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The first day of school in Gretchen Murray’s classroom starts in a very specific place: the floor. That is where she sits in a circle with her students and allows each child to talk about a time when someone hurt their feelings. Each child pounds a nail into a block of wood for every harsh word. Then, as the circle is repeated with positive words and the nails are removed, Murray points out that a hole still remains. “We don’t make holes in our class,” she tells her students. In Murray’s class, integrity, responsibility and commitment are the norm. As a result, her students consistently make significant progress, as 86 percent of the class scored in the 90th percentile of the MCOMP evaluation this winter, compared to 27 percent in the fall. Murray starts each day of her SALTA class with a stirring injunction to make the most of every moment, as her students learn to solve multi-faceted problems, think critically and learn self-mastery. As a “teacher of the mind and of the soul,” as one parent said, Murray has been selected to be Peruvian Park’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Linda Tognoni wrote the book — literally — on teaching, but she’s still looking for ways to improve. She writes grants to receive thousands of dollars to benefit students in her classroom and throughout Park Lane Elementary with iPads, Chromebooks and a Smart Board, she meets with the school’s achievement coach to learn how her instruction could be tweaked to be even better, and communicates frequently with each parent. Tognoni teaches her autism core cluster class the Big 3: Respect, Responsibility and Safety. As Tognoni strives to be the best teacher she can be, she has gained the trust and care of both her students and their parents as they understand she is working hard to do what is best for her students. For these reasons, Park Lane has chosen Tognoni as the 2016  Teacher of the Year.
Kim Moreton is a good example of what it means to go the extra mile. As a teacher of a student with organizational challenges, poor social skills and sensitivity to touch, noise, light, smells and taste, Moreton was committed to helping her student thrive. She worked with the students’ other teachers to help them understand his specific needs and provide individualized instruction for him. When the student couldn’t attend school for hospital treatments for six weeks, Moreton visited him at his home twice a week so he could stay on top of what the other students were learning while he was away. She thoroughly and strategically prepares to meet the needs of her students, while creating a welcoming and engaging environment where her students feel safe to learn. As her students learn, they explain the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of their education as they progress to new levels. For all of these reasons, Moreton has been selected as Oakdale Elementary’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
When it came time to nominate a Teacher of the Year at Oak Hollow Elementary this year, colleagues, parents and students all clambered for the opportunity to voice their support of Thomas McKinney. The 3rd-grade teacher is known as an inspiring, outstanding leader with strong communication skills and a connection to all of his students. McKinney uses his ability to give explicit instructions to help his students reach their potential and become proficient in language arts. A robust 96 percent of his class reached proficiency on the math winter benchmark. For all of these reasons, McKinney has been selected as Oak Hollow’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
When Anna Taylor steps in the classroom, there’s no time to waste. She’s ready to teach her students math and science with an efficiency that makes her classroom run like a well-oiled machine. At all times, Taylor’s students are on task and actively engaged, enjoying their teacher’s ready sense of humor and seeing the fruits of their own hard work. Taylor’s students love her lessons almost as much as they love seeing her at after-school events, like the PTA’s family skate night. As an exemplary master teacher, Taylor expects her students to succeed — despite the challenging socioeconomic circumstances many of them face — and they do, earning scores within 3 percent of third-grade students in the SALTA program. For all of these reasons, Taylor has been selected as Midvalley’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Midvale Elementary teacher Nicole Faddis is known for her commitment and dedication to the Midvale community. She regularly goes the extra mile to serve her fifth-graders, paying close attention to not just the whole class, but the individuals she sees in her room every day. She sets goals with each student, and she graphs data for each student. She reviews progress with each student. And she engages each student in the learning process and develops a relationship with each student. As a member of the Building Leadership Team, Faddis is also actively engaged in developing and implementing school improvement plans and contributing to the whole school’s progress. For all of her efforts, Faddis has been selected to be Midvale Elementary’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Susan Colledge’s classroom is a dream come true. It is the kind of magical place where students feel safe and encouraged to pursue their goals and no students are referred to the office for behavior issues in the entire year. In fact, no other teachers have needed to refer Colledge’s students to the office for any reason, either, as Colledge relies on positivity and organization to deter poor behavior. She helps her students set goals to progress, and she gives plenty of positive feedback. For all of these reasons, Colledge has been chosen as Lone Peak Elementary’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
When one of Tiffany Smith’s students couldn’t even enter her classroom without having a meltdown, Smith didn’t panic. She didn’t quit, and she didn’t complain. She learned. She came to understand the noises and stimulation that triggered the outbursts and she responded with patience and compassion. With time and tolerance, the student grew to feel more secure and comfortable until now, during the same school year, the student runs into Smith’s room, plops on the reading rug in the middle of the floor and grins from ear to ear. With that love and dedication, Smith has influenced many of her students and Granite Elementary’s staff. She brings books to life using various voices to match the characters in the story, she strives to help her students be “life-ready” by living each day to the fullest, and she works to push her entire classroom toward college-and career-readiness. For all of these accomplishments, Smith has been chosen as Granite Elementary’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Edgemont Elementary’s Carolyn Criddle is no ordinary teacher, she is, her colleagues say, “a rare gem.” Criddle works as an accommodated core cluster special education teacher who uses weekly assessments to determine her students’ knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. She recognizes essential factors to student success and, after setting high expectations, providing high quality instruction and creating a positive learning environment, she sends home notes with her students — on a daily basis. Criddle helps her students progress toward being on the same grade level as their peers and she inspires and encourages her fellow teachers to be their best. For all of these reasons, Criddle is Edgemont Elementary’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
If you’re trying to find Tammy Goodwater in her classroom, start by looking down. That’s where East Sandy’s 2016 Teacher of the Year is usually seated — on the floor, with her students, interacting and building skills. It’s not surprising that this kindergarten teacher is known as a dedicated, structured, organized, detailed and enthusiastic educator who goes above and beyond expectations. Goodwater uses web cameras from around the world to teach new perspectives, distributes daily prizes to keep students motivated and publishes weekly newsletters to keep parents informed. Her reward systems make each student feel special, confident and accomplished, helping them excel as they begin their first year of school. As she involves parents with the curriculum — even providing interactive home activities that correlate with her lesson plans — Goodwater has seen her students succeed. As one parent said, with Goldwater as a teacher, “Kids can’t wait to go to school each day to be in her classroom.”