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SONIC Drive-In

Kindergarten Teacher Refuels Her Spark with SONIC Limeades for Learning & Ron Clark Academy

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By Jessica Shock

SONIC’s Limeades for Learning initiative makes a difference in public schools across the country through its partnership with DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization the Foundation supports with funding throughout the year. The program directly benefits public school teachers and the great projects they’re creating in their classrooms to enrich their schools and communities. Teachers like Marisa Ochoa, a kindergarten teacher based in Houston, Texas.

As a bilingual educator who knows the struggles of learning two languages at the same time, she’s perfected the art of teaching both English and Spanish to the same group of students.

“When I was six years old, my family moved to the United States from Guatemala. Adjusting to a new language was hard – I almost failed my first year of school. But my teachers surrounded and motivated me with such positivity that by the end of the year, I believed I could achieve anything,” shares Marisa. “I knew I wanted to be that person – that teacher – for my own students.”

For Marisa, creating that same positive environment in her own classroom is vital to set her students up for success. “I aim to create a family environment each year with my class where we are all kind, thoughtful, and respectful humans,” she says. “But it’s also important to encourage laughter, play, and exploration to show that learning can be fun.” To do this, Marisa hosts immersive reading days for her students each year, transforming her classroom into a magical escape where reading empowers the imagination.

Marisa also plans an annual Reading Buddy Adoption Day, gifting stuffed animals to students after teaching them what it means to adopt an animal with the added promise to read to their ‘pet’ at night. “Parents send me pictures of their children reading and sleeping with their stuffed dogs or cats throughout the year,” she says. “It reminds me that it really is the little things that ignite their love of learning. This is what encourages them to come to school, eager to grow smarter and stronger.”

To help her brainstorm new ways to engage her students, Marisa recently attended the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) Experience, a two-day program full of immersive trainings and workshops designed for public school teachers. Marisa was one of 125 educators sponsored by the SONIC Foundation’s Limeades for Learning initiative, which donates proceeds from every SONIC drink purchase to local schools and teachers across the country.

“The RCA truly is magical – and I don’t mean the flying dragons,” says Marisa. During her experience, the classroom observations were transformational. “To not just listen and learn but witness first-hand how the students that attend and engage was remarkable.” Through in-classroom observations, different training days, and various workshops, the RCA Experience motivates teachers to go back to their schools energized and validated.

“I’m beyond grateful to have been selected to attend. I cannot put into words what a grand opportunity this was for me as a teacher,” says Marisa. “Being at RCA refueled my spark to be the magic maker for my students, and I hope to inspire other teachers to find their own spark and bring the magic back to their classrooms, too.”

If you are a teacher interested in the Ron Clark Academy Experience, visit

To learn more about SONIC’s Limeades for Learning, visit