Tag Archives: McKinley Elementary

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.”


McKinley Alumni Scholarship Awarded To Burroughs Senior

The 2016 McKinley Alumni Scholarship was awarded to Burroughs High School senior and prior McKinley student Maddie Weerts at a special assembly for fourth- and fifth-grade students at McKinley Elementary School on Thursday, May 12.

“I was so honored to receive this scholarship,” commented Weerts. “I vividly remember watching the first scholarship recipient give her speech nine years ago and hoping that might be me someday. The teachers and staff at McKinley were always so supportive and helped give me a great foundation for my future at Jordan and Burroughs.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“It was really meaningful to have my fourth grade teacher, Lesli Melchor, come to the assembly from Disney Elementary, where she is working now, and Juan Avila, the former Office Manager at McKinley who now works at Jordan, came to support me. My fifth, second and first grade teachers are still at McKinley, Roseann Webb, Carol Derry and Diana Wong.”

After a prepared speech, Weerts answered student questions.

One student asked about how to be successful in middle and high school.

“I told them that time management is one of the most important skills I can think of,” she said. “It is also important to get involved in activities that interest you like sports, choir, drama or ASB so that the larger campuses seem smaller thanks to the new friendships you’ll make.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“It also helps to learn to manage your time when you have to balance homework, activities and your social life,” Weerts added, noting she’s been a member of the JBHS VMA for four years and dances with Pacific Ballet Theatre’s Corps de Ballet.

Weerts also discussed ways she has volunteered her time helping others.

“I volunteer with Build A Miracle Organization, which is a group that works in Tijuana, Mexico, to build, paint and furnish houses for needy families in a slum called El Florido. I’ve worked in Mexico eight times so far, and it’s been a great opportunity (beyond helping to paint and mix concrete) for me to practice my Spanish and get to know some of the amazing people who live so close to us in Southern California, yet in a completely different world.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“This past summer, I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, to live with a host family, study Spanish for four to five hours a day, and volunteer in a malnutrition hospital with babies, for approximately 30 hours over those two weeks,” Weerts added.

“I had no idea going into the volunteer work that it was going to impact me so much; I thought I would be changing a lot of diapers and feeding baby formula (which I did), but I didn’t know that I would connect so deeply with those babies who didn’t have parents around or anyone to hold them and play with them.”

Weerts also answered a question from fifth grader Charlie Harris about her opinion of social media.

“A huge part of my childhood and my development has been my lack of social media. I used to fight my parents over their decision to keep our household social-media free.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“I would think of parent-friendly reasons why I needed to have an Instagram; I would plan presentations with notecards in hand on why being able to see my friends’ lives documented would positively affect me in the long run.”

“But now I thank my mom and dad wholeheartedly for making me the ‘weird kid’ who didn’t tweet or snapchat, because they gave me life skills and a sense of appreciation for being disconnected from technology but connected to the world around me that my friends and peers might never have.”

“I know that a lot of the fourth- and fifth-graders are probably at the age where they are trying to get their parents to say yes, and most probably will,” Weerts also said. “I get it. But it was nice to have the chance to let the students know that having real friends is more important that collecting a bunch of followers and likes, and being present is more important than capturing ‘the perfect selfie.'”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“If there’s one thing I could tell my elementary-school self, it would be to enjoy everything in middle school and high school,” Weerts told the youngsters. “That time isn’t just for getting good grades so you can be accepted into college like all the adults tell you (although that is important), it’s also for making memories with your friends and discovering the things you love to do.”

“You’ll find that you’re going to be given many opportunities in the next few years to try new things: to be on a sports team, to take dance classes, to join band or choir, to take art or media classes or to take a cooking course. Please do these things! You don’t need to pick just one, because your time at Jordan and Burroughs is meant for trying out everything you think you might enjoy”

Weerts plans to attend University of California, San Diego, in the fall, majoring in Psychology and Spanish.

The McKinley Alumni Scholarship program was started in 2008 by a school parent, Suzanne Weerts, who is also 2016 recipient Weerts’ mother, and teacher, Cherie Wescott. Each May, after reviewing applications from students who graduated from McKinley Elementary, a graduating Burroughs High School senior is selected by a McKinley PTA committee as the scholarship recipient.

Henry Goods Rainforest Mural Unveiled At McKinley

Students and staff at William McKinley Elementary School celebrated the completion of a colorful and expansive Henry Goods rainforest mural on the last day of the fall semester on December 18.

The huge mural was the idea of McKinley parent volunteer and former PTA President Jenny Harris and Robert L. Stevenson Elementary parent volunteer Anne Askerneese. Askerneese had coordinated the “Treasure Island” mural recently painted by Goods at Stevenson Elementary.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“I had wanted to get a mural done at McKinley for a while, and when Anne approached me, it all came together,” explained Harris. “[McKinley Principal] Mrs. Costella had the exact spot in mind that she wanted to beautify, which is the back wall of the auditorium and the walls wrapping around the cafeteria building.”

