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Davis Journal

Educator grants provide funds for three teachers to enhance their classrooms

Feb 01, 2024 11:06AM ● By Becky Ginos
Whitesides Elementary teacher Irene Asturias receives a $1,900 check from Mountain America. Photo courtesy of Mountain America

Whitesides Elementary teacher Irene Asturias receives a $1,900 check from Mountain America. Photo courtesy of Mountain America

KAYSVILLE—Three outstanding Davis School District educators were recently awarded a Mountain America Educator Grant to use to enhance their classrooms. Victoria Hinojosa, a fourth grade teacher at Wasatch Elementary, Special education teacher Irene Asturias at Whitesides Elementary and Canyon Heights High School teacher Robin Merrill received the checks and already have plans for how they’ll use the money.

“It’s a little challenging in special education,” said Asturias, who is a visiting international teacher from Costa Rica. “There are no set materials to use to create lesson plans for social skills. I investigated skills materials and found Peekapak that teaches social skills.”

It’s wonderful and amazing, she said. “The kids love it. It is at their level of reading and they can use it on their devices and practice it at home. It teaches them about feelings and respect.”

Asturias said Whitesides is piloting the program and she plans to use the $1,900 grant money for the program. “It’s doing well for my kids. The feedback is really good.”

It was very exciting when they brought huge boxes into the classroom, she said. “The kids were so happy when they brought the big check.”

Asturias came from Costa Rica to teach in 2019 in Texas and started with the Davis School District in 2020. “I love it,” she said. “I love my job, my colleagues, and the students. I’m totally in love with the resources.”

In Costa Rica there are very limited resources, said Asturias. “Here, wow I want to use everything that is available. I was so excited I wanted to use everything but I couldn't. It was too exhausting.”

Merrill received $500 and plans to use the money to buy a freezer for her entrepreneurial class at Canyon Heights. “We have a freeze dried food business so the kids have to learn about marketing, costs, interest, taxes, profit losses and how to market on social media. They create spreadsheets, fliers, labels and logos.”

The school received a grant from the state to buy a freeze dryer, she said. “It was $4,000 to get that up and going. We make freeze dried ice cream. I’ll buy the freezer with the Mountain America grant. If it’s frozen first before it goes into the dryer it speeds up the process from 96 hours to 48 hours.”

Merrill’s students are working on credit recovery in high school. “I taught special education at Clearfield but I love helping kids who are struggling be able to graduate, maybe something they have given hope on.”

After she had raised her children, Merrill decided to go back to school and become a teacher. “I have loved it,” she said. “The highlight for me is seeing students who are excited to learn. I want them to feel like someone loves them and believes in them when they’ve lost hope and they feel comfortable talking to me to find a solution to a problem that seems unbearable.”

Teaching is a second career for Hinojosa, who has been at Wasatch Elementary for 11 years. “I was in HR and ad sales,” she said. “I  was a single mom but thought I could do more so I went back to school because I wanted to become a teacher. Growing up I was not a big fan of school so I like to work with kids who don’t like school and make them excited about learning.”

Hinojosa’s focus is on making moments for the kids. “It’s my ‘fish philosophy,’” she said. “There are people in Seattle whose job is handling fish. It’s not fun but they make it fun for tourists. Students aren’t going to remember all of the details but they’ll remember the moments.”

For the Super Bowl the kids get Ring Pops, said Hinojosa. “We also dress up as chefs and become detectives to solve crimes, etc. I try to make learning fun and memorable.”

The $1,500 grant money will go to buy costumes and other supplies, Hinojosa said. “I think teaching is my calling. I love being with the kids. I’m super grateful to Mountain America who support education – it’s pretty awesome.”