Tag Archives: joaquin miller elementary

Four Burbank Unified Elementary Schools Recognized For Exemplary Arts Education

Four Burbank Unified elementary schools – George Washington, William McKinley, Joaquin Miller and Providencia – were selected by the California Department of Education for the Exemplary Arts Education Award. Only 13 total schools statewide received the honor.

In a media release on Tuesday, January 7, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said, “We know that access to arts and STEAM is an important part of closing the achievement gap, and these Exemplary Arts schools put the ‘A’ in ‘STEAM.”

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

“We are grateful the community of Burbank has invested in the arts,” commented Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill. “This is another example of how our students thrive when we invest in them.”

Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District

“Congratulations to these 13 schools for supporting arts and STEAM education, which prepares students to be leaders in the creative economy,” Thurmond added.

Schools throughout the state were able to apply for the recognition if they met California Arts Standards for Public Schools as well as performance and progress on indicators on the California School Dashboard.

According to the CA State Department of Education release, the 13 Exemplary Arts Education Awardees include traditional comprehensive elementary schools, magnet schools and district and independent charters, and range in size from a 3700-student urban school to a 250-student rural school.

Some of the schools’ populations are a majority of Title I students from lower socio-economic backgrounds while others are primarily made up of students in the suburbs with strong district and community financial support.

Other criteria for the award required the schools to offer instruction to all students in at least three of five arts disciplines of Dance, Media Arts, Music, Theater and Visual Arts.

Schools also had to show improvement for at least one student subgroup in one of the following three areas based on the Dashboard: School Climate, in the area of Suspension Rate; Student Engagement, in the area of Chronic Absenteeism or Graduation Rate; Academic Achievement, in the area of English Language Arts, Mathematics, or College and Career Readiness.

Washington, Miller, Providencia and McKinley Elementary Schools and the rest of the California Exemplary Arts Education Schools will be honored on February 10 at a ceremony at Disneyland Resort, along with recipients of the California Distinguished Schools, National Blue Ribbon Schools, National Terrel H. Bell and National ESEA Distinguished Schools awards.

Miller Elementary Fifth-Graders Solve “The Case Of The Purloined Pencils”

Fifth-grade students in Melissa Pamperin’s class at Joaquin Miller Elementary followed the clues for their performance of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Purloined Pencils, on Thursday evening, December 5, in the school auditorium.

The play was written by Pamperin and “set at Miller Elementary where a large shipment of pencils had mysteriously gone missing.”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

“The Dr. Hill character called in Sherlock and Watson to solve the crime,” explained Pamperin. “They interrogated the teachers, Kindergarten students, second graders and fifth graders only to learn that the fifth grade students had stolen them and sharpened them down to tiny nubs in hopes that it meant they wouldn’t have to take any additional tests.”

“They are ultimately foiled when they learn that the tests are technology-based and given on Chromebooks.”

“The show included songs in which Dr. Hill lamented the state of public school funding, the teachers lamented their hours and the kids lamented all of the long assessments,” she added.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The cast of 22 students and six crew members was largely drawn from Pamperin’s class; two students from Jenna Macho’s class joined the production as well.

The students played district and school staff and other students in the play. They began working on the show in mid-September.

“The students… put on a fantastic show that had the audience laughing hysterically at many of the songs and scenes,” Pamperin also said.

Miller Multicultural Family Festival Celebrates Diversity

Joaquin Miller Elementary School celebrated its annual Miller Multicultural Family Festival on Friday evening, October 25. The event was organized and supported by the Miller Elementary PTA.

The school community of students, family, caregivers, staff and teachers turned out for an evening of engaging entertainment and activities.

Motherland Drummers performed traditional drumming from the Manding culture of Guinea West Africa at the Miller Multicultural Family Festival. (Photo By Ross Benson)

Performance groups included Nataya Leelaa Kru Asa Wat Thai, Motherland Drummers, Immortals Lion Dance, Xipe Totec Aztec dancers and Master Sharron’s EB Bollywood Performing Arts Academy for Boys & Girls.

“A few of the performance groups included Miller students, parents and staff and some groups invited the audience to participate which was fun and exciting!” explained PTA President Katharine Moser.

Nataya Leelaa Kru Asa Wat Thai performed “Ram Kratop Mai” or bamboo clapping, a folk dance of Northeastern Thailand, at the Miller Multicultural Family Festival on October 25, 2019. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“In addition to diverse performances, the festival included a multicultural potluck dinner, a video showcasing many of the languages spoken at Miller and vendors representing Armenia and Mexico,” she added.

