Assistant Principals Stephanie Park and Deanna Sainten were announced as the new site leaders at Curtner and Weller Elementary Schools, respectively, at the May 26 Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education meeting.
Park, an assistant principal at Spangler Elementary School in her second year with MUSD, returns to Curtner where she previously served as the primary school’s assistant principal. Prior to that, Park, who earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Santa Clara University, spent nearly 14 years as a teaching lead with Cupertino Union School District.
“She’s a person who listens deeply and thoughtfully, and has a record of bringing people together and has strong instructional leadership,” said Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, sharing that Park was volunteering in Washington Heights, N.Y. when she “found a sense of purpose in connecting with students and families in a way that brought them an ability to dig deeper in their learning.”
Sainten, the MUSD Educator of the Year in 2012, has spent her entire professional career at Pomeroy Elementary School spanning nearly 14 years as a student-teacher, teacher, and assistant principal. During her MUSD tenure, Sainten took on prominent roles in PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), Summit Personalized Learning Platform, where she developed grade-level curriculum, and African Ancestry Success Community, where she recruited and trained high school students to mentor elementary school students.
Superintendent Jordan said Sainten was selected to lead Weller due, in part, to “her tenacity and deep desire to make learning something that’s experienced by all in a personalized way.”
“Deanna understands the importance of parent and student engagement especially at this time of distance learning where she has taken upon herself to make student visits and has worked to enable staff to do the same,” Superintendent Jordan added. “She’s passionate about making sure cultural sensibility is something that takes deep roots in MUSD, and she is here for the long run.”
Park, who was an investment and loan advisor in international banking before finding her passion in education, said she will miss the Spangler Spartan family but is thrilled to join Curtner as its new principal for the 2020-21 school year.
“When I started my educational journey, I did not know where my path would lead me. Like most educators, I wanted to follow my heart and make a positive impact on students,” Park said. “When I was a teacher, I loved the close relationships I formed with my students and parents. As an assistant principal, I appreciated the impact I could have on the entire school. Each step has guided and prepared me to be a leader, a principal.”
Sainten credited Pomeroy and her many mentors over the last 14 years at the same site for her development and growth as an educator, and preparation to now lead Weller as its new principal for the 2020-21 school year.
“Weller is a wonderful community of dedicated teachers, staff, students and families. I share a great deal of alignment with Weller’s culture, vision and school priorities,” Sainten said. “I am a leader who is focused on equity, collaboration, restorative justice, civic engagement and inclusion. I look forward to continuing my career as a Weller Mustang. Weller is tied to the legacy of Milpitas' Sunnyhills community, and I’m excited to now be a part of that legacy.”
Park and Sainten’s hirings were unanimously approved by the Board in closed session at the May 26 meeting before Superintendent Jordan announced them to the community.
Entrepreneur Nima Bhavansikar, a fifth grade student at Rose Elementary School, raised $700 for the Milpitas Food Pantry through her Shirts For Smiles business venture.
“During the quarantine, I’ve been wanting to do something to help those who are affected by the virus,” Nima explained. “I recently started a website. A website dedicated to helping those in need.”
On her site, Nima sold t-shirts with two inspirational slogans, “We are Stronger Together” and “Unity in Community.” She sold the shirts for $12 each with 80 percent of all profits donated to the Food Pantry. Visit Shirts For Smiles here.
“When I first started this project, I was hoping to get at least 20 orders and when I got 20 orders, I hoped to get 50,” said Nima, who totalled 53 orders before all was said and done. “I faced many challenges, and I learned a lot along the process.”
Nima, who learned how to build websites in fourth grade, was inspired to create Shirts For Smiles after seeing images of those affected by COVID-19, especially one capturing a long line of people waiting for food at a Food Pantry in Pennsylvania.
“The image stuck with me, and I couldn’t shake it off,” said Nima, who also drew inspiration from Milpitas High student Isabella Morrison’s Milpitas Gives Back project.
