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More than 60 CSD employees have decided to make this year their last with Canyons District. Whether they are retiring from teaching, counseling, bus driving, custodial, or administrative work, they have made enormous contributions. Together, they have dedicated more than 920 years of service to the Canyons community. Some have been in education for 40 or more years, and many have worked for Canyons since the District’s inception in 2009. All have contributed to our success. The Canyons Board of Education and Administration salute these dedicated professionals for their years of service.

An Open House for Pat Ward and Carolyn Brooks
will be  Friday, May 5, 2-3:30 p.m.
in the gym at Sunrise Elementary, 1542 E. 11245 South, Sandy

An Open House for Georgia Bruening, Teresa Hunter, Kathy Leatherwood, and Barbara Hickok
will be Wednesday, May 10, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
at Indian Hills Middle, 1180 E. Sanders Rd, Sandy

An Open House for Marianne Watts 
will be Friday, May 12, 2:30-4:30 p.m. 
in the media center at Willow Springs Elementary, 13288 Lone Rock Dr, Draper

An Open House for Wayne Jones, Marian Gladbach, Kevin Mark, and Mark Petersen 
will be Friday, May 12 at 2:30 p.m.
in the media Center at Jordan High School, 95 E. Beetdigger Blvd. in Sandy

An Open House for Sallianne Wakley and Sharee Jorgensen
will be Monday, May 15, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
in the Canyons Center at the Canyons District Office, 9361 s. 300 East, Sandy

An Open House for Nicole Clark, Julie Epperson and David Olsen
will be Monday, May 15, 3:30-5 p.m.
at Butler Middle School, 7530 S. 2700 East, Cottonwood Heights

An Open House for Sheradee Bradfield and Lee Ann Oliverson
will be MondayMay 15, 3-4:30 p.m.
in the forum at Midvale Middle School, 7852 South Pioneer St., Midvale

An Open House for Darwin Melville and Phil Sorg
will be Wednesday May 17, 2-4 p.m.
in the Media Center at Corner Canyon High.

An Open House for Marsha Wallin
will be Friday May 193:30 – 5:30 p.m.
in the Media Center at Brookwood Elementary, 8640 S Snowbird Drive, Sandy

An Open House for Danna Caldwell
will be held Friday May 19, 2-4 p.m.
in the library at East Midvale Elementary, 6990 S. 300 East, Midvale

An Open House for Dr. Robert Dowdle 
will be WednesdayMay 243-5 p.m.
 in the Board Room at the District Office, 9361 S 300 E, Sandy

View Retirement Open House Events Read Less
TED BENNETT
TED BENNETT

It’s salt-of-the-earth people like Ted Bennett, who has worked in — and on — schools for decades, who help make CSD a great place to be. Bennett has worked as the general trade lead for five years. He’s also been on the grounds crew, worked at the central warehouse, done general trades welding, and fulfilled the District’s glazier role. He, his hard work and handiwork will be missed. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people over the 38 years,” he said. “That’s what I’ll miss is the people.” Bennett takes pride in accomplishing his goal of becoming the lead. “I think I've done a decent job, you know?” he said. “It put food on the table. It didn't make me rich, but I've always had sufficient for my needs. I put three sons on missions and we've never really wanted for a whole lot, so that's great.”  Bennett’s four children and 10 grandkids live in Utah, so they’ll get good grandpa time in his retirement. He plans on doing yard work, gardening, and fishing. “I got a lot of stuff that I like to tinker with at home,” he said. “I might get antsy and have to find something, but for now I just want to take some time off, see what’s out there, and do something new.”

BARBARA BLASER
BARBARA BLASER

Proving to herself and the world that she can do hard things, Barbara Blaser worked two jobs to support her young family while going back to school as a single mother before becoming a teacher. She even earned her four-year degree in three years. Blaser carried that focused determination and passion into what turned out to be a rewarding 35-year career in education in Idaho and Utah. Over the years, she’s taught all grade levels from first to eighth grade. Her tenure with Canyons school began in 2008 when she taught the sixth-grade gifted-and-talented program at Ridgecrest Elementary. After bouncing around grades a bit, she helped start the Dual Language Immersion program with first-graders. Blaser has taught second-graders at the school in recent years. “I love the kids,” she said with a smile. It’s elating when she helps a student grasp a concept and they’re inspired to learn more. Her reward: “Just seeing that light go on in their eyes.” In retirement, Blaser plans on organizing her family history materials and stories to pass onto her children. She hopes to finish four books she’s started. A former ski instructor, she also hopes to hit the slopes again now that she’s healed from two knee surgeries. There’s also traveling, exploring and family time in store for her future. “I just want to get healthy and enjoy life.”

SHERADEE BRADFIELD
SHERADEE BRADFIELD

For the past 30 years, Sheradee Bradfield has taught tech, geography and history at Midvale Middle. “My favorite thing is when my students get something and then their eyes light up,” she said. “It never gets old.” Spending time with students never gets old for Bradfield, either. “We laugh a lot. We have fun,” she said. “I've worked here long enough that I've seen my students grow up to do amazing things.” After teaching in the same school for three decades, Bradfield said she has taught a few children of former students, which makes parent-teacher conferences more like a family reunion. She considered going into broadcasting and computers, but, deep down, she knew that being a teacher was her destiny. Seeing her students succeed — like the one who grew up nearby and is now a lawyer — affirms that she made the right career choice. Bradfield, a young retiree, plans on helping a friend start a podcast. She would also like to return to her school on a part-time basis, perhaps as a mentor or hall monitor. The Jordan High alumna loves the people there that much. Midvale has always felt like her second home. “Some of my best friends work in this building,” she added. “They're incredibly good people.”

CAROLYN BROOKS
CAROLYN BROOKS

Receiving her school’s Teacher of the Year award in 2011 came during a challenging period for Carolyn Brooks. She had a large class of 33 students and had just finished her Master’s degree in technology literacy. It was validating for the Sunrise Elementary teacher. Teaching students a variety of subjects and disciplines gives her a sense of purpose in her career. “I love the interconnectedness,” she said. “I love learning. And I like seeing my students in that process. When they're really excited about learning, they're happy, they start getting it and they find it interesting, I think that’s the best part of it.” Brooks, who’s with fourth-graders this year but taught fifth grade for most of her 18 years at Sunrise, began teaching in the 1970s. She jokes about having one of the shortest ID numbers. After raising her kids, working elsewhere and life circumstances, Brooks returned to the classroom in her 40s. She’s invested in her students and will miss them dearly. But after 24 years of teaching, the time feels right to try new things. “I'll miss the community. I'll miss the kids, but I'll always have the shared experiences,” she said. “I tell them to always let me know what happens in their life and that I’ll always be interested in what you’re doing.”

MORGAN BROWN
MORGAN BROWN

Morgan Brown, whose educational career began four decades ago at Woods Cross High, has been an Alta High institution since landing a job at his dream school in 1989. He has coached multiple sports, taught P.E., math and driver’s ed, and led the Athletic Department for 22 years. Brown cherishes his 27 years on the road with student drivers. And, yes, he has stories — like how the brakes overheated near Brighton Ski Resort or when a pupil got into a fender-bender, or the time he was driven into a snowbank. “Some people think I’m crazy, but I enjoyed going out with the kids,” he said. “I’ve had kids that I’ll just remember forever.” Brown, Utah’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2018, has overseen much athletic success at Alta. He was surprised this year by being inducted into the Alta Coaches Hall of Fame and calls his career a “great ride.” Brown and his wife, a retired teacher who works part-time at Alta, have a trip planned to Europe. He anticipates doting on kids and grandkids in St. George and Florida, and he’ll certainly find time to golf. Brown estimates that he’s taught and driven with about 20,000 students. His own children tease him about not being able to go anywhere without running into someone who knows him. And to know Morgan Brown is to love him.

DANNA CALDWELL
DANNA CALDWELL

Danna Caldwell’s retirement plans are ambitious. She’s raising her two young grandchildren and moving to Oklahoma. Caldwell will definitely miss Utah where her roots and sisters are. She’ll also miss teaching the fifth-graders at East Midvale, where her heart has been for the past 18 years since she returned from an extended teaching break in the Sooner State. Caldwell embraced working at a Title I school and will miss the kids and families she’s loved on for nearly two decades. “I've loved working at East Midvale,” she said. “I know a lot of people think it's challenging and it is, but I feel like you can do things to help these kids out.” Overall, she’s been in education for nearly 26 years, and her students still make her smile every day. She’s enjoyed their excitement as they soak up what she teaches about social studies, science, and even math. She likes sharing her patriotism and love for U.S. history — showing kids how current events correlate to the past — and often helps the 10-year-olds go from disliking math to loving the subject. “I just have fun,” she said. “And that's what's great because these fifth-graders, they buy into (the fact) that they can learn. They learn, they want to know more, and they're fun.”

NICOLE CLARK
NICOLE CLARK

Though she’s a seventh-grade math teacher, math isn’t the only thing Nicole Clark has helped students with at Butler Middle. Clark was a math aide before returning to earn a Master’s Degree and become a full-time teacher. She believes most teenagers want to do well even if they occasionally behave otherwise. She has appreciated being there with them, trying to spark progress and help nudge them toward a more positive track. The key is finding a way to connect with the students and to work with them where they are. Because of the stigma that can be associated with the subject, Clark occasionally helps students work on this equation: Math x Mindset = Fun + Success. “I think it’s fun when kids get it because a lot of times kids come in thinking this is really hard or they can’t do it,” she said. “And every once in a while, you get a kid that you can change that mindset and that’s really fun.” Clark is grateful that she’ll have more time to help take care of her aging parents. She’s hoping to exercise more, hike, camp, play tennis, travel, volunteer, and maybe even do substitute teaching, as she joins her husband in an early retirement. “I'm excited to have the flexibility in my schedule,” she said. “We've got that opportunity to have that freedom to kind of do what we wanna do.”

VICTORIA DIPIETRO
VICTORIA DIPIETRO

 

It took decades, cross-country moves, job changes, a divorce, motherly advice, returning to college, and other twists of fate before Victoria Dipietro finally landed a job as a first-grade teacher in 1996. Remarkably, Dipietro hasn’t budged from her school, that grade level or even her classroom for 27 years. She absolutely adores teaching first-graders. “I love seeing them grasp new concepts. The world’s kind of an open book for them,” she explained. “When that light comes on for them and they just make this jump and take off, it's really fun.” Dipietro feels at peace with her decision to move forward in life after so many years of wrangling first-graders and doing lesson plans. Now, Diepietro will assist her 92-year-old mother and help her daughter, who’s expecting her fourth child soon. She will take adult piano lessons from her kids’ 85-year-old piano teacher after summer. She’ll paint, sew, and work on other craft projects. She’s excited to spend time with a dear friend from high school, whom she humorously told: “Now we can play any time of day, not just in the evening or weekends.” By the way, if Dipietro shows back up in her classroom at Granite Elementary this fall, it might not just be out of habit. She’s already volunteered to help the school’s new team of first-grade teachers.

