Tag Archives: joaquin miller elementary

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



Miller Elementary Students Try Out Imaginary Heroes

Fourth-grade students at Joaquin Miller Elementary School presented the play Imaginary Heroes in the school auditorium on Thursday evening, March 15.

The play follows the journey of young students in the Imaginary Friends Academy as they gain confidence and learn how to deal with bullies as they venture out into the Real World.

“The play starts and ends with music from the opera Carmen by Bizet,” said retired Miller teacher John Ossiff, who continues to volunteer his time with the Miller Theatre Department. “We have added our own lyrics. There is also music from several other sources.”

imaginary heroes

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

More than half the fourth-grade class were interested in participating in Imaginary Heroes, noted Ossiff. Auditions and rehearsal began in mid-January and 34 students made up the cast and crew. The students typically rehearsed during lunch period and occasionally in the mornings before class started.

Miller Elementary is a Title 1 school with a student body of about 750, and approximately one-third of the students are English Language Learners, explained Ossiff. Over a dozen home languages are spoken by Miller families, including Armenian, Arabic, Spanish, Tagalog, Russian, Korean,and Farsi.

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

“For several years Miller has presented both a fourth- and fifth-grade original play written by Miller teachers.,” explained Ossiff. “For the past two years, we have also presented an original Kindergarten play.”

“Classes from other grades have also presented theatrical presentations, either on stage in the auditorium, in the Miller courtyard, or in the classroom. In all cases, we have found that participation in performing arts greatly increases student language skills and increases self confidence in all areas.”

Miller Read In Day Celebrates Books And Pajamas

Students at Joaquin Miller Elementary School spent the day in pajamas and with books for the annual Miller Read In Day on Thursday, March 1.

“Over the past 15 years during Read Across America week, Miller School has partnered with community members, city officials, school board members, school district staff, administrators from other schools, retired teachers and Miller parents to participate in our Miller Read In and Pajama Day,” explained Principal Judy Hession.

Burbank Fire Captain Dave Burke reads to students at Miller Elementary school. (Photo by Ross A Benson

Some of the readers this year included City Councilmember Sharon Springer, Captain Denis Cremins and Lieutenant Adam Cornnils from the Burbank Police Department and Burbank Fire Department Captain Dave Burke, along with several firefighters and police officers.

Board of Education members Armond Aghakhanian and Steve Frintner and school district staff including Superintendent Matt Hill, Muir Middle School Principal Greg Miller and Burbank High School Principal Michael Bertram also read to the children.

Burbank Police Officer Angela Burrows talk to students at Miller Elementary. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

“These individuals are invited to visit classrooms, read to our students, and talk about what they do in their jobs and why reading is so important,” she added.

“It is our hope that our students learn and understand from our guests that reading is a skill that they need to have no matter what they may decide to do in their future.”

miller read in day

Participants in the annual Miller Read In Day gather in the school library on March 1, 2018. (Photo Courtesy Joaquin Miller Elementary School)

Miller Fourth-Graders Put On “Charlie And The Chocolate Factory”

Joaquin Miller Elementary School’s fourth-grade class performed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the school community and parents on the evening of March 16 and during the day on March 17. Each performance was approximately 45 minutes long.

Fourth-grade teacher John Ossiff and fifth-grade teacher Melissa Pamperin wrote the play based on the 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Interested fourth-grade students auditioned for the play during the week of January 9.

Thirty-one students were chosen for the cast and the production started rehearsals January 18. All of the rehearsals, with the exception of the evening performance on March 16, were during the school day, explained Ossiff.

The students met during their lunch period for rehearsal, which made most of the rehearsals just 30 minutes long. Parents also worked with the students practicing their parts at home and some of the students put in some extra time practicing songs during part of their recess, added Ossiff.

Additionally, five students were backstage crew members. In the front of house, two students operated the sound system, two students operated the light control board and two students playied the keyboard for music and sound effects.

The keyboard was acquired at the beginning of the school year through a grant from Burbank Arts for All Foundation.

