building. I’m very excited to see the end result!”

Diamond Bar High alumni Katie Samrick, Janeen Yamak take stage during groundbreaking ceremony.

Katie Samrick, a 2019 graduate, hoped the efforts of fellow band members would make an impact on future generations who spent weekends walking precincts in the “blazing sun to inform homeowners of the benefits.”

And it did.

“The morning after the election day, November 7, 2016, Mr. A. (Acciani) informed us that Measure WV had passed!” We couldn’t be happier!”

Attendees were able to take a tour of the plans using 3D virtual reality goggles and view architectural renderings on display.

“Music is such a powerful thing,” said Principal Jones. “It will be truly wonderful to have it coming from this new building.”

To view a virtual walkthrough video, please visit: http://bit.ly/2w16AzY.

Shining With Kindness

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT, CA—Westhoff Elementary launched its Great Kindness Challenge with a “Wheel of Fortune” game show on January 24 starring grade level teams competing to solve word puzzles in three categories: Great Kindness Challenge, Shine, and Rock Garden.

Westhoff Elementary students join a “Wheel of Fortune” game show during the Great Kindness Challenge.

Counselor Erica Robledo performed as television host Pat Sajak during the interactive digital contest assisted by Student Council co-hosts and Elementary Learning Specialist Therapi Kaplan flipping letters in true Vanna White style.

Players took turns spinning the wheel and guessing letters of familiar phrases including Westhoff Shines, Smile at Others, The Golden Rule, Make A New Friend, Give a Compliment, Do Your Best, and more.

You are my sunshine! Westhoff Elementary unveils new rock garden during Great Kindness Challenge kickoff.

The kindness week kickoff also featured the unveiling of the new Westhoff Shines garden.

Six hundred rocks were painted bright yellow and then decorated by students and staff with powerful messages and affirmations aimed at inspiring kindness.

“We’re hoping the impact of this massive kindness movement will create a positive change throughout the school culture,” Robledo said.

“This will help decrease bullying and make kindness shine at Westhoff Elementary!”

Daily activities included students wearing nametags to encourage greeting each other by name, schoolwide Bingo, arts and crafts, and mindfulness exercises promoting the “Shining with Kindness” motto.

Westhoff Elementary’s new kindness rock garden features 600 inspiring messages written by students and staff.

On Thursday, students dressed in sunny colors and classes joined a kindness garden walkthrough taking a moment to read messages written on the rocks like “You are loved” and “Be the light when others are in the dark”.

On January 31, the final day of the challenge, youngsters journaled feelings about kindness, including how they felt about giving and receiving gifts of thoughtfulness.

Fifth grader Sienna Duong successfully completed a personal goal of smiling at 25 schoolmates during the challenge.

“I liked that we set aside a week that was all about kindness – it was really fun!”

“When I look at the rock garden it makes me feel happy inside because of all the kind messages everyone wrote,” added second grader Jolyn Yu.

Teachers and staff members were also observed performing random acts of kindness by inviting students into their classes, making conversations with youngsters sitting alone at lunch, and pulling together to help alleviate the burden of a sick team member.

“This week, Westhoff Elementary took on the Great Kindness Challenge to inspire others, never give up, encourage teamwork, and shine!” said Interim Principal Denise Rendon.

Walnut Valley USD Trustees Laud Star Parents, Students

Suzanne Middle School parents Betsy Castellanos and Sonal Choksey honored with Partner in Education Awards. Shown with Principal Dr. Amy Smith and Board President Larry Redinger. Also shown with staff and family members.

By Kelli Gile

WALNUT, CA–During the January 15 meeting, the Board of Trustees paid tribute to stellar students and parents from Maple Hill Elementary, Walnut Elementary, and Suzanne Middle School.

Maple Hill Elementary 4th grader Irene Park honored as winner of 2019 holiday greeting card contest. (Shown with Principal Kelly Morris and Board President Larry Redinger.

Maple Hill Elementary 4th grader Irene Park received a certificate of special recognition as the winner of the 2019 holiday greeting card contest. Irene’s creative submission depicted a friendly snowman in a winter wonderland scene. The contest was open to third and fourth grade students throughout the District. Irene also received a gift card courtesy of Yogurtland in Walnut.

