Misty Suarez doesn’t mince words. She believes there is no better place to teach special education than Utah’s Canyons School District (CSD).

“We have it all: Competitive salaries, coaching supports, professional development, and a focus on innovation coupled with the resources to help make it happen,” says Canyons District’s Special Education Director. “And there are as few places as safe, affordable and beautiful as the Wasatch Front to live, work, and raise a family. It’s the full package.”

CSD also has plenty of special ed job openings — 16 full-time positions and 12 part-time paraeducator positions — and as an added incentive to fill them, a new stipend for qualified special education teachers. “Like most states, we’re grappling with a teacher shortage that is especially acute in special education, math and science. The greatest need we have is in our elementary schools,” Suarez says. “The $4,100 stipend recently approved by state lawmakers will give us a real recruiting edge.”

Teaching is a demanding job, even for the most skilled educators, and particularly for those who work in special education. Special education teachers need to be adept at planning, writing goals, developing interventions, and meeting timelines.

But Canyons District’s Special Education Teacher Specialist Stacey Nofsinger says the rewards of the job far outweigh the demands. “There is nothing better than seeing your student finally grasp a concept that maybe you were working on for six weeks or six months. …to finally see them say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what you meant?’ It’s very exciting to be part of that educational journey for kids.”

For her, the job is more of a calling than a career, and now she delights in supporting others who have chosen the same path. The New York native chose Utah’s Canyons School District because of the District’s investment in teacher supports, such as the coaching she now provides.

Now, to further sweeten the deal, the Utah Legislature has approved a $4,100 yearly stipend for special education teachers with a bachelor’s or advanced degree in special education. This comes on top of a double-digit percentage increase in teacher pay approved last year by Canyons District’s Board of Education. 

“As a teacher, we still need to keep learning for our students and to implement our own best practices. And Canyons District’s philosophy in making sure their teachers are modeling that and continuing their own education and getting that professional development on a regular basis really spoke to my own philosophies in education,” Nofsinger says. For more information about the stipend click here.

Find out what Canyons District has to offer you at this stage in your career: canyonsdistrict.org/hr
Anyone looking for information about autism and Aspergers Syndrome is welcome to attend a series of classes offered by the Office of Special Education at Canyons District.

The classes, which are taught by Melisa Geneaux, a consultant and trainer who focuses on autism spectrum disorders, will cover behavior strategies for home and school, executive functioning strategies and how to cope with anxiety and depression. Geneaux works with school districts across the country, providing support for parents and teachers looking for help with behavior and classroom management, social skills instruction and special education legal compliance. Supplemental materials and resources will be distributed at each class.

The classes, which are free and open to the public, will take place on March 22 and April 13 from 4:15-7 p.m. at the Canyons Administration Building East, 9361 S. 300 East. To register, contact Shela Barker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, phone number and the dates you wish to attend with the words “Focus on Autism” written in the subject line.

 Teachers may register online through ontrack using course #61843 at https://usoe.truenorthlogic.com

Canyons District and the Utah Parent Center are holding a free workshop about Section 504, the federal law that provides equal access and opportunities to individuals with disabilities.

The 6:30-8:30 p.m. event on Tuesday, Nov. 10 will be held at the Canyons Technical Education Center, 825 E. 9085 South.

Attendees are encouraged to pre-register online at http://conta.cc/1KROr7D or by calling 801-708-1841 or 801-272-1051.
Students at Jordan Valley School are raising their voices — and their swords — in a musical production of "Mulan," the tale of a young girl who disguises herself to fight in a battle and becomes a heroine in the process.

Teachers and students at Jordan Valley, Canyons District’s school for students with severe disabilities, are performing their annual spring musical at 10:30 a.m. April 1-3.  The parts are adapted to the abilities of the students, and students perform with the help of many aides and teachers. 

The Wednesday, April 1 performance is for staff and students. The Thursday, April 2 and Friday, April 3 shows are for the public.  Please arrive early to get a seat.  If tradition holds, all seats will be taken for every performance.

The show will be staged in the auditorium of the school, 7501 S. 1000 East.

In previous years, Jordan Valley students have shined in such productions as "Peter Pan," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid," and "High School Musical."
A recent shopping trip for Jordan Valley School's Transition Academy served as a step forward in the students' efforts to become productive participants in the community. The shopping excursion, sponsored by America First Credit Union, not only resulted in new footwear, but also assisted the students as they put into practice independent-living and financial-literacy skills.

Teacher Carrie Taylor said the 18- to 22-year-old students spend their days learning to transition to the next stage of their lives. To aid in that process, from Monday to Friday, the students, accompanied by teachers and aides, leave the well-known hallways of Jordan Valley, CSD’s school for students with severe disabilities, to go on planned adventures to various venues. Using public transportation, they make trips to libraries, museums, and grocery stores. They also work weekly in the Canyons Technical Education Center's greenhouse.

One the challenges has been that many of the CTA students didn’t have proper footwear for inclement-weather days, Taylor said. Either the students suffered cold feet during the activity, she said, or their shoes remained soggy after they returned to the school. The footwear problem was solved, though, when America First, one of Canyons District’s community partners, stepped up to sponsor a shopping trip.

“The weather is so unpredictable — you just never know what we’re going to run into,” Taylor said. “To have good shoes that we can keep at the school is going to be absolutely fantastic. This has been so exciting for the students.”

Robin Collett, CSD’s Director of Special Education called the learning activity, which resulted in hand-picked footwear for the students, “a complete success.”

At Target, students found the shoe department and were able to select for themselves a pair of boots or sturdy shoes. Flashing grins, they combed through the footwear, looking for their sizes and favorite colors. Once all the students had chosen a pair, they made their way to the front of the store to make their purchases.

Most of the CTA students had never before used a credit or debit card, however. With a little help from teachers and aides, each student was able to approach a cashier, present the item they sought to purchase, and complete the shopping transaction with the pre-paid Visa cards provided by AFCU.

“Thanks to America First Credit Union, the students didn’t just get the gift of a new pair of boots,” said Collett. “Through this experience they were given a chance to learn some vital financial literacy and independent-living skills. We can’t thank America First Credit Union enough for helping us to help our students in this way.”
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