A bright-as-sunshine secretary, Hillcrest’s just-retired principal and high school counselors who epitomize what it means to be “Husky Strong,” and a charismatic mayor who inspired residents to support the creation of a new and nimble school district were among the honorees at the 2015 Canyons Apex Awards.

The Canyons Board of Education presented awards in nine categories at the event, which is held each year to celebrate the excellence and dedication of CSD educators, employees and community partners. The by-invitation-only banquet and ceremony was Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015 at The Gathering Place at Gardner Village. 

“We host this event every year to pay tribute to those in our community who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we have worked to provide a world-class education to our children,” said Sherril H. Taylor, President of the Board of Education.  “We have reached out to many people in this endeavor, and we have not been disappointed in their willingness to respond, roll up their sleeves, and go to work.”

Apex Award winners are selected by the seven members of the Board of Education and Canyons Superintendent Jim Briscoe after a months-long public-nomination process.  Nominations for Apex Awards can be submitted for all categories except the Apex Award for Teacher of the Year. The District’s Teacher of the Year is selected in the spring and was CSD’s nominee in the state Teacher of the Year competition. This year’s winner is Matt Leininger, a physics teacher at Alta High.

Other winners in the sixth-annual awards are: 

District Administrator of the Year

Jeff Murry, Director, Technology Development

School Administrator of the Year

Sue Malone, Principal, Hillcrest High

Education Support Professional of the Year

Marilyn Gulbransen, Front Office staff, Sunrise Elementary

Student Support Services Professional of the Year

Hillcrest High Counseling Center

Volunteer of the Year

Betty Shaw, Director, Region 17 PTA

Elected Official of the Year

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy

Business Partner of the Year

Jordan Credit Union 

Legacy Award

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan


The Legacy Award is the top honor given by the Board and Administration. It is reserved for those whose personal and professional actions serve to inspire the Canyons community. The individual chosen for this award is known for a pioneering spirit, dedication to excellence, and lengthy commitment to civil public engagement. Previous winners include former Jordan District Superintendent Barry Newbold, former Canyons Superintendents David Doty and Ginger Rhode, and CSD’s homeless-student liaison Connie Crosby.

See our Facebook page for a photo album of the event.

While students and teachers have returned to the days of homework and quizzes, a Canyons Board of Education-appointed Facilities Committee continues to study such issues as enrollment projections, building capacities, and school boundaries.

The committee, made up of parents and school leaders from all parts of Canyons District, met for the first time of the school year on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.  The group has been meeting since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year to give recommendations to the Board of Education on the short- and long-term school -facility needs in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Sandy, Midvale and the town of Alta.

While the committee is discussing issues that impact all parts of Canyons District, members have focused quite a bit of attention on the current and possible future enrollment at Corner Canyon High and Willow Springs Elementary, which have all been placed on "moratorium status" because of high enrollment numbers. This means the schools will only enroll students who live within the assigned geographic boundaries. 

The committee remains dedicated to a thorough examination of the issues, says Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe.  No recommendation on any issue has been formalized or forwarded to the Board of Education for consideration.  

“It’s important to the members of this committee to be thorough and thoughtful in their review of all pertinent information,” said Dr. Briscoe. 

According to Dr. Briscoe, one of the established processes for the committee is to arrive at consensus before making an official recommendation to the Board of Education, which is the final arbiter regarding Canyons school boundaries. 

“While we have not yet arrived at that point,” Dr. Bricsoe says, “I believe we are engaging in important discussions about enrollments, new housing developments, and promising ideas of how to handle future growth of the District.” 

Comments and input from parents and patrons of Canyons District can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As Canyons District students prepare to return to school on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, there’s one lesson Midvalley Elementary Principal Jeff Nalwalker hopes his students haven’t forgotten this summer: the importance of being kind. 

Midvalley students received a first-hand lesson in the power of kindness during the last week of school before summer break when local taco stand, Tacos El Cuñado, showed up at lunchtime and distributed 650 free tacos to Midvalley’s students, teachers and staff.

The tacos are the best in the valley and lunch was delicious. But that wasn’t the best part, Nalwalker says. The highlight of the event was the lesson Nalwalker’s students received in how much it means to perform simple acts of service for others.  