WVUSD Board of Trustees honors Walnut Elementary fifth grader Alicia Clark with Super Star Student Award on Jan. 15. Shown with Principal Robert Chang and Board President Larry Redinger.

Walnut Elementary fifth grader Alicia Clark was spotlighted with the Super Star Student Award. Alicia is an outstanding student who always has a positive attitude in everything that she tackles. She displays great enthusiasm toward learning and academics, and gives 100% effort in class projects, assignments, and tests. She is involved in singing, dancing, and acting, and her creative talents have earned an award for a short film in China. She also displays exemplary leadership qualities while guiding and teaching her peers how to sing and dance. Additionally, Alicia is one of the few students on campus who is helping choreograph the upcoming Lunar New Year Celebration.

Parent volunteer Stella Hess receives the Partner in Education Award. Shown with Principal Robert Chang, Board President Larry Redinger, staff, and family members.

Parent Stella Hess received the Partner in Education Award for her dedicated work as Community Club vice president and schoolwide volunteer. Six years ago, Stella started out as a classroom helper and quickly found herself “addicted” to volunteering, according to Principal Robert Chang. “She soon was in the Library, carting around our STAR prize store, revamping the whole STAR Store system, heading the library volunteers, cheering at the track meet, reading aloud to our Genius Hour Story Time and Sketch class, chaperoning field trips, and organizing book fairs,” he said. Stella thinks with her heart and makes sure everyone on campus feels welcomes, loved, appreciated, and noticed. She is truly a cheerleader for educating the whole child by making the school a better, happier, safer, and more fun place to learn and grow.

Suzanne Middle School parents Betsy Castellanos and Sonal Choksey honored with Partner in Education Awards. Shown with Principal Dr. Amy Smith and Board President Larry Redinger.

Suzanne Middle School parents Betsy Castellanos and Sonal Choksey were honored with Partner in Education Awards. “They are not only phenomenal volunteers, but also help build stronger school and family relationships,” said Principal Dr. Amy Smith. They have helped raise over $175K as Community Club Booster Fundraiser co-chairs for the past two years. During summer registration, they helped advertise the impact of the parent volunteer group, highlighting technology, field trips, grade level summits, assemblies, and much more. They have a true passion and dedication for students!

Suzanne Middle School 8th grader Calvin Chen presented with Super Star Student Award. Shown with Board President Larry Redinger.

Suzanne Middle School 8th grader Calvin Chen was lauded with the Super Star Student Award for academic achievement, displaying outstanding character, school activities, numerous volunteer efforts, and striving to make those around him successful. Teachers describe Calvin as being “hardworking, a good citizen, respectful, and caring.” Most recently, the talented pianist and violinist was recognized during the Challenger Breakfast while volunteering at the event. Calvin also strives to make the world a better place through his efforts for disaster relief organizations, Breast Cancer Week, Toys for Boys, and tutoring, he is amazing!

Walnut Valley USD Pays Tribute to Top Classified Employees

A Class Act! Maintenance Worker Louie Del Real is named the 2019 Classified Employee of the Year.

WALNUT, CA–The Walnut Valley Unified School District honored to a dozen standout employees during the 22nd Annual Cornerstone Awards held January 23 at the Pomona Valley Mining Company.

Congratulations to the following 2019 honorees: Mary Weir, School Administrative Assistant – South Pointe Middle School; Lydia Garcia, Instructional Aide II-Special Education – Collegewood Elementary; Louie Del Real, Maintenance Worker III – Maintenance; Debbie Brown, Secretary II – Transportation; Susan Tran, Instructional Aide II-Bilingual/Bicultural – Castle Rock Elementary; Lena Tran, Instructional Aide II-Special Education – Maple Hill Elementary; Gary Reyes, Custodian II – Collegewood Elementary; Ron Honore, Custodian II – Walnut High School; Pete Rodriguez, Custodian II – C.J. Morris Elementary; John Archer, Custodian II – Suzanne Middle School; Francisco Espinosa, Custodian I – Diamond Bar High School; and Anita Guerrero, Nutrition Services Worker I – Evergreen Elementary.

Classified (non-teaching) employees work with dedication and commitment to improve the lives of students every day. They feed and transport students, nurture their minds, support teachers and administrators, and create a positive learning environment.

“I truly appreciate all that our classified employees do for kids on a daily basis,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.

“They are the backbone and heart of our organization!”

