Walnut Valley administrators remember friends in ALS challenge

Walnut Valley administrators remembered friends and family as they joined in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It began at the high schools, before spreading to the school district headquarters.

Superintendent Bob Taylor answered the challenge from Walnut Principal Jeff Jordan on Friday. Jordan had taken the challenge during football practice the day before.

“I was happy to take the challenge because it’s a fantastic cause,” said Taylor. “It helps raise awareness for ALS. A relative of mine passed away from the disease so this has a special meaning for me.”

The challenge reached its peak on Wednesday, when six administrators answered Taylor’s challenge at the administration building. They lined up on a hot afternoon with temperatures reaching 100 degrees.

The nervous contingent included three assistant superintendents — Matt Witmer, Michelle Harold and Jeanette Ullrich. Joining them were directors Jose Annicchiarico, Sergio Canal and Jackie Brown.

The brave educators waited their turn as bucket after bucket of ice cold water doused them. The shock cause several to jump out of their plastic chairs on the front lawn.

 

 

But they all agreed it was for a good cause, raising money for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. And for one it was very personal.

“I’ve had a couple of friends die from the disease,” said Assistant Superintendent Witmer.

The gregarious administrator remembered one friend, Mark Plum, who died from the progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

“We had a group of friends who would go to Disneyland every Christmas to see the decorations and the rides,” Witmer recalled. “His family and mine always enjoyed this Christmas tradition together.”

 

 By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

After the computer businessman became disabled with ALS, his friends decided to take him to Disneyland one last time. They packed his wheelchair and headed to the “happiest place on Earth.”

“We were all so happy he could go,” Witmer said. “We took turns pushing his wheelchair and took him on a couple rides.”

The adventure gave Witmer a “lasting memory” when his friend died, leaving a wife and two young children.

“It was hard, but we pitch in help his wife when she wants to clean the garage or fix something,” Witmer added.

Read more in Rich Irwin story CHALLENGE.

Walnut Valley begins first day of school

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

It’s back-to-school time in the Walnut Valley Unified School District. Nearly 14,600 students began classes in the 15 campuses on Monday, August 18.

“We had a great first day,” said Walnut High School Principal Jeff Jordan. ”Students and staff were excited to be back. There was an upbeat attitude all day.”

The teens happily chatted at break time, stopped by their lockers, and checked schedules before dashing off to their next class.

Maple Hill Elementary in Diamond Bar opened doors to its completely modernized campus in Diamond Bar.

Everyone was relocated to portable buildings during the $5.6 million construction project last year.

This was the first chance for students and their families to see the new school.

“We made it!” exclaimed Principal Nancy Stingley. “Everybody’s here and inside, everybody’s happy, and everybody’s smiling.”

“Wellyn’s very lucky she’s going to a brand new school,” said kindergarten parent Jocelyn Wong.

Fourth graders Gabrielle Zabresky, Valentina Yonemoto, Carlie Law and Ella Liu were excited to see their new classrooms before the school bell rang.

What do they like best about school?

“We love math – it’s fun!’ the girls exclaimed.

“It’s really nice,” commented parent Grace Wang just outside her child’s classroom.

Fifth grade teacher Shirley Conner greeted students who were lined up before the 8 a.m.school bell rang.

“Welcome back to school. It’s beautiful inside!” she said

“It’s such a gift to us,” beamed fourth grade teacher Tami Berry.

“Everything’s new and wonderful, and different. As we had time to get to know the school, you all will have time to get to know the school,” she told her students.

“It’s going to be a very fun place to learn,” Berry added.

The school has a brand-new interior design, multipurpose room and exterior landscaping. Classrooms feature state-of-the-art technology, skylights and generous storage cabinets. Six hundred new desks and chairs were purchased for the campus.

“It’s big and roomy, everything is clean and new, and up-to-date technologically,” said kindergarten teacher Lisa Esse, who has been at the school for 20 years.

“And every teacher is excited!”

