New Sailors set course for 2022-23 school year

Back row (from left): Vanessa Clemons, PE/Health; Janet Jackson, Social/Emotional Learning/3rd-grade Literacy; Heidi Sundstrom, Elementary Educational Assistant; Abigail Lam, Secondary Educational Assistant; Kate Huber, HS English/Language Arts; bench (from left): Chrissa Henry; Middle & High School Math; Stephanie Grijalva, Art

Mapleton welcomes new staff to district

Sept. 7, 2022 — For the Mapleton School District, 2022 could is a year of new beginnings. Sue Wilson takes over for longtime superintendent Jodi O’Mara and, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, kids will return to school in somewhat normal conditions regarding public health guidelines.

Also new are seven members of the district staff. Technically, two of them arrived last spring and one is just moving into a new position, but they, like the other four, will consider this the fall when they set sail on their journey as a Mapleton Sailor.

First, last year’s Mapleton High varsity girls basketball coach Vanessa Clemons will take over as K-12 Physical Education and Health teacher. Clemons also, for the first time in her life, is coaching middle school football at Mapleton Middle School.

Abigail Lam and Heidi Sundstrom both started at the district last spring as educational assistants.

Lam works at the middle and high school. As an educational assistant, she provides any support students may need.

“I really like making the school feel like a welcoming place for students to be,” said Lam. “I run the support lab, where we offer one-on-one extra help to kids that are struggling. We provide the kids a quiet place to work.”

Lam said the support lab also provides any computer or library needs students may have.

As for interesting things about Lam that are not school related, she has a house chicken, named Cleo, that sleeps with her.

Lam added that someday she may go back to school to get a degree in school counseling.

Sundstrom is an educational assistant for the elementary school.

As the Sundstrom name indicates, she is originally from Mapleton. She spent most of her 20s in Mexico, where she met her husband and started her family. As someone that grew up in the area, saw many different parts of the world and has returned, she hopes to provide a valuable perspective for students in the district.

Sundstrom wants to be someone students can talk to.

“I want to be a source of empathy for students,” she said. “Someone that they can see is available as an extra set of ears that sometimes we all need. I’d like to provide whatever experience or life lessons, advice, stuff like that.”

Sundstrom speaks both English and Spanish. In Mexico, her husband published a surfing magazine, to which she contributed. This allowed her to be near the ocean, something that is very important to her.

Kate Huber is the new high school English/Language Arts teacher. She just completed her master’s in education at the University of Oregon. Previous to that, she had spent her life all over the world, including lots of time in the Netherlands and on ships at sea.

Huber has aspirations to start some clubs that will help to fill the gap in Mapleton’s class offerings.

“I’d like to look at starting both music and oral language clubs,” said Huber. “I’m fluent in Dutch. I speak French and Irish as well and am learning Spanish. I think it would be fun to share my knowledge since there isn’t a language program here.”

A very interesting fact about Huber — “I just didn’t like reading till I was out of high school, which is hilarious because I got a Ph.D. in English,” she said.

Stephanie Grijalva will teach art at all levels at Mapleton. She comes via Arizona. Interestingly, both new superintendent Wilson and teacher/coach Clemons also come to Mapleton from the Grand Canyon State.

“I’ve wanted to come to Oregon for a long time,” Grijalva said. “When I came out and interviewed, I instantly fell in love with the area.”

Grijalva believes a school’s mission should be to show how interconnected learning and “real life” can be. Art, language, history and math are all part of everyday, real-life situations. They aren’t split like they are in classes at school.

“What happens in the ‘real world’ is that things don’t exist in separate classrooms,” Grijalva explained. “So many things in life are related to creativity, writing and critical thinking. We're not all necessarily going to be professional artists, but we all are going to embrace our creativity and the collaboration, critical thinking and logical things that happen in an art classroom.”

Janet Jackson will teach third grade literacy and social/emotional learning.

Interestingly, Jackson was hired by Mapleton School District for a different position in 2016, but a death in the family prevented her from taking the job. She is glad to have the opportunity again.

Recently, Jackson spent a year working at a seal sanctuary in Shetland, Scotland, a gift she gave herself after 22 years of teaching in inner city Oakland.

Jackson has a goal of having a school garden at Mapleton.

Finally, Chrissa Henry will teach middle and high school math. Previous to Mapleton, she taught math in Dallas, Ore.

This will be her 28th year teaching and she’s taught in eight different states.

“My goal is for students to like and enjoy math,” said Henry.

This new math teacher is the proud grandmother to two.

All Mapleton students will be back in class by today. With the new group of staff and a bit of normalcy around campus, hopes are high for a great 2022-23 school year.

For more information on the Mapleton School District visit