“She wanted students to know the unlimited power of an education,” shared Ben Torres at the candle light vigil held in his wife’s honor on Friday, March 24. Dr. Gloria Aguilar Torres was the beloved principal at Vine Elementary who passed away suddenly on March 22. According to the school office manager, Nancy Watkins, the school is trying to keep going and continue with the things that have been planned for the students. “We are remembering Dr. Torres with messages on hanging hearts throughout the halls, and the flowers that line the walkway into the office. We are also dedicating the yearbook to her as well.”
The hanging hearts idea was inspired by children’s book, The Invisible String by Patrice Karst. It is a story about the tie that binds people together – teaching children that no matter how far apart they are from the ones they love – whether separated by distance or death – they are still connected. Teacher Jennifer Chavez shared the book with her fourth grade students and they created the hearts that now hang across the campus. Chavez’s idea caught on, and other classes have created messages and have hung them with invisible string; even a few parents have participated.
Chavez lamented, “Losing my beloved boss and friend of seven years is really hard. She was such a huge part of who I am, and she always supported and believed in my teaching style. She will be greatly missed, but in her honor I will continue to pursue my dreams and always give 100%.”
That is exactly what Ben Torres asked of everyone at the candlelight vigil. He encouraged everyone to honor Dr. Torres by giving their all to making the most of your time in education and to work hard at setting and achieving personal goals.
Teacher and friend, Brian Jones heard that as a call to action – to remember why we are educators. “I will always remember how supportive she was as a principal. Her priority was always the success of Vine’s students. Both students and teachers found her to be approachable, whether there was a problem that could use her guidance or her intervention, or simply something you wanted to celebrate. You would often find a short line of people waiting to talk to her.” Mr. Jones continued, “Some of my favorite moments were popping in to see her, to share something about what was happening in the classroom. More often than not, she would take a break from her busy schedule and come in to observe. You always knew that she cared about the success of Vine.”
Students have been sharing their feelings about their lost principal. Many say that she was very patient, especially with students who found themselves in her office. They miss how she always listened to them and was always fair. She connected with many students through playing games with them at lunchtime.
She always tried to have the students and teachers be the ones in the spotlight. However, the spotlight has now been turned on to Dr. Torres and what she meant to Vine and WCUSD.
Capture a child’s heart and you can teach them anything. That is exactly what teachers throughout the district are aiming to do. One of the 2016-17 WCUSD Board of Education Goals is to establish a behavior intervention program district-wide. To achieve that end, the Capturing Kids’ Hearts (CKH) program has been implemented at all elementary and middle schools throughout the District. CKH is a research-based, positive intervention program designed to strengthen students’ connectedness to school through enhancing protective factors such as developing strong bonds with teachers, modeling appropriate behavior, and establishing clear rules of conduct that are consistently enforced.
Throughout the 2016-17 school year, TK-8th grade teachers, support staff, and administrators have undergone multiple CKH trainings which have provided techniques for dealing with behavioral issues, building positive relationships, developing a self-managing classroom, and creating a safe, effective environment for learning.
Has it made a difference? Cameron Elementary principal, Karla Contreras believes that is has, “With the implementation of Capturing Kids Hearts, we have seen a shift from students being ‘classmates’ to now being a community of learners where they focus on positive characteristics in themselves and each other.” Principal Contreras continued, “Students are kinder to each other, more engaged in classrooms, and are building stronger relationships with their peers and staff members.” Across the district, elementary and middle schools have noticed a significant reduction in disciplinary referrals and suspensions. Walnut Grove Intermediate has also enjoyed improvement. Principal Rich Nambu shares, “This positive behavior support program has helped reduce the discipline at our school by over 50%. We have used the ideas of connecting to kids and making a difference in their lives for years, and look forward to continuing to grow with Capturing Kids Hearts!”