DR. ROBERT DOWDLE
DR. ROBERT DOWDLE

It makes sense that Dr. Robert Dowdle has lived at the base of Mount Olympus for most of his life. After all, Dowdle has been a titan in education for 35 years. The influence he’s had in Canyons District — as the Assistant Superintendent, a school administrator and social studies teacher — has been herculean. Dowdle considers pursuing a career in education and working with children, their families and fellow educators to be one of his best life decisions. Those who’ve seen him in action agree. He’s overseen Canyons’ academic teams, schools, central operations, curriculum, and transportation. Thousands have benefited from his work. Dowdle will certainly keep busy in retirement. He’ll pour more of his time into making custom hardwood tables, cutting boards, and other creations in his woodshop. He’ll continue building aesthetician and cosmetology studios at home for two of his daughters. A grandfather of 12, he also looks forward to serving people, while staying fit, cycling, hiking, skiing and playing pickleball. He’s committed to learning Spanish to communicate with his Chilean wife of 39 years and her family in their native language. Becoming bilingual, like his four daughters, will help on an upcoming months-long journey in South America. Dowdle’s family will continue to be his top priority. “One thing I've repeated to the high school principals over and over is, ‘I work to live. I don't live to work,’” he said. “I’m an assistant superintendent at a school district, but the first thing I want to talk about is my wife and kids.”

PAMELA DOYLE
PAMELA DOYLE

Pamela Doyle was raised in Virginia and is retiring as a school psychologist from Midvale Elementary, so it only makes sense that her 42-year career began as a teacher on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. “I was always drawn to the kids in my classroom who had behavior and learning issues. Those were the kids that really interested me, but I didn't really know how to help them,” said Doyle, who decided to get a psychology degree after six years of teaching. From early on, Doyle adopted a mission of helping teachers understand and teach kids with special needs and nudge them onto a successful path. Her work has taken her to Park City, Idaho, and elsewhere, and she says her five-year stint at Midvale has been most gratifying. “This has been the hardest and the most rewarding place,” she said. “There have been some deep, dark days and some elated days, just the gamut.” Pandemic-related behavioral difficulties certainly didn’t help matters, but, to Doyle’s credit, she decided to stay one more year. She wanted to help more kids and go out on a positive note. She and her husband bought a house on a beautiful, pristine lake in Arkansas, where they’ll spend time in retirement fishing, boating, kayaking, and just relaxing. He also hopes to volunteer at children’s hospitals. Wherever retirement takes her, Doyle will continue to do what she’s done for decades — help children.

SHELLY EDMONDS
SHELLY EDMONDS

As she ponders her retirement — after teaching off and on since 1986 — Shelly Edmonds envisions breathtaking locales and exhilarating experiences around the globe. The Hillcrest High English teacher pictures herself lying on a beach in Greece and taking picturesque river cruises in Europe and down the Mississippi. Let’s be real. After years of grading papers, just about anywhere in the world where there aren’t sophomore essays seems like an ideal vacationing spot. Jokes aside, Edmonds, who’s earned Hillcrest’s Teacher of the Year honors, has enjoyed teaching English and literature to teenagers. “It's so neat to see that look on their faces when they just get it, when their eyes get big, their mouth drops open or they come up with something that is more eloquent than I could say,” she said. She calls her co-workers “witty, caring, compassionate and committed” and says she’s going to miss them a lot. Edmonds said she’s retiring, in part, to take care of her two “grumpy old men” — her husband, a former Jordan District high school administrator, and her dad. She has started approximately “a million quilts” that she wants to finish. Her cocker spaniels, Emma and Sparky, will love the extra attention they’ll get. She also hopes to do more community service, well, unless it includes essays. “I don't have any hobbies other than grading papers right now,” Edmonds said, smiling. “I'm looking forward to getting some hobbies.”

JULIE EPPERSON
JULIE EPPERSON

The bulk of Julie Epperson’s career has involved working with kids. Along with being a mother, she’s been a teacher, became proficient in art therapy, earned her graduate degree, worked in the domestic violence arena, and spent the past nine years as a school psychologist. Her positive impact has been widespread. “I’ve enjoyed the students and have seen it all pretty much,” she said. With more kids coming to school with increased social-emotional challenges, Epperson’s job has not been easy. Thank goodness there are people like her to provide support and skills development. It melts her heart when students show progress, gain self-confidence and start feeling good about themselves. In her words: “Being able to say to a kiddo, ‘You don’t need my support anymore. You’re doing great!’ — that’s been rewarding.” Though Epperson’s large office window offers a stunning view of the Wasatch mountains, she’s willing to give up that prized possession to soak up scenery in the great outdoors. She hung up a map of the U.S. national parks, showing which natural treasures she’s visited and which ones are on her retirement to-do list. “My husband and I have a new little RV that we wanna get out, do some more exploring,” she said of her mountain biking, fly fishing, and hunting plans. She will miss the view from — and inside — Butler Middle, though.

DENISE FERGUSON
DENISE FERGUSON

Though she is not a math teacher, Denise Ferguson tabulated an astounding figure regarding her four-decade career at Alta High. “I figure between 1982 and all the years that I was an AP reader I have read over 40,000 student essays,” she said. “And I think, ‘Wow, that’s a lot.’” Ferguson, who studied journalism at Brigham Young University, pressed pause on teaching in the 1980s to raise her three children. She continued grading AP essays for 13 years before returning to full-time in 2002. She’s wrapping up her 21st year with the yearbook and has helped students publish the now-online school paper, the “Alta Hawkeye.” She is proud — and rightfully so — of establishing a widely modeled AP language program and of her work with students on the award-winning and nationally respected yearbook. “It’s a very team-oriented thing,” she said of the yearbook, which involves her teaching, supervising and collaborating with graphic designers, photographers, writers, and other staff members. That connection has continued in an unexpected way for some former students. “I’ve had five or six marriages out of the yearbook staff over the years,” she said. In retirement, Ferguson is excited to golf, swim and exercise on her own timeline. One thing she’ll give up? Reading essays. “That,” she said, “is the one thing I’m looking forward to not having to do.”

MARK FORMAN
MARK FORMAN

Over the past 13 years, Mark Forman has helped guide Canyons District through what you could call an alarming situation. That’s a good thing, by the way. Thanks to his diligent work updating fire- and security-alarm systems, Canyons is a safer and more secure place than it was before the District was created (when it wasn’t uncommon to have 27 false fire alarms in a single month). Processes that Forman instituted around CSD have even been adopted elsewhere in the state. Forman enters retirement healthy after undergoing a successful back surgery, which will allow him to help his wife, work on projects around the house, and restore hot rods and his 1949 Jeeps. He’s also eager to attend his grandkids’ games and events, and go four-wheeling, hiking, camping, and exploring the outdoors, which will include researching old mining claims and searching for a 6-foot-wide petrified tree he saw a half-century ago in Southern Utah. After working in construction and security for the past 54 years, Forman is following the advice he received from old farmers when he was a teenager. “I’d always ask them, ‘So, how do you live so long?’” They’d tell him, “You’ve got to age gracefully. You’ve got to be able to learn when it’s time to let somebody else do the hard stuff.” Forman is finally doing just that. Don’t be alarmed. He left the District in great shape.

KELLY GILL
KELLY GILL

It’s no wonder why Kelly Gill looks back on her 26-year educational career with fondness. For starters, Gill has embraced working with children. “I really tapping into where their strengths are and trying to pull out the best in every student,” she said. Then there’s the fact that, between her decade-plus tenure in Texas to the past 12 years at Willow Springs Elementary, her time in teaching has been packed with interesting activities and opportunities. Fun memories include annually putting on class plays, earning Teacher of the Year honors, guiding her classes to Canyons District Film Festival participation and wins, digging a path to the front door of her outdoor portable classroom during huge snowstorms, and working on education issues as a teacher fellow in the Hope Street Group Utah Teacher Fellowship program. She even traveled to Finland with the Global Education Association and learned how the world’s education leaders taught their children. Hundreds of kids over the years were fortunate to get an up close and personal view of her teaching methods, too. In particular, she has really loved imparting her passion for reading and writing onto younger generations. Already a published author, Gill plans on writing children’s books in retirement. “I’ve always enjoyed writing,” she said. “So, I figure, why not!?” She’ll also spend time hiking, working out, exploring the world, and being with family and friends.

MARIAN GLADBACH
MARIAN GLADBACH

Marian Gladbach, who moved often with her military husband, has taught in two foreign countries and seven different states for a total of 38 years. But she has a special place in her heart for the special education students she’s taught at Jordan High for the past 14 years. She has a special space in her classroom for them, too. Gladbach has placed on a bulletin board photos of every senior she’s taught at Jordan since 2009. Her students love the tribute wall. They light up when they return to visit her and look for their photos. Gladbach hopes that ongoing connection is a sign that she made a difference. “You don’t know what you said or did to strike a chord in any student,” she said. “You just do the best you can every day.” Gladbach’s unique balance of empathy, discipline and no-nonsense style helped her garner respect and connect with students. Her students can feel that she cares deeply. She’ll take retirement as it comes. Maybe she’ll volunteer or get a part-time job at Costco. “I said long ago that I did not want to be wrestling with kids after I was 65,” she said. “It's just time. I want to do other stuff.” One thing is certain. She’ll be there to take photos of her seniors at graduation.

KATHERINE GRIMM
KATHERINE GRIMM

When people speak well of Katherine Grimm, it’s definitely deserved. After all, she’s been helping people speak well for more than 20 years. In recent years, Grimm, a speech language pathologist, has focused her efforts on working with students from Canyon View and Lone Peak elementary schools. Grimm particularly loves helping the little children. It breaks her heart to discover that some have been picked on because of struggles with their speech and other challenges in that realm.  “When they feel better about themselves, because they can speak better and more clearly, that’s a good thing,” she says. Originally from Florida, where her mom still lives, Grimm has bounced around the country studying and practicing her profession. She worked in Arizona and returned to her college stomping grounds, South Carolina, eight years ago to try something new before winding up again in Utah, where her grandkids and heart remained. In retirement, Grimm will have flexibility to tend to her 93-year-old mom in the Sunshine State. She anticipates taking the opportunity to travel for fun, including a possible cross-country drive. She loves helping children, so it’s possible she’ll end up working on a part-time basis. “You never know,” she admitted. The beauty of retirement? She doesn’t need to know yet. She’s earned a break.

