Following a three-month public comment period culminating with Tuesday’s Truth-in-Taxation hearing, the Canyons District Board of Education made official its previously proposed plan to give all CSD teachers a $7,665 salary increase. Representing a double-digit increase for every teacher, this puts the starting annual teacher pay in Canyons District at $50,000. The Board unanimously voted to increase the tax rate by 0.000606 to fund the historic pay bump to licensed personnel.

“We consider every dollar received a sacred trust,” said Board President Nancy Tingey who thanked members of the public for taking time to provide input on the salary proposal in person, by email and during phone conversations. “The community benefits when you have a strong and vibrant public education system. …This will bring returns now and for many years to come.”

The new salary schedule was announced on April 23 when a tentative contract agreement was made with the Canyons Education Association (CEA), which annually negotiates the salary and benefits package for CSD educators. On May 6, the Board officially approved the contract, and the CEA announced that members had ratified it. The negotiated salary increase also was discussed in public when the District on May 30 released its proposed budget for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year. A public hearing for the proposed budget, which included a tax rate of 0.007507, was held on June 18, giving patrons an opportunity to ask questions and provide input. At tonight’s Truth-in-Taxation meeting, held in the Board Chambers at the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S 300 East, 36 patrons, including teachers, addressed the Board.

“Research has shown that the most significant impact on a student’s education (that you can control) is the teacher,” said CEA President Erika Bradshaw in addressing the Board on Tuesday. “As you know, we are facing a nationwide teacher shortage that is severely impacting Utah. The tax increase will greatly help CSD in offering competitive salary and benefits, encouraging teachers to choose CSD for their employer. We cannot provide the best education to our most vulnerable population, our students, if we do not have the best educators in their classrooms.”

Of the $19.6 million required for this salary increase, $13.750 million will come from funds generated by the property tax increase. The remainder will come from attrition, cost-cutting, and a legislatively approved 4 percent increase in per-pupil spending. All revenue generated through the tax increase will only be used for teachers’ salaries.

This is the first time in Canyons’ 10-year history that the District has sought to recoup inflation through an adjustment in the certified tax rate. The adjustment of the tax rate will result in a $140 per year, or $12 monthly, increase on a $421,000 home, the average price of a home in CSD.

Tuesday’s vote to fund the compensation package signals the end of salary negotiations for the 2019-2020 school year. If the vote had not passed, the District and CEA would have continued negotiations. Licensed personnel will see the pay raise reflected in their first paycheck for the new contract year. 
Zeke Michel found his calling long before he could verbalize it as a career goal while working as a peer tutor mentoring fellow Hillcrest High students with intellectual disabilities.

That nascent interest steered him to seek a job as an after-school custodian at Jordan Valley, Canyons District’s school for students with severe disabilities. In 2015, when an opening presented itself, he applied for a position as a para-educator at the school, which blossomed into a full-time teaching job. Four years later, he was named Jordan Valley’s Teacher of the Year.

“I just fell in love with the kids at Jordan Valley,” Michel says. “Call it fate, or whatever. But I feel pretty lucky to have found my path, a paying profession pursuing my passion at an organization that has been enriching the lives of exceptional students for many years.”

Canyons District needs more Zeke Michels. But in the face of a nationwide teaching shortage, recruiters don’t have the luxury to leave the recruitment process to luck or fate. So, Canyons’ talent scouts have struck an innovative partnership with the University of Utah to introduce peer tutors to the world of special education and encourage them to consider majoring in education in college. Screen Shot 2019 08 01 at 9.01.48 AM

Enrollment in teacher training programs at the nation’s colleges and universities is on the decline, and more teachers are leaving the profession each year than are entering the classroom. Special education teachers are especially in high demand along with para-educators who are hired to assist in their classrooms. In Canyons District alone, there are currently 24 positions open for full- and part-time para-educators.

“We know many peer tutors and para-educators move on to become special education teachers. Why not plant the seeds now to grow that natural pipeline?” says Canyons District recruiter Jo Jolley.

The curriculum for Canyons’ new “Introduction to Special Education” course was designed by and will be taught by U. faculty as an after-school elective at Alta High starting this spring. Students will earn college credit in the course, which is similar to another “Introduction to Education” course that Canyons and the U. co-sponsor at Hillcrest High.

“Our stated mission as a District is to prepare students for college and careers, and we have a population of students who have demonstrated an interest in special education. It really behooves us to provide them with innovative opportunities to explore that,” says Tifny Iacona, Assistant Director of Special Education and Related Services.