The monthly Cornerstone Award recognizes exemplary classified staff members who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty” in providing outstanding customer service to the District and community.

Louie Del Real was named the 2019 Classified Employee of the Year at the culmination of the program.

“I work with an awesome team and Walnut Valley is the best!” he commented after accepting the award from Personnel Commissioners Ray McMullen, Michael Cobarrubias, and Gayle Pacheco.

Louie has been a valued Walnut Valley team member for 19 years and consistently rises above all expectations.

He is a talented “Jack of All Trades” craftsman that can tackle everything from carpentry, to painting, HVAC, and electrical work – and he even drives a truck.

“Louie truly cares about the wellbeing of Walnut Valley students and staff and that dedication is reflected in his quality workmanship,” said retired manager and nominator Ron Clouser.

The employee recognition ceremony was hosted by Dr. Matthew Witmer, deputy superintendent of Educational Resources and Dr. Danny Kim, administrative director of Human Resources.

A special thanks to the following sponsors who provided generous support for the Cornerstone Awards: Massage Envy, Benihana Restaurant, Chaffey Federal Credit Union, Schools First Federal Credit Union, California Pizza Kitchen, In-N-Out Burger, Sandy Best-McGriff Insurance, Walnut Valley Educational Foundation, and Lifetouch Photography.

Congratulations to the 2019 Cornerstone Award honorees. Front row: Mary Weir, Susan Tran, Louie Del Real, Gary Reyes, Ron Honore, Lena Tran. Back row: Lydia Garcia, Debbie Brown, Pete Rodriguez, John Archer, Francisco Espinosa, Anita Guerrero.

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.

WVUSD Science Olympiad Teams Bring Home Top Awards

All middle, high schools advance to state finals

By Kelli Gile

Walnut—After months of preparation, Walnut Valley USD Science Olympiad teams came away with an impressive cache of gilded medals during the Los Angeles regional competition.

All three middle schools and both high schools will now advance to the Southern California State Finals at Caltech on April 6.

Chaparral scored a 3rd place finish, Suzanne took 4th place, and South Pointe followed in 5th place during the Division B middle school contest among 40 teams at Rio Hondo College.

Chaparral’s team, advised by science teacher Bob Patterson, won 1st place awards in nine of the 23 individual competitions including Disease Detectives, Dynamic Planet, and Mystery Architecture.

“The success of our team is due to the dedicated efforts and team spirit displayed by our students, and the amazing support of our parents,” Patterson said.

In Division C, Diamond Bar High’s total scores earned 3rd place and Walnut High took 4th place among 50 high-performing teams in the contest.

“Our Science Olympiad team is currently preparing for the next competition and is eager to demonstrate their hard work and knowledge at the state level,” said Diamond Bar High math teacher and advisor Dawn Daza.

Quail Summit Elementary students scored the gold medal and earned the second highest score in the competition among 66 teams in the Division A competition held at Occidental College on February 25. 

Additionally, Castle Rock and C.J. Morris Elementary Schools brought home the silver awards.

“This group of dedicated 4th and 5th grade young scientists studied all year, put in hours of research, and conducted experiments,” said Quail Summit’s elementary learning specialist Leann Legind.

“They displayed teamwork, character, perseverance, and great critical thinking skills – and we are so proud of them!”

After competing all day in the rain, the elementary division’s awards ceremony was cancelled due to the inclement weather.

And although most teams headed home before the final results were announced, Quail Summit students decided to wait 90 minutes for the final tally of scores.

“We worked too hard – we’re staying!” they chimed.

WVUSD Joins Great Kindness Challenge

By Kelli Gile

Walnut- Kindness is contagious. It can begin as a warm smile or simple “thank you” and grow to include good deeds that create a culture of kindness.

For the second consecutive year, all 15 Walnut Valley USD schools joined the Great Kindness Challenge, earning the official Kindness Certified School District badge.

Over 24,000 schools across the nation participated in the event, held January 28-February 1, to promote kindness by encouraging students to brighten the days of classmates, family, and community.

Many schools distributed a checklist of 50 challenges that students could complete during the kindness revolution.

Chaparral Middle School seventh grader Troy Pisigan fulfilled over 30 tasks including his favorite, saying “thank you” to the school’s noon aides.

“I could tell by their reaction that the words meant a lot!” he said.

Pisigan said he hoped his actions would motivate others to show kindness too.


