Anthony Cheng has been making headlines for his academic exploits since 2010, when he took sixth place in the National Geography Bee. The Sandy resident — schooled at Peruvian Park Elementary, Midvale Middle and now Hillcrest High — went on to become the first student in the geography contest’s 25-year history to make it to nationals three times. Since then, he has earned top prizes at regional science fairs and myriad other events.
But even by Cheng’s standards, 2016 has been a banner year. In the past few months, the Hillcrest Husky was named a Coca Cola scholar, General Sterling Scholar of Utah (and math category winner) — and now, to top it all off, a 2016 Presidential Scholar.
Cheng is among 160 high school seniors nationwide, including four in Utah, chosen by the U.S. Department of Education for its most coveted award. “This year’s class of Presidential Scholars continues a more than 50 year trend of honoring students who have shown excellence in their educational, artistic and civic pursuits,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John King in a May 4 press statement.
As prolific as Cheng’s academic accomplishments may be, just as impressive is his focus on community and service. Cheng tutors middle school students and devotes time to studying the environment and climate change.
It’s safe to say that the world better get used to hearing his name. We certainly can’t wait to see what he does next.
Teachers are real life superheroes who mentor, motivate and inspire. They bring magic to the mundane and simplify the complex. They help children reveal their own super powers, slipping notes of encouragement into backpacks and phoning parents to celebrate success. They make a difference in the lives of millions of children, every single day, and for that they deserve our deepest respect and gratitude.
Take a little time this week — May 2-6, #TeacherAppreciationWeek — to thank an educator who has made a profound difference in your life. Finding the right tokens or words of gratitude doesn't have to be difficult, says Stacey Kratz, a PTA board member from the Canyons School District. Often, the gifts that mean the most are the least elaborate, such as a small treat the teacher likes or something on their classroom wish list. "Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies and it seems like dry erase markers and felt tip pens are always in high-demand," Kratz says. As the teacher appreciation chair at Midvale Middle School where a high proportion of students are economically disadvantaged, Kratz makes paper cutouts of stars and then invites students to fill them with messages of gratitude. Some kids spend their entire lunch period filling the stars with personal stories about the difference a teacher has made in their lives, she says. It costs almost nothing, but the sentiments in the hand-written notes are invaluable. As a teacher, knowing you’ve made a difference is the best gift of all.
How else can parents give thanks, besides with gifts? Nothing says “I care” like a helping hand, and schools are almost always in need of volunteers to give spelling tests, score quizzes or prep for hands-on science and art demonstrations, Kratz says. A lot of parents work full time, but there are plenty of tasks that parents can do in the evening at home. The PTA has a program encouraging parents to devote just three hours to classroom volunteering in a school year — an obligation that can easily be met during the lunch hour or early in the morning.
Is it possible to show appreciation year-round, and not just during a single week in the month of May? Sure, says Kratz, and one of the best ways is to be an advocate for teachers and for public schools. Attend your school board meetings, pay attention to education policy debates at the Legislature and speak up. "If you’re a person who can talk from experience about the great things that are happening in Utah’s classrooms, your voice can make a difference," says Kratz. "Just be involved. The more you know about what’s going on in our schools, the more you’re in a position to advocate for them."
Emma Critchlow is proof that it’s never too late to start again.
Once she put her mind to it, nothing could stop this Brighton High senior from earning an Honors Diploma and crossing the commencement stage with her peers — not homelessness, financial constraints, nor even the daunting task of making up a year’s worth of school credits lost due to chronic truancy.
Emma is now poised to study dental hygiene at Weber State University with an eye toward enrolling in dental school and specializing in orthodontics. And she’ll have a little help paying for it with a $2,500 scholarship from the Canyons Education Foundation.
For her smarts, grit and can-do attitude, Emma was awarded the Foundation’s “Rising Star” scholarship Thursday at an annual fundraising gala. Also honored with $1,000 “Bright Star” scholarships were five equally deserving students who have overcome significant obstacles to achieve academically.
