Return to Headlines

ALSD Alumni Making News

Pair of ALSD Alumni Earn Prestigious Recognitions


Two graduates of Alta Loma School District schools were recently recognized with major international and national awards.


T.J. Shaffer, who spent eight years in the District attending Floyd M. Stork Elementary School and Alta Loma Junior High School before continuing his education at Alta Loma High School and UC Santa Barbara, was part of the research team that was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.


Alexis King spent her youth at Deer Canyon Elementary School and Vineyard Junior High. Now an English teacher at Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills, she was honored with a prestigious 2017-18 Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 cash prize from the Milken Family Foundation.


“It’s amazing to hear about the impact some of our former students are making in the world, and we are so very proud of T.J. and Alexis, as well as countless others who’ve gone on to great success,” said ALSD Superintendent James Moore.


Shaffer works at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and was part of the team of more than 1,000 researchers from more than 20 nations that form the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Together, they discovered scientific proof of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which earning them the Nobel Prize in Physics from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


Technically, the award was split between scientists Rainer Weiss and Kip S. Thorne, together with Barry C. Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion. Their studies ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed, according to


“It has been an incredible experience to be a part of this new discovery,” said Shaffer. “Gravitational wave detectors are changing the field of astronomy and their future is very exciting.”


Shaffer is the son of Tom and Daina Shaffer. Daina is a long-time employee of the District and currently serves as the administrative assistant to Superintendent Moore.


King’s unique and forward-thinking teaching style caught the eye of the Milken Family Foundation, which honored her with one of some 45 honorees across the country that will receive the award this year.


King, who earned a bachelor's in English in 2008 from California State Fullerton and a master's in special education from Point Loma Nazarene University, does more than just teach – she immerses her classes into each topic, challenging students with creative interactive experiences that help them to not only appreciate literature, but to keep them engaged and involved.


Lowell Milken, the chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, traveled to Ayala High to present the award in person. He was joined be California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Chino Valley Unified School District Superintendent Wayne Joseph and an excited jam-packed audience of students, teachers and dignitaries.


“It takes a special teacher to spark curiosity and instill a love of learning – and that is Alexis King,” said Milken in a press release from the Milken Family Foundation. “Both high-achieving students and those who struggle make tremendous gains, not only in academic progress, but in understanding the materials and applying literary concepts to real-world experiences. We're excited to launch this season's Milken Educator Awards with such a tremendous talent as Alexis right here in California, where it all began 30 years ago.”


Moore welcomes stories about others who spent their formative years at schools in the Alta Loma School District and hopes to include those in future editions of the Alta Loma Inspiration newsletter.


 Working inside the clean room