Together, Harris and Askerneese wrote a grant application for funding from the Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA) and Askerneese coordinated with mural artist Goods.

BAFA funded the grant request in full and McKinley PTA provided funds to cover additional project costs. Catalina Paints in Burbank donated all of the paint for the project.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The mural surrounds the lunch area and extends to part of the playground, so McKinley’s students can look at it while they eat their lunches and play on the playground.

“We wanted a jungle theme with a panther, because the mascot of McKinley Elementary School is a black panther,” explained Harris. “I looked to Henri Rousseau’s paintings of the jungle as inspiration and went to the Burbank Central library and did research on black panthers, [called] black jaguars in the Americas.”

“Our mural has a South American rainforest theme, with a black jaguar and other animals and plants from that region.”

Goods used books and photos of the Amazon rainforest region to paint geographically accurate flora and fauna.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Students and staff at McKinley have been excited to see the mural being created over several months this past fall and talked about the new additions to the artwork every day, added Harris.

Goods is a Los Angeles-based artist who works on canvas and creates murals. He painted the mural surrounding the gas station at Alameda Avenue and Victory Boulevard, near McKinley, in addition to two other murals at gas stations in Burbank.

Goods has created many murals throughout Los Angeles and San Diego, including several at schools. His father was a house painter and Goods began drawing and painting as a child.

“We are so grateful to BAFA, Catalina Paints and to the staff and students at McKinley for their support,” said Harris.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)


McKinley Elementary Family Literacy Night Promotes Reading And Fun

Approximately 100 students and parents attended the McKinley Elementary Family Literacy Night Tuesday evening, November 10. Organized by Principal Liz Costella, the event attracted about 50 different families to the school for literacy games and after-dinner fun.

Jane and John Felling from Box Cars and One Eyed Jacks initially conducted literacy lessons in every classroom from Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through fifth grade during the school day on Monday, November 9. The demonstrations showed teachers some of the literacy strategies in action.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The Fellings returned Tuesday evening to present a family-focused literacy evening. Jane worked with students in TK through first grade in the school library while John supervised a group of second through fifth grade students.

Thirteen teachers also attended the McKinley Elementary Family Literacy Night to facilitate the games and learning.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“Families had a wonderful night playing games and learning ways to support their child at home with literacy,” commented Costella. “Not only did John and Jane show games but they also emphasize the importance of learning through games.”

“Students, parents and teachers all had a great time and feel like they went home with a few more strategies to practice and improve student literacy.”

Each family left the event with a literacy kit to continue playing the games together at home.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Time Travelers Bring Historical Figures To Life At McKinley Elementary

Students at William McKinley Elementary School were visited by five historical figures on Monday, October 12, as part of the ongoing Time Travelers program. John Burroughs High School students in Guy Myers’ Play Production class brought the characters of Sarah Goodson, Annie Sullivan, Sacagewea, John Muir and Paul Revere to life.

Madison Mayer portrayed pilgrim Sarah Goodson complete with an English accent and described what crossing the Atlantic on the Mayflower may have been like to first grade classrooms.

Madison Mayer describes the rocking of the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Madison Mayer describes the rocking of the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, who was herself blind, was portrayed by Maddie Seiffert. Second-graders learned about Annie Sullivan’s desire for an education in the face of challenging odds.

“This is the second year I’ve been lucky enough to play Annie Sullivan in Time Travelers,” commented Seiffert. “I love her; she’s a stubborn woman and I feel connected with her because of it.”

Helen Keller's teacher Annie Sullivan, acted by Maddie Seiffert, talks to second-graders at McKinley. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Helen Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan, acted by Maddie Seiffert, talks to second-graders at McKinley. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“Her story is incredible and one I first learned in Mr. Myers’ classroom while reading The Miracle Worker,” she added. “It feels like full circle, starting with reading her in his class and finally playing her.”

“It’s also remarkable because while I’m learning sign language now, so I can bring that to the classroom. I make the kids spell the alphabet and if they’re fantastic, they learn more like numbers and specific signs they want to know. It’s incredible to watch their eyes light up as their fingers spell and their love of learning just beaming from their faces. Playing Annie is one of my favorite parts of the year!”

Third-graders were visited by Sarah Weaver as Sacagewea, who talked about exploration of America on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Griffin Dooley played the role of naturalist and preservationist John Muir. He told fourth-graders about early life in Scotland, his family’s emigration to a Wisconsin farm and his travels throughout the Sierras.

Sully Zack entered the fifth-grade classrooms complete with lantern and tricorn hat, reciting the famous Henry Longfellow poem “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” He, too, talked about life in his particular time period in America and some of his historical actions, engaging the kids with a little humor, too.

