It is the mission of Trabuco Mesa Elementary School to provide a higher plateau for learning. Our vision proclaims that all students will meet or exceed rigorous grade level standards. In the classroom this vision translates into active and engaged learners and research-based strategies, which ensures continuous growth and high levels of student achievement. We maintain high expectations for our students and ourselves as professionals. Our staff is committed to helping our students be college and career ready by succeeding in the 21st Century Learning Skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. We thoroughly implement challenging Common Core practices and standards-based curriculum in our classrooms. Our professional learning communities work collaboratively using data to set goals, reflect on best teaching strategies, and monitor student achievement to improve student learning. Student engagement and a technology-rich environment, utilizing iPads and Chromebooks, are a standard for learning. Teachers utilize technology to design and deliver engaging lessons to support all students. As technology innovates, we are committed to learning and applying it to everyday teaching experiences.
Maintaining a safe and effective learning environment is a top priority at our school. We provide a well-established character development program that promotes positive character qualities and leadership skills in all students, and we celebrate and honor academic achievement, outstanding effort, and exemplary behavior. We utilize a school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention Support System to maintain a safe, nurturing, and positive learning environment. This behavior intervention system supports and encourages students to make good choices socially by being safe, respectful, and responsible
"All students will meet or exceed rigorous grade level standards."
In the early 1800's, there was a place covered with growing wheat. It was a tiny place that stretched out seven miles along the Santa Ana Mountains. This place was called Trabuco Mesa. PM July 24, 1769, Gaspar de Portola led Spain's first land expedition into California and was greeted by the few villagers who lived there. While staying in the new land, one of Portola's soldiers lost his trabuco (Spanish word for musket). When the soldiers left, the legacy was left with the land, and the town of Saddleback became known as Trabuco Mesa, the word "mesa"; being added because the land was a plateau.
In 1879 Trabuco Mesa started a school. The location kept changing from one farm to another. The changing of locations continued for nine years, until 1888 when Richard O'Neill donated three acres for a school site near what we now call O'Neill Park. A one-room school building was built for grades one through eight. The school house also served as a church, civic center, social hall, polling place, and post office. Today this location is called Trabuco Elementary School. By 1903, James Sleeper and Good Adams farmed the mesa into one of Orange County's greatest wheat fields. After their deaths, the new owner of the ranch renamed the area Rancho Santa Margarita, the name we have incorporated into our city.
In 1989, when our school first opened under the direction of Principal Jeff Herdman, the students and community members had a contest to name the school. Many historical names were presented, and the name Trabuco Mesa was chosen. The person who entered the winning name was Mr. Tony Moiso, President of the Santa Margarita Company.
As the community has grown, so has the school. In the summer of 2000, the lower campus portable classrooms were replaced, with two gardens, trees and grass added later on to beautify the area.
We are grateful to Jessica Young for volunteering her talents as a freelance writer to help summarize this special event for the February 2002 Edition of the Bell Tower Times:
More than 50 Trabuco Mesa teachers, parents and principal’s past and present rang in the future with a Jan. 16 community meeting designed to create the school’s first “histomap,” a process aimed at charting a course for the future by documenting key events in the school’s past.
The evening had the warm glow of a reunion as old friends gathered in four groups to reminisce about past years amid old photos, yearbooks and clippings and discuss what were the challenges and achievements of each time.
When the school opened in 1987, trailers served as classrooms until construction of the current building was completed the following April. With no stairs or ramps in place the first month, Trabuco Mesa teachers stacked cardboard boxes to reach the doors and hoisted students inside. First Grade teacher Barbara Walloch remembers two teachers assigned to one portable. “We survived in a sea of portables!”
The school’s original staff were culled from an average of 25 applicants per job, as educators vied for a spot at the first new school built in Rancho Santa Margarita and the first in the area in 15 years. Growing pains would see the enrollment rise from an initial 300 kids to five times that a decade later. With a shrinking playground afloat in a sea of trailers, the school’s boom years were met by former Principal Chuck Prince and a staff that worked hard to meet the demands of traffic, textbooks and a state mandate that reduced primary class sizes to 20 students per teacher. “When I came on board there were about 900 kids, that went up to 1,400 at one point. I hired 17 teachers one summer.”
Principal Suzanne Westmoreland noted how Trabuco Mesa served as the blueprint for surrounding schools Cielo Vista, Robinson Ranch and Melinda Heights, which split off in ‘91, ‘94 and ‘98. Trabuco Mesa began as an innovator, offering an ungraded primary class in grades 1-3 and an all-day kindergarten when others weren’t. Teachers recalled their own excitement the day of the school’s big move when the first students carried their chairs to new desks in a brand-new classroom. Marcia Galey in her “I’m an original” T-shirt commented, “There is nothing compared to that first day with 28 kids.”
Carol Byrnes brought a parent’s perspective to the evening as she said, “Trabuco Mesa is a special place to be…it is good at building human beings-- -- their souls, their academic ability, the whole person.”