August 16, 2017
By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA—On Monday morning, backpacks, books, and school bus rides, signaled the end of summer vacation in Walnut Valley USD.
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! I 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 school leader 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!
Maple Hill Elementary 3rd grade teacher Lisa Peterson throws a Happy New School Year party on August 14.
Quail Summit Elementary staff members line up to greet students on the first day of school.
Quail Summit Elementary students pose for photos marking the first day of school.
Collegewood Elementary 4th graders in Kim Horn’s class join a Just a Just Like Me activity on August 14.
New Walnut High Environmental Science teacher Alyssia Infante takes her place in front of the class on August 14.
Collegewood Elementary kindergarten teacher Jayne Knight leads a morning lesson on the first day of school.
New Chaparral Middle School Language Arts teacher Jonathan Chung and students share summer memories on August 14.
Chaparral Middle School 7th grade social studies teacher Anna Gubernat with students on August 14.
Chaparral Middle School social studies teacher Gary Imai greets students on the first day.
Walnut Valley Schools welcomed over 14,300 students on the first day of the 2017-2018 school year.