For Michel, being a peer tutor was fun and gratifying. But, he says, it was working as a para-professional in the classroom that revealed “how much of an impact I could have in helping students achieve.”

Positive, healthy and caring relationships are at the heart of all learning, and para-educators are at the forefront of that relationship-building. “Para-educators are able to develop strong bonds with students because they work so closely with them. At Jordan Valley, they ride the bus with students or work one-on-one with them or in groups to help them develop life skills,” Michel says. “Sometimes, you’re the first face students encounter at school, and being there to welcome them and celebrate their successes can set the tone for their entire school day or year.”

In special education, the successes may sometimes seem intangible. “Success could mean a student walking down the hall independently or paying attention in class for 20 minutes,” Michel says. “But small successes lead to big successes, and they happen every single day.”

We're Hiring Para-Educators

  • The para-educator position is a great option for stay-at-home moms and dads who have school-age kids, because it’s part-time and the work hours coincide with the time that kids are in school. Canyons has openings in preschool and special education classrooms. If you’re already volunteering at your neighborhood school, this is a good way to contribute while also getting paid.
  • Last year, 130 of CSD’s teachers with a bachelor’s or advanced degree in special education qualified for legislatively-approved $4,100 stipends through the Utah State Board of Education. Additionally, 62 CSD teachers in self-contained classrooms received District-funded stipends of $3,000 for undergoing special training. In all, these teachers benefitted to the tune of about $720,000. And that comes on top of two consecutive years of sizeable teacher pay increases approved by the Canyons Board of Education. Qualified teachers are eligible to receive these stipends every year.
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
Two Canyons District teachers have received prestigious awards from Brigham Young University.

For their academic performance and observed leadership potential, Sally Williams, a health and physical education instructor at Hillcrest High, and Josh Stott, who teaches social studies at Butler Middle, were chosen to receive School Leadership Awards from the David O. McKay School ofScreen_Shot_2017-12-18_at_2.05.06_PM.png Education. The award is given to one student per cohort per year.Screen_Shot_2017-12-18_at_2.05.16_PM.png

When they aren’t in the classroom pushing their students to achieve, Williams and Stott are expanding their own knowledge and working toward masters’ degrees in educational leadership. Their tireless commitment to self-improvement and student success is an inspiration during this season of giving. When asked what drives her, Wliliams says, “I love making personal connections and helping people see and develop their potential.”

Congratulations to both of these talented, lifelong learners.
Since its inception in 2009, Canyons District has been unwavering in its support of innovation in the classroom.

With rapid advances in technology, the sky’s the limit, but it takes an innovative teacher to put technology to effective use, says Canyons Education Foundation Director Laura Barlow. “With their training and boots-on-the-ground perspective, teachers know what works and doesn’t work to help students succeed. The seeds of innovation start with them.”

Such was the impetus behind the Foundation’s Innovation grants, which are awarded each year to fuel teachers’ winning ideas for enhancing classroom instruction. Applications for the 2017-2018 round of grants are being accepted now through 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.

All CSD educators are eligible to apply. Applications can be accessed on the Foundation’s website for grants ranging in size between $1,000 and $10,000. Winners will be announced in November.

Barlow says, the awards will be based on the educational merit of the projects that teachers propose. She encourages teachers to be specific about how their project would improve learning outcomes or the learning environment for students.



Last year, the Foundation competitively awarded $100,000 in grants to 12 teachers. The grants brought 3D printing to Royce Shelley’s calculus class at Corner Canyon High, and have enabled Matty Barth’s students to communicate in Spanish with pen pals from around the world.

Two years ago, generous donors made it possible for a Jordan High mathematics teacher to create an after-school “makers” club where students could build the skills they need to realize their dreams of creating liquid superconductors and sending satellites into space. The club morphed into a yearly class, which, when infused with a second Canyons Foundation Innovation Grant, was able to field the Beetdigger’s first robotics team—now, the reigning regional champs.

“We’ve tried for a long time to start FIRST Robotics team, but we didn’t have the funding,” says the team’s advisor Cameo Lutz. “In past years, some of our brightest students have had to compete for neighboring teams.”

For Jordan to win the 2017 Utah FIRST Regional Robotics competition its inaugural year is almost unprecedented, says Lutz. In just two years, her students went from a rag-tag group of rookie tinkerers to the No. 1 robotics team in the region. They outwitted 48 teams from seven states and Canada, most of whom have years of experience and access to hundreds-of-thousands in funding.

“Jordan High’s victory is a perfect example of how money goes from a donor to the Foundation to the teacher to make a measurable difference for students,” says Barlow.
Page 1 of 2