Growth in Education

Founded just two years ago, Pacific Trails Middle School (PTMS) has already established itself within the Carmel Valley community as a place of excellence in learning, collaborating, and achieving. PTMS strives to foster the joy of learning in all students not only through a rigorous academic curriculum, but through a wide variety of clubs, art and STEM exploration courses, music, after-school sports programs, and other enriching experiences. Teachers and staff are united in the common goal of creating a positive, safe, and supportive campus culture primed for student learning. Principal Mary Anne Nuskin shares with us how PTMS helps students thrive and offers a glimpse into what the future looks like for this growing local school community.

Q&A with Principal, Mary Anne Nuskin

cover2What is your role as principal?
My role as principal is to inspire students to learn and teachers to teach. Each day I strive to…

1. Build a middle school community that supports positive student connections with teachers and peers, and positive staff connections with colleagues and administration.

2. Encourage and support focused collaboration centered on meeting the needs of each individual student, which will include common learning goals for each course of study, measured with common learning assessments.

3. Work to ensure our academic opportunities will come with rigorous curriculum for all students in a technology-rich environment.

4. Work to establish a positive school culture where:

• Staff have a shared sense of purpose and values
• Creativity, teamwork, positivity, and goal-orientedness are highly regarded
• Staff and students collaborate often
• Student wellness is supported by the school community

The heart of our success will come from the focused question, “What’s best for kids?”

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part of being a principal is the day-to-day interactions with students. Watching students succeed in their academics and/or social-emotional milestones is fulfilling. A common challenge that comes with all jobs in education is the lack of time. We always struggle with wanting more time to work with students and collaborate with colleagues; however, our school is goal-oriented and strategic in using our time wisely to meet our shared vision.

At-A-Glance | Mary Anne Nuskin

Community: Rancho Peñasquitos
Education: BA in Liberal Studies from San Diego State, Teaching Credential and MA from National University, Administrative Credential from Cal State San Marcos
Family: Husband – Scott; and two kids ages 8 and 10
Hobbies and Interests: Hanging out with my family, Pilates, and traveling

At-A-Glance | Pacific Trails Middle School

Principal: Mary Anne Nuskin
Assistant Principal: Patricia Storey
District: San Dieguito Union High School District
Total Number of Students: 661
Year Opened: 2015-16
Grades Served: 7th and 8th

What is the overall mission of PTMS?
Vision statement
We believe that together, we ignite the joy of learning to inspire confident, curious, and creative global citizens.

Core Values:

• Flexible, evolving, collaborative
• Innovative learning environments with integrated technology
• Positive and connected school culture
• Continuous improvement
• Partnerships with parents, local business, feeder elementary, and district high schools
• Shared leadership


How do you go about achieving that mission?
Restorative Practices
The Restorative Practices approach enables those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right. Restorative circles are also used in the classroom to proactively facilitate class connectedness.

Homeroom time
Enrichment: musical theater, improv theater, makerspace.
Interventions: math lab, reading lab, organization club, 1:1 teacher/student help, small group supports.
Ambassadors: student leaders who help facilitate homeroom activities that build peer-to-peer relationships and school-wide connectedness.

Late Start Days
Bi-monthly teacher collaboration meetings that focus on student achievement.

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
Our teachers work in course-alike groups. They meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students.

Certified Common Sense Media
Each department incorporates digital citizenship lessons within their curriculum to encourage safe and responsible use of media.

Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA)
Meets monthly to support programs for all students. They also regularly volunteer in these programs and at school events.


What sports, music, theater, or other extracurricular programs are offered at the school?
In addition to our regular PE courses and I.S.P.E. programs, we work with the Boys & Girls Club to offer after-school sports programs (flag football, track, field hockey, basketball). During our school day, we also offer concert band, orchestra, and vocal performance, and we have our jazz band as an after-school extracurricular program. This year we are offering an art exploration course where students will be involved in all elements of studio art, ceramics, digital art, and video/film. We are also very proud of our STEM Exploration courses. In addition, we are developing a theater program for next school year.

What are some of the highlights of students’ time at PTMS?
Being a new school, our students are proud to have achieved so many recognitions from the community:
8th grade student won San Diego County Spelling Bee

Science Olympiad competition:
Exemplary honors earning 5th in regionals and 6th in state

cover3Math League accolades:
San Diego Chapter Best New
School (2015-2016)

San Diego Math Field Day Team
3rd place with only 7th graders (2015-2016)

San Diego Math Field Day
Individual medal winners (2015-2016)

MATHCOUNTS San Diego Chapter
Two individuals advanced to state (2016-2017)

MATHCOUNTS Southern California
One individual in top 12 (2016-2017)

In addition, our students always look forward to whole-school student body activities. Some of our highlights throughout the year are Spirit Day, dances, Wellness Week, and our lunchtime activities and sports league.

What are you most proud of as a principal?
The opportunity to develop Pacific Trails Middle School with students, community members, school board members, teachers, and district staff is definitely a proud moment. I am very grateful to have been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening a new school.

Please tell us about after-school activities and clubs offered to students.
Anime Club, Book Club, Chess Club, Garden Club, Debate, Girls in STEM, Homework Club, Math League, Science Olympiad, Recycling Club, Tutoring for the Future, Boys & Girls Club sports, jazz band.

How does PTMS prepare students for high school and beyond?
We provide a rigorous curriculum and support when needed to prepare students for academics at the high school level and beyond. Our school counselor meets with students regularly and develops six-year plans, which includes counseling students on selecting appropriate course placement. In addition, our teachers incorporate career readiness and technology in all courses.

What are the long-term and short-term goals for PTMS?
Short-term goals: This year our theme is “Teaching, Learning, and Leading with Heart.” As a school community, we will approach our work with heart to enhance student learning and success.
Long-term goals: Theater program, more enrichment opportunities in homeroom, and continuing to develop tiers of support for students as needed

cover4Please tell us about the PTSA and their involvement on campus.
Academic enrichment Geography Bee, Spelling Bee, Art Night, and assemblies

Clubs Dad’s Club, Garden Club, etc., STEM/Math League, Science Olympiad, Reflections

Campus beautification

Disaster preparedness

Campus events Homeroom enrichment, lunchtime sports, orientation, Pi Day, Red Ribbon Week, Spirit Day, 8th Grade Promotion

Staff support Staff appreciation, mini grants, hospitality

Parent support Online directory, parent education, and forums

And so much more!

What are the major events hosted by PTMS this school year?
New Student Orientation, Back to School Night, Fall and Spring Art Nights, Cyber Safety Assembly, Red Ribbon Week, 8th Grade Promotion, Wellness Week, Spirit Day, Pi Day, and school dances.

How can parents or other interested community members get involved at PTMS?
Sign up for E-option Newsblasts on our website, follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter, join the PTSA, attend coffee with the principal, and volunteer for homeroom enrichment, Science Olympiad, and
Math League.

What are you looking forward to the most this school year?
I’m looking forward to meeting our new seventh graders and welcoming back our eighth graders. I’m also excited to continue to build upon the excellent school community we have created and watch innovative teaching and learning happen in the classroom.

Is there anything else you would like the community to know?
As the newest school in the area, our team is excited to be a part of this growing community. We enjoy working with our students to provide a rigorous curriculum in a safe and respectful learning environment.