“The evening was rounded out by fun activities that included creating cultural paper dolls and a passport coloring book.  The Miller PTA is proud to have put together this fun family event that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion.”

Miller Elementary Principal Judy Hession, Board of Education member Armond Aghakhanian and City of Burbank Vice Mayor Sharon Springer attend the Miller Multicultural Family Festival. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“At Miller, we are proud of the diversity of our staff, students and families,” commented Principal Judy Hession. “It is something that we recognize, celebrate and honor with enthusiasm.”

“Our Multicultural Family Festival was a wonderful way to share and highlight the many cultures that make up our school and community,” Hession also said. “Thank you to our PTA and the many volunteers who donated their time to make this event a success!”

Miller Elementary Presents “Rebel With A Kickstand”

Fourth-graders at Joaquin Miller Elementary School presented Rebel With A Kickstand on Thursday evening, March 14, in the school auditorium. The musical was also performed for fellow students in two performances on Friday, March 15.

“In this play Grandma Jackie goes backyard camping with her grandchildren Bobby and Susie,” explained volunteer and retired teacher John Ossiff, who co-wrote and co-directed the musical with fifth-grade teacher Melissa Pamperin. “When she tells them that she was and still is a rebel, they don’t believe her.”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

“So she takes them back in time to when she was a girl, to the day she got her bike. Not just any bike, a bike that could travel to other dimensions. She and her pet sloth, Nutin, used the bike, and ended up in a very different place.”

“There they found a kingdom in crisis, with a king being tricked by an evil new advisor.  They helped the king see what was going on, and helped save the kingdom… [and] the treasures of the kingdom, including a magic mirror, a magic harp and a goose that laid golden eggs.”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The play include seven musical numbers and Pamperin made all of the costumes for the actors. The students worked for months to prepare the musical.

In January, 57 students tried out for the 27 parts in the play. Another eight students operated lights and sound and worked as backstage crew, added Ossiff. Two students played keyboards for the performance.

The students in the cast and crew rehearsed during lunch time and many mornings before school to prepare the production.

“The cast and crew all agreed that the experience of putting on this performance helped them learn and gain self-confidence,” Ossiff also said. “They  wish to extend their thanks to the entire Miller community who helped make this production possible.”

Miller And McKinley Elementary Schools Celebrate Read In Day

Joaquin Miller Elementary School and William McKinley Elementary School are just two of the Burbank Unified elementary school that celebrated Dr. Seuss’s Birthday and Read Across America Day with Read In Day on Friday, March 1.

Miller Elementary was visited by 45 guest readers in the classrooms including Board of Education Vice President Armond Aghakhanian, Director of Elementary Education Dr. Peter Knapik, Director of Wellness Johanna Chase, Assistant to the Superintendent Kimberley Clark, Principal at Muir Middle School Dr. Greg Miller,  Kenny Maler from the Burbank Police Department, Cadet Joseph Rangel from the Burbank Fire Department, Burbank Youth Services Librarian Cathleen Bowley, former NASA Rocket Scientist Kevin DeBruin, former Miller PTA President Wendi Harvel, Miller Booster Club President Liga Zervena,  Saundra Montijo from the Burbank Arts For All Foundation and three retired Miller teachers: Mike Hammell, Darla Marquis and John Ossiff.

Miller Principal Judy Hession is ready for Read In and Pajama Day. (Photo By Ross Benson)

Several Miller parents also volunteered their time to read to the students.

“The Miller Read In and Pajama Day is one of our staff and students’ favorite day,” commented Miller Principal Judy Hession. “We get to read for fun and the best part, we get to do this in our pajamas!”

Hession also thanked Azuree Natice, Miller library coordinator, for organizing the annual event.

“I had asked our readers to make sure that they talk about the importance of reading and how they use this skill each day,” added Hession. “I have seen how important it is to make sure that our students are able to read and to understand what they are reading before they move onto the middle school. We hope that students can see how reading is connected to everything that the will be doing in the future.”

Assistant Fire Chief Danny Alvarez, McKinley Principal Liz Costella and Director of Elementary Education Peter Knapik. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

More than 28 community members joined Read In Day at McKinley Elementary, such as Police Chief Scott LaChasse, Assistant Fire Chief Danny Alvarez and Burbank City employees and officials including Vice Mayor Sharon Springer. Board of Education members Charlene Tabet and Clerk Steven Frintner were joined by district staff, local business members and former McKinley Principal Ms. Holliday.

