The Alta Hawks charged into baseball season this year with a new leader who is a familiar face on the field.

Daron Connelly, who had overseen Corner Canyon High baseball since the school’s opening in 2013, has taken his formidable talents and experience to the Chargers’ fierce intra-district opponents. Coach Connelly assumed the head coach duties at the outset of the season. 

For his part, Connelly shrugs off questions about his allegiances in the thriving rivalry between Alta and Corner Canyon. While he dons black and silver jerseys these days, Connelly speaks highly of the boys of summer in blue and silver.  

While the games are fiercely contested, there’s a kinship among the players on both sides, he said. Players at both schools began their baseball careers on the same Little League diamonds, he says. They often hang out on weekend, Snap each other on social media —  and sometimes square off at the plate.

Good-natured and competitive rivalries, he says, serve to make both teams better.

Connelly, who has earned a Masters of Business Administration and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching and Learning, brings a wealth of experience to the Alta ball club. 

The former player in the San Francisco Giants organization also has been a coach at high schools, junior highs and special schools in Arizona. His teams embrace a work-hard, play-hard, no-nonsense, grind-it-out, get-after-it style of play. He builds players from the inside out. 

“We will work together as a team,” the coach says. “If we do things right, the positive results will come,”

At CCHS, the school’s inaugural team, with 26 freshmen or sophomores, finished 5-20. By the third year, the team advanced to the state playoffs and fought to the third-place spot at the state tournament. Last year, the Chargers landed in fifth-place in the Utah High School Activities Association’s tourney.

Connelly has his sights set on replicating that level of success at Alta.

He also expects his cast of Hawks to excel academically, and he emphasizes good citizenship in the hallways, too. 

“The baseball field is an extension of the classroom,” he says.  “If the (players) are going to be high-profile (as student athletes), then we have to do it right.”

“We will talk about the process. We’ll do everything with our heads held high,” Connelly said.  “I want us to be talked about as the team that will require you to bring your A-game; the team to beat.”
From an educator who is thought of as a modern-day Mary Poppins to another who dresses up like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle to entertain his charges, Canyons’ teachers are famous for finding ways to reach their students. They establish safe places, demonstrate the true meaning of “community,” lead memorization of the ABCs, and inspire all students to succeed.

At Tuesday’s Canyons Board of Education meeting, top teachers from every school were recognized for their invaluable contributions to making Canyons a district of distinction.

Of the 46 teachers honored Tuesday, one educator, Corner Canyon High’s Amber Rogers, was selected as the 2018 Canyons District Teacher of the Year. Midvale Middle’s Lena Wood was chosen as the first runner-up, and Alta View Elementary’s Jamie Richardson was chosen as second runner-up. Rogers will represent Canyons in the state search for Utah’s Teacher of the Year.   

In today’s world, teenagers might sometimes feel detached and disinterested in the subject of history, but not in Rogers’ classroom. As the Social Studies Department Chair at Corner Canyon, Rogers makes history sparkle, even for students who struggle the most. She was nominated by parents, peers and her students, who used the words, “energetic, creative, passionate, dedicated, thorough, and fun” to describe her.

“She is truly the embodiment of what it means to be a professional educator,” Corner Canyon Principal Darrell Jensen said. “If we can clone Ms. Rogers in the educational industry, we would be very successful in everything we set out to do.”

Rogers credits her high school Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher for steering her toward a teaching career. In that class, she learned the power of telling stories and the importance of figuring out how to grip students as they learn about past events. She brings that knowledge into her classroom as she creates simulations to make history and government topics tangible, real and comprehensible. Through her engaging instruction, Rogers inspires her students to become invested in their education as she impacts their lives. 

“Students either hate their teachers or they love them,” Rogers says. “There is no middle ground. You either hate them because they’re too hard, or they love them, and then they say, ‘I remember how important teachers are. I remember what they taught me.’ So, it’s all about leaving that impression for those students.”

