New Employee Profile: Ketrina Serrano

This is one in a series of Q&A’s with employees new to Denair Unified in 2022-23.

Family: My children live in Modesto with their dad. They are Ani (13), Sezria (15) and Titus (17).  Ani (pronounced Oni) is an eighth-grader at Roosevelt Junior High, Sez-ria is a sophomore at Enochs High and Titus is a senior at Enochs. 

School: Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Subject taught: Special education

Experience and education: I have been a moderate/severe education specialist, K-8, over the past four years at UMASS Global University while simultaneously maintaining a classroom of my own. I decided to switch to mild/moderate special education because I would like to incorporate more of a curriculum-based challenge into my scope of teaching.  

What attracted you to Denair? I like the small-town aspects of teaching in Denair as I hope to make genuine connections with elevating our students to a higher level of learning. 

What most inspires you about teaching? I am most inspired by student-centered teaching because I enjoy providing a lesson and exploring the directions that the students are able to take it.  

What is a challenge you look forward to tackling this year? I would like for our students to demonstrate positive growth and creativity based on the themes and lessons that I provide for them.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? Google classroom is an awesome resource because it allows me to share a collaboration of all of the tools and resources that I am utilizing in the classroom.

What do you want your students to remember? I meet my students where they are in the learning process and I relate to them in ways that are relevant to who they are as individuals. 

How can parents support what you do? I value parental involvement and input. I appreciate when they ask questions and inquire about the activities that I share in my Google classroom. 

What would surprise people about your job? Although I have been well-trained in educating students, it is the day in and day out interactions with my students that educate me the most. I grow every day!What do you do for fun? Outdoor activities always charge me up! I enjoy water activities like rafting and swimming. 

New Employee Profile: Brandi Baker

This is one in a series of Q&A’s with employees new to Denair Unified in 2022-23.

Family: Husband Mike, 10-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son

School: District Inclusion Specialist

Subject taught: Special Education/Inclusion

Experience and education: I have been interested in teaching special education since I attended Denair High School and worked in the moderate/severe classroom my dad taught. He taught and coached in Denair for many years. I really looked up to how he created rapport with his students and staff and taught while still allowing the students to have fun. I started out as a paraprofessional working for Stanislaus County and Turlock while I attended college. In 2007, I began teaching for Turlock Unified School District. I have taught at three different school sites and been a mentor for new teachers. I was on the district assessment team and site leadership. During my years as a teacher for TUSD, I also taught at Teachers College of San Joaquin, working with intern teachers working towards their credential. 

What attracted you to Denair? I have realized in my years of teaching that forming a community within your school is very important and having the support of the community where you work.  I love the small-town feel and I am excited to come back “home” to be a part of the community that has been created across the district. 

What most inspires you about teaching? Making a difference with a child in the slightest way. I have worked with many different students and families, and I love to see it all come together when a child makes progress not only at school but at home as well. I love working with a team who is committed to student success. I love building rapport with the students and their families.

What is a challenge you look forward to tackling this year? Learning the ropes at a new district. I know I have a lot of support and I look forward to working with the SPED team to support our students. 

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? My absolute favorite activity I love to do with my students is working within a small group for social skills. You learn so much from students when you take the time to get to know them on a more in-depth level.  Teaching them different ways to make friends and approach different scenarios they may come across in life is so important.

What do you want your students to remember? For me, it is about making students feel loved and cared about. I remember some of my favorite teachers from Denair and they always were the teachers who cared so much about you personally. Making that connection to find the best ways for students to learn and be successful.

How can parents support what you do? Parents are such an integral part of a student’s success. Just always keeping open lines of communication and being supportive of their child.

What would surprise people about your job? I think a lot of people would be surprised at how much time is spent reviewing data, going through different ideas and scenarios with other SPED team members to come up with a plan that best fits each student’s individual needs. Working in SPED is such a rewarding experience, but it takes a lot of time and analyzing to do what is right for each student. 

What do you do for fun? Our family recently bought an RV and we have had a lot of fun camping this summer. I LOVE to shop, and if you know me you know I love Target. My absolute favorite thing to do is just spend time with my family. My parents have a Sunday dinner tradition; we all eat together and all the grandkids get to play and we all just hang out and talk this is one of my absolute favorite things to do.

Denair FFA students enjoy success at Stanislaus County Fair

For the first time in three summers, the Stanislaus County Fair was mostly back to normal this year. Though COVID-related concerns haven’t completely evaporated, the rides were crowded, the entertainment was fun and the barns were full of animals to be shown, judged and sold.