PAMELA HANSEN
PAMELA HANSEN

After seeing how much her son with disabilities benefited from a transition program in the 1990s, Pamela Hansen knew she wanted to become a paraeducator. “I just saw what it did for him,” she said. “It prepared him for life after school.” Years later, Hansen followed a path that helped her help others in need. Her journey to Canyons Transition Academy, where she worked for most of the past decade, included her earning a grant to go back to college in her 50s. She had initially intended to go into elementary education, but career took a detour as she processed loans for an insurance company before focusing her full-time attention on her five boys. Interestingly, Hansen has picked up a hobby of toiling away at algebra workbooks. It’s her version of Sudoku. She also enjoys watching British movies and PBS. She’s even considering substitute teaching on a part-time basis at CTA. Her adult son, Michael, still lives with her, but Hansen’s other service-oriented boys have relocated elsewhere with her 14 grandkids. She plans on taking time in retirement to visit them, including a son who’s about to move to Japan. Hansen beams while talking about her boys, who continually make her day when they call in to check on her. “I loved it,” she said of raising them as a single mom. “It was great to feel content when everybody thought I should be so miserable. Boys treat their moms well.”

DAVE HEYWOOD
DAVE HEYWOOD

Dave Heywood fondly recalls being the 22nd employee hired by the fledgling Canyons District back in 2009. The Hillcrest High alumnus also remembers — fondly might not be the accurate adverb — the challenges the IT Department had while getting everything up and running. “Boy, the first six months here was like building an airplane while you’re in the air,” he mused. Thanks to the expertise of Heywood and the OG IT crew, the computer systems got off the ground and weathered the turbulence while helping the District’s data soar into the future. Over the years, Heywood, whose 30-year career in education began in the Jordan District as a custodian, helped CSD adapt to evolving and improving technology while keeping data secure. He’s transitioned the District to a wireless wifi system with universal log-ins, made things user-friendly for students, faculty and parents, and implemented three major, widespread telephone roll-outs. “I had a great team,” he said, beaming. “Really smart guys. That’s what kept me afloat.” Heywood isn’t completely unplugging in retirement. He’ll continue to do IT in the private sector. But he plans on spending more time in the saddles of his mountain and road bikes and motorcycle. He’s also excited to do more kayaking, exploring the outdoors, and being with his family, including his wife, daughter and grandkids.

RICK HOGGARD
RICK HOGGARD

Rick Hoggard has been in transportation and mechanics since he was 18 years old. After working for about two decades with several transportation companies, including Greyhound and Lewis Bros. Stages, he was recruited to work for Jordan School District. Hoggard then made the wise move to Canyons where he eventually took over as shop foreman. It was a perfect fit. He loves working with vehicles and numbers. Staying under budget has been a priority, and he’s been successful at accomplishing that. He’s taken pride in being a key cog in getting children safely to their destinations each day. That is quite a task, considering some 15,000 students begin and end each school day with a trip on a bus. And CSD’s fleet of buses can be inspected up to 400 times to ensure that they are working in tip-top shape. Hoggard, a recipient of the 2021 Apex Award for Education Support Professionals, helps minimize avoidable disruptions such as mechanical failures and fender benders. A big sports fan, Hoggard has a goal of visiting every Major League Baseball stadium. He’d like to explore the U.S., national parks and museums. He anticipates spending time with his family, including the two sets of twins his children have had. “They keep us going,” he said, referring to his three children and grandkids. “We have a good time.”

JOY HUFFAKER
JOY HUFFAKER

Over the years, Joy Huffaker has helped make a difference at multiple schools and programs around Canyons. Her 22-year education career, which followed her military service, has been interesting and impactful. She was a tester and head secretary at the prison for South Park Academy. She had multiple stints at the District’s alternative high school, Entrada. Most recently, she’s been an integral part of CSD’s online education opportunity. She’s also assisted in the classroom, helped the PTA, and worked as a special education paraprofessional when her son was in school. Each position had challenges and rewards. Huffaker is a big fan of Michelle Shimmin and the work they did for Canyons Online. She adores working with special education students and the prison was an experience second to none. She also enjoyed encouraging students at Entrada. “I became like their second mom,” she recalled. She was particularly inspired by an 80-year-old veteran, diagnosed with cancer, who persevered to graduate. “He had never finished high school because of World War II,” she said. “When he came back, he just went in and worked. He wanted to leave a good example for his grandchildren.” Joy has also been a good example to all who crossed her path, and joy to work with.

TERESA HUNTER
TERESA HUNTER

May 26th is a big day in the Hunter household. Teresa Hunter and her husband, an accountant, are retiring at about the same time on the same day. “We’re excited,” Hunter said. “We have a lot of things planned.” Like her duties at Indian Hills Middle, Hunter’s natural instinct is to take care of others, so she’s looking forward to being able to focus on self-care. She’ll also help her daughters and grandkids, and plans on visiting other family members, exploring Native American ruins, and hiking. An LDS mission and a move to the country somewhere is being mulled over. It will be a well-deserved change of pace for Hunter, who’s spent 15 years working as a school safety advocate and in special education. “I love my job,” she said. “I get to work with thousands of kids every single day. I enjoy it because I’m helping and I’m making a difference.” Her job consists of cross-guard duties, monitoring security cameras, assisting the school resource officer, supporting faculty and staff, and attending to kids in the hallways — some of whom are troubled and some who are in trouble. She previously worked in special education for 10 years. “What can I do to help?” was her mantra back then, and likely for the foreseeable future.

LESLIE JEWKES
LESLIE JEWKES

Peruvian Park Principal Leslie Jewkes keeps a little figurine of an angel carrying a lamp on a shelf in her office. The statue was a gift. Her efforts to assist a struggling fourth-grade girl, who was severely depressed and benefited from the targeted TLC she received from Jewkes, were greatly appreciated. After the student’s focus and actions positively shifted that school year about 20 years ago, the girl’s mom gave Jewkes the token. She told her, “You’re our angel.” It’s one of many cherished memories from working in education for Jewkes, who earned Canyons’ 2022 Apex Award for School Administrator of the Year after overseeing the design and construction of her new school. “That’s my reward,” she said. “It’s not the accolades and awards. It’s the kids and the things with the kids, seeing the growth.” Though she originally went to school for engineering, Jewkes spent the previous three decades of her 43-year career in the classroom. She taught almost every grade in elementary school before transitioning into administration for the past 12 years. “I love teaching and being in schools,” Jewkes said. “Working with the kids, obviously, is the reason we’re in it.” Spending more time with her family, including two grandkids in Seattle, will be a big priority in retirement. She’ll have more time to paint, visit friends, and travel (Bonjour, Paris!).

SHARIE JOHNSON
SHARIE JOHNSON

She likes seeing students learn any subject, but it delights Canyon View special education teacher Sharie Johnson when her students make reading progress. “That is so foundational to a successful life,” she said. “Knowing how to read is just really super important for their future.” Johnson also loves when children help other children in her class. Recently, while Johnson was trying to help a third-grade boy manage his big emotions and make better choices, a student overheard their conversation. The girl shared what she had been taught and encouraged her classmate to ignore people who try to upset him. “Don’t let anybody take your power from you,” she said. “Just walk away.” Johnson admires the students she teaches and the dedicated, patient and tenderhearted people she’s worked with over the years. “They work hard to do the best they can for the kids and are really supportive of each other,” she said. “None of us are perfect. We all need help once in a while, somebody to have our backs when we’ve forgotten to do something or need some encouragement. I’ve had just wonderful principals and a team” Johnson plans on filling her time in retirement by reading, walking, cooking, baking, and cherishing her kids and grandkids. She might even start tutoring next fall.

SHAREE JORGENSON
SHAREE JORGENSON

After a 43-year career in education, Sharee Jorgenson won’t sing her own praises or toot her own horn. But, truth be told, it would sound wonderful if she did. Music has been a huge part of Jorgenson’s life ever since she began playing piano at age 5. Fortunately for students from Richfield, St. George, and all over Canyons District, she willingly shared her expertise and passion for music and the arts throughout a career that hit all the right notes. For 30 years, Jorgenson devoted herself to teaching every musical class offered by schools – from band to orchestra, choir and guitar. In her most recent capacity as Canyons’ teacher specialist over the visual and performing arts, Jorgenson has mentored teachers, tuned pianos, supported elementary music programs, overseen instrument repairs, created a Districtwide costume inventory database and theater warehouse, and worked with vendors. “I was halftime teaching, halftime specialist,” she said, looking back on her career. “I loved teaching, absolutely loved it.” She also thrived as the District’s first teaching specialist. Jorgenson succinctly summed up her hobbies: “Music, music, music. Clean, clean, clean.” In retirement, she plans to spend time organizing and cleaning — she calls it “stress relief” — and will do event planning for a mountain resort. All with a song in her heart, of course.

VO LAM
VO LAM

 

For 37 years, Vo Lam has poured his heart and soul into his duties as a custodian at the old Jordan High, Union Middle and Sandy Elementary. “I love it,” Lam said. “I love being around the kids and teachers.” The people he works with love him, too. His colleagues at Sandy made that evident in a playful way. In the faculty room, the Sharks put up a huge poster with his photo on it above the soda foundation that reads, “The Vo Lam Retirement Fountain. Love in every sip.” Lam isn’t one to cut corners and goes the extra mile to make sure things are right. That was particularly challenging this winter, when he’d arrive hours early many mornings to hand shovel an enormous amount of snow from sidewalks around the elementary. He prides himself on giving 110 percent at work — even when it requires him to clean up some interesting messes made by kids — while also spending quality time with his family. “That’s what I like to do,” he said. Having recently turned 56, Lam is looking forward to a couple of months of R&R, some RVing, and camping. He then plans on getting a different type of job. Wherever the Jordan High alumnus lands, you can count on two things: Lam will work hard and the people he works for will love him. 

MARY MALLORY
MARY MALLORY

 

Although there are challenges — and mounds of paperwork — that accompany the teaching profession, Mary Mallory found educating 7 year olds to be quite rewarding. That explains why she stayed on as a first-grade teacher at Midvale Elementary since 2001 after teaching a couple of other grades earlier in her 30-year career. “I love first grade because you can see the progress that they make,” she said. “You can just see so much growth.” Mallory’s future will include part-time work somewhere and a lot of quality time with her eight grandchildren, including the three babies who were born last summer. She glows while talking about being a nana. “You can just do fun things all the time with them and not have to worry about all the icky stuff.” She tried to take a fun approach to helping teach the young kids who came across her path the past three decades, which can be challenging at times considering she teaches math. Her aim was to make learning an engaging process for kids. Leaving the Mustangs is bittersweet for Mallory. She enjoys her colleagues and appreciates the diverse makeup of the Midvale student body. “Teaching first grade is hard. It's a lot of work. It's stressful at times,” she admitted. “But I do love teaching. I love teaching the kids.”