All of Canyons’ Teachers of the Year received recognition from their schools, gift baskets with donations from Canyons’ sponsors, and a crystal award from Canyons’ Board of Education. In addition, as Canyons’ top Teacher of the Year, Rogers has received a $1,000 cash prize from the Canyons Education Foundation. Lena Wood received a $750 cash prize from the Foundation, and Jamie Richardson received $500. All of the nominees are invited to attend a Real Salt Lake game on Saturday, June 2, in celebration of their accomplishments, as the Teachers of the Year will be recognized during half-time.

“Teachers matter,” said Canyons Board of Education President Sherril H. Taylor. “They mentor and motivate, inspire and innovate. We value our teachers, we honor our teachers.”

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  • Canyons District is bracing for the possible emotional impacts of the second season of the teen drama “13 Reasons Why.”  

    The first season of “13 Reasons Why,” released last spring, caused some concern among CSD educators and teachers, who were caught by surprise at the uptick in students asking for counseling help after the teens binge-watched the Netflix series that traded heavily in such mature themes as sexual assault, drug use, and suicide.

    To the end of being prepared for the show’s launch date, school counselors and school psychologists in Canyons District have been sent guidance from the National Association for School Psychologists. Tips for parents and students also are included in the information from the national organization. 

    While the producers of the popular show have been tight-lipped about the show's release date, the District is striving “to get out in front of it rather than two weeks late,” said Tori Gillett, Canyons’ School Counseling Program Specialist. 

    “We definitely want to encourage parents to be aware of the show and its mature themes,” Gillett said, adding that the inaugural season of the show, which is produced by pop star Selena Gomez and based on a young-adult novel of the same name, “evoked a lot of emotions, especially in the students who are most vulnerable.”

    While it’s important to have conversations about the issues faced by the teenaged characters in the much-Tweeted-about episodes, Gillett said, it’s equally vital to have “appropriate safeguards” in place to support young viewers who struggle with the frank topics of the show. The second season is not expected to be any less stark, with previews showing a possible school shooting. 

    To be sure, parents can decide what’s best for their own families, but mental-health professionals, including those in CSD’s student-support programs, caution against binge-watching, especially if the students are watching the show alone.

    The District wants students to know there are many caring adults in their lives who want to help.  “We should have open dialogues,” Gillett said. “We want students to know there are people out there who care about them and are willing to listen.”  

    Where can students or parents go if they need extra supports? School counseling centers can help both students and parents who are looking for information about this or any other issue that is prompting challenging emotions. Of course, if a student needs help immediately, they can turn to the SafeUT mobile app for all-day and all-night access to licensed clinicians from the University of Utah. 

    Guide for Families
    • Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series “13 Reasons Why." While we don’t recommend that students be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
    • Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
    • Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
    • Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
    • Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.
    Source: National Association for School Psychologists
    The tug and pull of life’s major turning points — such as retiring from a long, productive career — can feel a bit like a mental time machine. At one moment, we find ourselves filled with nostalgia. In the next, we’re plotting vacations, pondering new hobbies, and planning long stretches of unstructured time.

    “Today is history,” as the saying goes, “and tomorrow’s a mystery,” which is why Canyons District sets aside an evening each year to bid a fond a farewell to retiring colleagues. More than 70 employees are departing Canyons this year, and we’re breaking out the “photographs and still frames” to reflect upon and celebrate their immeasurable contributions. Some have devoted 40 years or more to Utah’s public school system, and many have worked for Canyons since the District’s inception in 2009. All of them have contributed to our success. Screen_Shot_2018-04-18_at_10.40.18_AM.png

    This year’s Retirement Banquet will be held on Tuesday, May 29 at The Gathering Place at Gardner Village. There will be a reception at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and a program at 6:30 p.m.