Denair High School’s 21 FFA members who entered animals or projects walked away with many of the top honors from this year’s fair, including the Clean Barn Award out of all the schools represented from throughout the county. That means Denair will get its choice of barn locations when the 2023 county fair is held next summer.

Among Denair’s top competitors this year was Thomas Guzman, who finished first in Dairy Goat Showmanship and received many other ribbons for his six dairy goats. Guzman also teamed with Shalyn Gomes to finish second in the 10-foot by 20-foot garden competition. In addition, Gomes was first in Intermediate Dairy Goat Showmanship.

Other students winning blue ribbons for first place included Aolani Rodriguez in Market Class Hogs and Best of Breed for her Duroc hog, Braden Backus for Reserve Champion Asiatic Chickens and Novice Showmanship, Dakota Richards for Champion Duck, Destiny Lema in Dairy Goat Class, Makenzie Miguel for Reserve Champion Blackface Heavyweight Goat and Diego Dutra in Ag Mechanics, 

Conner Prock earned a number of awards, including for Champion Slick Steer. He was second in Pair Females as well as third and fourth in Summer Yearling Registered Females.

Cassidy Abruzzini was second in Middleweight Market Goat as was Lema in Market Class Hog and Colton Webster in Ag Mechanics. 

Those finishing third were Makena Padgett in Market Middleweight Lamb and Intermediate Sheep Showmanship, Brenna Cole in Sheep Market Class, Aaliyah Rodriguez and Dakota Rutherford in Market Class Hog, and Zachary Christianson, Jacob Trevino and Webster in Ag Mechanics.

“It was a really successful year for Denair FFA,” said Denair High ag teacher and FFA adviser Holli Jacobsen. “Our kids did outstanding this year and are very motivated for the next fair season.”

PharmAffordable: California’s First $2 Charitable Generic Drug Plan

By Jeffrey Lewis and Dr. Christina Garcia

With rising inflation, skyrocketing gasoline prices, and families financially crippled by mounting food costs, some people must forgo or delay filling or refilling life-saving medications because they can no longer afford them, even where they have insurance. While no one in financial distress should have to choose between food, medicine or being able to drive to work, that is today’s reality.

Nothing is being done to insulate working families against rising insurance costs, which include ever-increasing prescription drug co-payments. While Washington could address these challenges, nothing has happened. As the suffering grows, the political rhetoric intensifies.

It is time to de-escalate the rhetoric with a real solution. Legacy Health Endowment and the EMC Health Foundation, in collaboration with TIN Rx, a local pharmacy in Turlock, have created PharmAffordable, a $2 charitable generic drug program covering more than 690 generic medications.

PharmAffordable targets financially needy individuals and families with employer-provided insurance as well as the uninsured. People enrolled in Medi-Cal, Medicare and Tricare (Veterans benefits) are not eligible due to special rules imposed by those programs, unfortunately.

PharmAffordable is a pilot charitable program limited to only residents of the following communities and ZIP codes: 

95301 Atwater, Buhach
95303 Ballico
95307 Ceres
95313 Crows Landing 
95315 Delhi
95316 Denair, Montpelier
95322Gustine, Santa Nella
95324 Hilmar, Irwin 
95326 Hughson
95328 Keyes
95334 Livingston, Arena
95358 Modesto, Bret Harte
95360 Newman, Hills Ferry
95363 Patterson, Diablo Grande, Grayson, Westley
95374 Stevinson
95380-95382Turlock, Cortez
95388Winton, Cressey

To be eligible, people must also certify that they are in financial distress such that they cannot afford either the regular price of the medications or their insurance copay or deductible for the same medications.  Simply take your prescription to the TIN Rx pharmacy or ask them to have your existing prescriptions transferred to TIN Rx.

The savings could amount to hundreds of dollars a year in many cases. For instance, take a family in which the wife regularly takes medication for a thyroid issue and her husband takes medication for high blood pressure. Their co-pays currently range from $10 to $65 per month. Under PharmAffordable, their co-pays would both be $2 a month – saving them about $700 annually.

With more than 690 commonly prescribed generic medications available under PharmAffordable, there are many opportunities for families in financial distress to save money that can be used for food, gas, rent, or clothing, or saved for a college education.

Families are struggling. They are being forced to make difficult choices, and some involve potentially life-threatening healthcare decisions. We are collaborating on a solution through innovation, negotiation, and stewardship. PharmAffordable is not a panacea, but it is an essential first step in disrupting the status quo and putting families first.

Jeffrey Lewis is President and CEO of EMC Health Foundation and Legacy Health Endowment, and Dr. Christina Garcia is the founder and CEO of TIN Rx. The views expressed are those of the authors.