Attracted by small classes, close community, two-time novelist, global traveler settles in Sacramento to join faculty

(Photo used by permission of Hinojosa)
English-teacher-to-be Jason Hinojosa with a sadhu (holy man) in Kathmandu, Nepal.

What do a Peruvian writer and a member of the Raider Nation have in common?

Both of them will be joining the high-school faculty next year!

Jason Hinojosa and Damany Fisher have been chosen to fill the open English and history positions in the high school.

Hinojosa is currently a graduate student at the University of Iowa, studying to obtain a master’s in fine arts and creative writing.

To pay tuition, he teaches classes in both the English and creative writing departments.

Hinojosa is projected to teach freshman English and both AP and regular senior English.

Hinojosa said that he was drawn to Country Day because of its size.

“I really liked the idea of a small community and English department, where I could get to know all my students,” Hinojosa said.

In Hinojosa’s current position he teaches 50 undergraduates, of the 24,476 at the University of Iowa.

“So the idea of having 50 students that I would get to know or 150 students in the high school was really appealing to me,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa will be making the journey from Iowa to Sacramento during the summer with his wife Dana and their cat, Johnny.

The family is especially looking forward to connecting with relatives in Sacramento.

Hinojosa said that both his wife’s parents live in Sacramento, and her brother- and sister-in-law and their three kids are going to move to Sacramento as well.

Both Hinojosa and his wife, Dana, are from big families.

“(Dana) is one of six kids, and if you include my stepbrothers, I am one of eight,” Hinojosa said.

“So it is very unlikely for our whole family to be in the same city, but to have a big cluster in Sacramento is really exciting for us.”

Hinojosa said he loves to write, practice yoga and run during his free time.

“Writing is my passion,” Hinojosa said.

“I love to write literary fictions, which takes up most of my free time.”

Hinojosa has had two novels published in addition to a few short stories. He is currently working on a third novel as a part of his coursework.

Hinojosa’s first book, “The Last Lawsons,” is a story about a suburban American family coming to terms with its tragic and shameful past, while his second book, “The Conception of Zachary Muse,” is the story of the mysteries surrounding the birth of the fictional character, Zachary Muse.

In addition to writing, Hinojosa likes going to reading sessions by famous authors with his friends.

“Some amazing world-class authors from across the world come to the university,” Hinojosa said.

(Photo used by permission of Hinojosa)
Future English teacher Jason Hinojosa and his wife, Dana, traveled to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey.

“I recently listened to a reading from a Dominican writer, whose book I teach in my class.

“That was a special treat.”

Although Hinojosa has lived in America since 2010, he spent his childhood and teenage years in locations around the world.

Hinojosa was born in Peru, then lived in Chile and Mexico as a child and teenager.

When he was an adult, Hinojosa moved to Hong Kong, where he worked for four years, and then to Rwanda, where he volunteered long-term.

Hinojosa attributes his love of traveling to curiosity.

“Growing up as a kid in Latin America made me realize that the world is really big,” Hinojosa said.

“So I have always wanted to learn more about what other cultures, cuisine and schools of thought are like.

“I have just never really lost that fascination.”

Hinojosa’s traveling also benefits his writing.

“I draw a lot from my travels for my writing and also in my teaching,” Hinojosa said.

“I think that getting a broad array of different types of writers is important.

“In the States we read a lot of American writers and a good amount of British writers, but there are people writing all across the world!”

Hinojosa intends to focus his classes on stories that are told by people whose voices are underrepresented, such as people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, non-Americans and women.

“I want to show students marginalized voices that aren’t at the center of the current literary landscape,” Hinojosa said.

“Those voices are slightly more interesting to me than the canon or traditional texts.”

While Hinojosa is coming to join the SCDS community from Iowa, Fisher is making his way over from New England.

Fisher currently teaches at Phillips Academy Andover, a boarding school outside of Boston.

There he teaches U.S. History, Atlantic World History (the history of the interaction among the peoples and empires bordering the Atlantic Ocean rim) and a civil rights elective.

Next year Fisher plans to continue teaching his civil rights elective in addition to freshman history, World Cultures and U.S. History.

What drew Fisher to Country Day was its similarity to Phillips Academy.

“(Both allow) teachers to design their own course and teach in their own way,” Fisher said.

Fisher has been married for seven years to his wife Danica and has two children, a two-and-a-half-year-old son and a five-month-old daughter.

“They keep me busy all the time,” he said with a laugh.

But in Fisher’s free time he loves to play basketball, work out, go out to eat and read.

“I also love to sometimes just veg out in front of the television whenever I have a free moment!” Fisher said.

“My ideal evening is to go home, order pizza and just put on the game.”

Even though Fisher is living in New England, he is still a hardcore Raiders fan.

“Raider Nation, baby!” Fisher said. “It’s been hell living out in New England these past four years as a Raider fan.

“I endured a lot of ridicule.”

Although Fisher is currently teaching at a private boarding school, his journey getting there was very “unconventional,” he said.

Before he taught at Phillips Academy, Fisher was an instructor at Mt. San Antonio College, a community college in Southern California.

“This was really interesting because the contrast between the two schools couldn’t be greater in terms of resources and level of student preparation,” Fisher said.

“I was teaching a lot of students there who weren’t prepared for college and were struggling academically.”

On the other hand, he said, at Phillips Academy there were a lot of wealthy kids who had been educated in independent schools their entire lives.

That contrast between the two schools broadened his perspective on life and made him a better teacher, he said.

Damany Fisher

Fisher also believes that contrast gave him valuable insights into the disparities that exist in our educational system.

“Frankly, those who have the most get the most, and those who have the least get the least,” Fisher said.

“It has even been kind of depressing seeing how little of our society is properly educated.”

According to Fisher, his role as a teacher is more a guide than an instructor.

“I like being able to guide students through the research process and their own intellectual journeys,” Fisher said.

“The skills that I teach them will be able to propel them to do much bigger projects beyond college and into the professional world.”

Fisher also wants the community to know that he is a work in progress.

“I am a person who is constantly seeking to better myself through my teaching and development,” Fisher said.

Fisher also calls education a “joint enterprise” rather than a one-sided job.

“It is one that requires equal participation between student and teacher,” he said. “The best learning environment is where the teacher learns from the student.”

Head of high school Brooke Wells is very excited about the new faculty.

“We have a new team in place!” Wells shouted excitedly.

By Jack Christian

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