Poway’s sixth, seventh, and eighth graders have a lot to look forward to this school year. The teachers and staff of Meadowbrook Middle School and Twin Peaks Middle School are committed to providing every student with diverse and comprehensive learning experiences. The schools blend strong foundational skills with the creativity, critical thinking, and technology that will help students thrive in high school, college, and beyond. Afterschool clubs, leadership programs, advanced coursework, and a focus on community are just a few of the elements driving student success in Poway middle schools. 92064 Magazine spoke with MBMS Principal Dr. Miguel Carrillo, TPMS Principal Dr. Kelly Burke, and students from both schools about their experiences on campus.
Q&A with Meadowbrook Middle School Principal
Dr. Miguel Carrillo
What is your role at Meadowbrook Middle School?
I am the proud principal of Meadowbrook Middle School and my role is to support students, teachers, and parents. I’m responsible for creating programs, hiring staff, and managing the resources necessary to provide for the academic, social, and emotional needs of each student.
What does MBMS’s mission mean to you?
Our mission means we care about our students. Our teachers care about the subjects they teach and the way in which they teach them. They want students to be prepared to think critically, analyze for themselves and reach conclusions based on the analysis, collaborate with each other, and be creative problem solvers. For our amazing support staff, the mission means removing obstacles that interfere with learning and being a helpful resource for parents and community members.
Name: Dr. Miguel Carrillo, Proud Principal
Hobbies: Walking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding
Community of Residence: Rancho Peñasquitos
Family: Married with two children
Favorite Things About MBMS: The people (students, teachers, staff, and parents!)
Favorite Local Spot: Meadowbrook, and Kaminsky’s BBQ
Please tell us about the Meadowbrook Education Foundation.
MEF’s mission is to raise funds to provide resources to Meadowbrook that help improve the quality of the educational environment. MEF is comprised of parents, educators, and other members of the community that want to help ensure that our students have the technology and other resources that they need to succeed in school. MEF’s current president is Stephen Fazen.
What does MEF do to assist with year-round activities?
For the last three years MEF has put on a carnival at MBMS to welcome our students and families back to school. This event is well-attended and thoroughly enjoyed by our students, staff, and community.
MEF also supports our Turn-Around Luncheon for students who have “turned around” and made improvements during the school year; the Coin Drop fundraiser during the spring, which is a friendly competition between math classes; and the annual auction.
How does MBMS prepare students for their future academically?
Meadowbrook prepares students for their future by providing a multitude of electives to explore their possible interests. We have technology-based electives like digital photography, computer graphic arts, and gateway to technology. We also offer three-year and one-year Spanish programs for students who want to meet their A-G Foreign Language Requirement for college admissions. The counselors conduct college and career exploration with all seventh and eighth grade students.
Meadowbrook has several leadership programs on campus. ASB (Associated Student Body) is student-led under the supervision of a teacher advisor. They run social functions and fundraising activities, and they provide campus support for a variety of activities.
Mustang leaders are trained in leading focus groups that discuss topics of interest to students on the campus. They are also responsible for assisting with the transition of fifth grade students into sixth grade, providing student leaders at sixth grade orientation, presenting to fifth grade students in the spring, and giving tours to new students throughout the school year.
We also have specialty programs that provide students with the option of exploring their interests and passions. We have an advanced course selection aligned with the principle of honors classes at the high school level. At each grade, core classes are student and parent-selected at an advanced level. Meadowbrook also offers intervention support classes in reading and math to assist students who enter middle school below grade level in these areas.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role at MBMS?
I take pride in interacting and getting to know our students and families. The vast diversity of our students and staff makes our school a special place to learn. Knowing that our staff is creative and centered on students’ best interests is always rewarding.
Have there been any changes made to MBMS in the last few years?
Several years ago we implemented a Community of Kindness on our campus. By focusing on kindness, students learn and experience what it means to be kind and caring towards each other. Four years ago we created The Academy, offering more learning opportunities for our students. We have a beautiful campus and our students and staff take great pride in keeping our campus a clean and safe learning environment.
What are some highlights of students’ time at this school?
In sixth grade many students mentioned Sixth Grade Camp and Sixth Grade Olympics. In seventh grade the students have fond memories of the pool day at the end of the school year. Eighth grade students talked about having the choice of three advanced-level classes, the East Coast trip to Washington, D.C. and New York, and looking forward to the eighth grade party at the end of the school year.
A highlight at the end of the year is when the yearbook comes out. Students gather around to relive memories and sign each other’s award-winning yearbook.
Some of the practical, everyday things students love are being with their friends, the teachers, and the variety on the lunch menu. They also talked about the recognition of our Community of Kindness every Wednesday where staff and students wear the shirts reminding us of the community here that unites us. They love their teachers, having electives with friends, being with friends, having lunch everyday with their friends – friends are a definite highlight!