Over the next two years, additional CKH trainings will be provided to TK-8th grade teachers, support staff, and administrators to support them in creating positive school environment and establish behavioral supports and structures needed for students to achieve social, emotional, and academic success.
Read Across America Day is celebrated every year to mark the birthdate of endeared author, Dr. Seuss. Elementary schools throughout the district invited guests to read a book to students in each classroom. Police officers, firemen, grandparents, city officials, and district administrators were invited to read their favorite Dr. Seuss book to the students. Some schools made a week out of it and had a fun theme for everyday of the week.
Orangewood Elementary includes career day in the week’s festivities. Students dressed in their career of choice. Former mayors, policemen, firefighters, veterinarians, personal trainers, a plumber, a West Covina City librarian, a flight attendant, and others took part in the day.
To cap off the week, West Covina High School’s National English Honor Society (NEHS) hosted their annual Dr. Seuss Day on Saturday, March 4. Families from all over West Covina joined in on the festivity-filled day with arts and crafts, games, and reading sessions. Dr. Seuss Day is an event held in the spirit of children’s literature, in hopes of exciting children to read. Louisa Trinh, current NEHS president, describes how the event “was a fun-filled morning, where children from local elementary schools were exposed to the multiple dimensions of reading through arts and crafts and readings.”
Every hour, children were encouraged to join students in a reading circle, as high school students read books like Ed Vere’s Max the Brave and Deborah Diesen’s The Pout Pout Fish. National English Honors Society collaborated with students of American Sign Language, in order to provide a learning experience for all children.
The West Covina Public Library also participated in the event, offering children a chance to spin a wheel, in order to win prizes, such as books or other toys.
National English Honor Society is a club focused on promoting literacy and literary excellence throughout West Covina High School and the surrounding community. While there are various events that occur in the high school, Dr. Seuss Day is especially important, considering the demographic it reaches. Trinh states that “Dr. Seuss Day brings a multitude of children’s favorite books to life. The event is designed to encourage children to begin reading at a young age,” recognizing the importance that reading has on a child’s academic development. Members from freshman to senior year all worked on preparations months in advance, in order to ensure a successful and enjoyable day.
The city of West Covina and the West Covina Unified School District joined forces to host the State of the City address at Hurst Ranch on March 9. Superintendent, Dr. Charles Hinman, was one of the keynote speakers and the attendees were treated to the first mock-ups of the modernization plans for each school site. “The voters of the city made our bond measure a possibility. It would be short-sided to believe that only district parents supported this measure. The vote on November 8 was the city of West Covina recognizing that our city is only as strong as our schools”. The audience was captivated by the proposed changes and upgrades planned for each school. One attendee shared, “I look forward to the day when I’m driving down Cameron Avenue to see an incredible performing arts center right there. It’s hard to imagine now, but seeing the plans drawn up make it more of a reality.”
Choir director and music teacher, Tyler Wigglesworth shares, “We are very excited to begin the process of developing a plan that will render a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center (PAC) for the district at West Covina High School! Our vision is to create a space that is at a professional level quality that will in turn inspire our students and audiences to push the boundaries of what is expected of a high school production. We hope that this space is a place where performances can come to life and both the students of WCUSD and the citizens of West Covina can enjoy and be inspired by the performances inside and the beautiful architecture outside.” Wigglesworth is part of the team of performing arts teachers who are touring many preexisting PACs to find the qualities that would fit into the dream PAC. In the end, everyone is ready to create a space worthy of the Performing Arts Programs of the West Covina Unified School District.
The Board approved a facilities master plan at the March 14 board meeting. Architectural firms have been selected, and the assignment of the modernization projects are being discussed at the district level. School personnel will continue to visit newly constructed school facilities for ideas as well as offer input on various projects.
Businesses across the city are pitching in and doing their part to support local students through the Shop Local After School Program. West Covina Unified has been the beneficiary of several generous donors.