Local developer Michael Cusumano with students Amanda Lainez and Natalia Rubio for Read In Day at McKinley Elementary, where he also went to elementary school. (Photo By Ross Benson)

“The event was a fun and rewarding experience for our students to have the community members come read to them,” commented McKinley Principal Liz Costella and Community Liason Janeth Moreno.

“The students were really excited about having a visitor read to their classroom and being able to share what they have been learning this year.” 

“Not only did the students enjoy the experience but all of the McKinley staff and guest readers had a wonderful time too.”

“Guest readers commented on the great conversations and interactions they had with the students.”

“They enjoyed not only getting to read to the students but getting to know more about what the students have learned this year and our McKinley Community”

“Our Community Read-In is one of our favorite annual events and we look forward to it each year.”


Miller Elementary Receives STEM + Families Math Night Grant

Joaquin Miller Elementary PTA was one of 35 schools across the country to receive a National PTA 2018-19 STEM + Families Math Night award. The $1000 grant supported Miller’s Family Math Night, held on Wednesday, January 30.

More than 150 people attended Miller’s Family Math Night, which was facilitated by school administration and staff, PTA volunteers and Burbank High School Key Club members.

Families enjoy math games and activities at Miller Elementary Family Math Night. (Photo By Ross Benson)

Students and parents checked in and attended a reception in Miller’s Copeland Courtyard. Each participant received a passport to visit 10 math activities which were held in four classrooms.

“The activities taught different math concepts in a fun way,” explained Miller Principal Judy Hession. “There were two tracks of activities, one for students in grades TK through second, and one for grades three through five.”

BUSD Board Members Steve Frintner and Dr. Roberta Reynolds along with Principal Judy Hession, Sandy Russell, Claudia Knoell, Sean Arthurs. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

At their own pace, families visited the various activities, led by Mathnasium teaching staff, Miller teachers and BHS Key Club volunteers. All students received a Mathnasium goody bag at the end of the evening.

“Engaging families is a great way to support our students,” commented Miller PTA President Claudia Knoell. “This event succeeded in bringing parents and children together while learning fun math games and activities.”

Special guests included Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds, school board member Steve Fritner, the National PTA’s Senior Manager of Education Initiatives Sean Arthurs, First District PTA President Sandy Russell, Burbank Council PTA President Carol Briggs and Mathnasium National Initiatives Marketing Manager Kari Keller.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The National PTA grant program, sponsored by Mathnasium, aims to encourage family involvement in fun math and science activities at the elementary school level, with hopes of young students developing an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

“It was so wonderful to see so many families participate in the Family Math Night,” said Hession. “Providing our parents and students the opportunity to spend time together and learn fun ways to do math strengthens the partnership between the school and home.”

“Thank you to the National PTA for the grant and to Mathnasium as well as our Miller PTA President, Claudia Knoell, and the wonderful parent and student volunteers for making this fun evening of learning possible.”


Seventh Annual Miller Family Sing Along Spreads Holiday Cheer

The Joaquin Miller Elementary School Chorus held its seventh annual Miller Family Sing Along on Wednesday evening, December 12. Chorus directors Joan Becker, Laura Kubler and Mary Schindler, all teachers at the school, led the group of approximately 80 fourth- and fifth-graders through a selection of holiday songs to celebrate the season.

“Our sing along has been a wonderful way to bring families together and to help us get into the festive spirit of the holiday season,” commented Judy Hession, Principal of Joaquin Miller Elementary School.

In between the children’s performances, the audience joined the chorus in singing traditional carols. The words of the song are projected on the auditorium screen for everyone to follow along.

The Miller Elementary Chorus meets weekly before school on Wednesdays and all fourth- and fifth-grade students are encouraged to participate. They sing at the school’s monthly Flag Assemblies and, for the last two years, have joined in the John Muir Middle School Holiday Program.

miller family sing-along

The Joaquin Miller Elementary School Chorus held their seventh annual Family Sing Along on December 12, 2018. Chorus Directors Laura Kubler (left) and Joan Becker (right) flank the children. (Photo Courtesy Joaquin Miller Elementary School)

“As Joaquin Miller Elementary School will soon be celebrating our 100th birthday, we are launching a campaign to raise funds to refurbish our auditorium,” said Becker. “We have a very active Theater Arts Program with plays and musical performances throughout the year.”

“With a lofty goal of $100,000, we hope to replace our seats, refinish the stage, replace and update lighting throughout the space and replace the screen with a multipurpose one.”