“It’s like a new beginning for us. It’s beautiful, it’s kid-friendly and we have a lot of new technology that we didn’t have before,” said third grade teacher Sue Conrad-Kanstul.

Teachers will now use wireless microphones and be able project assignments using cool mobile stations that adjust up and down, she explained.

Kanstul is happy that she will no longer have her back to the screen while at the front of the class.

“The kids used to say ‘Mrs. Kanstul I can’t see the board.’ And now I can watch what I’m projecting. I would say it’s 21st century.”

“I look forward to another great school year at Suzanne Middle School,” said Principal Les Ojeda.

“We have a great number of returning students and new students that seem incredibly intelligent, enthusiastic and eager to learn.”

Westhoff Elementary celebrated the first day of school with balloons, chalk greetings, posters, music and a staff with welcoming smiles.

“It’s going to be a great school year!” said Principal Denise Rendon.

Maple Hill Elementary reopens after $5 million renovation in Diamond Bar

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Maple Hill Elementary students found a new school when they arrived Monday morning for the first day of the new year.

Diamond Bar families have waited patiently the past year while workers renovated the Diamond Bar campus.

“The district spent $5.6 million to remodel this school,” said Walnut Valley school board president Cindy Ruiz. “I wish my children went here, it’s great environment for kids.”

Lush landscaping greets parents as they drive up to drop off their children. The vibrant shrubs and trees set the tone for the striking campus.

Inside, architects have balanced energy efficiency with high technology to produce a state-of-the-art school.

“We can have rainbows all day long,” said kindergarten teacher Lisa Esse.

Esse explained how light tubes channel sunlight into each classroom. Teachers can control shutters to allow just the right amount of light into their room.

“If you tweak the control just right, the prisms will form a faint rainbow,” Esse laughed. “The kids will love it.”

Ruiz turned off the lights to show how much natural light pours into the classrooms. It was still be easy to read a textbook.

“We have also installed new LED lighting throughout the school,” said Jeff Roule, construction manager for Walnut Valley Unified. He estimates the new lighting systems will save the school 20 percent on its electric bill.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story RENOVATION.

Vejar Elementary raises $2,875 for ill student in Walnut

Teacher Jamie Highstreet with Vejar student Andrew Orsario.

Teacher Jamie Highstreet with Vejar student Andrew Orsario.

Vejar Elementary hosted a year-end “Have a Heart” fundraiser to help a young student in need of a new heart in Walnut.
The school and community campaign brought in $2875 to help with expenses for 3rd grader Andrew Osorio who is on the national heart transplant list.
“Thank you to the Vejar family and community for their support!” said Principal Jennifer De Anda.

Suzanne Middle students get trophies for Math Olympiad program

Suzanne 7th grade Math Olympiad winners with teacher Amy Erickson.

Suzanne 7th grade Math Olympiad winners with teacher Amy Erickson.

By Walnut Valley Unified

Suzanne Middle School students were among the 110,000 students worldwide to participate in the 2013-2014 Math Olympiad program.  The Math Olympiad contests challenged students to solve unusual and difficult problems and to think creatively.

The team participated in a series of five monthly contests of 5 problems each, from November to March, and weekly practice sessions with Suzanne math teachers and coaches Amy Erickson and Victor Lu.

“The students responded well to the challenge and were recognized for their achievements during an end of the year awards celebration,” Erickson said.

Students were awarded trophies for top scores in each grade level as well as pins and patches of recognition.

For the 6th grade, William Lin came in first with a total of 21 correct out of 25. William Lin, Darren Chen, Derek Wang, John Chou, Amber Tsao, Jennifer Zhang, Tyler Xu, and Melony Yu all received silver pins to signify a top 10% score.  An embroidered patch was also awarded to Liwen Xia, Nicole Chiang, Katherine Lee, Catherine Wang, Curtis Lin, Daniel Ahu, Marco Chan, Jeremy Hsiao, Louis Wong and Kevin Chen for placing in the top 50%.