These scholarships are made possible with the generous support of Canyons District’s corporate and community partners. They are reserved for students who have been homeless, who are the first high school graduates in their families, or who have had to learn a new language at the same time they learned their multiplication tables. In short, they are for students who have shown they’ve got what it takes to shine, to succeed at college and to reach their career goals, no matter how far off they may seem.
Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking the corresponding agenda items.
Changes to Programming for Students at Midvale’s Homeless Shelter
With passage of SB169, the Midvale overflow shelter of The Road Home will remain open year-round, instead of serving solely as an overflow shelter in winter. As a result, Canyons schools will be able to more seamlessly serve students who reside at the shelter, explained Director of Student Access and Advocacy Karen Sterling. The District is working with the Utah Department of Workforce Services to apply for federal assistance funds to cover the costs of providing summer programming for these children. There are restrictions on how this money can be used, and the Department of Workforce Services hasn’t yet determined how the application process will work. But while the District awaits further information, Sterling’s team is moving ahead with a short- and long-term plan to support these students. During the summer, Canyons will continue its partnership with the Boys and Girls Club to provide summer programming for students at the shelter.
Mill Hollow Summer Camp Discussion
The Board of Education was updated on Mill Hollow, an environmental learning center owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The camp was previously operated by Granite District, which stopped running trips to the camp due to budget constraints. It’s now being operated by the non-profit Team Mill Hollow, which subleases the property through Granite District and is now taking reservations for summer programs said Canyons Business Administrator Leon Wilcox. Canyons will advertise the camp to families as it does for other extra-curricular learning opportunities. The District also will send a memo to schools to advertise job openings at the school for teachers in need of summer employment.
The Board approved the following items on the Consent Agenda: hires and terminations; financial reports; purchasing bids; Granite Elementary easement improvements; Land Trust amendments; and an amendment to the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Inter-Local Agreement. The Board also approved student travel requests, with the exception of a request submitted by Corner Canyon High’s Yearbook staff, which is being sent back to the school for revisions to safeguard student safety. In addition, all Land Trust spending plans carrying two Board member signatures were approved. The rest require further review.
Teacher of the Year Reception and Recognitions
After a short break, the Board reconvened for a special community celebration to recognize Teacher of the Year nominees and announce the overall winner for District Teacher of the Year. Peruvian Park Elementary SALTA teacher Gretchen Murray was chosen from a field of 48 teachers nominated by each of Canyons’ schools, including the academy at the Utah State Prison, and for the first time, Canyons Virtual High and Canyons’ new alternative high school, Diamond Ridge. She received prizes and a $1,000 check from the Canyons District Foundation and she will represent the District in the Utah Teacher of the Year contest. Also recognized on Tuesday were the school nominees, semifinalists and two finalists for District Teacher of the Year: Quintana Glover from Draper Elementary and Linda Tognoni from Park Lane Elementary. Board President Sherril Taylor and Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe thanked teachers for their passion and tireless dedication.
Gretchen Murray jokes that she was an explosives expert before deciding to become a teacher. Murray grew up in a family of educators but fell into a marketing career at a commercial explosives company — a job that fed her wallet, but not her soul.
Seeing her dissatisfaction, Murray’s aunt invited her to drop by her classroom one afternoon. It was love at first sight. Happily — for the many students at Peruvian Park Elementary she’s influenced — Murray quit her job, enrolled in a master’s of education program, and never looked back.
Her inspiring spirit, dedication to students, and fine-tuned instructional skills are among the reasons that Murray was announced on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 as the Canyons District Teacher of the Year. She was honored during an evening community celebration and recognitions event hosted by the Canyons Board of Education at the Canyons Administration Building-East. As the Teacher of the Year, she received prizes, gifts and a $1,000 check from the Canyons District Foundation. She also will represent the District in the Utah Teacher of the Year contest.
