TISHOMINGO, Okla. (KTEN) — Tishomingo Elementary School fine arts teacher Trey Hays is in the spotlight after being nominated for the governor's Arts in Education Award.

As a Tishomingo native and a seasoned educator with two decades of experience at the school, Hays is finding ways to give back to the town and the Chickasaw Nation through his book, Little Loksi.

"I've been around it my whole life, but getting to be involved in the culture now is like a dream come true," Hays said.

Little Loksi finds a way to entertain kids through a heartfelt story about a turtle named Loksi, while keeping the Chickasaw language alive through the characters in the book.

"The language is... was dying... and it still is," Hays said. "It's coming back, but it's with an effort through the Chickasaw Press."

Hays was also able to introduce new words to the Chickasaw language through his book.

"The porcupine isn't native to our area, so they had to come up with a name for the porcupine," he explained. "It's haknip, hishi' hallopa, and it means, 'body fur is sharp.'"

Through his book, Hays hopes to teach young Native American children — along with all children — about the Chickasaw heritage.

"To enhance any child's vocabulary, and their acceptance and understanding of another culture, or their own culture — their heritage — is a very important thing, because it shows us who we are," Hays said.