The 2019 Apex Awards, the highest awards given by the Canyons Board of Education and Administration, were presented to 17 educators, administrators, community supporters, leaders, and public education advocates on Tuesday, Sept, 10, 2019.  

The honorees, accompanied by friends and family, as well as District officials, mayors, state legislators, and other dignitaries, were feted an a by-invitation-only banquet and ceremony at Corner Canyon High, one of the first new-building projects undertaken by Canyons after the public approved a $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond in 2010 to address building needs.   

The four winners of the 2019 Legacy Award, which is CSD’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award, were not only instrumental in the development of the District’s ambitious construction schedule, including the construction of CCHS, but also the establishment of CSD’s current vision, mission and academic and financial plans and frameworks. 

As they were announced as the Legacy Award winners, the nearly 400 attendees of the ceremony gave a standing ovation to Tracy Scott Cowdell, Sherril H. Taylor, Kim Murphy Horiuchi and Ellen Wallace.

The four were serving as members of the then-Jordan School District's Board of Education when the people in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta voted to create the first new school district to be created in Utah in nearly a century. 

As a result, Cowdell, Taylor, Horiuchi and Wallace served in their duly elected posts on the Jordan Board of Education while also laying the groundwork for the operations and mission of the school district that would eventually come to be known as Canyons, which has quickly become one of the largest and most innovative school districts in Utah.

Faced with a looming July 1, 2009 launch date, the group did double-duty and worked tirelessly, both individually and in concert with municipal leaders and community partners, to build up Canyons from an simple idea to full realization. With professionalism, courage and smarts, and against political challenges, they set the course and established a vision for CSD. Simply put, they made history. Canyons would not exist — or at the least be so successful in so many ways — if it weren’t for their commitment to building a rock-strong foundation for the District.

Cowdell and Taylor also served as the Board’s first-ever Board of Education President and Vice President. Taylor also served as CSD’s second Board President. While Cowdell and Taylor led the Board, CSD rebuilt or started construction or renovation work on 16 schools.

At the 10th annual event, which also served as the District’s Decade of Distinction Gala, Canyons Board of Education President Nancy Tingey congratulated the all the winners for their contributions to Canyons, both while in its infancy and today.  The 2019 Teacher of the Year from all CSD schools also were recognized for their contributions to the success of CSD. 

“Eleven years ago, we started this historic journey of working together to build a world-class school district for our community,”  Tingey said. “This year’s winners of the Apex Awards certainly have helped Canyons District on our journey, and we are grateful they are part of the Canyons District family. Their commitment to the success of our schools, whether from the very beginning of Canyons District or in recent years, is very much appreciated and has made a difference.” 

She also recognized those who attended the events held in 2009 to celebrate the start of Canyons District, including banquets, sign-changing parties and bus parades.  

“Many of you here tonight were instrumental in the creation of Canyons District, and celebrated with us at our Kick Off Banquet the night before we officially became the 41st school district in Utah on July 1, 2009," she said. “This celebration tonight, a decade later, is a continuation of the traditions of community engagement that were established at the founding of the District and is our way of extending our heartfelt appreciation for that tireless dedication.”

Other 2019 Apex Award winners include: 

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  • Set — and make — goals! 

    That’s the message Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC players sent on Monday, Aug. 19 when they visited elementary and middle schools to welcome students back to school after a long summer break.  

    For three years, the professional soccer players who take to the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium, located in Canyons District boundaries, have criss-crossed Canyons on the first day of school, giving high-fives and fist-bumps to students as they make their way into school for the first day of the school year. 

    The visits also served as invitations to come see the players at upcoming games. The early fall games usually draw teachers, school staff, students and parents who are both celebrating the start of the school year and stretching summer fun into fall.  And attending students can cheer for the players they met on the first day of school. 

    Thanks to the generosity of the Real Salt Lake organization, Canyons families, including employees, can attend Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals FC and Real Monarchs games at discounted prices. To take advantage of this back-to-school promotion, go to www.rsl.com/promo, enter the promo code, “CSD,” and select the game you’d like to attend.
    • Real Salt Lake — Buy one, get one free for the Wednesday, Sept. 11. game vs. the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. (Please note that the tickets will show up under the promo code as half-priced). 
    • Utah Royals FC — One free ticket per student, with each additional ticket costing $10 for the Friday, Sept. 6 game vs. the Portland Thorns at 7:30 p.m.
    • Real Monarchs — One free ticket, with each additional ticket costing $8 for the Friday, Aug. 30 game vs. OKC Energy at 8 p.m.
    The robust cheers heard throughout the Salt Lake Valley on Monday, Aug. 19 were likely from the back-to-school celebrations held at Canyons District schools.   