Murray was chosen from a field of 48 Teachers of the Year who had been nominated from every Canyons school, including the academy at the Utah State Prison, and for the first time, Canyons Virtual High and Canyons’ new alternative high school, Diamond Ridge. Also recognized on Tuesday were the school nominees, semifinalists and two finalists for district Teacher of the Year: Quintana Glover from Draper Elementary and Linda Tognoni from Park Lane Elementary.
Every one of these teachers uses data and evidenced-based teaching strategies to help struggling learners achieve and help advanced learners to stretch even further, remarked Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe. But they also are gifted at “the art of teaching.” Each has a special knack for connecting emotionally with students and, in the process, lifting their hearts and minds.
The first day of school in Murray’s classroom starts in a very specific place: the floor. That is where the Peruvian Park Elementary teacher sits in a circle with her students and allows each child to talk about a time when someone hurt their feelings.
For every harsh word uttered, students pound a nail into blocks of wood. 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. Her students consistently make significant progress, as 86 percent of the class scored in the 90th percentile of the M-COMP evaluation this winter, compared to 27 percent in the fall.
Earlier this year, Murray was diagnosed with breast cancer for which she is receiving chemotherapy. But taking a break from teaching wasn’t on the agenda for this devoted educator who says her two young children and her students are what keep her going. Each day, even on the tough ones, she starts 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.
“One of the eight keys of excellence in my classroom is ‘This is it.’” And what that means is that this moment is the only moment we can control in our life,” she says. “We can’t change the past and we can’t control the future. We can be in the present. This is it. This is the only one we get. So let’s have some fun with it, even when it is hard.”
Never doubt that small changes can make a big difference. What started as a suggestion by a concerned Canyons School District parent has grown into a Board of Education-approved campaign to reduce schoolyard idling during morning drop-offs and pickups.
On Earth Day, Canyons became the first school district in Utah to go idle free. The campaign kicked off early in the morning at Ridgecrest elementary school where “no idling” signs were installed and students greeted drivers with placards, informational pamphlets and window clings to place in vehicles. Eventually, signs will be placed at all Canyons schools and “no idling” pledges will be sent home with students, encouraging parents to voluntarily pledge to “turn their key and be idle free.”
The idea originated with a parent, Cindy Boyer, who dropped by Superintendent Jim Briscoe’s office just over a month ago to share her frustration at seeing exhaust billowing into the air at her child’s school’s parking lot. Briscoe took her concerns to the Board of Education, and within a matter of weeks, the district’s “no idling” campaign was born.
Air quality along the congested Wasatch Front has improved. But Utah still has two of the nation’s seven worst cities for air pollution, according to the American Lung Association. The Utah Division of Air Quality says 38 percent of the state's air pollution comes from cars and trucks — some of it from idling vehicles. Monitoring at schools in other states has shown elevated levels of pollutants during drop-off and pickup times. And because Kids breathe about 2 gallons of air a minute, and their lungs are still developing, they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of pollutants.
“Besides educating students, I feel we have some responsibility for their health, and their future health,” said Briscoe, noting that projections show school enrollment doubling in the Canyons District area over the next 30 years.
Hundreds of Utah schools have implemented idling reduction programs under an initiative spearheaded by the Utah Clean Cities Coalition. Canyons is the first to take it districtwide, according to the non-profit’s northern coordinator Tammie Bostick Cooper.
But the initiative is really a community affair. Utah Clean Cities and Cottonwood Heights have provided no idling signs and educational materials. Officials with Salt Lake County Health Department are taking a census of idling cars outside schools before and after the campaign launch. And each school in the district is finding creative ways to engage students and spread the message.
Many Canyons schools, and all of its buses, have been idle-free for some time, said Canyons Energy Specialist Christopher Eppler. Copperview Elementary is having students in grades 3-5 write argumentative essays about the benefits of reducing idling. And on Friday, Ridgecrest held a “no idling” assembly to honor fifth-grader Kaleb Broderick who, in a handwritten letter, recently urged Cottonwood Heights to install no idling signs near public parks. The city agreed and donated an extra sign to Ridgecrest.