- Penske Mercedes Benz, Todd Carter - $5,000
- EDI Media, James Su - $5,000
- McIntyre Companies, Andrew McIntyre - $5,000
- Xuan Zhang Meditation Monastery, Ven. Hai Xin - $5,000
- HK2 of West Covina - $2,500
- Crestview Cadillac - $1,000
As more and more businesses throughout the city continue to come forward, new after school programs ranging from music to robotics will be available at our secondary schools coming this Fall.
WCUSD is grateful for the generous support and we encourage everyone to SHOP LOCAL!
There’s that scene in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial when a middle school science classroom is about to embark on that educational right-of-passage of dissecting frogs. Somehow our hero, Eliot, is channeled by his outer worldly friend and is overwhelmed by a need to save the multitude of frogs about to meet their demise. Chaos ensues, and there’s even a moment for an awkward preteen kiss, but alas, this isn’t 1980 and our frog friends at Walnut Grove Intermediate had already met their fate before joining us on the dissecting trays. Perhaps in Hollywood, our friend Hannah Lumbreras (pictured below) would have a happier ending to this fruitless kiss, but we can at least be sure that Hannah and her classmates learned a little more about anatomy and physiology before the day was through.
At WGIS, Frogapaloosa has been around since the 2008 – 2009 school year. According to science teacher, Lynn Carri, seventh grade science is Life Science, so dissection is an excellent ‘hands on’ way for the students to learn more about anatomy including external and internal organs, muscles, bones, the circulatory system, and more.” Students follow instructions, removing skin and muscle, exposing the abdomen. The frog’s organs are then removed, one at a time, with discussion as to the importance of each and to which body system it belongs. It’s a GREAT learning experience for all! When’s dinner?
Not to be excluded, eighth graders were also treated to The Civil War Experience with the Vermont Volunteers who provide a reenactment for students. There are Union, Confederate and Artillery people who present in a hands on manner what it was like to be in the Civil War era and in the battles. The students are shown how a cannon works and blanks are shot off every hour.
West Covina High School senior Krystal Beltran was awarded the Emerging Leader Award at the Women of Achievement Awards on March 24. These awards are presented by Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez to honor the achievements of women in our community during Women’s History Month. Ms. Beltran serves as ASB President and plans to attend the New School in New York City. Beltran is interested in sustainable wear and will therefore be studying environmental science and fashion. Way to go, Krystal!
Middle school science teachers spent a day looking at new ways to address their subject in the classroom. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed to improve America’s role in the global economy. There is a growing emphasis on math and science and WCUSD knows this is a massive undertaking for teachers in the classroom. WCHS science teachers, Katarina Garcia and Sharon Peterson have been studying the new standards and researching ways teachers can implement inquiry-based learning. This training focused on making science more engaging and relevant to the students. Garcia shared, “We spent time determining the best storyline for science. Students are better able to grasp concepts when they are a part of a story. The teachers developed a narrative for eighth grade physical science to show the physics of how cars move.” Garcia and Peterson are excited to work with other science teachers in the district. They hope this training is just the first of more to come.
The Edgewood High School Science Olympiad Team competed at the LA County regional competition at Occidental College on March 4. There were over 100 schools in attendance from all around LA county including 40 high school teams.
The competition was against the best schools from all throughout Los Angeles and EHS were able to receive medals in nine events out of 23.
Individual medals awarded:
1st Place Medals:
Dynamic Planet – Emma Del Real, Immanuel Tran
Rocks and Minerals – Man Tang, Mimi Vu
Towers – Chunyi (Lucy) Tang, Brianna Ta
4th Place Medals:
Experimental Design – Analli Torres, Hai-Lin Yeh, Man Tang
Robot Arm – Raj Intwala, Cedric Evans
5th Place Medals:
Astronomy – Daren He, Paulina Cuellar
Helicopters – Brianna Ta, Immanuel Tran
Optics – Melissa Gomez, Raj Intwala
6th Place Medals:
Microbe Mission – Analli Torres, Mimi Vu