KEVIN MARK
KEVIN MARK

 

After growing up in Kansas City, attending college at Kansas State and beginning his teaching career in The Sunflower State, Kevin Mark — much to the delight of the Jordan High community — isn’t in Kansas anymore. Following a 12-year stint in his home state, Mark was recruited to head West to teach and coach basketball 32 years ago. He joined the Beetdiggers after three years at Alta High, and is one of the few employees remaining from the old Jordan High. “It became home,” Mark said. “Jordan High was very good to me, was very good to my children, and very good to my stepchildren.” Mark was good to Jordan, too. Along with coaching girls basketball, Mark taught business, typing and shorthand, PE, history, government, and social studies. “In a profession where people are kind of transient, I made it 44 years,” Mark said. Mark, an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan, hasn’t spent a lot of time planning out retirement. “The reality of it hasn’t hit me yet,” he admitted. Even so, his fellow fantasy baseball competitors back in New York City and in the Las Vegas-based National Fantasy Baseball Championship might be on high alert now that he’ll have more free time to devote to his favorite hobby. He and his wife look forward to spending time with their 20 grandkids, too.

DARWIN MELVILLE
DARWIN MELVILLE

Darwin Melville’s commitment to clean traces back to lessons the assistant facilities manager learned from his father, who was in the military. “Growing up, my dad was regimental. I really think a lot about my dad. I lost him last year,” he said. “He was an amazing individual. He taught me a lot. He taught me how to work.” That work ethic has benefited schools across Canyons. In his 38-year career, Melville has worked at three middle schools and two elementaries between his time at the old Jordan High and the past three years at Corner Canyon. Melville fondly recalled that his first boss hired him because he wore a tie to the interview. That detail-oriented attitude carried over to the custodial and managerial work he accomplished, maintaining sparkling and functioning environments conducive for education and growth. Things have changed thanks to technological advances. He remembers how they used to have to climb up and crawl on wood planks to change light bulbs in Jordan’s old gym. They used to mop by hand, too. Now they supervise machines that scrub and shine the floors. Melville, an award-winning musician, overcame challenges to have a productive and lengthy career and will continue to prioritize health and family in retirement. He’ll leave part of his heart behind with the District. “It’s not just work; it’s connections,” he said. “I’m going to miss these people.”

SUE MIKELL
SUE MIKELL

After working with kids with special needs for the past 28 years, Sue Mikell is grateful that she changed her career trajectory away from traditional sports medicine. As a District physical therapist, Mikell has helped preschoolers attain more mobility and improve developmental skills needed to participate in the classroom. She teaches them how to sit, roll, walk, and use assistive devices, among other things. “It’s physically demanding, but it’s very rewarding,” she said. And the earlier she and her team of therapists can assist kids, the better. “We're strong believers in early intervention,” Mikell said. “A lot of my preschoolers have been working with a therapist from the time they were babies.” Seeing children progress and attain new skills has been her favorite part. Several kids she’s been working with are now taking their first steps. An elite, competitive cyclist earlier in life, Mikell loves putting her athleticism to good use. Retirement will include road cycling, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and activity-based trips. First up: a dream vacation to Scotland and Ireland with her sister. Mikell, a singer and guitar player, will also devote time to her bluegrass band. Moving forward is bittersweet. “I really love my team. We are way more than workmates. We’re friends,” she said. “To have developed those relationships over the years has been really special and important to me.”

DEBBIE NOOK
DEBBIE NOOK

If you’re in Debbie Nook’s neighborhood, consider yourself lucky. Even when not feeding hundreds of school kids — like she did for 31 years as the nutrition manager at Sandy Elementary — Nook enjoys baking and sharing culinary creations with neighbors. Nook loved working in school cafeterias. She worked in Food Nutrition in Idaho for 21 years and a decade in Canyons kitchens before retiring last fall. “I miss the kids, miss the teachers,” she said. Now that the weather has warmed up, she hopes to travel to Twin Falls more often to visit her kids and grandkids. There’s lots of golfing and scrapbooking to catch up on, too. Nook appreciates the relationship she had with kids. She sang, played music, and danced with them on holidays. It warmed her heart returning to Sandy recently. Kids ran into the hall and greeted her, “Miss Debbie! Miss Debbie!” Her students’ favorite meal was pizza, and they knew the key to more ranch dipping sauce was asking for more vegetables.  Working with kids was always an adventure and good for laughs, including when she was trying to teach a student about manners. “I said, ‘Well, what’s the magic word?’” she recalled. “A little kid behind him said, ‘Abracadabra!’”

RIQUE OCHOA
RIQUE OCHOA

Rique Ochoa doesn’t merely teach history at Alta High. He is a treasured part of Alta’s history. “Been here since Day 1,” he proudly shares. Ochoa is the only employee remaining from when Alta opened in 1978. He’s retiring after a legendary 45-year career. Why so long? “I had good kids all the time,” he said. Ochoa is taking an old, vandalized desk as a souvenir. A student carved “The Preamble to the Constitution” into the wooden desktop, which must be Ochoa’s type of graffiti. For the first 17 years, Ochoa built Alta’s debate team from scratch. It transformed from 30 students into a 200-student-strong powerhouse. Since then, he’s taught AP history, which he says gave him a new lease on his teaching life. Ochoa has won multiple national, state and local awards. He still likes teaching, which is partly why he’s retiring. He didn’t want others to think he stayed too long. “I still feel at the top of my game,” he said. Ochao has been appointed to the Lone Peak Hospital Board of Trustees. He’ll also do law-related education with the Center for Civic Education’s “We the People Program.” After graduating from Brigham Young University, Ochoa worked at a drug company in Southern California when his college debate coach informed him that a new school in Sandy was opening. The rest is, well, history.

LEE ANN OLIVERSON
LEE ANN OLIVERSON

If there was a benefit to the economic crash in 2008, it was that it led Lee Ann Oliverson’s path to Canyons District. After working at a hospital during the first half of her 39 years as a speech therapist, Oliverson was pointed in our direction by a friend. Being a school speech pathologist at Midvale Middle was a new adventure for Oliverson, but her friend was right: She indeed loved it. She especially loves the children, including those who drop by her office to wish her a good morning, change her “A/B Day” sign, and do a little dance with her. “I'll miss that,” she said. “Those relationships and routines that you have with people.” It warms her heart to see students around town years after she worked with them in school. She also remains proud of developing the feeding and swallowing program at the hospital she worked at during her 39 years as a therapist. Oliverson’s husband convinced her to retire at the same time as him. She intends on sorting through 30 years worth of things that she’s collected in her home, gardening, hiking, cooking for fun, and traveling. Interestingly, she hopes to be an extra in a Utah-filmed movie or two and she plans on resuming her old backyard beekeeping hobby.

MARK PETERSEN
MARK PETERSEN

Mark Petersen loves science. It’s his mission to help students love it, too. Together, they’ve built miniature museum exhibits, gathered specimens for his classroom collection, and done field studies. One class created a sign to inform Dimple Dell Recreation Area visitors what birds they might see. “I just try and provide an opportunity for them to explore, because that’s what I like to do,” he said. “I think they respond to that pretty well.” In retirement, Petersen plans on doing volunteer work and pursuing unique adventures in all 50 states. Dr. Petersen, as you can call him now that he recently graduated with a Ph.D in Plant and Wildlife Sciences, will continue research that led to him discovering three new species of parasitic wasps, which are only known to exist in Utah. He hopes to publish more papers in scientific journals. Petersen is as loyal to Jordan High as Digger Dan. While enlightening Beetdiggers’ minds for 29 years in biology, chemistry, human anatomy and wildlife classes, he has continued a proud family tradition. His father and grandmother taught at Jordan. His mother worked in the office. His siblings and children attended JHS. His wife, Lisa, is the school’s scholarship specialist. “This is just the greatest place for me,” the 1982 alumnus said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

KERRY SCHROEPPEL
KERRY SCHROEPPEL

“Anything but teaching.” Kerry Schroeppel laughs about having that mindset upon graduating from Brigham Young University with degrees in Portuguese and Spanish. Thankfully, he changed his mind after a series of events that included moving to Los Angeles for a love interest and leaving a crazy job behind. Schroeppel’s first year of teaching — a split kindergarten-first grade class that tested his inexperience — almost convinced him to become a chiropractor. But he decided to come back for one more year, which turned into five, then 10…and now, he’s now retiring after 38 years in education (including three decades at Canyons as a teacher and administrator). He’s taught fourth grade for the past five years at Willow Springs and deeply appreciates how the school community rallied around him as his wife battled cancer and passed away right before the 2022-2023 school year. “It's been a blessing to be here. It really has,” Schroeppel said. “Principal Watts has been such a good, positive person for me to work with. When she decided to retire at the end of this year, I felt like, yeah, it's probably a good time for me to go, too.” Schroeppel plans on traveling with friends and tending to his garden. His nine grandchildren will get some of his time, too. And he’ll look back on the career he didn’t think he wanted with fondness. “I will definitely miss this place.”

MICHELLE SHIMMIN
MICHELLE SHIMMIN

There was a time when Michelle Shimmin wanted to be an attorney, but she never looked back after jumping into the education world. “I loved teaching,” said Shimmin, who spent her 31-year career in Canyons District schools. For the first nine years, she taught English at Crescent View Middle. She then moved onto Hillcrest High, where she also taught student government and coached debate. Next, she was an education technology coach and a digital and teaching learning specialist before becoming a COVID-response coordinator for elementary schools, all of which led to her assignment as principal of Canyons Online. Eventually, Shimmin could see herself returning to education, perhaps teaching freshmen at a university level, building curriculum or doing professional development. In the meantime, she’s spending extra time with her mom, planning camping getaways in the western U.S., and finding opportunities to take peaceful nature hikes. She’ll always smile looking back at her career. Working with kids helped her get through tough personal times and filled her bucket. “It was a place that brought peace to my soul,” Shimmin recalled. “I’ll be forever grateful for that.” Reflecting back also helped her come to peace with retiring. “It helped me realize that it’s time to move on.” Thankfully, she moves on after helping fill others’ buckets for three decades.

