How are Utah schools faring in the constantly changing world of modern education? This new world includes school violence, more pupils than most other states (we still have the largest households in the country), multicultural classrooms and very little money.

Meet Lucas Tucker, PE teacher at Glendale Middle School.

Lucas Tucker, 2019 After-school Teacher of the Year, has big dreams for the difference he hopes to make. Like many Utah teachers, he has to think creatively to make those dreams come true. “There are many reasons why students do not wish to go home after school,” he explains. When he first started teaching at Glendale six years ago, he caught the vision for what a strong and diverse after-school program can do.

Over 88 percent of Glendale’s students qualify for the reduced lunch program, indicating a home poverty level which can make the enrollment fees associated with tryouts for after-school sports programs such as soccer, basketball and volleyball prohibitively expensive.

Glendale serves 767 students in grades 6-8; the student-teacher ratio is 19:1, 28 percent of students are at least proficient in math and 22 percent in reading. The racial makeup is Hispanic (60%), Pacific Islander (13.7%), White (11.5%). 21.6% of all Glendale residents qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and the average household income is 4K less than that of SLC.Tucker worked with the community after-school program led by Erica Andino and administrators to set up fundraising to pay fees for students who may otherwise miss out. While Utah’s budget constraints continue, grant money from the McBride Foundation and private-donors have allowed him to get needed equipment and resources to fuel these efforts.

Tucker says, “The parental support at Glendale has been incredible.” As an example, “Parents of our students and team members volunteer to sell concessions to raise money during games.” In addition, Tucker started a before-school archery program because not all kids want to compete or wish to play in a team sport. He hopes to offer a track and field program in the future, bringing another option for students, and one that doesn’t require a helmet.

Tucker explains, “Along with promoting healthy lifestyles, our hope is to bring a sense of ownership and connection with the students to the school.” As an alternative to sports, Glendale offers after-school clubs such as ukulele, Girls Who Code, MESA, chess and theatre, “to provide as many opportunities for students to participate in these activities as possible.”