Nima began developing the Shirts For Smiles site over Spring Break. Once the site was launched, she gathered as many contacts as she could and began sending out emails.
“I sent email after email so I could get as many orders as I could,” added Nima, who sought assistance from her parents, teacher Ashley Grilli and Rose Principal Nanci Pass along the way.
In the end, Nima decided to donate 100 percent of all profits from the t-shirt sales to the food pantry, with the urging of her parents.
“It was a great experience,” Nima said. “The encouragement helped me overcome my challenges.”
After learning of a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, three student members of the Milpitas Xtreme Robotics team with 3D printers immediately shifted gears and began producing face shield braces.
Since then, MXR Vice President Kalino Ruiz, as well as team members Nick Azpeitia and Rakesh Mehta, have printed more than 200 face shield parts for local hospitals.
“We look forward to the day when COVID-19 is no longer an issue for us all. But until then, we hope to do what we can to help fight coronavirus,” said MXR President Chloe Wang, a 17-year-old Milpitas High School senior who oversees all of the team projects.
While Wang has been a member of MXR for the last four years, Milpitas HS teacher Mimi Nguyen is in her first as the team advisor and she has been “very impressed by this group of dedicated students.”
“The students are 3D printing the frame of the face shields at home and sending them to Maker Nexus to be connected with the shields,” explained Milpitas High School teacher Mimi Nguyen. “I am so proud of them for taking the initiative and helping out their community.”
Maker Nexus picks up the face shield parts from the students, adds the face guard, and then delivers them to local hospitals for their essential workers.
“We are printing everyday,” said Wang, noting that the printers are running up to 12 hours per day to make the parts.
MXR is helping to combat COVID-19 in more ways than one.
According to Wang, the MXR team is currently ranked in the top 3% overall and top 3 among Robotics teams for donations of Central Process Unit (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) through Folding@Home, a program developed at MIT, to help model COVID-19 in an attempt to find a cure.
“We have started providing virtual classes for younger community members to learn about Computer-Aided Design as we all shelter in place, and have been playing around with online robotics simulators, looking to host a virtual robotics competition for our community,” Wang added.
Prior to the SIP order, the MXR team was preparing to compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Kentucky. They have participated in various competitions such as FIRST Tech Challenge, Combat Robotics, and Silicon Valley's Bike to the Future competition.
“The club's goal is to create a space where all students can come together to share their passion for engineering and robotics,” Nguyen said.
A shared passion for art among three BFFs is the driving force behind Naomi Gong, Annabelle Liu and Christine Lee’s “Azen Seagulls Project,” in which they produce instructional arts and crafts videos for kids and young teens.
“My friends and I have a strong passion for the arts, and we believe that due to quarantine, it is the perfect time for others to explore it as well,” said Naomi, who came up with the idea of creating the videos on YouTube. “All of our videos are kid-friendly, engaging, and suited for all skill levels.”
The three 15-year-old Milpitas High School freshmen post their videos every Monday on their YouTube Channel. They also developed an Azen Seagulls Project website and can be followed on Instagram @azen.seagulls.
“We got 60 views the first week and then the second week our views increased to 100 views,” Annabelle said. “We were all shocked (with the increase in views). It really motivated us to make more videos.”
Christine shared that producing and editing the videos is “time-consuming but once you get used to it, it’s kinda fun.” Video lessons include “How to draw hands” and “How to make Origami hearts,” and they are designed so parents can follow along with their children. The group also tries to create videos that incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) in the lessons.
“When I was younger, I was very impatient. Art really kind of settled me down,” Naomi said. “When we hang out, we are usually doing something art-related. It is a passion we share, and we want to share it with others.”
The three friends tagged themselves the “Azen Seagulls” while in middle school, mostly because they would share one another’s food and swoop in for a taste similar to the seagulls waiting nearby to snatch food away from an unsuspecting victim.