“And maybe, it will carry on and they will do something nice for someone else!”

Troy is a genuinely kind young man and shows kindness every day,” praised teacher Sherry Robertson.

“We should all strive to be more like Troy!”

Walnut Elementary students joined a Mix-It-Up at Lunch to have a chance to demonstrate kindness to someone new and sold friendship grams with proceeds benefitting the Los Angeles Mission.

Diamond Bar High’s Wellness Team presented three days of Where’s Kindness? lunchtime activities.

Be Kind to Yourself day, held January 29, focused on self-care and self-compassion, E-cigarette education, stress management, dance clinic, and bungee run.

Wellness consultants staged activities wearing “Where’s Waldo?” inspired striped hats, t-shirts, and round glasses.

When students roll a three on the giant inflatable self-love dice, they complete the sentence, “Three kind words to best describe me,” explained senior Janice Kwon.

Ron Hockwalt Academiesstudents inspired smiles while delivering bountiful bouquets of pink roses and fresh greenery of kale, fennel, and celery produced in the school’s HOPE garden.

Castle Rock Elementary set out friendship chairs were students could relax, mingle, and complete a variety of kindness activities.

C.J. Morris Elementary students designed and decorated cheer-up messages on index cards to brighten up a schoolmate’s day.

Collegewood Elementary hosted We Life Each Other “Up” week (from the animated Pixar movie) with acts of kindness and compliments of gratitude, including writing messages to students at neighboring Westhoff Elementary.

Maple Hill and Vejar Elementary students cheered up schoolmates with chalked playground messages including “It’s going to be a great day” and “Take deep breaths – it’s going to be OK.”

Westhoff Elementary students completed their first kind acts in unison by smiling and offering compliments to each other during a kick-off rally.

“On the count of three, let’s all say, ‘You are smart and you are kind!’” said counselor Ericka Robledo.

Quail Summit Elementary students crafted Valentines cards for local senior citizens and dressed up as hippies during Peace, Love, and Kindness day.

South Pointe Middle School leadership students greeted families during the morning drop-off with “Have a Great Day” signs and collected gently used shoes for area needy.

Walnut Valley USD Begins Enrollment for the 2019-20 School Year

By Kelli Gile

Walnut The Walnut Valley Unified School District will soon begin registration for the 2019-2020 school year for children transitional kindergarten and kindergarten through fifth grade.  Registration dates are:

January 14-18, 2019—for those children with siblings already attending school in our district;

January 22, 2019 & onfor those elementary children new to the district, at any grade level.

You may register for transitional kindergarten if your child turns 5 years old September 2nd – December 2nd.  Students must be 5 years of age on or before September 1, to enroll in kindergarten for the 2019-2020 school year. 

At the time of registration, parents will be asked to present a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate or passport, proof of the child’s immunizations, and for kindergarten and 1st grade proof of an oral health examination.  For residency verification, parents will also need to provide either final escrow papers, mortgage statement or lease/rental agreement, along with a current utility bill (gas, water or electric bill) and a driver’s license (or California I.D.) with current home address.  Enrollment is on-going, and your residence address determines the elementary school where you should enroll your child.

The Walnut Valley Unified School District offers a quality day care program at all elementary site, for both before and after school hours.  You may contact the Child Care office at 909-444-3460 for additional information and fees.

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!”

 

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.

 

Diamond Bar Students Rocking The Kindness

Courtesy: WVUSD

By Kelli Gile

Diamond BarQuail Summit Elementary students are rocking their commitment to spreading kindness.

On Wednesday, the 645 students at the Diamond Bar campus each took home a rock in their backpacks.

But these were no ordinary rocks.

The children painted colorful heart designs with personal messages of kindness, hope, joy, compassion, or strength on the small gray stones.

In the coming days and weeks, these kindness rocks, as they are called, will be left around the community, state, and even the world.

The school is marking its 30th anniversary with a week of caring and compassionate activities.

“We want to spread a positive message to others,” said elementary learning specialist Leann Legind.

The children hope that their kindness offerings will make a difference in the lives of the lucky recipients.

“I want our messages to inspire people,” said fifth grader Lanna Xiao, age 11.

“My rock says “You are special,” shared first grader Emma Johnson, age 6.

“I hope it makes someone feel good!”