MARSHA SUMMERS
MARSHA SUMMERS

Truth be told, Marsha Summers didn’t want to retire. That’s how much she loves her job, loves the people she works with, and loves Hillcrest High. She planned on working for a few more years in the Huskies’ cafeteria, but after breaking her femur bone in half and then returning to work in January like a champ, Summers broke her back. Fortunately, she’s made a nice recovery since that injury and her ensuing March 15 retirement. And, in true Summers’ fashion, she’s still keeping busy with her church duties and growing enough vegetables to feed the neighborhood in her large backyard garden. She thoroughly loved working in the Hillcrest cafeteria for the past 29 years. “I enjoyed the children,” she said. Although it always touched her heart when they’d thank her for lunch, she was tickled pink by the occasional notes they’d write to her. Three of her four children attended Hillcrest, which was always fun for her to see them at school. Summers’ now-grown daughter wants to take her to Cancun on a cruise, which is a form of travel she loves. She’s also contemplating a return to a school kitchen on a volunteer basis. As she put it, “I like to keep busy.”

SALLIANNE WAKLEY
SALLIANNE WAKLEY

While attending high school in southeastern Idaho, Sallianne Wakley was encouraged by her uncle, a school counselor, to try college. It took a miracle, she jokes, but Wakley went to Ricks College and then earned degrees at Brigham Young University (bachelors) and Utah State University (masters) leading to a 31-year career in education. “I didn’t always want to be a teacher,” Wakley said. “But I think it’s where I was supposed to be.” Many students, teachers and colleagues owe her uncle a debt of gratitude. Wakley taught at Title I schools in Kearns, Magna and Sandy before taking an Instructional Supports role at Canyons. She’s been CSD’s Elementary Math Team Lead for years, and coached the science and gifted-and-talented SALTA teams. Wakley still gets cards and messages from former students. Wakley will never forget being there for an elementary student whose family went through a divorce. “It was almost like I was her safety net,” she said. A compliment she got as a Sandy Elementary coach makes her smile. “One of the teachers there said, ‘I don’t know how you get us to do things that we would never do,’” she recalled. Says Wakley, “Those two stories — that’s kind of being a teacher in a nutshell.” Her retirement will include traveling, gardening, family, and a little “me” time.

MARSHA WALLIN
MARSHA WALLIN

Like her grandpa, mom and sisters, who were all educators, Marsh Wallin wanted to be a teacher as a girl. She’d line up her dolls and stuffed animals in front of her easel chalkboard and teach them. “It’s always what I wanted to do,” the Brighton High alumna said. Thank goodness! For 30 years, Wallin has poured her heart into educating kids, earning Teacher of the Year honors at Quail Hollow and Brookwood elementary schools. Wallin first worked part-time, teaching gifted and talented students in Murray, while her kids were growing up. She then took an opportunity to become a full-time kindergarten teacher, and quickly wondered what she’d gotten herself into. “It was a disaster for about the first three months,” she said. Fortunately, a reading coach took Wallin under her wings years ago, and she’s thrived teaching kinders ever since. She loves seeing things click for them, especially reading, and she’ll forever cherish their cute notes and pictures, hugs, and the funny things they say. “They make me smile every day,” she said. Wallin’s husband travels for work, so she’s eager to join him on the road. She’s eyeing organization projects around her home and wants to play the piano more. She’s leaving behind many friends and fond memories. “Brookwood is an amazing school. We are just one big team,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to miss most.”

PATRICIA WARD
PATRICIA WARD

Moments after the school bell rang recently, a group of fourth-graders walked into Patricia Ward’s third-grade classroom. “Hi, sweet friends,” she said. “Go get a treat.” On the way out, one of them exclaimed, “You are the best teacher I’ve ever had!” For three decades in education, including 28 years at Sunrise Elementary, Ward has connected with students (even children of former students) by the way she teaches and cares — not just by providing pretzels and fruit snacks. “I think I've learned more than I've taught the kids,” she said. Ward admits to being surprised (and humored) by what comes out of kids’ mouths. Years ago, a little girl ran in after recess and told her, “Ms. Ward, you’re so pretty! If you weren’t so old, lots of guys would wanna be your boyfriend.” Ward has stayed at Sunrise, teaching first and third grade, despite a half-hour commute. “I have just loved it,” she said. “I came and everybody was just so kind and welcoming, and I just didn't wanna leave — and they haven’t kicked me out yet.” In retirement, her plans include traveling, trips to the theater, cooking, some part-time work, and reading books that aren’t manuals or lesson plans. Ward grew up in Indiana and San Diego before moving to Utah for family. She’s remained a kid at heart by teaching the littles. “Teaching wears you out, emotionally and physically,” she said. “But, in one aspect, it keeps you young.”

MARIANNE WATTS
MARIANNE WATTS

For nearly three decades of her 37-year education career, Marianne Watts made an impact on young students’ lives while teaching kindergarten and first grade. Truth be told, Watts was living out her childhood dream. “I knew from third grade that I wanted to be a teacher,” she recalled. “That's all I ever wanted.” Her career path took a slight detour after her principal at East Midvale asked her if she’d ever considered getting into administration. A decade later, the Willow Springs Elementary community is grateful her interest was piqued. Stepping away now certainly has bittersweet elements. “I love my teachers,” she said. “Willow Springs is like a family.” She’s fond of the students, PTA, volunteers, and the families as well and will miss doing morning announcements, which she always ends with the catchphrase: “Have the rest of a great day!” Watts laughs at memories of her time at the Draper school, from being duct-taped to a wall and taking a whipped cream pie to the face to being soaked in a dunk tank 150 or so times. She’ll take those memories with her as she and her new husband set out on new adventures. Trips to Europe and Ohio, where her daughter and grandbabies reside, are in their future. They enjoy fishing, hiking, and camping together, too. Before all that, though, Watts greatly anticipates something she’ll do to begin her retirement. “The first thing I’m going to do is turn off my alarm clock.”

It’s salt-of-the-earth people like Ted Bennett, who has worked in — and on — schools for decades, who help make CSD a great place to be. Bennett has worked as the general trade lead for five years. He’s also been on the grounds crew, worked at the central warehouse, done general trades welding, and fulfilled the District’s glazier role. He, his hard work and handiwork will be missed. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people over the 38 years,” he said. “That’s what I’ll miss is the people.” Bennett takes pride in accomplishing his goal of becoming the lead. “I think I've done a decent job, you know?” he said. “It put food on the table. It didn't make me rich, but I've always had sufficient for my needs. I put three sons on missions and we've never really wanted for a whole lot, so that's great.”  Bennett’s four children and 10 grandkids live in Utah, so they’ll get good grandpa time in his retirement. He plans on doing yard work, gardening, and fishing. “I got a lot of stuff that I like to tinker with at home,” he said. “I might get antsy and have to find something, but for now I just want to take some time off, see what’s out there, and do something new.”

TED BENNETT Read Less

Proving to herself and the world that she can do hard things, Barbara Blaser worked two jobs to support her young family while going back to school as a single mother before becoming a teacher. She even earned her four-year degree in three years. Blaser carried that focused determination and passion into what turned out to be a rewarding 35-year career in education in Idaho and Utah. Over the years, she’s taught all grade levels from first to eighth grade. Her tenure with Canyons school began in 2008 when she taught the sixth-grade gifted-and-talented program at Ridgecrest Elementary. After bouncing around grades a bit, she helped start the Dual Language Immersion program with first-graders. Blaser has taught second-graders at the school in recent years. “I love the kids,” she said with a smile. It’s elating when she helps a student grasp a concept and they’re inspired to learn more. Her reward: “Just seeing that light go on in their eyes.” In retirement, Blaser plans on organizing her family history materials and stories to pass onto her children. She hopes to finish four books she’s started. A former ski instructor, she also hopes to hit the slopes again now that she’s healed from two knee surgeries. There’s also traveling, exploring and family time in store for her future. “I just want to get healthy and enjoy life.”

BARBARA BLASER Read Less

For the past 30 years, Sheradee Bradfield has taught tech, geography and history at Midvale Middle. “My favorite thing is when my students get something and then their eyes light up,” she said. “It never gets old.” Spending time with students never gets old for Bradfield, either. “We laugh a lot. We have fun,” she said. “I've worked here long enough that I've seen my students grow up to do amazing things.” After teaching in the same school for three decades, Bradfield said she has taught a few children of former students, which makes parent-teacher conferences more like a family reunion. She considered going into broadcasting and computers, but, deep down, she knew that being a teacher was her destiny. Seeing her students succeed — like the one who grew up nearby and is now a lawyer — affirms that she made the right career choice. Bradfield, a young retiree, plans on helping a friend start a podcast. She would also like to return to her school on a part-time basis, perhaps as a mentor or hall monitor. The Jordan High alumna loves the people there that much. Midvale has always felt like her second home. “Some of my best friends work in this building,” she added. “They're incredibly good people.”

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Receiving her school’s Teacher of the Year award in 2011 came during a challenging period for Carolyn Brooks. She had a large class of 33 students and had just finished her Master’s degree in technology literacy. It was validating for the Sunrise Elementary teacher. Teaching students a variety of subjects and disciplines gives her a sense of purpose in her career. “I love the interconnectedness,” she said. “I love learning. And I like seeing my students in that process. When they're really excited about learning, they're happy, they start getting it and they find it interesting, I think that’s the best part of it.” Brooks, who’s with fourth-graders this year but taught fifth grade for most of her 18 years at Sunrise, began teaching in the 1970s. She jokes about having one of the shortest ID numbers. After raising her kids, working elsewhere and life circumstances, Brooks returned to the classroom in her 40s. She’s invested in her students and will miss them dearly. But after 24 years of teaching, the time feels right to try new things. “I'll miss the community. I'll miss the kids, but I'll always have the shared experiences,” she said. “I tell them to always let me know what happens in their life and that I’ll always be interested in what you’re doing.”

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Morgan Brown, whose educational career began four decades ago at Woods Cross High, has been an Alta High institution since landing a job at his dream school in 1989. He has coached multiple sports, taught P.E., math and driver’s ed, and led the Athletic Department for 22 years. Brown cherishes his 27 years on the road with student drivers. And, yes, he has stories — like how the brakes overheated near Brighton Ski Resort or when a pupil got into a fender-bender, or the time he was driven into a snowbank. “Some people think I’m crazy, but I enjoyed going out with the kids,” he said. “I’ve had kids that I’ll just remember forever.” Brown, Utah’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2018, has overseen much athletic success at Alta. He was surprised this year by being inducted into the Alta Coaches Hall of Fame and calls his career a “great ride.” Brown and his wife, a retired teacher who works part-time at Alta, have a trip planned to Europe. He anticipates doting on kids and grandkids in St. George and Florida, and he’ll certainly find time to golf. Brown estimates that he’s taught and driven with about 20,000 students. His own children tease him about not being able to go anywhere without running into someone who knows him. And to know Morgan Brown is to love him.