“I’m grateful they set an example for my students about random acts of kindness for others,” Nalwalker says. “The way we treat others comes back to us

Nalwalker first discovered Tacos El Cuñado, which is situated in the parking lot at 670 W. Center in Midvale and open every day from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., when he attended a community production at the playhouse across the street. The self-proclaimed “foodie” is a taco-stand aficionado after growing up in San Diego, where he used to sample local taco stands on a regular basis.

Nalwalker tried Tacos El Cuñado’s carne asada, tacos de pollo and carnitas tacos and was so impressed he’s planned lunch visits to the stand every week ever since. Eventually he invited Tacos El Cuñado to participate in Midvalley’s annual culture fair as a food vendor.

“I really love learning about other cultures by trying new food,” Nalwalker told his staff in June. “This is exactly why I think it is important to bring food trucks to our culture fair. … People who wouldn’t normally try something like Tacos El Cuñado get out of their comfort zone and try it.”

At the end of this year’s culture fair, as Nalwalker was thanking everyone who participated, one of Tacos El Cuñado’s owners offered to bring Midvalley’s students and teachers free tacos as a gesture of gratitude. Owner Gabriela Avreola then gathered her family members and worked tirelessly to prepare the food and serve Midvalley’s students on June 1.

“I felt content,” Avreola said through an interpreter after the event was over. “I was happy that all the kids were fed. … I’m happy because they loved the food.”

And Nalwalker was happy that his students and staff enjoyed one of the best street tacos in town, but more importantly, that they received a powerful lesson in what it means to be kind. 

Teachers cheered, principals gave high-fives, and friendly eighth-graders gave fist-bumps to sixth-grade students in Canyons District who arrived at their schools early Tuesday, Aug. 18 for Canyons District's seventh-annual orientation day for secondary-school first-timers.

Canyons District principals plan the day each year to help ease the jitters for the students who are attending middle school for the first time. 

The back-to-school event, which is only for sixth-grade students, has been planned to make sure the 11- and 12-year-old students, who the year before didn’t have to worry about negotiating hallways with other teens or changing classes several times a day, become used to their new surroundings — and walk away with a positive memory about their first day at middle school.

The students attended shortened classes, found their lockers, met their teachers, and grabbed a snack in the cafeteria.  Some principals also held assemblies to introduce themselves, and explain the school rules. 

Mike Sirois, Canyons District’s Executive Director of School Performance, says the aim of the sixth-grade orientation is to “cut down on the tears and frustration” of the official first day of school.  "We try to give them as much of a real-life experience as we can in a half day,” says Sirois. 

On Tuesday — the day before the first official day of the 2015-2016 school year in CSD — Canyons sixth-graders arrived at their respective middle schools by about 8 a.m. and went home at about noon. 

The annual orientation day has earned positive reviews from students, parents and teachers.  

See our Facebook page for a photo album of the 2015 Sixth-Grade Orientation.
Help us swing into the new school year with the sixth-annual fall golf tournament of the Canyons Education Foundation. The Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 event will be at the River Oaks Golf Course, 9300 Riverside Dr., Sandy.

The Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Canyons District, organizes the tourney every year to pay for innovative classroom activities; support the District’s initiatives in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics; and provide scholarship opportunities to deserving and low-income students. 

Because of generous tournament participation in the past, the Canyons Education Foundation has been able to raise more than $300,000 that is given to teachers in the form of Innovation Grants. Teachers are encouraged each year to apply for the grants so they can implement creative and evidence-based approaches to education in their classrooms. Last year alone, the Foundation gave $90,000 to CSD teachers as part of the Innovation Grant program.  

“For six years, the community has really stepped up on the green to help us raise funds for our students and teachers,” said Scott Harper, Development Officer for the Canyons Education Foundation.  “So many students in our District have benefited from the generosity of our business and community partners who participate in the golf tournament.  Not only is it a good cause but it’s a lot of fun, too.” 

The two major sponsors of this year’s event are VLCM and Hogan Construction. Other sponsorship levels, including the lunch sponsor and hole sponsors, are available. Questions?  Call the Foundation at 801-826-5171.
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