“It was fun painting them!” said classmate Aiden Chang.

“I feel like I’m sharing kindness with the world even if it’s just one little way,” said 5th grader Evelyn Wu who decorated her rock with a heart and three flowers.

The nine-year-old penned “Have faith in your heart” on the back of the rock she plans to deliver while on vacation to Taiwan this summer.

Third grader Amy Song wrote “Even though you think no one cares, I care!” and classmate Kyle Chen declared “You are wonderful” on their rocks.

Each kindness rock also comes with a tiny card describing the schoolwide project.

“This gift is for you! Turn the rock over and know that these words came from a child’s heart to yours. Know that someone in this world cares about you!”

Recipients are encouraged to post a message on the “Quail Summit Rocks Kindness” Facebook page.

“I’m probably going to put it in our town!” Chen said.

Fifth grader Bethany Li decided to paint “Hopeful” on her kindness rock after singing at the school’s talent show.

“I performed a song called “Hopeful” with an anti-bullying message,” she said.

Another fifth grader, Wynnson Notomihardjo, age 10, wrote “Honor one another” on his gift.

“I picked it because even if you get mad you should forgive people,” he shared.

“I see many people who give up on their goals, said Anderson Zhu about his “Conquer your dreams” message.

“If you don’t succeed try, try again!” Saym Waraich, age 10, said on his kindness rock.

“A lot of people in this world give up. I believe you should try again until you get it!” he said.

The “School with a Heart” is hosting daily kindness activities including “I can make a chain-ge in this world” paper chains and kindness notes posted around the campus, and an 80’s-themed dress up day to commemorate the school’s opening.

 

WVUSD Board Celebrates Star Students, Community Members

By Kelli Gile

WALNUTThe Walnut Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees paid tribute to star students and community partners during the January 17 meeting.

C.J. Morris Elementary 5th grader Madeline Toh received a certificate of special recognition as the winner of the 2017 “Holidays Around the World” greeting card contest. Madeline’s submission depicted ornaments decorated with a globe and flags of several countries. She also received a gift certificate courtesy of Yogurtland in Walnut.

Walnut Elementary 5th grader Quinton Mendoza was saluted with the school’s Super Star Student Award. The multi-talented student is a scholar, athlete, and speaks multiple languages. He has been described as compassionate, humble, kind, and funny.

“Quinton is a lot like gravity – a quiet force that affects everyone,” said Principal Robert Chang.

One example of Quinton’s big heart is his willingness to give up his morning recess each day.

He reports to the bus drop off area and picks up the tots kindergartners to make sure they arrive safely to their special education class.

On days he has 100-mile running club practice, Quinton makes sure to notify his substitute, whom he personally trained.

“Quinton doesn’t do these things for recognition, he simply acts from his heart and reaches for his goals,” Chang said. “He’s one of a kind and makes our school a better place!”

Longtime parent volunteer Molly Mendoza, and Quinton’s mom, was presented with the Partner in Education Award.

“Molly has done so many wonderful things for our school and truly deserves this honor,” Chang said.

The Community Club president has devoted countless hours organizing and participating in fundraisers, activities, and field trips.

“Molly always gives 110% and has been a part in everything going on at the school,” Chang said.

“You have not only left shoes that will be extremely difficult to fill, but have left footprints in hearts and changed our lives for the better.”

Ron Hockwalt Academies (RHA) senior Demetrius Lowery received the Super Star Student Award.

“He’s a great kid and has been a blessing on our campus,” said Principal Dr. Donna Hunter.

Demetrius has done a lot of hands-on work in the school’s HOPE garden and has a gift at fixing things, she explained. The teen even brought a crate of oranges to present to the Trustees.

The school’s HOPE program is designed to help students create a future they want. HOPE stands for Heart, Opportunity, Perseverance, and Excellence

“He’s showing HOPE and heart for all his schoolmates, staff, and school. We are very proud of Demetrius!” Hunter said.

Ernie Quejado, founder of the Sanlo Homestay Foundation, was honored with the school’s Partner in Education Award.

Ernie has adopted RHA and for the past three years has donated a $1,000 each year for student leadership.

“We’re a small school and these funds go a long way,” Hunter explained.

RHA is able to provide field trips, incentives, and activities through this generous support.

“We appreciate him and his support for our campus!” Hunter said.

