Claudia Rios-Wright wins KENS 5 SACU ExCEL Award for Southside ISD

The second grade teacher at Heritage Elementary developed an outdoor garden that students cultivate and use for lessons.

Young students in the Southside Independent School District students are learning in an outdoor classroom. The second grade teacher at Heritage Elementary developed an outdoor garden that students cultivate and use for lessons.

Students use rulers and yardsticks to measure the gardens and sunflowers in both inches and centimeters, using the garden for math lessons.

Claudia Rios-Wright has a special connection to the students she teaches.

The garden is the brain child of the second grade teacher. She started the garden with her own money and then applied for a grant from Texas A&M to grow the garden.

"We had a smaller garden at the beginning of the year from my funds but once the garden grew, they were very excited," Wright said.

Now students have a creative way to learn outdoors and there's a bonus.

"I like the garden because sometimes we get to have lunch," second grader Jordan Carroll said.

"I like how the Swiss chard tasted when we had our first salad," second grader Zoe Gonzalez said.

Rios and her family emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 10. After serving in the Army, she became a teacher.

"I see myself when I was young in these little kids. I know the struggles I had having to learn a second language,” Wright recalled. “So I know the population here in our district a lot of kids are a lot like that. So I understand what they're going through and I understand the struggles with the families and with the students. So this is where my heart is.”

This is her 12th year teaching, and she is devoted to these students, driving 45 minutes each morning to get to school.

"And about an hour and 15 minutes in the evening to get home," she laughed. "It's a trip that's worth it.”

Her goal is to help these student blossom into greatness.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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