“Traveling through time to bring the story of Paul Revere and his Midnight Ride to the excited fifth grade students at McKinley Elementary was such an awesome experience!” Zack said. “The students were so welcoming and eager to learn.”

Sully Zack bought some humor to his Time Traveler character of Paul Revere. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Sully Zack bought some humor to his Time Traveler character of Paul Revere. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“I loved being able to teach the class about the life of Paul Revere, but my favorite part had to be answering their questions– because in doing so, I  got to test not only my historical knowledge, but also my improvisation skills,” he went on to say. “I had such a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again.”

Teachers at McKinley Elementary prepared their students in advance for each Time Travelers’ visit. After each Time Traveler talk, elementary students then asked questions about the character and their life in America.

The Time Travelers program was created in 2003 by Joyce Costanza-Moskowitz and first visited Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School. Adult volunteers portrayed the Travelers until 2013 when Burroughs High School students first stepped into the roles, taking the program to Bret Harte Elementary, according to program coordinator Lisa Dyson.

Sarah Weaver as Sacagewea described life on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Sarah Weaver as Sacagewea described life on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Burbank High School students went to Miller in 2014 and McKinley Elementary joined the progam that same year. JBHS and BHS students visit elementary schools in Burbank in the fall and spring, portraying 10 different characters every year.

“As co-author of the book, Time Travelers: A Living History, along with Shiela Cavalluzzi, I remember our great passion for wanting to bring more history into our children’s classrooms… thus this program was born,” commented Costanza-Moskowitz. “I cannot tell you how gratifying it is to see our ‘baby’ is still vital and thriving in elementary schools today!”

Griffin Dooley portrayed naturalist John Muir for the Time Travelers program at McKinley Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Griffin Dooley portrayed naturalist John Muir for the Time Travelers program at McKinley Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“Kids learn in so many just-being-talked-about kinds of ways, so putting a visual, auditory and tactile program like Time Travelers in front of them is or should be, a no-brainer,” she continued.

“Thank you to Lisa Dyson and the many others who came before her, in keeping Time Travelers alive and well. One might say you’re making history happen. Today!

Burbank High drama students plan to take the Time Travelers program back to Emerson, where the very first Time Travelers began.

Support from high school drama teachers Myers and BHS’ Ted DeVirgilis is vital to the success of the program, added Dyson.

She also thanked the participating elementary school PTAs for their ongoing support of the program since its inception.

“This is wonderful opportunity for drama students to research their character(s), perform that character multiple times in front of different audiences,and be able to improvise as their Time Traveler during Q & A sessions.,” commented Dyson. “It’s excellent real world training for students who wish to continue studies in theatre arts. And its fun!”

McKinley Faculty Lounge Gets A Makeover

McKinley Elementary School teachers and staff have a newly renovated Faculty Lounge in which to enjoy breaks and lunch during the school day. Michael Cusumano of the Cusumano Real Estate Group, who is Principal Liz Costella’s business partner as part of a BUSD school/business partnership, donated the funds and supplies.

“In one of our meetings, I told him I wanted to make over the lounge as a gift for the staff,” explained Costella. “I was hoping for some new tables and maybe some chairs but never dreamed the outcome would be this wonderful and such a wonderful partnership. Michael ran with the idea and enlisted Tim Nelson from his office to be the project manager.”

Michael Cusumano and Liz Costella in the new McKinleyFaculty Lounge. (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Michael Cusumano and Liz Costella in the new McKinleyFaculty Lounge. (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Nelson set up a design competition with Woodbury University students, led by Woodbury faculty Catherine Roussel and Annie Chu, who organized and mentored the students’ work.

“The William McKinley Faculty Lounge project became a collaboration with Woodbury University and Michael Cusumano,” commented Nelson. “We wanted to offer a real-world project to the students at Woodbury and came up with a design competition partnered with the two student groups.”

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

“AIAS (American Institute of Architectural Students) and IIDS (International Interior Design Association) student organizations helped me come up with a design charrette that required students to form groups of at least four students (two architecture students and two interior design students) to collaborate and present their design to a panel that consisted of Michael Cusumano, Liz Costella and a few Woodbury faculty,” explained Nelson.

“The groups were given a budget for the project which they had to expense out in their proposal just like one would have to for a real-world project.”

The winning team consisted of Dylan Bachar, Cory Pham, Marieam Alhamody and Cynthia Nyirinkwaya. They were then tasked with working with Nelson to source vendors and revise the design to Costella’s recommendations.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Cusumano also donated 21 chairs, that were not part of the overall budget, which were then stripped, sanded, re-stained and reupholstered to fit the design. Cusumano Group employees donated their time to assemble the furniture and arrange the room.

The overall project from competition to completion took 4 months and cost $10,000, according to Nelson.