    Per an 11-year tradition, principals rolled out red carpets to welcome students to the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers, principals, and parents, as well as Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe and members of the Canyons Board of Education, lined up to snap photos, cheer and give high-fives and fist bumps to the students headed into school for the first time of the school year.

    Adding to the festivities were players from Real Salt Lake and Royals FC, the professional soccer players who compete at Rio Tinto Stadium, located within the Canyons District boundaries.  The players, who encouraged all the students to set their sights on reaching their goals, were accompanied by Leo the Lion, who attracted a crowd wherever he went.  

    Elementary and middle school students also received a free pencil for their backpacks.  Another tool Canyons District is providing students is “social-emotional” training to make good decision, manage emotions and solve problems. After all, children can’t learn at high levels if they feel insecure, anxious, stressed or scared. 

    BJ Weller, Canyons’ Responsive Services Director, appeared on ABC4 and KUTV on the first day of school to talk about how the District is helping children develop the confidence and character traits needed for success in life and school. This includes things like teaching students who to set and achieve goals, make and keep friends, and make responsible decisions.   

    “We’re still teaching math, science, reading and writing … but we’re now cognizant of how, say the simple act of reading, can teach children empathy by exposing them to different perspectives or persisting with a math problem can teach perseverance,” he says.  “As a parent, you may hear your teacher refer to this as social-emotional learning. But it’s really best described as life skills, which, research suggests can significantly increase a student’s chances of graduating from high school and college.”

    In Canyons District, the Board of Education has invested in the hiring and training of psychologists, social workers and counselors for every school. These professionals are there as a resource for families and to help maintain environments where children feel connected and safe to raise their hands, try hard things, and reach out to new friends. Also, starting this fall, and over the next few years, Canyons schools will be rolling out a new, social-emotional learning curriculum to help teachers and staff speak the same language when talking about things like problem-solving, focusing in class, and working as teams.

    “Again, much of this is just part of everyday learning. For example, while reading a book in kindergarten about a boy who loses his dog, the teacher might prompt students to talk about how the boy feels or discuss steps he might take to begin searching for his pet. A failed science experiment can serve as an important lesson about it’s OK when things don’t work as planned, it’s part of the learning process. It’s kind of a new way of thinking about book smarts.”

    Parents can support, Weller says, by modeling a positive attitude about education and showing interest in their child’s classes, teachers and friends.
    For now, summer is in full swing, with barbeques, popsicles, and sunny afternoons by the pool. Before we know it, however, Canyons District schools will hum with a back-to-school buzz — and yellow school buses will be a familiar sight in neighborhoods.

    Parents are encouraged to be prepared for the Monday, Aug. 19 first day of school for first- through 12th-grade students and the Wednesday, Aug. 22 start-day for kindergarten and preschool students by taking a minute to review 2019-2020 transportation plans for students who attend Canyons schools in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the towns of Alta and Brighton.  

    Updated information about pick-up and drop-off locations can be easily accessed on the Canyons District website. Click here for the e-tool the public can use to find out more about eligibility and the established stops for Canyons buses. 

    In addition, parents are urged to note a Utah law governing transportation funding that may affect some Canyons District middle school students. 

    Canyons receives funding for busing provided to students enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade who live at least 1 ½ miles from school and students enrolled in grades seven through 12 who live at least 2 miles from school.

    This means that some middle school students who qualified for busing last year may not qualify again this year because they have advanced to the seventh-grade and must live more than 2 miles away from the school to receive the services.

    Canyons has created a “space-available” permit program to help many students who no longer qualify for busing services. Non-qualifying students may submit a request for transportation services so they can ride with their qualifying siblings or neighbors — if there is space on the bus.  The space-available permits are granted on a first-come, first-served, space-available basis. 

