Teachers are constantly generating ideas for improving instruction and putting them into practice in their classrooms. They are the secret sauce for innovation, a wellspring of ideas for advancing education—which is why the Canyons Education Foundation each year offers grants to help teachers bring their big ideas to fruition.

Applications are open now for the competitive grants, which recognize and support excellence in teaching by providing funds — up to $10,000 per grantee — to enhance teaching through technology, materials or supplemental programs. All applications are due Monday, Sept. 30, at 5 p.m., and the forms can be found on the Foundation’s website. Awards will be based on the educational merit, as well as the creativity of the proposals. 

Grant winners come from all grade levels and subject areas, from math and science to music and language. Requests range from robotics kits and 3-D printers to technology that helps young musicians practice challenging musical scores at home.

On any given year, a total of about $100,000 is available. Funds earned at a Sept. 18 golf tournament at Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in Midway help pay for the grants.

Questions about the grant process or the golf tournament can be answered by Canyons’ Development Office at 801-826-5178.

Set — and make — goals! 

That’s the message Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC players sent on Monday, Aug. 19 when they visited elementary and middle schools to welcome students back to school after a long summer break.  

For three years, the professional soccer players who take to the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium, located in Canyons District boundaries, have criss-crossed Canyons on the first day of school, giving high-fives and fist-bumps to students as they make their way into school for the first day of the school year. 

The visits also served as invitations to come see the players at upcoming games. The early fall games usually draw teachers, school staff, students and parents who are both celebrating the start of the school year and stretching summer fun into fall.  And attending students can cheer for the players they met on the first day of school. 

Thanks to the generosity of the Real Salt Lake organization, Canyons families, including employees, can attend Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals FC and Real Monarchs games at discounted prices. To take advantage of this back-to-school promotion, go to www.rsl.com/promo, enter the promo code, “CSD,” and select the game you’d like to attend.
  • Real Salt Lake — Buy one, get one free for the Wednesday, Sept. 11. game vs. the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. (Please note that the tickets will show up under the promo code as half-priced). 
  • Utah Royals FC — One free ticket per student, with each additional ticket costing $10 for the Friday, Sept. 6 game vs. the Portland Thorns at 7:30 p.m.
  • Real Monarchs — One free ticket, with each additional ticket costing $8 for the Friday, Aug. 30 game vs. OKC Energy at 8 p.m.
There are a few names for what parents and teachers fear will happen to their students over the long stretch of summer. The summer slide, brain drain, and learning loss are just a few the terms referring to the tendency of students to lose ground academically over long school breaks.

But not on Allyn Kau’s watch. This year, the Alta View Elementary parent decided to tackle the summer slide head on and see what she could do to keep the Road Runners reading through the lazy days of June, July and August.

She volunteered to create a program, using the Partners in Dyad Reading method encouraged by the Utah State Board of Education, then worked with Alta View Principal Scott Jameson to develop a weekly opportunity for students to come to school and practice their reading all summer long. The result was a highly-organized community effort to keep students moving forward—not backward—so they could resume school this week without missing a beat.Cau

“We’re always told to read 15-20 minutes a day, but with a little change, you can make a big difference,” Kau said. “I saw students struggling in math and reading and I was just hoping to find a way to help them catch up, or at least not drop.”

Kau learned about Dyad Reading at a presentation at the state PTA convention. While there, she made connections with the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), United Way, Utah State Fair and the Reading Network Group, who each gave her donations, such as notebooks, resources and Spanish and English flyers on how to participate in Dyad Reading. Her initial inroads led to connections with the Salt Lake County library system, which agreed to support the program.

Next, Alta View’s librarians, teachers and reading interventionists were willing to volunteer their time for two hours once a week to help read with the students and allow the children to check out a book from the school library. Principal Jameson used school-based funds to pay for the electricity needed to open the school for the program, and fund the teachers and employees. Librarians from the Salt Lake County system also volunteered at the reading session, as well as other members of the community.

“The program had two purposes, to read with the kids and to train parents in how to be better at reading with their kids,” Jameson said. “This is an example of a way that we can come together and work really well to find the best thing for the kids, and it became a much better program than it would have been if we were working separately.”

Dyad Reading pairs adults and students together as they sit side-by-side and simultaneously read out loud books that are two grade levels higher than the student’s reading group. If the child doesn’t know a word, the adult repeats it, and then the entire sentence, then continues on. According to the USBE, the method can improve reading fluency and comprehension by 1.9 grade levels.

“I think if we teach the parents to do it and get them on board, it’s a win-win situation,” said Tami Malan, a second-grade dual-immersion teacher at Alta View who also wanted to find a way to give students access to the school library during the summer. Students can lose three or four months of reading levels during the summer when they don’t read, Malan said. She’s already thinking about how to improve the program next year—but she says it couldn’t have been done without Cau’s initiative. 

Kau regularly volunteers at the school, belongs to the PTA, and occasionally works as a substitute in the classroom. The reading program was a monumental effort, she says, but in the end, even if only one student benefitted, it was worth it. 

“I say, just do something. Start somewhere. Talk to somebody,” Kau said. “There are always people who are willing to help. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to get the ball rolling and other people will fill in with their strengths and expertise.”

The USBE has an online guide for parents who are interested in trying Dyad reading with their children at home. Here are some highlights:

What is Dyad Reading?

Reading with your children is one of the most important things you can do to help them excel at school. We access the world of knowledge through reading, and, as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” The Dyad reading method is one way of reading with your child that has been proven to deliver measurable gains. It’s simple, and involves sitting side-by-side with your child, and reading aloud together as you scan the words with your finger. Discuss your child’s instructional level with your teacher. Use grade-level texts for first-graders. For students in grades 2-6, use materials that are about two grade levels above their current reading level.