Does MBMS have any traditions or activities that students look forward to throughout the year?
PINK day in October for Breast Cancer awareness – students have raised thousands of dollars since its inception.
MORP is a fun spirit day and dance. Students dress in wacky, mismatched outfits and bright colors. We have professional “funky hairstylists” come in and we hold a fashion show at lunch.
Our festival of the arts highlights fantastic student work in many art forms. Parents and students alike spend the night admiring everything from graphic design to painting and ceramics to photography and video, all the while listening to wonderful music provided by our band and orchestra.
Does MBMS welcome volunteers?
We are proud of the extensive opportunities our parents and community members have in supporting our school through volunteerism. We have volunteers working directly with students, organizing activities like our Science Olympiad, Math Club, Robotics, and Glee Club. All of these volunteers help make our students’ middle school experience positively memorable.
What is your favorite activity to partake in with students?
Everything. I love our spirit days because I’m really a kid at heart.
Q&A with MBMS Students
What activities have you been involved with at MBMS?
Kaitlyn Chan: As a sixth grader, I participated in the Science Olympiad. While I had to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time, I also got to make some new friends with similar interests in science. The competition against middle schools around San Diego County was a wonderful experience, and I plan on participating again this year.
Grace Dabasinskas: I have been involved in School Site Council and ASB at Meadowbrook. I enjoy being in School Site Council because it gives me a deeper look at the mindset of what the administration is thinking and I like to have input in the learning structure and activities at school. I love being in ASB because I get to participate in student-involving activities and I get to be a leader and role model to others by just being myself!
Can you describe a favorite experience or memory from your time at MBMS?
Kaitlyn: One of my best experiences at MBMS was running for ASB treasurer. The campaign was a great experience for me, and I had a wonderful time making the posters and handing out campaign buttons. During this time, I also made many new friends and my confidence in myself grew. I’m looking forward to my year in ASB and my role as a leader. My experiences have allowed me to grow as a person and explore interests outside of my regular schoolwork. I’m grateful to be part of this wonderful school.
Grace: My favorite experience was my first day of sixth grade. Walking into the school was the start of my amazing journey called middle school! Dr. Carrillo is the best principal ever because he listens, respects, and care for his students. He has made my experience in middle school easy and enjoyable!
Meadowbrook Middle School At-A-Glance
Name of School: Meadowbrook Middle School
Principal: Dr. Miguel Carrillo, Proud Principal
Vice Principals: Harmeena Omoto and Laura Crow
Year Founded: 1964
Mission Statement: Meadowbrook’s vision is to ensure that every student will master the knowledge and develop the skills and attitudes essential for college readiness and future success in life.
Q&A with Twin Peaks Middle School Principal
Dr. Kelly Burke
What is your responsibility to the students on campus?
To ensure they are provided with engaging learning experiences that challenge them and prepare them for what’s next – high school, college, career – and provide them with teachers who are committed to their success.
What does TPMS’s mission mean to you?
A community working together to build success and inspire every child, every day. Teaching is a tremendous responsibility and in middle school we only have our students for three short years. Our staff has agreed to spend that time immersing our students in rich, meaningful learning experiences that will prepare them for the future – both academically and behaviorally. We have an amazing team of educators who focus on the whole child and that requires a commitment that is so much bigger than what is covered in textbooks. At the expense of sounding cliché, character counts, and at Twin Peaks it is equally as important as book knowledge.
Name: Kelly Burke
Interests: Hiking, fishing, reading, and spending time with family
Family: Husband, two daughters
Favorite Things About TPMS: Wonderful staff, supportive parents, and amazing students who never fail to impress me
Favorite Local Spot: Lake Poway
How has TPMS changed in recent years?
As part of the district’s Rethinking Technology program, we received nearly $275,000 in desktop computers, laptops, mobile labs, and laser projectors this summer. Four years ago we did not have a single mobile computer lab. Today we have nine with more on the way. We have a 2:1 student to computer/device ratio. This has significantly changed the teaching and learning environment. Students have increased opportunities to personalize their learning and be more creative. They also have access to real-time information from around the globe and I believe that exposure to diverse perspectives is enabling them to think outside of themselves.
Please tell us more about TPMS PTSA and the Twin Peaks Foundation.
Much of the technology I referenced earlier was provided by our Foundation. Over the years it has provided us with computers, LCD projectors, document cameras, and thousands of dollars in professional development funding that has enabled teachers to attend conferences on the latest instructional strategies or simply to get together to plan next best steps for improving student learning. The PTSA has provided equally valuable support focused on student programs and activities. The PTSA underwrites our Character Counts program, coordinates our annual Academic Awards program, and serves as the volunteer base for Sixth Grade Olympics. They also support programs like PLUS and Chain Reaction.