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Danna Caldwell’s retirement plans are ambitious. She’s raising her two young grandchildren and moving to Oklahoma. Caldwell will definitely miss Utah where her roots and sisters are. She’ll also miss teaching the fifth-graders at East Midvale, where her heart has been for the past 18 years since she returned from an extended teaching break in the Sooner State. Caldwell embraced working at a Title I school and will miss the kids and families she’s loved on for nearly two decades. “I've loved working at East Midvale,” she said. “I know a lot of people think it's challenging and it is, but I feel like you can do things to help these kids out.” Overall, she’s been in education for nearly 26 years, and her students still make her smile every day. She’s enjoyed their excitement as they soak up what she teaches about social studies, science, and even math. She likes sharing her patriotism and love for U.S. history — showing kids how current events correlate to the past — and often helps the 10-year-olds go from disliking math to loving the subject. “I just have fun,” she said. “And that's what's great because these fifth-graders, they buy into (the fact) that they can learn. They learn, they want to know more, and they're fun.”

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Though she’s a seventh-grade math teacher, math isn’t the only thing Nicole Clark has helped students with at Butler Middle. Clark was a math aide before returning to earn a Master’s Degree and become a full-time teacher. She believes most teenagers want to do well even if they occasionally behave otherwise. She has appreciated being there with them, trying to spark progress and help nudge them toward a more positive track. The key is finding a way to connect with the students and to work with them where they are. Because of the stigma that can be associated with the subject, Clark occasionally helps students work on this equation: Math x Mindset = Fun + Success. “I think it’s fun when kids get it because a lot of times kids come in thinking this is really hard or they can’t do it,” she said. “And every once in a while, you get a kid that you can change that mindset and that’s really fun.” Clark is grateful that she’ll have more time to help take care of her aging parents. She’s hoping to exercise more, hike, camp, play tennis, travel, volunteer, and maybe even do substitute teaching, as she joins her husband in an early retirement. “I'm excited to have the flexibility in my schedule,” she said. “We've got that opportunity to have that freedom to kind of do what we wanna do.”

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It took decades, cross-country moves, job changes, a divorce, motherly advice, returning to college, and other twists of fate before Victoria Dipietro finally landed a job as a first-grade teacher in 1996. Remarkably, Dipietro hasn’t budged from her school, that grade level or even her classroom for 27 years. She absolutely adores teaching first-graders. “I love seeing them grasp new concepts. The world’s kind of an open book for them,” she explained. “When that light comes on for them and they just make this jump and take off, it's really fun.” Dipietro feels at peace with her decision to move forward in life after so many years of wrangling first-graders and doing lesson plans. Now, Diepietro will assist her 92-year-old mother and help her daughter, who’s expecting her fourth child soon. She will take adult piano lessons from her kids’ 85-year-old piano teacher after summer. She’ll paint, sew, and work on other craft projects. She’s excited to spend time with a dear friend from high school, whom she humorously told: “Now we can play any time of day, not just in the evening or weekends.” By the way, if Dipietro shows back up in her classroom at Granite Elementary this fall, it might not just be out of habit. She’s already volunteered to help the school’s new team of first-grade teachers.

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It makes sense that Dr. Robert Dowdle has lived at the base of Mount Olympus for most of his life. After all, Dowdle has been a titan in education for 35 years. The influence he’s had in Canyons District — as the Assistant Superintendent, a school administrator and social studies teacher — has been herculean. Dowdle considers pursuing a career in education and working with children, their families and fellow educators to be one of his best life decisions. Those who’ve seen him in action agree. He’s overseen Canyons’ academic teams, schools, central operations, curriculum, and transportation. Thousands have benefited from his work. Dowdle will certainly keep busy in retirement. He’ll pour more of his time into making custom hardwood tables, cutting boards, and other creations in his woodshop. He’ll continue building aesthetician and cosmetology studios at home for two of his daughters. A grandfather of 12, he also looks forward to serving people, while staying fit, cycling, hiking, skiing and playing pickleball. He’s committed to learning Spanish to communicate with his Chilean wife of 39 years and her family in their native language. Becoming bilingual, like his four daughters, will help on an upcoming months-long journey in South America. Dowdle’s family will continue to be his top priority. “One thing I've repeated to the high school principals over and over is, ‘I work to live. I don't live to work,’” he said. “I’m an assistant superintendent at a school district, but the first thing I want to talk about is my wife and kids.”

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Pamela Doyle was raised in Virginia and is retiring as a school psychologist from Midvale Elementary, so it only makes sense that her 42-year career began as a teacher on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. “I was always drawn to the kids in my classroom who had behavior and learning issues. Those were the kids that really interested me, but I didn't really know how to help them,” said Doyle, who decided to get a psychology degree after six years of teaching. From early on, Doyle adopted a mission of helping teachers understand and teach kids with special needs and nudge them onto a successful path. Her work has taken her to Park City, Idaho, and elsewhere, and she says her five-year stint at Midvale has been most gratifying. “This has been the hardest and the most rewarding place,” she said. “There have been some deep, dark days and some elated days, just the gamut.” Pandemic-related behavioral difficulties certainly didn’t help matters, but, to Doyle’s credit, she decided to stay one more year. She wanted to help more kids and go out on a positive note. She and her husband bought a house on a beautiful, pristine lake in Arkansas, where they’ll spend time in retirement fishing, boating, kayaking, and just relaxing. He also hopes to volunteer at children’s hospitals. Wherever retirement takes her, Doyle will continue to do what she’s done for decades — help children.

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As she ponders her retirement — after teaching off and on since 1986 — Shelly Edmonds envisions breathtaking locales and exhilarating experiences around the globe. The Hillcrest High English teacher pictures herself lying on a beach in Greece and taking picturesque river cruises in Europe and down the Mississippi. Let’s be real. After years of grading papers, just about anywhere in the world where there aren’t sophomore essays seems like an ideal vacationing spot. Jokes aside, Edmonds, who’s earned Hillcrest’s Teacher of the Year honors, has enjoyed teaching English and literature to teenagers. “It's so neat to see that look on their faces when they just get it, when their eyes get big, their mouth drops open or they come up with something that is more eloquent than I could say,” she said. She calls her co-workers “witty, caring, compassionate and committed” and says she’s going to miss them a lot. Edmonds said she’s retiring, in part, to take care of her two “grumpy old men” — her husband, a former Jordan District high school administrator, and her dad. She has started approximately “a million quilts” that she wants to finish. Her cocker spaniels, Emma and Sparky, will love the extra attention they’ll get. She also hopes to do more community service, well, unless it includes essays. “I don't have any hobbies other than grading papers right now,” Edmonds said, smiling. “I'm looking forward to getting some hobbies.”

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The bulk of Julie Epperson’s career has involved working with kids. Along with being a mother, she’s been a teacher, became proficient in art therapy, earned her graduate degree, worked in the domestic violence arena, and spent the past nine years as a school psychologist. Her positive impact has been widespread. “I’ve enjoyed the students and have seen it all pretty much,” she said. With more kids coming to school with increased social-emotional challenges, Epperson’s job has not been easy. Thank goodness there are people like her to provide support and skills development. It melts her heart when students show progress, gain self-confidence and start feeling good about themselves. In her words: “Being able to say to a kiddo, ‘You don’t need my support anymore. You’re doing great!’ — that’s been rewarding.” Though Epperson’s large office window offers a stunning view of the Wasatch mountains, she’s willing to give up that prized possession to soak up scenery in the great outdoors. She hung up a map of the U.S. national parks, showing which natural treasures she’s visited and which ones are on her retirement to-do list. “My husband and I have a new little RV that we wanna get out, do some more exploring,” she said of her mountain biking, fly fishing, and hunting plans. She will miss the view from — and inside — Butler Middle, though.

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Though she is not a math teacher, Denise Ferguson tabulated an astounding figure regarding her four-decade career at Alta High. “I figure between 1982 and all the years that I was an AP reader I have read over 40,000 student essays,” she said. “And I think, ‘Wow, that’s a lot.’” Ferguson, who studied journalism at Brigham Young University, pressed pause on teaching in the 1980s to raise her three children. She continued grading AP essays for 13 years before returning to full-time in 2002. She’s wrapping up her 21st year with the yearbook and has helped students publish the now-online school paper, the “Alta Hawkeye.” She is proud — and rightfully so — of establishing a widely modeled AP language program and of her work with students on the award-winning and nationally respected yearbook. “It’s a very team-oriented thing,” she said of the yearbook, which involves her teaching, supervising and collaborating with graphic designers, photographers, writers, and other staff members. That connection has continued in an unexpected way for some former students. “I’ve had five or six marriages out of the yearbook staff over the years,” she said. In retirement, Ferguson is excited to golf, swim and exercise on her own timeline. One thing she’ll give up? Reading essays. “That,” she said, “is the one thing I’m looking forward to not having to do.”

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Over the past 13 years, Mark Forman has helped guide Canyons District through what you could call an alarming situation. That’s a good thing, by the way. Thanks to his diligent work updating fire- and security-alarm systems, Canyons is a safer and more secure place than it was before the District was created (when it wasn’t uncommon to have 27 false fire alarms in a single month). Processes that Forman instituted around CSD have even been adopted elsewhere in the state. Forman enters retirement healthy after undergoing a successful back surgery, which will allow him to help his wife, work on projects around the house, and restore hot rods and his 1949 Jeeps. He’s also eager to attend his grandkids’ games and events, and go four-wheeling, hiking, camping, and exploring the outdoors, which will include researching old mining claims and searching for a 6-foot-wide petrified tree he saw a half-century ago in Southern Utah. After working in construction and security for the past 54 years, Forman is following the advice he received from old farmers when he was a teenager. “I’d always ask them, ‘So, how do you live so long?’” They’d tell him, “You’ve got to age gracefully. You’ve got to be able to learn when it’s time to let somebody else do the hard stuff.” Forman is finally doing just that. Don’t be alarmed. He left the District in great shape.

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It’s no wonder why Kelly Gill looks back on her 26-year educational career with fondness. For starters, Gill has embraced working with children. “I really tapping into where their strengths are and trying to pull out the best in every student,” she said. Then there’s the fact that, between her decade-plus tenure in Texas to the past 12 years at Willow Springs Elementary, her time in teaching has been packed with interesting activities and opportunities. Fun memories include annually putting on class plays, earning Teacher of the Year honors, guiding her classes to Canyons District Film Festival participation and wins, digging a path to the front door of her outdoor portable classroom during huge snowstorms, and working on education issues as a teacher fellow in the Hope Street Group Utah Teacher Fellowship program. She even traveled to Finland with the Global Education Association and learned how the world’s education leaders taught their children. Hundreds of kids over the years were fortunate to get an up close and personal view of her teaching methods, too. In particular, she has really loved imparting her passion for reading and writing onto younger generations. Already a published author, Gill plans on writing children’s books in retirement. “I’ve always enjoyed writing,” she said. “So, I figure, why not!?” She’ll also spend time hiking, working out, exploring the world, and being with family and friends.

