Just as apples and pears grow in the desert, great stories grow in Miss Squires' classroom at Troth Street Elementary.
Hayle Chavez, young author of "Apricot Fruitwoman Saves the Day," has earned regional and statewide honors in a fiction writing contest held by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Her success was formally recognized this week at the JUSD Board of Education meeting.
"I'm proud to see our students succeed not only within the school and the region, but at the state level as well," said Troth Street Elementary Principal Ilsa Crocker. "It's one more testament to the hard work our teachers do day in and day out."
Hayle took first place in Riverside County and won fourth-grade Honorable Mention statewide in the 2016 Imagine This… Story Writing Contest. The competition challenges students in grades 3-8 to plant a narrative around the facts they learn about California agriculture.
In Hayle's tale, Apricot Fruitwoman and friends face a dark trio with a dastardly plot: "The evil bandits were on a mission to get rid of all fruits and vegetables so humans would only eat junk food," Hayle writes. The story entertains as it explains how and where the villains target the food supply.
"I was intrigued about what inspired her to bring together these ideas," Ms. Crocker said of Hayle's writing.
The tale grew from social studies lessons about California's mountains, forests, deserts and coasts – including which crops grow where and why, and how food proceeds from farm to table – said Miss Alyssa Squires, Hayle's teacher. "And then she just added superheroes and evil characters."
The story thrives because Hayle conveys what she's learned in an engaging way, Miss Squires said. The young writer also harvests the staple crops of good fiction writing: action, dialogue, scene-setting, imagery, conflict, and resolution.
"Apricot Fruitwoman Saves the Day," which runs about 700 words, will appear this year in the annual "Imagine this… Stories Inspired by Agriculture" book of award-winning stories.
Miss Squires said the contest was optional and about half the class completed entries on their own time, then met with the teacher to review their work. "She's one of those kids who volunteers all the time," Miss Squires said of Hayle. "She wanted to do this from the beginning."
Ms. Crocker praised Miss Squires and her colleagues for ensuring such fertile soil in their classrooms. "Teaching at a deeper level is important to me," the principal said. "She (Miss Squires) is very humble, but I want her to know the impact she has on our students. The way she believes in them is important, as well."