In the 7th grade, Aaron Chang was awarded the 1st Place trophy along with a patch signifying a top 50% score. Alice Zhang, Ethan Lin, Oscar Chou, Sylvester Yue, Angela Zhu, Jordin Wang, Felianne Teng, Yi Chen, Jerry Guo, Sheldon Zhu, Derick Tseng, Phillip Leung and Jing Wong also received patches for their 50% scores.

In the 8th grade, Eugene Lo was awarded the 1st Place trophy along with a silver pin recognizing his top 10% score.  Christopher Wang was also awarded a silver pin. Kevin Jensen, Lydia Chan, Fabiola Delvillar, Charles Gu, Matthew Nguyen and Irene Zhou received patches for their 50% scores.

Suzanne students compete in AMC 8 math contest in Walnut

Fifty-three Suzanne Middle School students participated in the challenging AMC 8 math contest during the 2013-2014 school year.  One student, Colby Chang, earned the gold metal for his school.

The AMC 8 questions covered many different topics, which exceed the normal middle school curriculum.

It is a 40-minute timed competition with 25 multiple-choice questions. The top-ten middle school students will also be taking the AMC 10.

Colby Chang, grade 7, took home the gold medal with a top score of 23 out of 25. He was also awarded an Honor Roll of Distinction Certificate for scoring in the top 1% in the nation.

Aaron Chang, grade 7, was awarded a silver medal and an Honor Roll of Distinction Certificate for scoring in the top 1% nationally.

Tied for bronze medals were Eugene Lo, Christopher Wong, both 8th graders, and Angela Zhu, a 7th grader.

In addition to bronze medals they earned Honor Roll Certificates recognizing their top 5% placement in the nation.

Joining them with Honor roll Certificates were fellow 8th graders Kevin Jensen, Matthew Nguyen and Lydia Chan.  Honor Roll Certificates were also given to 7thgraders Oscar Cho, Ethan Lin and Derick Tseng.

Sixth graders earning Honor Roll Certificates were Darren Chen and William Lin. Darren, William and Jennifer Zhang were additionally awarded Certificates of Achievement for scores above 15 as sixth graders.

Walnut High’s Garrett Lim joins All-Star Teachers at All-Star Game

Walnut High teacher Garrett Lim waves from All-Star Teachers trolley in All-Star parade.
Walnut High teacher Garrett Lim waves from All-Star Teachers trolley in All-Star parade.

Walnut’s very own Garrett Lim took to the field Tuesday for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis. Kim doesn’t play for the Dodgers, the Angels or even the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But still, the 34-year-old marched onto the field to the cheers of thousands of fans. Lim was one of 30 All-Star Teachers selected by Target, People magazine and MLB.

The campaign honors outstanding teachers who make a real impact in the lives of their students.

“This is an awesome tribute to Garrett as he represents all educators at the Midsummer Classic,” said Walnut High Principal Jeff Jordan. “Garrett is truly one of Walnut’s finest.”

Lim was treated as a VIP during the All-Star activities. He and his wife enjoyed a four-day trip to Minnesota, with all expenses paid.

“We were part of the pre-game parade, too,” Lim said. “It was overwhelming to see so many people lining the streets and cheering.”

They even stayed at the same hotel housing the baseball players. Lim met several in the elevators and lobby.

“I got to meet Cal Ripken at a special reception held for the teachers,” Lim said. The Walnut resident even had his photo taken with the Baltimore Orioles legend. He also met Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

All of which was great for a big baseball fan like Lim. A passion that he shares with his students at Walnut High.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story ALL-STAR.

Mt SAC VP Yamagata-Noji receives Rice Diversity and Equity Award

Mt. San Antonio College Student Services Vice President Dr. Audrey Yamagata-Noji was honored recently with the Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award in Sacramento. Yamagata-Noji was named for the award for establishing numerous programs that provide mentorship and tutoring services for underrepresented students.

