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Taylorsville Journal

David Gourley educator Jacob Baesler named Afterschool Teacher of the Year

Jun 06, 2023 12:35PM ● By Peri Kinder

The afterschool program at David Gourley Elementary in Kearns is run by Jacob Baesler. Baesler was recently named the Utah Afterschool Teacher of the Year for his fun curriculum and dedication to students. (Photo courtesy of Blanca Thompson)

Afterschool programs have proven to be an effective way to help children excel academically, socially and emotionally. Programs provide children with a safe and structured environment where they participate in a range of activities to help them develop life skills like teamwork, communication and problem-solving. 

Jacob Baesler, a third grade teacher at David Gourley Elementary (4905 S. 4300 West) in Kearns, has worked with the afterschool program for five years. This year he was named the 2022-23 Utah Afterschool Teacher of the Year by the Utah Afterschool Network. 

His non-traditional way of teaching brings an element of fun to the program, as he genuinely cares about each student’s success. 

“As a teacher, we have such an emphasis on assessment goals and results, and it can get heavy and stressful at times,” Baesler said. “Afterschool is a great place for us. It can just be about teaching and enjoying the time and helping the students be as smart and as awesome as they can be. I think it's a big benefit for everyone.”

The program runs from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and includes an hour of academic learning and another 45 minutes of enrichment activities that include sports, arts, science, engineering or math.

Each day, 30-50 students in first through fifth grade participate in the program, but there is a waiting list for students who would like to get involved. Right now, the school can’t financially accommodate growth for afterschool attendance but the teachers select students who can really benefit from additional academic exposure. 

“We look for students that are right on that cusp, that just need a little bit of extra practice, to get us to where we want to see them,” he said. “It’s a tremendous benefit for families as well. A lot of our families in this area work really hard… to take care of their families. We’ve given them a place where they can know that their children are safe and cared for and learning and growing.”

Baesler said afterschool programs promote positive youth development and offer a place where youth can explore their potential. Research shows that children who participate in afterschool programs have better academic performance, improved social skills and reduced behavioral problems.

David Gourley Principal Briar Mattucci said Baesler is perfect for the afterschool program with his high energy, sense of fun and genuine desire for the kids to learn. 

“It's hard after school,” Mattucci said. “These kids have already been in school for seven hours, and then they have to stay for another two-and-a-half, three hours and do academics and all that stuff. For the kids, if it's not a positive experience for them, they aren’t going to love it.”

Baesler’s colleagues at David Gourley nominated him for the award and he said he was surprised and honored they would consider him. He hopes other schools invest in afterschool programs which he said is a win for everyone. 

“I would recommend they do everything in their power to make it happen and I think they’d see tremendous results with community engagement, with family engagement and tremendous academic success for students. I absolutely love it,” he said. 

On Mondays and Wednesdays, Baesler also helps fourth- and fifth-grade students at the school develop sports skills through the Panda Athletic Club.

“He cares about the kids and the growth and their progress,” Mattucci said. “He’s really just one of the most positive, upbeat people. He really loves to work with the kids.” λ

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