Miller Elementary was established in 1922-23 and renovated from 1997-2003. The school has a current population of more than 700 students in grades TK – 5.

“We look forward to celebrating our 100th birthday and to all we will accomplish in the next 100 years,” added Becker.


“One Bad Apple” Asks: What If Snow White Was The Bad One?

Joaquin Miller Elementary School fifth-graders presented the play One Bad Apple in the school auditorium on Thursday evening, December 6. The students, mainly from teacher Melissa Pamperin’s class, also performed the play for their fellow school-mates in two performances on Friday, December 7.

“Imagine a world in which the Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, but most especially Snow White are not the innocent victims of horrific pain and suffering, but are, in fact, the instigators of their mother and step-mothers’ pain,” explained Pamperin, who wrote the play and co-directed with retired teacher John Ossiff.

Photo By Ross Benson

“In this version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Snow is a spoiled, snotty princess who is often sent off to stay with the long-suffering dwarves as a consequence of her sneaky, snarky behavior. Her poor step-mother, Eva White, (it’s a play on Evil) owns an apple orchard that was left to her by Snow’s father.”

“It has been a profitable business until Snow began telling everyone that the apples were poisoned with pesticides. With no other recourse, Eva hires a lawyer and they take Snow to court for slander where the judge, Madame Mirror, proves to be the fairest in the land and sentences Snow to a nap deep in the forest where she won’t be able to bother anyone for a long time.”

Photo By Ross Benson

Approximately 40 students got involved with the production as actors, lighting and sound crew and backstage crew. Play performance has been used by many educators throughout Burbank Unified and the entire country to engage and teach students of varying English reading and speaking abilities.

“The kids began work in September on the show and put on a truly fabulous play,” commented Pamperin. “They are an incredibly talented and dedicated group of kids!”

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: A Salute To Miller Elementary

Early this week I received an e-mail from the head of the Facebook page for alumni of Miller school saying she had added me as a member of the group. I have known the Lady for many years and was glad to be added.

I have a very fond spot in my heart for the school as I went there from pre-school through 6th grade and had many wonderful teachers and even got to play golf with my Dad by invitation from the school Principal, Mr. Arnold, who’s family owned the 9 hole course that is now Northwest Park.

I read a lot of the other memories and looked at the wonderful pictures people posted and felt a certain sort of pride in all our shared experiences. I made some comments and just enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

I then started to post some photos of the school that I have collected as part of my Burbank Historical journey over the years.

I posted a Miller Messages newsletter that kids took home for their parents usually pinned to your shirt so as not to lose it on the way home before Mom could see it. This was part of a collection given to me by Helen Von Seggern, a former Burbank School teacher who is 104 years old and a great lady! There are tons more things she had kept over the years that I will share.

One thing I am really fond of are my two large school pictures of the first students at Miller from 1924 you will see it below. As I have mentioned before I like to imagine what the rest of these children’s lives were like and wish someone had written down their names so I could possibly research them on Ancestry.com.

In this photo you will see all of the student body sitting in the middle of Providencia from curb to curb. One boy has a black hat that looks about 3 sizes too big for him sitting on the street in front of him. Another has what looks like an early version of a football. The girls with the flags look very proud except the girl on the far right who looks like she wants to be as far from those boys as she can!

Two of the houses in this photo are still there the ones about halfway between the center flag girl and the Left flag girl. Note also the school has no grass and no playgrounds yet. I doubt that this bothered these children one bit!

I would like to thank Cathy Palmer for signing me on to this trip down memory lane and I also wish to  remember my favorite teacher, Mrs Root, whom I owe a lot to. Thank You!



From the Authors who brought you “Lost Burbank” & “Growing Up In Burbank” Comes the third exciting installment of the Burbank Trilogy…

                “True Tales From Burbank”  

Stories from Los Angeles’s most surprising suburb!

 Home to the likes of Disney and Warner Bros., Burbank has a fascinating history beyond the glitz and glamor of its entertainment industry. Discover the true story behind the mysterious Night Riders and how the Druids came to visit. Learn about the plans to film biblical epics in town and the how the Crank Conventions came to be. Delve into tales of rodeo queens, Hollywood stars, Mouseketeers and a flying lion cub. Wesley H. Clark and Michael B. McDaniel, take you on a surprising and whimsical tour of the people, places and events of this historic San Fernando Valley city.

Wes and Mike will be in town October 10 through the 16.

Book signings will be at Auto Books on Magnolia Oct 13th from 9 am to noon.

Bell Cottage on Magnolia Day TBA.

