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Local woman is recognized in State of Union speech

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama gave several examples of achievements across several industries. But his example of excellence in education hit close to home for Millie and Sam Engel of Burbank.

Their daughter, Kristin Waters, was recognized by the president for her exemplary work in Denver’s public school system.

“Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado, located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said ‘Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing … that we are smart and we can make it,’” the president said.

“We are very proud. We had tears in our eyes when we heard her name mentioned,” said her father, Sam Engel.


The Engels got word from Waters at 5 p.m. Tuesday that her story would be in Obama’s speech.

Waters was born in Burbank and attended Joaquin Miller Elementary School, John Muir Middle School and then graduated from Burbank High in 1981.

Waters went on to teach at Wilson Middle School in Glendale and then worked as an administrator for Glendale High School.

She received a master’s degree from Pepperdine University and then a doctorate from the University of Denver in 2006.


Waters’ brother, Sam Engel Jr., is an administrator for the Neighborhood Services Division of Glendale.

In an interview with NPR after the address, Waters said she only became aware of her role in the speech about an hour beforehand. On Obama’s call to reform the No Child Left Behind Act, she said “it was a good first step … to raise the question of [teacher] accountability.”