By TERRY GROOVER
A Yukon teacher who just completed her first year in the classroom said this week that she is excited to begin her second year.
Shauna Walker, who teaches special education at Central Elementary School, recently learned that is she is one of 19 teachers across the state who will share $98,000 in innovative grants from Cox Communications.
Walker, who entered the teaching field last year, was awarded a $5,000 grant that will be used to fund a sensory exploration program.
Walker has seven students in her program. They range from kindergarten through third grade.
Most of the students are autistic.
“A lot of them have sensory issues, whether it be they need a lot of sensory input with touching or certain textures, or quite the opposite where they hate certain textures,” she said.
Walker said she plans to use the funds to purchase equipment, such as sensory bins that include water beads that have a “squishy sensation” or balls that have different textures.
One of the biggest items that Walker hopes to purchase are large floor couches called Pea Pods.
The couches look a lot like a canoe, and are designed so the sides come up around the children and provide them with a private space.
“The sides come up around them so they feel more secure and they have the pressure on them,” she said.
It gives the students the sensation that someone is hugging or holding them, Walker said.
“A lot of the time if they get upset, they want someone to hold them,” she said.
The pods offer an option for the students to have space to relax and calm themselves.
She hopes to have the pea pods in place by the time school starts. She expects to receive the grant funds by early August.
The first day of classes for Yukon is Aug. 15.
Walker said this is her first grant application.
She applied for the grant in March.
“I am super excited,” Walker said.
There were 70 applicants for the grant.
While Walker’s grant was the lone recipient in Yukon, grants also were awarded at Centennial Elementary in Mustang, at three schools in Deer Creek, and at Bethany High School.
“Together, we are helping students prepare for their future by funding critical classroom programs and curriculum. Through Cox Charities, our employees are thrilled to be able to support these innovative learning opportunities that engage and excite students,” said Kristin Peck, vice president of public affairs. “Our partnership with the schools across the state continues to grow, and we’re proud to be a strong part of that community.”