They go out of their way to make students feel special. They give of their free time to support teachers. They find resources for schools, forge creative paths around big problems and have worked shoulder-to-shoulder to build Canyons into a world-class district.
For their contributions, hard work and dedication to advancing the mission and vision of Canyons District, the Board of Education and Administration seek to recognize them.
Canyons District is now taking nominations for the 2018 Apex Awards, the annual honors given by CSD leaders to teachers, administrators, district office personnel, volunteers and community partners. The Apex Awards, started in 2010, are the highest honors given by Canyons District to the people who help make CSD the place to be.
Award categories are:
Teacher of the Year
School Administrator of the Year
District Administrator of the Year
Business Partner of the Year
Volunteer of the Year
Elected Official of the Year
Student Support Services Professional of the Year
Education Support Professional of the Year
Use this easy-to-use online tool to read more about the categories and to submit nominations. Nominations can be submitted until Aug. 3, 2018.
Nominations for Apex Awards can be submitted for all categories except Teacher of the Year. The Canyons District’s Teacher of the Year is selected in the spring and is CSD’s nominee in the state Teacher of the Year competition. This year's winner is Amber Rogers, a social studies educator at Corner Canyon High. She was selected from a field of 47 teachers from every CSD school in the District.
The winners of the 2018 Apex Awards are celebrated at a by-invitation-only banquet and awards ceremony. This year’s event will be Sept. 11, 2018 at The Gathering Place at Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South.
Five Eastmont Middle students received a surprise message this week from Albus Dumbledore requesting “the pleasure” of their company in the library after school.
Their mission, according to the headmaster, was to solve 40 puzzles to unlock hidden Horcruxes and Hallows and defeat “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” The fivesome donned wizard robes and sequestered themselves in an elaborately-designed broom closet where, by working together and drawing upon the knowledge of concepts they’ve learned throughout the school year, they followed a trail of clues to save Hogwarts — no spells or charms necessary.
Eastmont Middle’s Harry Potter-themed escape room, which debuted this week to an enthusiastic group of Potter fans, is the brainchild of English teacher Anna Alger and history teacher Richard Mellor. It took Mellor more than 300 weekend and holiday hours to design all the mind-bending puzzles and retrofit one of the school’s empty supply closets with flickering candles, wood flooring, hand-sculpted “rock” walls made of foam insulation, and clever artifacts. It was a labor of love undertaken with the singular goal of bringing a little wonder and magic back to learning. “We just wanted a fun, interactive experience where students could apply what they’ve learned in a different way,” Mellor says.
Game-based learning, or the “gamification” of education, is taking hold in classrooms across the country. Typically, the strategy involves deploying computerized tools or education-related videogames as a means to capture students’ interest. Nearly one-third of high school students play three or more hours of videogames a day, so why not leverage gaming principles for teaching and learning?
Whether gamification works to sustain student engagement is a matter of some debate. But Mellor’s motivation was more practical than theoretical. He was looking for a fun way to keep kids challenged, and in so doing, discovered that games don’t have to be high-tech to spark the imagination.
“The escape room is decidedly low-tech,” he says. “The students have to work by candlelight (battery operated), and there are no calculators to assist them in solving long-division problems. They have to use feather quills instead of pens to work through problems on paper.”
Mellor and Alger financed the project with a Donors Choose grant through the Chevron Fuel Your School program. “I’ve written many grants for books or STEM supplies, but Fuel Your School is the one grant where you can ask for funding for weird thing like wizard wands, potion bottes, and replica quidditch sets,” Mellor says.
He’s an unabashed Potter fan, but the escape room is rooted in the curriculum, not fantasy. The first group of students to enter took nearly two hours to complete all the tasks before enjoying a celebratory treat of “butterbeers,” or cream soda floats.
Mellor has since paired back the puzzles, but says, “it was fun to watch their excitement, and to see them work as teams” to solve anagrams and riddles, and to mix bubbling potions and translate hieroglyphic messages.
One of the biggest benefits of game-based learning, he says, is that it frees students to take charge of their learning and teaches them to push past failure as part of the process. “It’s truly independent learning,” Mellor says. “So much of what we do in class is guided learning. But with games, students have to figure it out themselves and rely on each other.”
Soon, Mellor may undertake a second CSI escape room where students are tasked with solving crimes.
Next year, qualifying Canyons District high school students will be able to take college-level Spanish, French and Chinese courses co-taught by University of Utah faculty.
The unique “bridge courses” will be taught in high school but are being offered for college credit as part of Utah’s Dual Language Immersion Program, which is challenging traditional models of educational delivery and bridging the gap that has separated K12 schools from institutions of higher learning. Different from concurrent enrollment offerings, Bridge Courses are for upper division (3000 level) credit, and as such, give students a healthy head start on a minor or major in their language of study.
“Dual immersion is putting pressure on our system of higher education to provide something that is not the same as has been provided in the past, and it’s a healthy pressure,” says Jill Landes-Lee, who directs the Bridge Program Advanced Language Pathway for the U.’s Second Language Teaching and Research Institute.
Dual immersion students spend a good portion of their instructional days learning a world language. They start as early as kindergarten or the first grade, and by the time they reach the 10th grade, their language proficiency is comparable to that of upper division university language students in their junior or senior year. To ensure they don’t lose ground and are able to continue to grow in proficiency, the state’s institutions of higher learning have committed to offer them college-level courses while they are still in high school — which is no small feat, says Landes-Lee. “As a university, we had to ask, ‘How do we support a student as young as 15 years of age?’ We also had to contemplate how to take a semester-long university course and extend it over a full year. We’re not just throwing another course into the high school sequence. It’s not just another elective.”
Dual immersion is catching on nationally as an effective and efficient means of achieving fluency in a non-native language. But no other state has articulated a K16 model like that being pioneered in Utah, says CSD’s Secondary Dual Language Immersion Coordinator Cassandra Kapes. “We are so thankful for the Legislative funding that is making this possible, and to be working with the state’s flagship university.”
Bridge courses, created in partnership with all of Utah’s colleges and universities, are already being offered at Jordan High in Spanish. Next year, Chinese and French will be added at Corner Canyon and Alta, and by the 2019-2020 school year, all of CSD’s five traditional high schools are projected to be offering the courses.
The courses will be co-taught in the high school setting as part of students’ regular schedules by a high school faculty member and a faculty member from the U., says Kapes. In order to enroll, students must pass the Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Culture Exam with a 3 or above in the ninth or tenth grade. Students can earn 3 credits per year, and up to nine college credits total — for just $5 per credit — giving them a jump on college and competitive edge in the global job market.
Dual immersion is coming of age, and bridge courses are the culmination of a vision for a biliterate, bilingual and bicultural Utah that was articulated years ago by former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Sen. Senator Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Rep. Eric Hutchings.
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.
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.”