 

School Lunch And School Breakfast Programs

Kelli Gile

FREE AND REDUCED-PRICE MEALS IN THE NATIONAL

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, 2017 through June 30, 2018, 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

LUNCH, BREAKFAST, MILK

reduced

eligibility scale

LUNCH, BREAKFAST, MILK

household size Annual monthly twice monthly every two

weeks

weekly annual monthly twice monthly every two

weeks

weekly
1 $ 15,678 $ 1,307 $   654 $  603 $  302 $ 22,311 $ 1,860 $   930 $   859 $  430
2 21,112 1,760 880 812 406 30,044 2,504 1,252 1,156 578
3 26,546 2,213 1,107 1,021 511 37,777 3,149 1,575 1,453 727
4 31,980 2,665 1,333 1,230 615 45,510 3,793 1,897 1,751 876
5 37,414 3,118 1,559 1,439 720 53,243 4,437 2,219 2,048 1,024
6 42,848 3,571 1,786 1,648 824 60,976 5,082 2,541 2,346 1,173
7 48,282 4,024 2,012 1,857 929 68,709 5,726 2,863 2,643 1,322
8 53,716 4,477 2,239 2,066 1,033 76,442 6,371 3,186 2,941 1,471
For each additional household member, add:
  $ 5,434 $453 $    227 $   209 $ 105 $  7,733 $   645 $    323 $   298 $  149

 

Households do not need to turn in an application when the household receives a notification letter saying that all children automatically qualify for free meals when any household member receives benefits from CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR. Children who meet the definition of foster, homeless, migrant, or runaway, and children enrolled in their school’s Head Start program are eligible for free meals. Contact school officials if any child in the household is not on the notification letter. The household must let school officials know if they do not want to receive free or reduced-price meals.

Applications will be sent to the household with a letter about the free and reduced-price meal program. Households that want to apply for meal benefits, must fill out one application for all children in the household and give it to the nutrition office at 880 South Lemon Avenue, Walnut, CA 91789.

Households may turn in an application at any time during the school year. If you are not eligible now, but your household income goes down, household size goes up, or a household member starts receiving CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR, you may turn in an application at that time. Information given on the application will be used to determine eligibility and may be verified at any time during the school year by school officials. The last four digits of the Social Security number from any adult household or checking that you do not have a Social Security number is required if you include income on the application.

Households that receive Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits, may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals by filling out an application.

Foster children are eligible for free meals and may be included as a household member if the foster family chooses to also apply for the non-foster children on the same application. Including foster children as a household member may help the non-foster children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. If the non-foster children are not eligible, this does not keep foster children from receiving free meals.

Your child’s eligibility status from last school year will continue into the new school year for up to 30 school days or until the school processes your new application, or your child is otherwise certified for free or reduced-price meals. After the 30 school days, your child will have to pay full price for meals, unless the household receives a notification letter for free or reduced-price meals. School officials do not have to send reminder or expired eligibility notices.

If you do not agree with the decision or results of verification, you may discuss it with school officials. You also have the right to a fair hearing, which may be requested by calling or writing the hearing official:

Danny Kim, Director of Pupil Services ~ 880 South Lemon Avenue, Walnut CA 91789 ~ (909) 595-1261 x 31311

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

South Pointe’s Puppy with a Purpose

Photo courtesy: WVUSD

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR-Passionate educators are willing to do just about anything to foster student success.

Meet Kevin Duh, a social studies teacher at South Pointe Middle School in Diamond Bar.

The out-of-the-box thinking educator has found a way to combine his desire to address the emotional needs of his 8th grade students and his love of dogs.

This year, Duh was granted permission to bring a 3-month old puppy named Laker to his class as an official therapy dog-in-training.

Since the first day of school in August, the lovable Goldendoodle, has been at Duh’s side at all times during the school day.

“I take him wherever I go because I want him to understand the dynamics of the campus,” he said.

“He’s like my shadow!”

Duh, who has been teaching for six years, said he chose the popular “designer” hybrid dog for several reasons.

“Laker has the intelligence and hypo-allergenic qualities of a Poodle, friendliness of a Golden Retriever, and people aren’t afraid of him,” he said.

“Already, two of my students have gotten over their fear of dogs,” Duh reports.

Laker, who is now 8-months old, has proven himself as a source of unconditional love to the young teens.

“This year, the kids seem much happier in the classroom,” he says.