    In addition, individual schools and departments will be hosting Open Houses to honor the careers of Canyons’ talented teachers, ace administrators and exceptional education support professionals (see list below). If you have an Open House to add to the list, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    • An Open House for Purchasing Administrative Assistant Susan L. Taylor will be on Friday, May 4, 2-4:30 p.m. in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at CAB-East, 9361 S. 300 East in Sandy.
    • An Open House for Pam Clayson will be on Friday, May 11, 4-5:30 p.m. at Sprucewood Elementary.
    • An Open House for departing Jordan High teachers Bonnie Berrett, Rachel Hardy, Todd Landeen will be on Wednesday, May 16, 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Jordan High’s Media Center.
    • An Open House for Allyson Hanks will be on Wednesday, May 16, from 2:30-4:00 p.m. at Corner Canyon High School in the Media Center.
    • An Open House for Sue Ranglack will be on Thursday, May 17 from 3:15-4:30 p.m. at Indian Hills Middle.
    • An Open House for Ellen Stone and Paul Burns-McEvoy will be on Friday, May 18 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Crescent Elementary.
    • An Open House for April Humphries and Sheila McDonald Montierth will be on Friday, May 18 from 2-4 p.m. at Silver Mesa Elementary.
    • An Open House for Leslie Covington-Taft and Marde Brunson will be on Wednesday, May 23, in Hillcrest High's Faculty Lounge, 2:30-4 p.m.
    • An Open House for Trudy Cloward, Debi Hortin, and Rebecca Washburn will be on Thursday, May 24, from 3-4:30 in the library at Mt. Jordan Middle School.
    • An Open House for Kristy Jones will be on Friday, May 25 from 3-5 p.m. in the Media Center at Ridgecrest Elementary.
    • An Open House for Leslie DeMille will be on Wednesday, May 30, 2:30-4 p.m. in the CTEC Assessment Center. 
    • An Open House for Karen Medlin will be on Friday, June 1, 2-5 p.m. in Alta View Elementary's gymnasium.
    • An Open House for Dave Nuzeman and Mickey Vincent will be on Friday June 1, 2:30-4 p.m. at Draper Elementary.
    In a few weeks, students throughout Utah will begin taking SAGE tests, those end-of-year exams that show how much students have learned over the course of the year. Why do schools test? What do the results mean, and why should students and parents care?

    Answers to these questions and more can be found on a new Canyons District resources page. Anyone curious about the how’s and why’s of testing is encouraged to browse the site, which contains teacher testimonials, infographics, and step-by-step instructions for obtaining and interpreting your child’s test results.

    “Testing has always been integral to education. Assessments inform instruction by helping teachers know if educational goals are being met,” explains CSD Research and Assessment Director Hal Sanderson. “They’re an indicator of what’s working in the classroom and what can be done differently. Testing also gives parents a measure of their child’s learning, which along with grades and other measures helps answer the question: Is my child on target and doing well compared to his or her peers?”   

    But did you also know that a student’s performance on SAGE in middle school can predict how well he or she will do on the ACT college entrance exam in high school? SAGE, in other words, gives middle schoolers a glimpse at how they’ll do on a high-stakes test in a low-stakes environment when they still have time to go back and re-learn foundational concepts.

    Another surprising fact: Very little of the school year is devoted to test-taking. A recent internal audit revealed that Canyons District students spend just 1.2 percent to 2.7 percent of instruction time taking state and district assessments. By comparison, at one sampled Canyons District elementary school, recess accounted for 4.5 percent of the year, 12 percent was devoted to lunch and math instruction occupied 27.3 percent of the year.



    This year, the District has made adjustments to further reduce the testing burden on students. The writing exam will take half as long, which along with other changes, should enable us to complete the testing much more quickly, Sanderson says.

    The computer adaptive assessments of today have, however, evolved beyond the “bubble” exams of your childhood. One helpful test-taking tip for parents to keep in mind is to remind children that if the test questions seem hard, that means they’re doing well. Just like the ACT college entrance exam, the SAGE test is computer adaptive, which means it adapts to the examinee’s abilities by proposing harder questions when a student gets something correct, and easier questions when the student gives a wrong answer.

    As Mount Jordan Middle teacher Kory Crockett explains: “We all know that tests can be stressful. Tests can be hard. But it’s really these hard things in life that help us grow the most. And especially with these end-of-the year tests, they don’t just tell us how much we’ve grown, they tell us how much we’ve grown as a school.”

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