Sunnyvale recognizes SSD students and staff for contributions to the arts, environment, and education

Community Award winners recognized at the City of Sunnyvale's annual State of the City event.
Community Award winners recognized at the City of Sunnyvale’s annual State of the City event.

The Sunnyvale School District was well represented during the 2016 State of the City Community Awards held at Sunnyvale’s Civic Center on July 9.

The annual event recognizes exceptional members of our community. Sunnyvale School District programs and staff were recognized for their contributions to education, the arts, and the environment.

Lakewood Elementary School was first to be recognized at the event for Outstanding Environmental Achievement. In April, the school implemented a zero-waste composting program in collaboration with Leadership Sunnyvale and the City. The nearly 440 kindergarten through fifth graders pitched in to drastically reduce the school’s waste.

The composting pilot took place over just 5-weeks and in that short time students diverted nearly 2,000 pounds of food scraps from the landfill, recycled 12.5 cubic yards of milk cartons and reduced the school’s garbage costs by 50 percent.

Each week, trained students monitored their classmates as they separated food scraps from garbage and recycled their milk cartons they also encouraged classmates to donate any uneaten food to the share table for any students who might still be hungry.

After processing, the one ton of food scraps that was diverted from the landfill generated 200 gallons of recyclable water, 20 gallons of cooking oil for biofuel, and 500 pounds of animal feed.

Lakewood Principal Pamela Cheng, City of Sunnyvale Residential Recycling Coordinator Sandy Jensen, and Superintendent Benjamin Picard recognized for the zero-waste program.
Lakewood Principal Pamela Cheng, City of Sunnyvale Residential Recycling Coordinator Sandy Jensen, and Superintendent Benjamin Picard recognized for the zero-waste program.

“This program is sustainable in every sense,” Vice Mayor Gustav Larsson said during the event. “Each year, experienced students will teach the process to a new kindergarten class to keep the process moving forward.”

He also highlighted that Lakewood has set an example for other Sunnyvale schools as the zero-waste composting program will begin at Cumberland in the fall.

“All of Lakewood students can take pride in knowing that their actions make a difference for the environment and that they can lead the way in helping others to do so as well,” Larsson said.

Columbia Middle School’s Music Director Warren Scott was recognized at the event for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts.

Since Warren came to the school three years ago, Columbia Middle School’s music program has grown so that currently a quarter of the 730 student population wants to take music. Around 200 students are enrolled in either Symphonic Band, Concert Band, Beginning Band, Orchestra, Beginning Orchestra, Choir or Beginning Chorus.

With a large majority of students unable to afford instruments or lessons, Warren and CMS Principal Mary Beth Allmann applied for a Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and received a grant for instruments worth almost $16,000. The strength of the school’s music program was considered key in securing this grant.

Outstanding Contribution to the Arts winner, Warren Scott, in the classroom with his music students.
Outstanding Contribution to the Arts winner, Warren Scott, in the classroom with his music students.

To make sure every student could travel to the annual Anaheim Heritage Festival on Fullerton College’s campus, a music competition for youth, Warren coordinated students to lead school-wide fundraisers from selling cookie dough to candy. Warren even joined parents who lent their support selling concessions for a 14-hour day at Levi’s Stadium.

Both band and orchestra went on to take first and choir took third at the competition and received valuable feedback and an onstage lesson from the panel of judges. Colleagues of Warren have said he works to instill a sense of belonging and empowerment in his students. When Columbia students graduate, many go on to Fremont High school. Warren prepares them to perform at that next level by organizing collaborative performances between students.

“It is an honor to have him as a colleague,” said Fremont High School Instrumental Music Teacher Joe Kelly. “The students he sends me yearly are not just good musicians, but also great young people.”

San Miguel Elementary School’s Colleen Lynch-Espinoza was recognized as Outstanding Educator of the Year.

Colleen is currently a Kindergarten teacher in the Juntos Dual Immersion Spanish Program and has been with the Sunnyvale School District for eight years.

Launching the Dual Immersion Juntos Program and creating positive momentum for this program has been possible due to Colleen’s dedication to the students of our community and also her supportive and collaborative approach to every single person on our campus.  A colleague said, “Colleen is combining her expertise with Spanish and teaching to provide a high-quality Juntos Kindergarten Program.”

SSD's teacher of the year, Colleen Lynch-Espinoza, also named Outstanding Educator by the City of Sunnyvale.
SSD’s teacher of the year, Colleen Lynch-Espinoza, also named Outstanding Educator by the City of Sunnyvale.

Colleen creates magical moments with 5 and 6-year-olds.  In her classroom, students come in speaking a myriad of languages, English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and more, but the children come together to support each other in learning and developing their ability to use and manipulate the Spanish and English languages.  This is a testament to the community that Colleen builds between the walls of her classroom and how she finds strengths in every single student in her room.

Her colleagues have said, “Colleen is one of the best teachers I have had the privilege to work with.  She truly cares about her students, and keeps student engagement as a top priority.”

Colleen Lynch-Espinoza is a talented educator who continually reflects on her teaching practice, looks at every situation with a positive outlook, advocates for her students, and creates school and classroom communities that we want for children and adults.

The city also recognized other community members for Outstanding High School Senior, Businessperson of the Year, Outstanding Community Volunteer, Distinguished Resident of the Year and Mayor’s Award of Excellence. Each winner also received a proclamation from the county and a reusable City of Sunnyvale mug.

The Sunnyvale School District is honored that our teachers, students, and staff were recognized for the work they do every day to make our students and community stronger.

“It felt really good that the community recognized our schools beyond just being a school, that we have an additional impact on the community as a whole,” board member Nancy Newkirk said. “It is wonderful that there’s this reciprocity. We’re not just educating kids, we’re providing a service for the entire community—enriching the arts, and thinking about zero waste. So, it was very exciting.”

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