Duh says his 160 students quickly developed a wonderful relationship with the gregarious and playful pup.

“I think he brightens our class up,” confirms Katie Song, 13.

“Sometimes when we’re feeling stressed, he’s just always there for us!”

“I like having Laker in class,” added classmate Kris Ng.

“He helps us feel better to just reach down and pet him during the day,”.

More than that, Laker is a comforting resource for students having a bad day or going through tough times with family issues.

“I know there’s a lot of brokenness in our community. He just brings a light into that,” Duh said.

“Laker provides a place where students can drop their anxieties on him.”

Duh has data that his dog has aided three students with testing anxiety during his short time on campus.

“For example, one student had a 65% average and I suggested he take Laker with him for his next test,” he explains.

“Within a couple weeks his scores went up to 84%. It’s a huge jump!”

Laker has also provided dozens of students with comfort of being a furry companion.

“I love Laker, he’s my best friend,” says classmate Kristin Joe, who doesn’t have a dog at home.

What’s it like bringing a puppy to school?

“He’s very playful, loving, likes to be petted, and be in constant contact with people,” Duh explains.

“For some reason, he has an instinct that when I’m teaching or doing something important, he holds off his energy!”

Duh admits that animals in school settings haven’t traditionally mixed, and with a dog it’s a “goliath” of a responsibility.

But this teacher is very dedicated to constantly making sure the dog is well-taken care of and that his students wash their hands after they pet him.

He also carves out time each day to “run out” Laker’s puppy energy.

“There’s a huge time commitment – it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be!” Duh admits.

The adorable curly-haired pup was even introduced as a new staff member during a Board Meeting, took an official school ID photo, and has hundreds of Instagram followers @lakerthegoldendoodle.

Laker will be able to take the test to become a certified therapy dog this summer when he reaches his first birthday.

Once Laker passes his test, the school plans to integrate the therapy dog into its social-emotional wellness program, according to Principal Susan Arzola.

The Community Club provides support by funding the puppy’s training classes and insurance.

“We are all cheering on Laker to make sure he passes all his classes!” said Arzola.

“This year, he’s a cute puppy. Next year, I want him to be a schoolwide resource,” adds Duh.

“I would also love to see this program grow throughout our district and for a therapy dog to be at every site.”

“I feel like we’ve stumbled onto something that’s untapped!” Duh adds.

For now, the puppy with a purpose will continue bringing joy to the students at South Pointe.

“Laker will be here with me as long as he’s able. It’s very exciting!” Duh said.

 

Scout Gives Back to Elementary School

By Kelli Gile

DIAMOND BAR—On Tuesday, Evergreen Elementary students had a surprise on campus when they returned from the three-day holiday weekend.

An enormous 16’x27’ colorful map of the United States had been painted on the amphitheater stage.

Diamond Bar High senior Jarrett Dang, 17, a member of Boy Scout Troop #730, decided to give back to his alma mater by completing his Eagle Scout Project at the school.

The Eagle Project is an important step in obtaining the highest Boy Scout ranking.

Dang designed and carried out the community service project with the help of 33 fellow Boy Scouts, volunteers, friends, and parent leaders.

He thought the map would serve as a “good educational tool for teachers” on the campus.

“I hope my project will serve as a fun and interactive way for students to learn the geography of their country!” he said.

After weeks of preparation and fundraising, the teen went to Evergreen on Friday to prepare the area by scrubbing the cement with a degreaser.

The following day, the volunteer team carefully laid out and taped down eight large stencil pieces that outlined the map and borders of each state.

The group then carefully spray painted holes in each stencil that marked the state borders.

After lifting up the stencils, the scouts began connecting the dots to form the borders.

By the end of the day, they painted all 50 states according to the blue, yellow, red, and green color scheme.

“I decided to paint California green because Evergreen’s colors are green and white,” he shared.

He also added a white diamond shape where the Diamond Bar school is located.

On Sunday, the crew applied a second coat of paint and touched up the borders, while the adults spray-painted the state abbreviations.

The final step was adding “Boy Scout Troop 730 Eagle Project 2018” in the southwest corner of the artwork.

“The students love looking at Jarrett’s gift to the school,” said exclaimed Principal Trina Dreyer.

“We are grateful that he chose his elementary school as the place to complete his Eagle Scout project!”