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Marian Gladbach, who moved often with her military husband, has taught in two foreign countries and seven different states for a total of 38 years. But she has a special place in her heart for the special education students she’s taught at Jordan High for the past 14 years. She has a special space in her classroom for them, too. Gladbach has placed on a bulletin board photos of every senior she’s taught at Jordan since 2009. Her students love the tribute wall. They light up when they return to visit her and look for their photos. Gladbach hopes that ongoing connection is a sign that she made a difference. “You don’t know what you said or did to strike a chord in any student,” she said. “You just do the best you can every day.” Gladbach’s unique balance of empathy, discipline and no-nonsense style helped her garner respect and connect with students. Her students can feel that she cares deeply. She’ll take retirement as it comes. Maybe she’ll volunteer or get a part-time job at Costco. “I said long ago that I did not want to be wrestling with kids after I was 65,” she said. “It's just time. I want to do other stuff.” One thing is certain. She’ll be there to take photos of her seniors at graduation.

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When people speak well of Katherine Grimm, it’s definitely deserved. After all, she’s been helping people speak well for more than 20 years. In recent years, Grimm, a speech language pathologist, has focused her efforts on working with students from Canyon View and Lone Peak elementary schools. Grimm particularly loves helping the little children. It breaks her heart to discover that some have been picked on because of struggles with their speech and other challenges in that realm.  “When they feel better about themselves, because they can speak better and more clearly, that’s a good thing,” she says. Originally from Florida, where her mom still lives, Grimm has bounced around the country studying and practicing her profession. She worked in Arizona and returned to her college stomping grounds, South Carolina, eight years ago to try something new before winding up again in Utah, where her grandkids and heart remained. In retirement, Grimm will have flexibility to tend to her 93-year-old mom in the Sunshine State. She anticipates taking the opportunity to travel for fun, including a possible cross-country drive. She loves helping children, so it’s possible she’ll end up working on a part-time basis. “You never know,” she admitted. The beauty of retirement? She doesn’t need to know yet. She’s earned a break.

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After seeing how much her son with disabilities benefited from a transition program in the 1990s, Pamela Hansen knew she wanted to become a paraeducator. “I just saw what it did for him,” she said. “It prepared him for life after school.” Years later, Hansen followed a path that helped her help others in need. Her journey to Canyons Transition Academy, where she worked for most of the past decade, included her earning a grant to go back to college in her 50s. She had initially intended to go into elementary education, but career took a detour as she processed loans for an insurance company before focusing her full-time attention on her five boys. Interestingly, Hansen has picked up a hobby of toiling away at algebra workbooks. It’s her version of Sudoku. She also enjoys watching British movies and PBS. She’s even considering substitute teaching on a part-time basis at CTA. Her adult son, Michael, still lives with her, but Hansen’s other service-oriented boys have relocated elsewhere with her 14 grandkids. She plans on taking time in retirement to visit them, including a son who’s about to move to Japan. Hansen beams while talking about her boys, who continually make her day when they call in to check on her. “I loved it,” she said of raising them as a single mom. “It was great to feel content when everybody thought I should be so miserable. Boys treat their moms well.”

 

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Dave Heywood fondly recalls being the 22nd employee hired by the fledgling Canyons District back in 2009. The Hillcrest High alumnus also remembers — fondly might not be the accurate adverb — the challenges the IT Department had while getting everything up and running. “Boy, the first six months here was like building an airplane while you’re in the air,” he mused. Thanks to the expertise of Heywood and the OG IT crew, the computer systems got off the ground and weathered the turbulence while helping the District’s data soar into the future. Over the years, Heywood, whose 30-year career in education began in the Jordan District as a custodian, helped CSD adapt to evolving and improving technology while keeping data secure. He’s transitioned the District to a wireless wifi system with universal log-ins, made things user-friendly for students, faculty and parents, and implemented three major, widespread telephone roll-outs. “I had a great team,” he said, beaming. “Really smart guys. That’s what kept me afloat.” Heywood isn’t completely unplugging in retirement. He’ll continue to do IT in the private sector. But he plans on spending more time in the saddles of his mountain and road bikes and motorcycle. He’s also excited to do more kayaking, exploring the outdoors, and being with his family, including his wife, daughter and grandkids.

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Rick Hoggard has been in transportation and mechanics since he was 18 years old. After working for about two decades with several transportation companies, including Greyhound and Lewis Bros. Stages, he was recruited to work for Jordan School District. Hoggard then made the wise move to Canyons where he eventually took over as shop foreman. It was a perfect fit. He loves working with vehicles and numbers. Staying under budget has been a priority, and he’s been successful at accomplishing that. He’s taken pride in being a key cog in getting children safely to their destinations each day. That is quite a task, considering some 15,000 students begin and end each school day with a trip on a bus. And CSD’s fleet of buses can be inspected up to 400 times to ensure that they are working in tip-top shape. Hoggard, a recipient of the 2021 Apex Award for Education Support Professionals, helps minimize avoidable disruptions such as mechanical failures and fender benders. A big sports fan, Hoggard has a goal of visiting every Major League Baseball stadium. He’d like to explore the U.S., national parks and museums. He anticipates spending time with his family, including the two sets of twins his children have had. “They keep us going,” he said, referring to his three children and grandkids. “We have a good time.”

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Over the years, Joy Huffaker has helped make a difference at multiple schools and programs around Canyons. Her 22-year education career, which followed her military service, has been interesting and impactful. She was a tester and head secretary at the prison for South Park Academy. She had multiple stints at the District’s alternative high school, Entrada. Most recently, she’s been an integral part of CSD’s online education opportunity. She’s also assisted in the classroom, helped the PTA, and worked as a special education paraprofessional when her son was in school. Each position had challenges and rewards. Huffaker is a big fan of Michelle Shimmin and the work they did for Canyons Online. She adores working with special education students and the prison was an experience second to none. She also enjoyed encouraging students at Entrada. “I became like their second mom,” she recalled. She was particularly inspired by an 80-year-old veteran, diagnosed with cancer, who persevered to graduate. “He had never finished high school because of World War II,” she said. “When he came back, he just went in and worked. He wanted to leave a good example for his grandchildren.” Joy has also been a good example to all who crossed her path, and joy to work with.

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May 26th is a big day in the Hunter household. Teresa Hunter and her husband, an accountant, are retiring at about the same time on the same day. “We’re excited,” Hunter said. “We have a lot of things planned.” Like her duties at Indian Hills Middle, Hunter’s natural instinct is to take care of others, so she’s looking forward to being able to focus on self-care. She’ll also help her daughters and grandkids, and plans on visiting other family members, exploring Native American ruins, and hiking. An LDS mission and a move to the country somewhere is being mulled over. It will be a well-deserved change of pace for Hunter, who’s spent 15 years working as a school safety advocate and in special education. “I love my job,” she said. “I get to work with thousands of kids every single day. I enjoy it because I’m helping and I’m making a difference.” Her job consists of cross-guard duties, monitoring security cameras, assisting the school resource officer, supporting faculty and staff, and attending to kids in the hallways — some of whom are troubled and some who are in trouble. She previously worked in special education for 10 years. “What can I do to help?” was her mantra back then, and likely for the foreseeable future.

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Peruvian Park Principal Leslie Jewkes keeps a little figurine of an angel carrying a lamp on a shelf in her office. The statue was a gift. Her efforts to assist a struggling fourth-grade girl, who was severely depressed and benefited from the targeted TLC she received from Jewkes, were greatly appreciated. After the student’s focus and actions positively shifted that school year about 20 years ago, the girl’s mom gave Jewkes the token. She told her, “You’re our angel.” It’s one of many cherished memories from working in education for Jewkes, who earned Canyons’ 2022 Apex Award for School Administrator of the Year after overseeing the design and construction of her new school. “That’s my reward,” she said. “It’s not the accolades and awards. It’s the kids and the things with the kids, seeing the growth.” Though she originally went to school for engineering, Jewkes spent the previous three decades of her 43-year career in the classroom. She taught almost every grade in elementary school before transitioning into administration for the past 12 years. “I love teaching and being in schools,” Jewkes said. “Working with the kids, obviously, is the reason we’re in it.” Spending more time with her family, including two grandkids in Seattle, will be a big priority in retirement. She’ll have more time to paint, visit friends, and travel (Bonjour, Paris!).

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She likes seeing students learn any subject, but it delights Canyon View special education teacher Sharie Johnson when her students make reading progress. “That is so foundational to a successful life,” she said. “Knowing how to read is just really super important for their future.” Johnson also loves when children help other children in her class. Recently, while Johnson was trying to help a third-grade boy manage his big emotions and make better choices, a student overheard their conversation. The girl shared what she had been taught and encouraged her classmate to ignore people who try to upset him. “Don’t let anybody take your power from you,” she said. “Just walk away.” Johnson admires the students she teaches and the dedicated, patient and tenderhearted people she’s worked with over the years. “They work hard to do the best they can for the kids and are really supportive of each other,” she said. “None of us are perfect. We all need help once in a while, somebody to have our backs when we’ve forgotten to do something or need some encouragement. I’ve had just wonderful principals and a team” Johnson plans on filling her time in retirement by reading, walking, cooking, baking, and cherishing her kids and grandkids. She might even start tutoring next fall.

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After a 43-year career in education, Sharee Jorgenson won’t sing her own praises or toot her own horn. But, truth be told, it would sound wonderful if she did. Music has been a huge part of Jorgenson’s life ever since she began playing piano at age 5. Fortunately for students from Richfield, St. George, and all over Canyons District, she willingly shared her expertise and passion for music and the arts throughout a career that hit all the right notes. For 30 years, Jorgenson devoted herself to teaching every musical class offered by schools – from band to orchestra, choir and guitar. In her most recent capacity as Canyons’ teacher specialist over the visual and performing arts, Jorgenson has mentored teachers, tuned pianos, supported elementary music programs, overseen instrument repairs, created a Districtwide costume inventory database and theater warehouse, and worked with vendors. “I was halftime teaching, halftime specialist,” she said, looking back on her career. “I loved teaching, absolutely loved it.” She also thrived as the District’s first teaching specialist. Jorgenson succinctly summed up her hobbies: “Music, music, music. Clean, clean, clean.” In retirement, she plans to spend time organizing and cleaning — she calls it “stress relief” — and will do event planning for a mountain resort. All with a song in her heart, of course.

