Name: Nicole Steward
Title: School-Linked Services Coordinator/Social Worker
Years with MUSD: 6
Educational Background: BA in Communications from University of Toledo (Ohio) and MSW in Child Welfare/Administration from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) School of Social Work. I also hold certifications in international restorative justice practices, trauma-informed yoga, and trauma-sensitive sound healing.
Why did you decide to become a School-Linked Services Coordinator/Social Worker? What inspired you to take on this career path? I was a CASA and a foster parent for 5 teens in Santa Clara County between 2008-2018 and I've seen how challenging school can be when a student is experiencing trauma, homelessness, or moving often due to placement changes. I've had to advocate for my kids in IEPs and with discipline matters and noticed that schools have a lot of power to make things easier for students if they have a caring adult who understands their needs, but often the needs of foster youth or those experiencing homelessness are left to fall through the cracks. When I had the opportunity to become a social worker in schools and advocate on a broader level for ALL students, I jumped at the chance. This work changes lives and I'm proud to be a social worker.
What does a SLS Coordinator do for a school district and what are the most rewarding parts of your job? My job is to find any barrier to a students' education (housing, food, medical, immigration, mental health, etc) and find resources in the city, county, state or federal resources that can remove those barriers so students can focus on their education. The most rewarding part is letting a struggling family know there is support...the responses vary from crying to screaming for joy and I celebrate right alongside them.
What does Women's History Month mean for you, especially with the 2022 theme of Providing Healing, Providing Hope? Women hold a lot. We are often caregivers in our work and in our daily lives. Our families depend on us and we are often required to do more in the workplace for the same esteem that others may automatically receive. So to me, the 2022 theme of Providing Healing, Providing Hope is a reminder that we must engage in self-care and make ourselves a priority before we serve others. It seems counterintuitive sometimes, but the more we prioritize care for ourselves, the better we are able to care for others (or say NO if it's too much). I'm a big believer in Radical Self-Care...embedding healing practices into our daily lives to help buffer the stress of our work. That is how we heal and how we move forward with hope.
Any words of wisdom for MUSD students looking into SLS or a profession helping others. Know WHY you want to help and be sure your intentions to help are pure. What I mean is, this work of helping is not always met with thanks or appreciation, so you have to have the passion for it regardless of what you might (or might not) get in return. I've helped some folks with rent relief, food support, and clothing only for them to turn around and tell me I'm not doing enough to help them. I don't take it personally because I understand the situation they are in and the lack of control they feel. But you have to go into helping work without expectations of appreciation or acknowledgement. It may never come, so the reward has to be internal and intrinsic to the work.
Anything else you'd like to add or tell us about yourself? In an effort to support my own self-care over the past 10 years, I have become certified in trauma-informed yoga and sound healing. These practices, along with meditation, mindfulness, forest bathing, and other nature-focused practices, have been central to my ability to work 40+ hours a week with families experiencing challenges. This work is heartbreaking but I remind myself that I can care without carrying the weight of the work. These practices keep me grounded, centered, and present for my work...work I love and look forward to doing for a long time.
First graders in Mrs. Terri Lawrence and Ms. Lynn Tran’s classes are bubbling over with excitement as they learn the next book selection for the March Book Madness Tournament.
This day’s choice, “Bravo Anjali!,” written by Sheetal Sheth, follows a talented young female musician who encounters jealousy among her peers. Her journey sends an important message about making way for one another’s light to brighten the world for all.
“I like books and I like to read,” said 7-year-old Troy Maxwell. “That’s why I like March Book Madness.”
“Bravo Anjali!” has already won over classmate Shivya Nayak: “It’s so full of feelings,” she said.
The next day, students will hear the story, “The Three Little Tamales,” written by Erik Kimmel, and then the entire first grade votes on which book advances to the next round of the March Book Madness bracket.
The winning book will be read again and match-up against another winning selection, just like the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Tournament, until there is one first-grade book champion.
“I’m a North Carolina Tar Heels fan,” said Mrs. Lawrence, who came across the idea of replacing basketball teams with children’s books on social media and introduced it to her first-grade colleagues. “We started by reading two books on the same day. Now we read one book because the students are making deeper connections, not just surface ones.”
“This is a fun way to hit all the first-grade reading standards and develop a love of reading amongst our students,” added Ms. Tran. “There is such a diversity in the books and they can like them for different reasons. This has really helped open up their personal library.”