“Tim and his team worked all summer to buy the items and put the lounge together,” Costella said. “He personally stripped and stained all 21 chairs every night after work for over a month. This was also possible with the help of my office manager who was here during his time off to help let in the crew as well as help.”

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“Not only did he help with the final touches but he donated his time installing ceiling tiles and anything else that was needed,” she added.

“This project was truly a collaboration between many participants and we are so grateful to be a part of it. The lounge is amazing and such a gift for our staff everyone loves it and feels so fortunate to have this incredible room at McKinley.”

“I am forever grateful to Michael for his support and helping me accomplish this,” Costella also said. “It is beyond my wildest dreams and we are so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Nickterns Kick Off School Year With McKinley Elementary Mural

McKinley Elementary School students began school on Monday with a colorful new mural on campus. Created by Nickelodeon’s current group of college interns, or Nickterns, the mural was formally celebrated with a school-wide assembly on Thursday, August 20.

“The intention was to represent teamwork,” said Nicktern Lauren Patterson, who designed the mural. “We want the students to look at the mural and be inspired to work and play together.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The Nickterns spent many hours during the week of August 10 through 14 creating the artwork at the school site.

Nickelodeon’s current group of Nickterns include: Tenaya Anue (University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)), Andranik Aslanyan (Woodbury University), Victoria Bachurska (Vassar College), Natalie Bacon (Loyola Marymount University), Morgan Bailey Keaton (DePaul University), Gabrielle Bricker-DeCaro (University of Michigan), Raj Brueggemann (University of Michigan), Kassey Cordova (Woodbury University), Katherine Duffy (University of Southern California (USC)), Jasmine Eusebio (University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)), Jonathan Finn-Gamino (California State University, Fullerton (CSUF)), Emily Fitzpatrick (University of Pennsylvania), Audrey Gray (Indiana University), Kacie Hermanson (New York University (NYU)), Davey Jarrell (University of Southern California, Los Angeles (USC)), Nathanael Jones (University of Washington), Carly Kaplan (Emerson College), Sara Kipin (Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)), Tiara Little (Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)), Madison Mitchell (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)), Tamanh Nguyen (University of Washington), Lauren Patterson (Art Center College of Design), Faith Schaffer – Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Marylea Wold (Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)), Serena Wu (Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)) and Owen Zidar (University of Notre Dame.)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“I was so excited to hear that Nickelodeon had chosen McKinley for a mural,” commented McKinley Elementary Principal Liz Costella. “Carson, Amy and the interns were amazing. The mural is beautiful and is an incredible addition to our campus.”

Carson Smith and Amy Wu at Nickelodeon coordinated the project with the school.

“It is perfect and looks like it should have always been there,” added Costella. “We are so grateful to Nickelodeon and the interns for this amazing gift.”

McKinley Students Join Search for the Great Pumpkin

BurbankNBeyond Feature Story

Students in Carol Derry's second grade class take their turn in the Pumpkin Patch. (Photos By Ross A. Benson)


 By John Savageau

 Nestled in a in an improvised field of straw and hay bales, guarded by several scarecrows and diligent parents, hundreds of pumpkins awaited adoption by eager students on Friday morning at William McKinley Elementary School.
 In its 12th year, McKinley’s PTA Pumpkin Patch provides students and parent volunteers a break from the routine, giving children a taste of Halloween and American culture.
“Many of our students have never had a chance to see a real pumpkin patch” remarked event organizer Stephane McCorkle.  At the Pumpkin Patch, all McKinley students had a chance to rummage through the straw, picking out their favorite fruit.  “Everybody gets a pumpkin” confirmed McCorkle, ensuring a great time for all the kids.
As Mr. Danielson’s 4th year class approached, the ‘Patch was transformed into a sea of colors, laughter, giggling, teasing, and a scene of teachers and volunteers connecting with students.  Some explaining to critical children a bit of the history of pumpkins, taking patience describing the abstract of a farm to city kids, others helping youngsters pick out the perfect pumpkin for their prize.
Shannon Douglas, a volunteer at the ‘Patch and mother of a McKinley student praised the efforts of the McKinley PTA and teachers.  “This is the greatest school we have been to” said Douglas, “This is the hardest working PTA I’ve ever seen, and I am very impressed with the level of participation and positive attitudes of everybody in the school system.”
 Volunteers started building the Pumpkin patch at 6 in the morning, all excited to bring this slice of happiness to McKinley students – although it was a bit difficult to determine who was having the best time, as parents and volunteers shared and traded laughter equally with the students. 
As all the children showed off their trophies, teachers ensured no student, even those who were absent, lacked a pumpkin.  Then, as each student signed a large “Thank You” card for the PTA, volunteers prepared the ‘Patch for the next class of children cheerfully anticipating their time on the McKinley farm.