She has been a champion of diversity and equity programs at Mt. SAC that support student success, including the college’s Bridge Program for first-time college students, the Arise Program for Asian and Pacific Islander students, and the Aspire Program for African-American students.

The award was established to honor community college staff, districts, colleges and programs that have made the greatest contribution toward diversity and equity at community colleges. 

“Dr. John W. Rice wanted all community college students to be treated equally, fairly, and with respect. All he wanted was for everyone to have an equal chance at an education, and the winners of the award today want the same thing,” said California Community Colleges Board of Governors President and Mt. SAC Trustee Dr. Manuel Baca.

The award is named after the former California Community Colleges Board of Governors member and the father of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

“For my father, being a part of the community college system was not just a profession, but it was a passion and indeed a mission and a calling,” said former the U.S. Secretary of State, who delivered the keynote address at the 14th annual awards ceremony. “He recognized that education is not a right, it’s a privilege and that someone stood up for him and that he must stand up for others.”

Yamagata-Noji has served as Student Services Vice President at Mt. SAC since 1996. A resident of Santa Ana, she has also served on the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education for over 30 years and is currently serving as board president. 

Walnut High students compete at Future Business Leaders of America meeting in Nashville

Clockwise from top left: Ricci Lam, Henry Ao, Howard Chen, Adviser Neil Jacoby, Kevin Chen, Zachary Woo and Rhea Lin.

Clockwise from top left: Ricci Lam, Henry Ao, Howard Chen, Adviser Neil Jacoby, Kevin Chen, Zachary Woo and Rhea Lin.

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

More than 10,000 of America’s best and brightest youth traveled to the historic city of Nashville to make some history of their own as they showcased their talents as future business leaders and vied for the opportunity to win over $165,000 in cash awards.

Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL), the largest and oldest student business organization, held its National Leadership Conference in Nashville on June 29–July 2.

Four students from Walnut High School received national recognition at the FBLA Awards of Excellence on July 2.

Kevin Chen competed in Business Calculations and brought home 7th Place. Howard Chen, Ricci Lam, and Henry Ao competed as a team in Network Design and took 9th Place in the nation.

“All of the students worked extremely hard, and I am very proud of their accomplishments,” said Neil Jacoby, Walnut High FBLA adviser.

Participants from across the United States and two countries were in attendance for this exciting conference to sharpen their core business skills, expand their networks, and participate in more than 60 business and business-related competitive events.

The awards were part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by FBLA-PBL that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas.

For many students, the competitive events are the capstone activity of their academic careers. In addition to the competitions, students immersed themselves in educational workshops, visited an information-packed exhibit hall, and attended motivational keynotes on a broad range of business topics.

Walnut Solar Car ready to roll in Solar Car Challenge in Texas

Walnut’s solar car looked like a miniature aircraft carrier as it floated down Pomona Boulevard. I expected small jets to land on its flight deck at any minute.

But this futuristic car was only making another test run before the Walnut Valley students load it up for the annual Solar Car Challenge in Texas next week.

The sleek, aerodynamic vehicle was testament to clever engineering by two dozen students from Diamond Bar and Walnut high schools, as well as Suzanne Middle School.

The team will be the only challenger from California in the challenge. But hopes are high that the Walnut Valley team will do well again. Last year, the team captured second place in the open division.

 

 

And the students have learned from their mistakes, building a new car from the ground up. It’s taken a full year to design and develop, but the car, dubbed Horus after the Egyptian sun god, is ready.

The petite pilot, co-captain Rhea Lin, was all smiles as she slid into the sleek shell. Clambering under the large solar panels, only her helmeted head appeared in the custom tear-shaped canopy.

“We’ll do well, the Walnut Solar Car team has worked really hard to finish our new car,” said Lin from the safety of her three-point harness.

In fact, the local teens have been meeting every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to build their solar sailor. Horus is powered only by the rays of the sun.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SOLAR.