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For 37 years, Vo Lam has poured his heart and soul into his duties as a custodian at the old Jordan High, Union Middle and Sandy Elementary. “I love it,” Lam said. “I love being around the kids and teachers.” The people he works with love him, too. His colleagues at Sandy made that evident in a playful way. In the faculty room, the Sharks put up a huge poster with his photo on it above the soda foundation that reads, “The Vo Lam Retirement Fountain. Love in every sip.” Lam isn’t one to cut corners and goes the extra mile to make sure things are right. That was particularly challenging this winter, when he’d arrive hours early many mornings to hand shovel an enormous amount of snow from sidewalks around the elementary. He prides himself on giving 110 percent at work — even when it requires him to clean up some interesting messes made by kids — while also spending quality time with his family. “That’s what I like to do,” he said. Having recently turned 56, Lam is looking forward to a couple of months of R&R, some RVing, and camping. He then plans on getting a different type of job. Wherever the Jordan High alumnus lands, you can count on two things: Lam will work hard and the people he works for will love him.

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Although there are challenges — and mounds of paperwork — that accompany the teaching profession, Mary Mallory found educating 7 year olds to be quite rewarding. That explains why she stayed on as a first-grade teacher at Midvale Elementary since 2001 after teaching a couple of other grades earlier in her 30-year career. “I love first grade because you can see the progress that they make,” she said. “You can just see so much growth.” Mallory’s future will include part-time work somewhere and a lot of quality time with her eight grandchildren, including the three babies who were born last summer. She glows while talking about being a nana. “You can just do fun things all the time with them and not have to worry about all the icky stuff.” She tried to take a fun approach to helping teach the young kids who came across her path the past three decades, which can be challenging at times considering she teaches math. Her aim was to make learning an engaging process for kids. Leaving the Mustangs is bittersweet for Mallory. She enjoys her colleagues and appreciates the diverse makeup of the Midvale student body. “Teaching first grade is hard. It's a lot of work. It's stressful at times,” she admitted. “But I do love teaching. I love teaching the kids.”

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After growing up in Kansas City, attending college at Kansas State and beginning his teaching career in The Sunflower State, Kevin Mark — much to the delight of the Jordan High community — isn’t in Kansas anymore. Following a 12-year stint in his home state, Mark was recruited to head West to teach and coach basketball 32 years ago. He joined the Beetdiggers after three years at Alta High, and is one of the few employees remaining from the old Jordan High. “It became home,” Mark said. “Jordan High was very good to me, was very good to my children, and very good to my stepchildren.” Mark was good to Jordan, too. Along with coaching girls basketball, Mark taught business, typing and shorthand, PE, history, government, and social studies. “In a profession where people are kind of transient, I made it 44 years,” Mark said. Mark, an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan, hasn’t spent a lot of time planning out retirement. “The reality of it hasn’t hit me yet,” he admitted. Even so, his fellow fantasy baseball competitors back in New York City and in the Las Vegas-based National Fantasy Baseball Championship might be on high alert now that he’ll have more free time to devote to his favorite hobby. He and his wife look forward to spending time with their 20 grandkids, too.

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Darwin Melville’s commitment to clean traces back to lessons the assistant facilities manager learned from his father, who was in the military. “Growing up, my dad was regimental. I really think a lot about my dad. I lost him last year,” he said. “He was an amazing individual. He taught me a lot. He taught me how to work.” That work ethic has benefited schools across Canyons. In his 38-year career, Melville has worked at three middle schools and two elementaries between his time at the old Jordan High and the past three years at Corner Canyon. Melville fondly recalled that his first boss hired him because he wore a tie to the interview. That detail-oriented attitude carried over to the custodial and managerial work he accomplished, maintaining sparkling and functioning environments conducive for education and growth. Things have changed thanks to technological advances. He remembers how they used to have to climb up and crawl on wood planks to change light bulbs in Jordan’s old gym. They used to mop by hand, too. Now they supervise machines that scrub and shine the floors. Melville, an award-winning musician, overcame challenges to have a productive and lengthy career and will continue to prioritize health and family in retirement. He’ll leave part of his heart behind with the District. “It’s not just work; it’s connections,” he said. “I’m going to miss these people.”

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After working with kids with special needs for the past 28 years, Sue Mikell is grateful that she changed her career trajectory away from traditional sports medicine. As a District physical therapist, Mikell has helped preschoolers attain more mobility and improve developmental skills needed to participate in the classroom. She teaches them how to sit, roll, walk, and use assistive devices, among other things. “It’s physically demanding, but it’s very rewarding,” she said. And the earlier she and her team of therapists can assist kids, the better. “We're strong believers in early intervention,” Mikell said. “A lot of my preschoolers have been working with a therapist from the time they were babies.” Seeing children progress and attain new skills has been her favorite part. Several kids she’s been working with are now taking their first steps. An elite, competitive cyclist earlier in life, Mikell loves putting her athleticism to good use. Retirement will include road cycling, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and activity-based trips. First up: a dream vacation to Scotland and Ireland with her sister. Mikell, a singer and guitar player, will also devote time to her bluegrass band. Moving forward is bittersweet. “I really love my team. We are way more than workmates. We’re friends,” she said. “To have developed those relationships over the years has been really special and important to me.”

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If you’re in Debbie Nook’s neighborhood, consider yourself lucky. Even when not feeding hundreds of school kids — like she did for 31 years as the nutrition manager at Sandy Elementary — Nook enjoys baking and sharing culinary creations with neighbors. Nook loved working in school cafeterias. She worked in Food Nutrition in Idaho for 21 years and a decade in Canyons kitchens before retiring last fall. “I miss the kids, miss the teachers,” she said. Now that the weather has warmed up, she hopes to travel to Twin Falls more often to visit her kids and grandkids. There’s lots of golfing and scrapbooking to catch up on, too. Nook appreciates the relationship she had with kids. She sang, played music, and danced with them on holidays. It warmed her heart returning to Sandy recently. Kids ran into the hall and greeted her, “Miss Debbie! Miss Debbie!” Her students’ favorite meal was pizza, and they knew the key to more ranch dipping sauce was asking for more vegetables.  Working with kids was always an adventure and good for laughs, including when she was trying to teach a student about manners. “I said, ‘Well, what’s the magic word?’” she recalled. “A little kid behind him said, ‘Abracadabra!’”

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Rique Ochoa doesn’t merely teach history at Alta High. He is a treasured part of Alta’s history. “Been here since Day 1,” he proudly shares. Ochoa is the only employee remaining from when Alta opened in 1978. He’s retiring after a legendary 45-year career. Why so long? “I had good kids all the time,” he said. Ochoa is taking an old, vandalized desk as a souvenir. A student carved “The Preamble to the Constitution” into the wooden desktop, which must be Ochoa’s type of graffiti. For the first 17 years, Ochoa built Alta’s debate team from scratch. It transformed from 30 students into a 200-student-strong powerhouse. Since then, he’s taught AP history, which he says gave him a new lease on his teaching life. Ochoa has won multiple national, state and local awards. He still likes teaching, which is partly why he’s retiring. He didn’t want others to think he stayed too long. “I still feel at the top of my game,” he said. Ochao has been appointed to the Lone Peak Hospital Board of Trustees. He’ll also do law-related education with the Center for Civic Education’s “We the People Program.” After graduating from Brigham Young University, Ochoa worked at a drug company in Southern California when his college debate coach informed him that a new school in Sandy was opening. The rest is, well, history.

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If there was a benefit to the economic crash in 2008, it was that it led Lee Ann Oliverson’s path to Canyons District. After working at a hospital during the first half of her 39 years as a speech therapist, Oliverson was pointed in our direction by a friend. Being a school speech pathologist at Midvale Middle was a new adventure for Oliverson, but her friend was right: She indeed loved it. She especially loves the children, including those who drop by her office to wish her a good morning, change her “A/B Day” sign, and do a little dance with her. “I'll miss that,” she said. “Those relationships and routines that you have with people.” It warms her heart to see students around town years after she worked with them in school. She also remains proud of developing the feeding and swallowing program at the hospital she worked at during her 39 years as a therapist. Oliverson’s husband convinced her to retire at the same time as him. She intends on sorting through 30 years worth of things that she’s collected in her home, gardening, hiking, cooking for fun, and traveling. Interestingly, she hopes to be an extra in a Utah-filmed movie or two and she plans on resuming her old backyard beekeeping hobby.

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Mark Petersen loves science. It’s his mission to help students love it, too. Together, they’ve built miniature museum exhibits, gathered specimens for his classroom collection, and done field studies. One class created a sign to inform Dimple Dell Recreation Area visitors what birds they might see. “I just try and provide an opportunity for them to explore, because that’s what I like to do,” he said. “I think they respond to that pretty well.” In retirement, Petersen plans on doing volunteer work and pursuing unique adventures in all 50 states. Dr. Petersen, as you can call him now that he recently graduated with a Ph.D in Plant and Wildlife Sciences, will continue research that led to him discovering three new species of parasitic wasps, which are only known to exist in Utah. He hopes to publish more papers in scientific journals. Petersen is as loyal to Jordan High as Digger Dan. While enlightening Beetdiggers’ minds for 29 years in biology, chemistry, human anatomy and wildlife classes, he has continued a proud family tradition. His father and grandmother taught at Jordan. His mother worked in the office. His siblings and children attended JHS. His wife, Lisa, is the school’s scholarship specialist. “This is just the greatest place for me,” the 1982 alumnus said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

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“Anything but teaching.” Kerry Schroeppel laughs about having that mindset upon graduating from Brigham Young University with degrees in Portuguese and Spanish. Thankfully, he changed his mind after a series of events that included moving to Los Angeles for a love interest and leaving a crazy job behind. Schroeppel’s first year of teaching — a split kindergarten-first grade class that tested his inexperience — almost convinced him to become a chiropractor. But he decided to come back for one more year, which turned into five, then 10…and now, he’s now retiring after 38 years in education (including three decades at Canyons as a teacher and administrator). He’s taught fourth grade for the past five years at Willow Springs and deeply appreciates how the school community rallied around him as his wife battled cancer and passed away right before the 2022-2023 school year. “It's been a blessing to be here. It really has,” Schroeppel said. “Principal Watts has been such a good, positive person for me to work with. When she decided to retire at the end of this year, I felt like, yeah, it's probably a good time for me to go, too.” Schroeppel plans on traveling with friends and tending to his garden. His nine grandchildren will get some of his time, too. And he’ll look back on the career he didn’t think he wanted with fondness. “I will definitely miss this place.”

KERRY SCHROEPPEL Read Less

There was a time when Michelle Shimmin wanted to be