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West Jordan Journal

Mountain Heights Academy Encourages Future Authors

Jan 23, 2015 09:17AM ● By Marci Heugly
Jenny Dawman is a Language Arts teachers at Mountain Heights Academy. Photo courtesy of Mountain Heights Academy

Two language arts teachers at Mountain Heights Academy, based in West Jordan, have found new ways to fund advanced learning. Jenny Dawman, department chair for English language curriculum recently received a $500 grant to send 10 of her students to Teen Author Boot Camp.  Jenna Ellis received money to pay for a year-long subscription to Both grants were funded through the Association of American Educators.

“AAE [Association of American Educators] is a nonprofit organization that offers a lot of services to teachers, including grants,” Dawman said. “Last year, we sent two students to Boot Camp, which we funded ourselves. This year, the grant will allow us to send 10 of our students.”

The Teen Author Boot Camp is held at Utah Valley University on April 11 and goes all day. Students will attend workshops held by published authors, including New York Times bestsellers. The workshops cover variable topics that will help these young authors write their own novels one day. 

Jenna Ellis is a Language Arts teachers at Mountain Heights Academy. Photo courtesy of Mountain Heights Academy

 “In the past, I have invited a couple of published authors to come meet with my students,” Dawman said. “When I heard about Boot Camp, I thought it would be better to attend an all-day conference than spend a couple of hours with authors. The team-writing community is a powerful experience for these students, and it’s a phenomenal opportunity to learn from published authors.”

This year, the 10 selected Mountain Heights students will be able to attend at no cost to them.

“We had so many students that are interested in going,” Dawman said. “The students are invited to apply, explain their financial need, what they are interested in and what they are working on. The teachers will select the 10 recipients by March 1.”

Jenna Ellis used her grant money to subscribe to a website that will help her students better understand literature.

“ is a website that allows students to create stories in a simplified format,” Ellis said. “It can also be used for vocabulary acquisition, character study, etc.”

Not only can the students create their own storyboards, they can use them to understand more difficult literature.

“Using a storyboard like a graphic organizer helps structure students’ work into a linear and concise story. Although it feels easy at first, breaking down one’s thoughts into just a few cells works critical skills in prioritizing the right information and creating a good story flow,” explains the home page of Each of Ellis’ students will have access to the website while they are in her class.

“I want to use this for my Othello unit next quarter as Shakespeare is often difficult for the students to break down,” Ellis said. “This will give them a format with which they can pull out the most important parts of the play and analyze.”

“We are a solely online charter public-funded school,” Dawman said. “We are always looking for new innovative ways to teach our students while still giving them a well-rounded junior high and high school experience.”