Reducing idling is easy to do. It protects our health and improves our air quality. It also saves money on gas. A few seconds here or there adds up over time, said Canyons Board Vice President Nancy Tingey at a recent board meeting. “I would hope every one of us would look at our own habits and consider what tiny changes we could make to improve our air quality.”
Other ‘Healthy Schools’ Steps at Canyons
ENERGY: Since the district’s inception in 2009, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 39 percent — or 6,923 metric tons of CO2 — even as our facilities have grown by 1 million square feet, says Canyons’ Energy Specialist Christopher Eppler. That’s the equivalent of taking 10,311 cars off the road. This was accomplished by upgrading heating, cooling and lighting systems in older schools and by placing mechanical systems in “unoccupied” mode when buildings are vacant.
WATER: Canyons also is doing its part to curb water usage; the district has about 370 acres of turf to maintain. With a $15,000 grant from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Eppler hired and trained Canyons students to help survey, monitor and adjust school water schedules based on the root zone, type of grass, shade, soil type and evaporation rate. In July 2014, the district used 16.5 million gallons less than in July 2012 and 9.5 million gallons less than in July 2013.
RADON TESTING: Canyons District was recently honored by the Utah Division of Environmental Quality for its radon-testing program. CSD is the only district in Utah that regularly tests schools for radon with all buildings tested at least every two years.
Students in Aaron Hadfield’s “American problems” class don’t just learn about the country’s governing bodies, politics and history. They experience it firsthand in simulations that challenge them to apply their knowledge of such concepts as freedom, democracy and justice.
And in the process — whether they’ve spent two weeks under totalitarian rule or jockeying for their party’s nomination at a mock presidential primary — Hadfield’s students walk away with a profound appreciation for these principles and a desire to learn more.
For his creativity and ability to light a fire in the most dispassionate of learners, the Brighton High teacher was one of 11 teaching professionals in Utah chosen to receive Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education this year. Utah philanthropist and billionaire Jon M. Huntsman and his wife Karen Huntsman sponsor the awards “to give thanks to the best teachers, administrators, and volunteers in Utah for continually seeking ways to improve the quality of education in [public schools].”
The winners for 2016 are being notified in the coming weeks, and in May, they’ll be honored at a banquet and receive $10,000 checks. “We’ve known about your teacher for some time. And it makes me really emotional and want to shed a tear when I’ve been able to come into his class to meet him and to realize the impact he has had on students for so many years,” Karen Huntsman told some of Hadfield’s students in a surprise announcement at Brighton High on Wednesday.
Hadfield’s gift, she said, is to open young peoples’ minds to the wonders of the world in all its complexity. “No one person has all the right answers,” she told students. “I hope that when you leave this class, and leave this school, that you will remember this teacher; that you will be the type of person that he wants you to be. He wants you to be able to go forth in this world and make a difference with civility [and] to understand and value differences.”
Hadfield thanked family members in attendance and Canyons District administrators, specifically Brighton Principal Charisse Hilton, for supporting his unconventional instructional methods. “I’m so grateful to her," he said, "for allowing us to do what we do, and go outside the lines sometimes, in ways to make education better.” And he thanked his students, encouraging them to take what they’ve learned in his classroom and build upon it: “I’m absolutely convinced that my future is tied to you. There is no way I will be free, there is no way that my children will benefit from the blessings of this country, without you.”
Answer:. Look for the button on the website that says “See All Job Postings.” Simply follow the links to all the available jobs. Applications can be submitted online or they can be brought to the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East.
Answer: If you go to the Home Page, you’ll see the word “Resources.” Click on that word. You’ll be directed to a page called “Parents and Community.” This is an alphabetized list of items on our website in which parents may be interested. Go to “Bell Schedules,” and the start and end times of our schools can be found there.
Answer: Click on “Schools” at the very top of the Home Page, right next to “Resources.” Then, click on elementary schools, middle schools, high schools or specialty schools. A list will appear of all the schools. Find the school for which you’re interested and click on the name.