•  Share one book.
•  Sit side by side.
•  Use one smooth finger.
•  Read with two voices.
•  Keep eyes on words.
•  Problem-solve to break words into manageable chunks.
•  Don’t go too fast or too slow.
•  Write down words you don’t know and look up their definitions.
•  Discuss the characters and plot.
•  Summarize main ideas.
•  Have fun!
The robust cheers heard throughout the Salt Lake Valley on Monday, Aug. 19 were likely from the back-to-school celebrations held at Canyons District schools.   

Per an 11-year tradition, principals rolled out red carpets to welcome students to the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers, principals, and parents, as well as Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe and members of the Canyons Board of Education, lined up to snap photos, cheer and give high-fives and fist bumps to the students headed into school for the first time of the school year.

Adding to the festivities were players from Real Salt Lake and Royals FC, the professional soccer players who compete at Rio Tinto Stadium, located within the Canyons District boundaries.  The players, who encouraged all the students to set their sights on reaching their goals, were accompanied by Leo the Lion, who attracted a crowd wherever he went.  

Elementary and middle school students also received a free pencil for their backpacks.  Another tool Canyons District is providing students is “social-emotional” training to make good decision, manage emotions and solve problems. After all, children can’t learn at high levels if they feel insecure, anxious, stressed or scared. 

BJ Weller, Canyons’ Responsive Services Director, appeared on ABC4 and KUTV on the first day of school to talk about how the District is helping children develop the confidence and character traits needed for success in life and school. This includes things like teaching students who to set and achieve goals, make and keep friends, and make responsible decisions.   

“We’re still teaching math, science, reading and writing … but we’re now cognizant of how, say the simple act of reading, can teach children empathy by exposing them to different perspectives or persisting with a math problem can teach perseverance,” he says.  “As a parent, you may hear your teacher refer to this as social-emotional learning. But it’s really best described as life skills, which, research suggests can significantly increase a student’s chances of graduating from high school and college.”

In Canyons District, the Board of Education has invested in the hiring and training of psychologists, social workers and counselors for every school. These professionals are there as a resource for families and to help maintain environments where children feel connected and safe to raise their hands, try hard things, and reach out to new friends. Also, starting this fall, and over the next few years, Canyons schools will be rolling out a new, social-emotional learning curriculum to help teachers and staff speak the same language when talking about things like problem-solving, focusing in class, and working as teams.

“Again, much of this is just part of everyday learning. For example, while reading a book in kindergarten about a boy who loses his dog, the teacher might prompt students to talk about how the boy feels or discuss steps he might take to begin searching for his pet. A failed science experiment can serve as an important lesson about it’s OK when things don’t work as planned, it’s part of the learning process. It’s kind of a new way of thinking about book smarts.”

Parents can support, Weller says, by modeling a positive attitude about education and showing interest in their child’s classes, teachers and friends.
New sixth-grade students descended on middle schools across Canyons District for orientation on Friday morning with excitement, some trepidation—and a million questions. 

For the last 11 years, Canyons’ middle schools have opened their doors a day early to help newcomers navigate the hallways, learn new schedules, explore the cafeteria, open their lockers, and generally get a grip on what it means to leave elementary school.

“At the end of the day, I just really want them to be excited to come back, that they’re not fearful on Monday,” said Draper Park Middle School Vice Principal Jodi Roberts. “Kids are scared of not knowing how to open their lockers, being able to find their classes, not having any friends—these are the things we focus on to alleviate their anxiety.”

Roberts and the other sixth-grade teachers at Draper Park also focused on teaching students the new rules that come with middle school. They greeted students with colorful hats and mustaches as part of the orientation’s theme: “I mustache you if you are excited for the 6th grade” and gently offered guidance in how to navigate school rules and the new expectations of middle school.middleschoolorientation

When Roberts saw a group of newcomers sprinting around the corner toward the lockers, she made a point of teaching them not to run through the wide, sunny hallways. They had to go back to their classrooms and start again, because with 1,640 students at the school, there isn’t room for anything but walking if you want to avoid a collision. “When in your life do you have to learn all of this?” Roberts said, after the students complied. “There is so much to learn.”

In math period, the students solved a problem that involved a gummy peach ring and a gummy worm, but they also learned the right way to participate in class. “Ladies and gentleman, 3, 2, 1,” said sixth-grade math teacher Kim Oldroyd as she worked to get her students to listen. “Why do I want you to clap on ‘1’? Right, to show me your hands are empty. OK, ladies and gentleman, 3, 2, 1 — pretty good. We’ll work on it.”

The students toured the cafeteria and ate popsicles as they learned they’ll have more lunch choices in middle school, but they better not cut the line or they’ll be sent to the end. They learned that all of their sixth-grade core classes are on the main floor of the school, separated from the older students, to give them a little buffer. In social studies class, the students had a question-and-answer period with several of the school’s student council members.

In one class, the students were abrim with questions. 

“How much better is the food?”
“How much homework do we get?”
“How big is this school?”
“What if you forgot your locker code?”

The students took turns asking about everything they wanted to know, then they practiced opening their lockers and headed to the auditorium for an assembly, looking remarkably more confident and prepared to face a new school year.

The first day of school for the 2019-2020 school year is Monday, August 19. Information on bell schedules can be found on each school’s main web page, and the school calendar can be found on Canyons District’s alphabetic directory of parent resources.
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