“Of the total of 42 students involved in the production, 11 are English Language Learners,” Ossiff also said. “The cast and crew included students from each fourth grade class at Miller.”

“The students themselves were responsible for all aspects of the performance,” Ossiff added. “They made all the set changes, controlled the lights and controlled the music and sound effects.”

“The Joaquin Miller Elementary School community is very proud of the effort and dedication these students have demonstrated,” he said.

Pamperin and Ossiff have integrated theater arts into daily instruction at Miller Elementary, as a way to boost English proficiency for both native speakers and English Language Learners.

Miller Read In Day Reaches Nearly 800 Elementary Students

The annual Miller Read In Day is a cherished event at Joaquin Miller Elementary School. City and school officials, parents and people from the community stopped by the school on Friday, March 3, to read to every class in Transitional Kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Miller’s Read In Day is one of our students’ and staff members’ favorite activities during the school year,” commented Principal Judy Hession. “We got to spend the day in our pajamas reading!”

Reading at Miller Elementary this year was Burbank Police Captain Denis Cremins, Principal Judy Hession, Vice Mayor Will Rogers and Fire Chief Tom Lenahan. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Fifty-two guest readers visited the school for Miller Read In Day, reaching the school’s total population of approximately 770 students.

“Every classroom welcomed a guest reader to share a book with them and to talk about why reading is so important to who they are and what they do,” added Hession. “We want our students to know that they do not always have to read to learn information for school.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Guest readers included Vice Mayor Will Rogers, City Treasurer Debbie Kukta, Fire Chief Tom Lenahan, Police Captain Denis Cremins, City Library Services Director Elizabeth Goldman, Board of Education member Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tom Kissinger, Director of Elementary Education Dr. Peter Knapik, Director of Adult Education Emilio Urioste, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Kimberley Clark, Miller PTA President Wendi Harvel, Miller Booster Club President Claudia Knoell and NASA-JPL Engineer Kevin DeBruin.

Several members of the Burbank Fire Department, current and former staff members of theBurbank Unified School District, representatives from local business and community groups and 25 family members of Miller students also read to the students.

Reading during this years Community Reads Day held at Miller Elementary are Burbank Fire Fighters Logan Shaw, Allan Scott and Fire Chief Tom Lenahan. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“This special day allowed us to spend the day reading for fun!” Hession also said. “Thank you to all of our readers and we hope that they can return next year!”

Miller Buddy Bench Unveiled To Support Positive Play

City and school officials, along with approximately 75 parents, attended the dedication of the Miller Buddy Bench at Joaquin Miller Elementary School on Friday, October 7.

Students in Laura Kubler’s first grade class, Mary Schindler’s second grade class and Joan Becker’s fourth grade class also attended the event in Miller Park.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Kubler helped organize the dedication celebration, with Miller students participating in the ceremony. Principal Judy Hession welcomed attendees.

Schindler’s students unveiled the colorful bench, painted by artist Randall Williams. Kubler and Becker’s students sang a song to mark the occasion.

“A buddy bench is a safe place on the playground where children can find someone to play or talk with,” commented Hession. “A buddy bench at Miller will help us support an environment of compassion, inclusion and friendship.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“It will help all students to have positive interactions on the playground.”

“Thank you to the City of Burbank for their generous donation and to our school board, Superintendent Matt Hill and school district staff, and our Miller PTA for their ongoing support of our district goal of creating a positive school climate and by developing a sense of belonging for all students,” she said.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford, Board of Education Members Charlene Tabet and Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Tom Kissinger and Director of Elementary Education Dr. Peter Knapik attended the Miller Buddy Bench dedication.

Miller PTA President Wendi Harvel and PTA Board and Burbank Council PTA President Amy Kamm were also there, along with artist Williams.

“I would also like to thank Mr. Dave Hauer, Operations Supervisor for the Burbank Home Depot, for their donation of landscaping materials around our buddy bench,” added Hession.