Starting with a “Sweet 16” of books to the “Elite 8,” “Final 4,” and culminating in the “National Championship,” students learn story elements and lessons such as how to compare and contrast, and make connections to themselves, each other and their community. In addition, they learn about the democratic process and voting.
“It teaches many important lessons in your life and also how to make different connections,” said first grader Mujtaba Arain, 7, whose favorite book was “Mae Among the Stars,” written by Roda Ahmed. “She followed her dream and became an astronaut.”
Her classmate, Tanvi Chinnan, 7, favored “Bravo Anjali!” overall because: “It told me that if someone is being mean, don’t get it in your heart.”
Naomi Krishna, 6, said that the March Book Madness format has helped her enjoy reading even more. Her book of choice so far has been “Diary of a Worm,” written by Doreen Cronin. “I enjoy the stories,” she said.
Next year, the first-grade teachers are planning for more March Book Madness with a different set of 16 books for the children to explore.
“It’s working,” Mrs. Lawrence said. “The kids are so excited each day.”
Ms. Tran added: “Next year, we want to inject even more student cultures in the book selections.” Our teachers are working to assure that we are meeting MUSD Strategic Goal #1 -- build a culture of we by infusing students’ reading experience with characters and stories that represent themselves.
Help send the State Champion Milpitas Xtreme Robotics to the 2022 VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Donations will go towards equipment, fees, and travel costs.
Click here to donate today!
Over the weekend, the Milpitas Xtreme Robotics Team 1669X represented Milpitas High School at the 2022 Northern California VRC High School State Championship in Redding and won the state championship in 3 categories: 1. Tournament Champion; 2. Robot Skills Champion; and 3. Excellence Award.
Prior to this event, the team of Eugene Ng, Kathan Sheth, Chenghao Li and Eusern Ng won multiple regional tournaments to qualify for the state championship. With the latest victory, they officially advance to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas in May.
According to Eugene, this is the team's fourth VEX competition season, and the third consecutive year they have qualified for the state and world championships. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the very first year we are able to compete at the state and world level in-person.
"We appreciate the MHS and MUSD community for your continuous support and encouragement," Eugene said. "We look forward to representing Milpitas High School and competing against the world's best robotics teams."
As a student in Ken Chiu’s class at Rancho Milpitas Middle School, a young Marvin Madrid was already thinking about his future career. But the now 27-year-old Storyboard artist for Nickelodeon animation studios was looking into a career in the medical field at that time.
“[Mr. Chiu] is the one who really inspired me to take on my creative endeavors,” Madrid recalled. “Mr. Chiu saw something in me and graciously offered to take me, along with some other creative students, on a trip to Pixar Animation Studios to see the inner workings of how to make animated movies. From there, I was sold on my creative dream.”
It was a dream realized for Madrid, who was further inspired by Kaila Schwartz from Milpitas High School: “Through her theater classes and productions, I really learned how to hone my creative skills of acting and world building, which is pivotal in my storytelling job today.”
Madrid, who attended Robert Randall Elementary, John Sinnott Elementary, Rancho Middle School and Milpitas High School (Graduating Class of 2012), earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Animation/Illustration from San Jose State University.
Today, he works on TV shows in TV animation with a team of story artists who translate the script of each episode into drawings to dictate what the scenes for the show look like. “I choose, based on what the story entails, where the camera should be, where the characters are and what they're doing, and draw out story beats that will be animated by animators to make the show,” he explained.
Looking back on his adolescent years, Madrid fondly remembers MUSD schools rich in culture and diversity where he experienced different worldviews and learned to empathize with everyone's experiences.
“In doing so, this really helped develop my story telling abilities to be able to create different stories for my creative driven job,” he said. “It's also helped me become a very collaborative individual and accustomed to working in group settings, often with people of different backgrounds.”
Now living out his dream in Los Angeles but “missing the Bay Area constantly,” Madrid still cherishes growing up in a small town like Milpitas where everyone knew each other, attended the same schools, and offered genuine support throughout high school.
“Our specific high school, I think, has a specific camaraderie that many high schools outside our town lack, and many people that I know from Milpitas High School are still friends to this day,” Madrid said.
As for the future generations, Madrid added: “Enjoy the journey as much as you can. Your years in MUSD schools are your most formative years, so be sure you live it as authentically as you can and surround yourself with people who motivate and support you, and keep them around as long as you can. You can really find lifelong friends in this district."
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING:
The governing board of Milpitas Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.