Elkie Schreiner named “Hero of the Heart” for McAuliffe Middle

Courtesy Photo Elkie Schreiner, right, pictured with daughter Hannah, center and husband John, far left.

The McAuliffe Middle School “Hero of the Heart” Elkie Schreiner was called an “amazing woman” as she was honored at a recent meeting of the Los Alamitos Unified School District. The awardee said she is simply trying to pay back what the district has done for her daughter.

Ryan Weiss-Wright, Principal at McAuliffe Middle School, said Elkie Schreiner had served in many roles and capacities since her daughter Anna enrolled in 2011.

“Elkie has served in many capacities. She has been involved with Weaver Elementary, McGaugh Elementary and now McAuliffe Middle School,” said Weiss-Wright.

“During her time as a parent in our district, including special education rep at McGaugh, she’s been a PTA Treasurer, Chair of the bookfair, executive board, parent rep and more,” he said.

“A true hero of the heart, she has poured her heart in every volunteer position she has taken on as a parent partner and advocate for children with special needs,” the principal said.

She has helped to “assure and guide countless families as they navigate the school system,” he added.

“This year, Elkie stepped into a leadership role on the McAuliffe PTA that she did not entirely plan on [taking], Weiss-Wright said. “She is not afraid to step in, even when things are difficult.”

“We are truly blessed to have you as part of the McAuliffe community,” the McAuliffe principal told Schreiner.

“It makes it really easy to represent McAuliffe when your child and you share the same spirit there,” said Schreiner. With her daughter standing beside her, Schreiner said “and yes, she’s wearing my UCLA sweatshirt from 35 years ago.”

“Every day I wake up and I look up at this picture in our bathroom that I thought was relevant all those years ago. Actually, it’s become a mantra,” she said. “It’s called ‘The Art of Living Well,’ by Maya Angelou,” she said, paraphrasing portions to the audience.

“Love life and take pleasure in small offerings. Believe that the world owes you nothing. Understand that every gift given to you is exactly that,” she said.

“I believe in that,” she said. “My parents had their lives interrupted by World War II,” she said, “and never really had an education. The gift is education,” she said sternly.

“And all of you have given my child the most phenomenal education out there and I’m proud to say that my child is mainstream with a 3.8 [GPA] and that’s because of every person, from the bus driver who picked her up at age 3, and never lost her, to the aides, to the teachers, and Dr. Ryan. She has thrived,” said Schreiner, “so thank you.”

In addition, Dr. Weiss-Wright said every year, the LAUSD selects a student representative for the regional “EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDING PROGRAM.”

He said the program “honors a student who has overcome tremendous obstacles, which shows us the true meaning of courage and resilience.”

This year’s student representative is McAuliffe student William Bignami.

While attending third grade at Los Al Elementary, Weiss-Wright said Bignami’s parents were severely injured in the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas in the fall of 2017.

Courtesy photo
Will Bignami, in the center holding certificate, with mom Autumn and dad Frank. Also pictured is McAuliffe Principal Ryan Weiss-Wright, right, Supt. Dr. Andrew Pulver, left, with President Diana Hill next to him and Will’s brothers and sisters.

The principal detailed some of their injuries, saying “both parents were fortunate to have survived the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the U.S.” He said Will’s mom Autumn has undergone at least 10 surgeries to overcome her injury.

Bignami’s road to recovery was also long, said Weiss-Wright, noting that “experiencing the near loss of a parent has created a lot of anxiety and secondary trauma.”

“An experience like this would have been enough for many young students to give up, to isolate or withdraw. Will has done just the opposite,” his principal said, saying Will is now in seventh grade and an active member of the middle school community.

He is in the school choir, is an honor student and a volunteer in his free time serving the community. Moreover, he is in the school’s improv club, plays in the FNL flag football league and performs musical theater.

Will is constantly working on on improvement and managing the anxiety that comes from negative experiences in his life in order to succeed, said Weiss-Wright. “He exemplifies what it means to be a friend to others, to persevere through difficulty and to lead by example.”

“We are extremely lucky to have you at McAuliffe and we celebrate you tonight.”