    The permit-request forms will be made available to the public at 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 5.  The forms can be accessed at all Canyons District schools and must be submitted at the school where your child attends.  

    During the first few weeks of the school year, transportation services will not be provided to secondary students who live within a 2-mile radius of their schools, even if they have submitted a space-available permit request.  The CSD administration realizes this may be an inconvenience for some families, but the CSD Transportation Department needs the time to verify the numbers of students who, according to state law, are guaranteed a spot on the bus. 

    Families of students who are granted a space-available permit will be notified by Sept. 16. 

    Questions?  Please call Canyons District at 801-826-5000 or send an e-mail message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., A representative will be prepared to help you with your questions.
    As one of the first employees of Canyons School District, Susan Edwards has had a front-row seat for many of the District’s defining moments.

    Even before the vote on Nov. 6, 2007, Edwards was deeply involved in community discussions that led to the creation of the first school district in Utah in 100 years. From building a vital bridge of connections throughout the community to choosing the District’s first computers, Edwards has played a key role in Canyons’ history — and, after a decade of devoting day and night to its success — Canyons has played a key role in hers.

    “It feels like Canyons’ history is part of my family’s history,” Edwards said recently as she reflected on the District’s upcoming anniversary. “My family sees what you can accomplish, they see the relationships and the strength it takes just to battle through. They’ve learned a lot about community service, and how important education is to me.”

    Click here to see Edwards talk with ABC4 anchor Brian Carlson about Canyons District's first 10 years.

    Since community was essential to Canyons’ creation, community is at the heart of Canyons’ 10-year anniversary celebration on July 1. Nearly 700 people attended a free community party from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sandy Amphitheater splash pad, 1245 E. 9400 South.  At the event, the District served more than 600 hot dogs, bags of chips, and bottles of water. Attendees also sang “Happy Birthday” and cheered as the Board of Education cut birthday cakes decorated with the District’s logo.

    Partygoers included students and their parents, current and former employees and dignitaries, including leaders of Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale and Sandy cities. Families stayed cool with water from the splash pad while picnicking on the lush grass of the park.  A live DJ turned up the volume to popular tunes. 

    Canyons would not exist without the support of the community and family members throughout the District. For Edwards, the support of her family was essential in undertaking her role to help Canyons thrive. As one of the first CSD employees, Edwards wore many hats to help Canyons get off of the ground. She helped forge relationships between city leaders and district leaders, she acted as a business manager, IT director and human resources aide until those positions were filled by the experts in their fields.   

    When Canyons’ first computers were to be delivered to the District, it was Edwards who waited at the building every day over Christmas break, only to discover they were marooned at the airport, because they believed all school districts would be closed, unaware Canyons was currently in an office building. Whatever the task, Edwards, now the District’s Public Engagement Coordinator, is ready to step in and help make it happen. 

    “In many regards, Susan is the go-to person in Canyons District,” said Canyons School District President Nancy Tingey. “Her dedication to the District is unparalleled. Through her connectedness to the community, she is both an ambassador for the District, as well as a valuable link to bring community matters to the attention of the District.” 

    Over the course of a decade, for every meeting and service opportunity, Edwards was there, but she wasn’t alone. Her four children were all in school at the time, and as they supported their mother, attending school events and more, they experienced their own firsts in Canyons history. Her son was a graduate in Canyons’ first commencement ceremony in 2010, he also was a flag bearer at Canyons’ first opening ceremony. A daughter was part of the first class of seniors to graduate from Corner Canyon, Canyons’ first brand-new high school. Another daughter was part of the first class to graduate after spending all four years at Corner Canyon. They all watched as the first middle school was built in Draper, and learned about their mother’s grit as they saw her dedicate time and energy to the District even after they all entered college.

    Before Canyons was created, Edwards was involved in her children’s school community as a member of the school community council and PTA president. After Canyons’ creation, Edwards continues to devote her time and energy to supporting the District and its students, even if her own kids have moved on. 

     “I still want Canyons to be the best it can be,” Edwards said. “We’ve got 34,000 other kids. Our staff, our teachers, our children, our communities, they all rely on Canyons doing a good job. It’s not really a job we get to fail at. If we do, we’re failing a classroom of kids, and their whole education is impacted. We don’t get to fail because we are producing the people who will run our world for the next many years.”

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