Priscilla Iosca has been involved with childhood development since she received her undergraduate degree in 1985. Since then she has worked for the Kyrene School District in early childhood development and has moved on to her current position at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary where she works in physical education.

For her work, she was recently named one of five winners of a $5,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

The honor came for her implementation of the Walk On! program, which advocates the "5-2-1-0" idea toward a healthier lifestyle - five fruits and vegetables each day, two hours or less of screen time (television, computers, video games), one hour of active play and zero sweetened drinks.

"The teachers make the Walk On! program successful, and the ones who win these grants go above and beyond in the classroom teaching the importance of healthy habits," said Renee Hunt, spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. "The grants are a way to give these teachers more resources to continue teaching these healthy lessons beyond the one-month Walk On! Challenge and have an ability to affect all the students in one school."

The program was optional for Estrella fifth-graders, but they all signed up for it anyway.

"It is a way to incorporate more fitness knowledge into the student's daily life," Iosca said. "It's no secret that our children have become heavier in recent years. Whenever we can instill more knowledge about health and fitness, and on a regular basis, the better."

Iosca said she will use the grant money to form an after-school fitness opportunity with game and group exercises beginning next school year. The goal of which, she said will be to give students a chance for a regular workout, which she hopes will help them develop a routine.

"(Working out regularly) correlates back to being a better learner, inside and outside the classroom," she said. "It has been shown that after 17 minutes, a child will drift off and start to lose focus. We want to teach them to take a brain break of one, two or three minutes to regain that focus."

The other goal, Iosca said, is to make physical activity and education more fun for students.

"We teach them a variety of sports that will help them gain strength," she said. "We want to show them that fitness can be enjoyable and not grueling."

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