All new slide presentations will be at The Burbank Historical Society Saturday Oct 13th at 2 pm and The Buena Vista Library Oct. 16 at 7pm! Watch for more dates and times! Books will available for purchase and signing! Don’t miss the True Tales Burbank Tour!


Get your Copy of Lost Burbank Now!
lost-in-burbank-book-coverSlowly fading with the city’s ever-changing landscape, the places and people of Burbank’s past tell a vibrant story. Before the arrival of Warner Bros. and Walt Disney, First National Pictures built  its original studio lot on Olive Ave in 1926. For over sixty years, Lockheed Aircraft Company produced some of the nation’s best airplanes where the massive Empire Shopping Center now stands. Heavyweight champion James Jeffries turned his Burbank ranch home and barn into a beloved landmark and boxing venue. Inventor Joseph Wesley Fawkes’s scheme to build a monorail to Los Angeles became a local laughingstock.  Diehard Burbankers Wes Clark and Michael McDaniel collect these and many more forgotten local stories where they can finally be found.

and their new book, Growing Up in Burbank, just out!!

Miller Elementary Students Present Creative Acting Performances

Joaquin Miller Elementary School students presented two different performing arts activities for their families and school community on Tuesday evening, May 15.

Jennifer Griffith’s first grade class wrote original fairy tales and then performed them on a stage in the Copeland Courtyard at the school. The stage was donated to the school by Burbank High School for use as an outdoor stage.

The first-graders also planned and painted the backdrops used in the performance.

“My first-graders definitely felt a great sense of ownership knowing they had written, directed and created their plays,” commented Griffiths. “We started with a genre study of fairy tales and learned the ‘ingredients’ of a fairy tale.”

miller elementary

Kindergarten students perform the play “BFF.” Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

“They then got in groups of four to create their own fairy tale plays. They ranged from Goldilocks and the Three Bears with a modern twist to a version of Hansel and Gretel that found the characters lost in an open garden with no WiFi.”

Debbie Winstein and Michelle Fitzpatrick’s Kindergarten classes presented the play BFF in the auditorium that same evening.

First-graders at Joaquin Miller Elementary School perform their contemporary fairy tales on an outdoor stage donated by Burbank High. (Photo Courtesy Jennifer Griffith)

A grant from the Burbank Arts For All Foundation provided funding so that Griffith, Winstein and Fitzpatrick’s classes could hire music teacher Johanna Chase to work with the students and help them write an original song for each production. Chase was already working at Miller as a music teacher for the entire Kindergarten class.

“Working with Johanna on the finale song was a great way to recap their work and teach them about the basics of music composition,” said Griffith.

“This is the latest of many grants that we’ve given to support the theater program at Miller over the years,” commented Program and Outreach Manager Saundra Montijo.

“Our first investment was for teacher professional development in 2012, followed by grants to further their fourth and fifth grade productions, provide equipment and – most recently – to support the development of original productions for Kindergarten and first grade students,” she added. “This grant is our third investment for Kinder and first grade theater.”

“We’re so glad to see their continued growth and how they continue to innovate and educate through the performing arts.”

Kindergarten students perform the play “BFF.” Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Winstein and Fitzpatrick’s classes took seven stories from Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie books and turned them into six acts of a play, so all of the 40 students could have a speaking part if they wished, explained Winstein.

“We read all the titles during the year and the students chose their favorites to get turned into our play,” continued Winstein. “Since the books don’t have a lot of text, we looked closely at the facial expressions and body language used to convey feelings. This was incorporated into their acting warm-ups.”

First-graders at Joaquin Miller Elementary School perform their contemporary fairy tales on an outdoor stage donated by Burbank High. (Photo Courtesy Jennifer Griffith)

“This is the third year doing a play with my class and I was excited that Ms. Fitzpatrick wanted to join in,” she added. “The hope is to show teachers the academic benefits of performance and the confidence gained when having ownership of the productions.”

“We had students who came into the year speaking little to no English and ended the year being on a stage with lines to speak. One of our students who had to be coaxed to at least be up on the stage without a speaking part asked three days before the show if he could have a few lines. Watching him come alive was worth all the hard work.”

“One student said they loved their characters and were scared before the curtain opened, but once it opened and they saw their family they were ‘okay,'” said Winstein.

“Another student has decided to become an actor because of his experience and yet another said our play as better than Mo Willems’ books,” she also said. “I wouldn’t go that far but the humor and message of friendship definitely resonated.”

Kindergarten students perform the play “BFF.” Photo By: Edward Tovmassian