August 20, 2019
By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA—Walnut Valley Unified School District ushered in the welcome wagon as the first bell rang for nearly 14,000 students on August 12.
A beaming Principal Fayroze Mostafa greeted 480 C.J. Morris Elementary students with hugs and high-fives under a towering red and white balloon arch.
After getting settled in class, kindergarten families snuggled together as teacher Kelly Revells read aloud “The Kissing Hand” to make the children feel safe and secure in their new environment.
“It is a wonderful story about the first steps of being independent and starting school,” Revells said.
Parents wrote love notes, gave giant goodbye hugs, and then gathered for a Boo Hoo Yahoo breakfast in the multi-purpose room.
“It was an exciting first day – with only a few tears reported!” said Mostafa who credited the success to a new kindergarten back-to-school night held on August 8.
“The entire process was re-vamped this year so our youngest students could see classrooms, meet their teachers, and get comfortable before school began,” she added.
Over the summer, Walnut Valley USD campuses were readied for the new year, including the installation of 44 portables at Diamond Bar High in preparation of modernization projects.
Solar panels were installed at Walnut High, Chaparral, South Pointe, and Suzanne Middle Schools, and the District Office.
At Walnut Elementary, a new block wall was constructed to add an extra layer of security due to increased traffic on Lemon Avenue.
In addition, 1,000 new personal computers were distributed to schools, bringing a record high of approximately 17,000 devices available to students.
At Maple Hill Elementary, all classrooms are now equipped with laptops for every student.
Amber Swartz’s fifth grade students were immersed in technology to help build relationships in the classroom community.
They created Wordle word clouds to describe themselves with favorite foods, families, hobbies, and more.
“Gronk (Robert Gronkowski) is the name of a football player and the name of my fish. And I like tacos!” commented Joshua Applebaum.
“We’ll send them to our teacher through Google Classroom so they can be printed,” added Maria Mekhail about the artwork to be displayed at Back to School Night.
Third grade students in Lisa Peterson’s class gathered around the campfire (don’t worry - the flameless variety!) while singing the school’s theme song.
The children took turns waving hands over the illuminated white fabric flames fluttering above foam logs.
“My goal is to keep my students engaged and to create a safe, inviting learning environment,” said Peterson who designed the cozy corner with trees, tent, twinkle lights, and friendly grizzly bear.
“Over the years the curriculum has become more rigorous but it doesn’t mean that we still can’t have fun!”
Diamond Bar High hosted an “Out of This World” opening day rally with performances, games, and competitions, and the Walnut High pep squad led cheers as teens entered the campus.
Many educators attended summer conferences to hone their skills, including Walnut High chemistry teacher Garrett Lim who joined colleagues from around the country at ChemEd 2019 in Illinois.
“It was a refreshing summer and I’m excited to come back to class and apply what I learned over the break!” he shared.
At Chaparral Middle School, new orchestra teacher (and Walnut Valley USD grad) Taylor Harb welcomed each young musician at the door.
Harb, who played cello in the Chaparral 7thand 8thgrade orchestra, is ecstatic to be taking over the program at her alma mater.
“I love it - this is the perfect job for me!” said Harb who brings three years of educational experience to her position.
Between periods, Harb proudly pointed to a 2006 photo on display marking the day she was given the opportunity to conduct her peers at Carnegie Hall.
“I was just 13-years-old and that was the moment I knew I wanted to be an orchestra teacher!”
At Westhoff Elementary, teacher Kary Penzes crafted an Adventures Await bulletin board bursting with paper helium balloons in tribute to the animated film, “Up” where the characters spend much of their time floating above a rain forest.
“In fifth grade, we run to the edge of the map, where adventure in education awaits!” she said.
Penzes used a familiar oral hygiene product to remind students to choose their words wisely.
“Words are like toothpaste…once hurtful words come out, it’s hard to put them back!” she said.
At Vejar Elementary, a crop of four new teachers, Danielle Hambrick, Kalie Mitchell, Katy Schooler, and Lily Tiao,were eager to meet their young charges on the first day of school.
Hambrick said she knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in elementary school.
“I just loved all my teachers and grew up in a dance studio around kids – so there may even be some dancing in my kindergarten class!”
“I am excited to see the kids again!” added Schooler who taught enrichment keyboarding at the school last year.
“It will be a different world this year!” the second-grade teacher said.
Classes took walking tours around the campus and then gathered to review the Vejar Values behavior expectations: “Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible.”
Transitional kindergarteners, with the help of teacher Carolyn Campbell, created keepsake handprint pictures to help families “remember how my fingers looked on the first day of school.”
Many students said that they were excited to see friends and meet teachers, but one youngster remarked that her brother wasn’t in such a hurry to end his summer vacation.
“I was rushing and rushing this morning, but my brother was just snoring in bed!” said fourth grader Sophia Duran.
Camp Learn A Lot! Maple Hill Elementary third graders with teacher Lisa Peterson gather around the camp fire.
Maple Hill Elementary fifth graders utilize technology to help establish classroom communities.
Maple Hill Elementary kindergartners sing while learning each other’s names.
C.J. Morris Elementary Principal Fayroze Mustafa welcomes children on August 12.
Kindergarten teacher Kelly Revells reads “The Kissing Hand” families on the first day of school.
C.J. Morris Elementary kindergartners color teddy bears on the first day.
Vejar Elementary transitional kindergarten students create keepsake handprint pictures.
Vejar Elementary TK students cut and paste adorable portraits to mark the first day of school.
Back to Class! Walnut High students set sail on the first day of school on August 12.
High Fives! Chaparral Middle School orchestra teacher Taylor Harb welcomes young musicians on August 12.
Out of This World! Diamond Bar High USB leadership hosts first day pep rally with entertainment, games, and grade-level competitions.
Quail Summit Elementary fifth graders complete in multiplication relays.