How does TPMS prepare students for their future academically?
At Twin Peaks we work very hard to ensure that students receive a variety of rigorous learning experiences that will help them to develop the skills sets they will need for success in high school, college, and career. Students are still exposed to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but now we work hard to ensure we are embedding 21st century skills into our curriculum. These skills, which reflect the current needs of the workplace, include communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role at TPMS? The most challenging?
As a principal, I have access to something very few people get to witness: the beauty of what unfolds within the classroom. At our recent Back to School Night a parent paused to share how pleased she was that her son had a specific teacher this year. She was impressed with his presentation at the event. I chuckled and replied, “If you think he was good tonight [in front of adults], you should see him in class with his students. The kids love him and they learn so much from him.”
The most challenging aspect of the job is ensuring we are working to achieve our goals each day. We have a mission and a vision: to be a community working together to build success and inspire every child, every day. We develop an annual plan that includes goals that we as a staff have agreed should be the priority. Then another initiative comes along which is undoubtedly good for kids, but the challenge is trying to find ways to integrate it into the existing plan seamlessly so we can maintain our overall instructional focus.
What is the relationship between teachers and students like at TPMS?
At Twin Peaks we understand that even the best lesson plan will not be successful in the absence of strong relationships. Students have to believe that you care about them if they are going to be willing to work hard for you. If they perceive that a teacher does not like them or has treated them unjustly, they may show up to class but they will not put forth their best effort. This is particularly true during adolescence.
What are some highlights of students’ time at this school?
Students always say they enjoy Sixth Grade Olympics and Sixth Grade Camp. They look back on these events with nostalgia and even serve as leaders for these programs when they are upper classmen. But more than anything else, it’s the friendships they develop with their classmates during a challenging time in their development that I think they find most memorable.
What clubs or afterschool activities are offered?
Two programs that have emerged over the last couple of years include our Coding Club and our STEM Ram class. For the last two years the STEM Ram has been open to eighth grade students, but this year sixth through eighth grade students will be invited to participate. This group meets for 40 minutes daily to work on student-driven projects aligned to STEM fields.
We offer a wide variety of after-school activities, mostly through our ASES program. Sports include cross country and wrestling. Other activities include The Amazing Race, the Duct Tape Fashion Show, cooking class, and robotics.
How can community members become more involved with the school?
Plenty of volunteer opportunities exist – working in the library, supervising students on campus at lunch, and tutoring students during Ram are just a few. For more information, I encourage people to email me at email@example.com.
What is your favorite activity to partake in with students?
Most of the time I just like getting to know the kids a little better. I appreciate the opportunity to build one-to-one relationships with them. This happens in a variety of ways; maybe I help with a schedule change, or maybe I compliment a boy for holding the door as I walk through. What I appreciate the most is when a student I have connected with makes an effort to come up to me in the quad at lunch just to check in or say hi.
Q&A with TPMS Students
What activities have you been involved with at TPMS?
Chelsea Lomica: WEB has been fun, helping the brand new sixth graders come in and get comfortable with Twin Peaks. I’m also in CJSF. It is fun to be with my friends and because CJSF is big on community service, I enjoy finding different activities out in the community that help to make the city of Poway an even better place to live. I just joined Fellowship of Christian Athletes this year, but I like being able to meet with other Christians and share our faith with each other and pray together. And Switch was a good time for the girls of TPMS to come together and be encouraged by older girls to just be ourselves and not let outside influences decide how we feel about ourselves.
Russell Bennett Hays III: I’ve been involved in ASB since sixth grade and really enjoy all the new and cool experiences and making new friends, as well as life skills.
Can you describe a favorite experience or memory from your time at TPMS?
Chelsea: I think my favorite experience at Twin Peaks has to be Sixth Grade Olympics! I loved being out on the field for two days competing with and against my classmates. From running the 100-meter dash to tug of war, all of it was so much fun! We all cheered each other on and no matter what the outcome was, we were proud of our efforts. This is an experience I will never forget!
Russell: So far I’ve really enjoyed my class Exploring Spanish, taught by Señora Fenwick during seventh grade and Exploratory taught by Mr. Blankman during my sixth grade year. I think a teacher who really made a difference is my ASB/RAM teacher, Mrs. Barlow. She’s helped not just me but all of my classmates learn valuable lessons while still making them fun and game-like. Probably my favorite moment here at TPMS, or should I say with my class, was when I went to Disneyland during a pre-paid two day trip to both parks and missing a day of school in the process, all with ASB.
Twin Peaks Middle School At-A-Glance
Name of School: Twin Peaks Middle School
Principal: Dr. Kelly Burke
Vice Principals: Rod Jiu and Christa Schmad
Year Founded: 1971
Mission Statement: A community working together to build success and inspire
every child, every day.