resources

Family Connections

Getting Involved

Tools

Resources

Leadership

About

Getting Involved

2023

APEX Awards Logo

From its founding days, the Canyons District community has invested in its schools with passion, creativity, and a mindset that anything is possible. The winners of the 2023 Apex Awards are among those who have gone above and beyond in CSD’s collective quest to rise above, strive to make a difference, and lift the children of Canyons as they reach for their dreams through education. Each year since 2010, the Board of Education and Administration have recognized stellar employees, volunteers, and business partners with Apex Awards, the highest awards presented by the District.  The winners received their lead crystal awards during a Tuesday, Oct. 26 ceremony at Alta High.  The Canyons Board of Education and Superintendent, who select the winners, express deep gratitude to this year’s honorees for their excellence, commitment and leadership. 

2023
TEACHER
of
THE YEAR
Max Eddington

2023
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR
of
THE YEAR
Dr. Bruce Eschler

2023
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATOR
of
THE YEAR
Stacy Kurtzhals

2023
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATOR
of
THE YEAR
Charisse Hilton


2023
EDUCATION SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS
of
THE YEAR


CSD Nutrition Services Department


2023
COMMUNITY PARTNER
of
THE YEAR


Tacos El Cuñado


2023
STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES PROFESSIONAL
of
THE YEAR


Gretchen Zaitzeff


2023
VOLUNTEER
of
THE YEAR


Rebecca Martin

2023
ELECTED OFFICIALS
of
THE YEAR

Sen. Kathleen Riebe and Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion,
Rep. Steve Eliason, and Rep. Andrew Stoddard


2023
LEGACY AWARD


Dr. Robert M. Dowdle

2023
TEACHER
of  THE YEAR
Max Eddington

Maxwell Eddington learned an invaluable lesson from a dear relative early in life that continues to impact him and those whose lives he positively influences as an eighth-grade mathematics teacher at Midvale Middle. “My great-grandma used to say, ‘Love is the answer — and now what was the question?’” Eddington recalls. “That’s been my personal mantra the whole time I’ve been a teacher. No matter what I’m doing, whether it’s a lesson or a conversation with a student, I need to make sure that everybody in the room knows that I care about them so 

that what I say has meaning. This is something that I care just so deeply about.” If only great-grandma could see him now. Eddington’s empathetic approach to building a foundation for relationships and learning was chief among the reasons he was selected as Canyons District’s 2023 Teacher of the Year. His skills and talents as an educator sparkled in the state top-teacher competition, as well. In October, he became just the third CSD educator to be named as a finalist in the Utah Teacher of the Year selection process. Eddington is known throughout the Midvale community as a teacher who has an empathetic approach for his students. The way he interacts with students in the classroom clearly shows his heartfelt concern, not just for their math achievement but for their growth as people. In Eddington’s class, all students feel welcome and comfortable. They know he cares. In response, his students credit him for making math interesting and a class they look forward to attending, even though some admit they never before enjoyed the subject. Colleagues and administrators also are in awe of Eddington’s abilities, collaboration, problem-solving, insight, and support. It all adds up to this: He has an exponential impact on the Midvale Middle community. For these reasons and more, Canyons Board of Education and Administration are honored to present the 2023 Apex Award for Teacher of the Year to math educator Maxwell Eddington.

2023
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR
of  THE YEAR
Dr. Bruce Eschler

Iordan High Principal Dr. Bruce Eschler still remembers the day a teacher, Kathy D’Emal, pulled him aside during class in the 10th grade at Highland High and asked, “What are you doing? Why aren’t you in Honors English or taking a creative writing course?” She walked him across the hall and introduced him to the teachers of the first of many college-level courses in which he, with her encouragement, enrolled. “That conversation changed my life,” said Dr. Eschler, the first in his blue-collar home to achieve a college education. “I found that I had the skills and 

potential to not only attend college, but to be college-ready.” Ms. D’Emal is one of three people Dr. Eschler called when he was appointed principal, and it’s her gift he works to pay forward today. Whether the 19-year educator is advocating for facility repairs, recruiting Unified Sports participants, or connecting with alumni to marshal resources for the school’s award-winning choir, he says, “My goal as a principal is to make sure we have a strong connection with our history. We are one of the oldest schools in Utah with over 100 years of tradition. I want all students to understand that when you’re a Beetdigger, you’re part of a massive family.” Walk inside the school’s foyer, and you’ll see large banners touting clubs, CTSO teams, athletes, and artists. Everyone, including staff and faculty, feels celebrated at Jordan, and Dr. Eschler is always looking for new ways to build Beetdigger pride with such marquee programs as the early-college Step2theU program and launch of Canyons District’s first Navy Defense Cadet Corps. For his advocacy, for seeing and nurturing greatness in all Beetdiggers, Canyons District’s Board of Education and Administration are pleased to present Dr. Bruce Eschler with the 2023 Apex Award for School Administrator of the Year.

2023
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR
of  THE YEAR
Stacy Kurtzhals

IIn military parlance, Eastmont Middle Principal Stacy Kurtzhals charged forward in the role of a lead-from-the-front general when the Sandy school was shuttered in the bitter cold of Winter Recess after crews replacing hallway tile kicked up particles of asbestos. That is never good news, but in the waning hours of the holiday break, decisive leadership and quick wits were required to create and put into place a plan to respond to the emerging facility-condition crisis. With Kurtzhals at the helm, the Eastmont school community did a precision-like pivot to 

remote learning for the first few days of January, and when it became apparent the mitigation effort would be so extensive that personnel would not be allowed back into the building within a short timeframe, Kurtzhals and her team went into action to create a temporary new home for the Patriots. With nary a complaint or a break in stride, they converged on a once-shuttered middle school to ready it for Eastmont students, teachers, and staff. In mere days, the classrooms, hallways, commons areas, the gymnasium, and lunchroom of the old Crescent View Middle building, where Kurtzhals once worked as an assistant principal, were spit-shined for students who were anxious to return to in-person learning. It was a heavy lift, for sure, and required a no-job-is-too-big-or-small mentality by not just Eastmont personnel but the District Office departments who lent a hand. By all accounts, thanks to Kurtzhals’ leadership and positive attitude, the sudden and unexpected move was a success. Throughout the tumult, Eastmont students continued to shine. Even as they were forced to move schools mid-year, they earned some of the highest year-end assessment scores in Canyons. In fact, Eastmont’s sixth-grade English Language Arts results were the highest in the District. Parents and employees say they appreciated Kurtzhals’ constant advocacy of the community and steady communications throughout the winter and spring, especially when students were able to return to the building to take last walks down the hallways before leaving Eastmont for their high school years. Says one parent: “She is a fantastic leader, and while she takes her job seriously, she has so much fun doing it. As a result, Eastmont is not only a great educational environment, but also fun and welcoming.” It’s for these reasons, and many more, the Board of Education and Administration are honored to present the 2023 Apex Award for School Administrator of the Year to Stacy Kurtzhals.

2023
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATOR
of  THE YEAR
Charisse Hilton

After 27 years in education, and after years of serving as a social studies teacher, student-government  adviser, assistant principal, and high school principal, Charisse Hilton was asked to spearhead a project that  has proven to be linchpin in addressing the upswing in emerging and challenging student behaviors in Canyons schools. By her own admission, being the driving force behind the launch of Canyons District’s Peer Court — only the second to be started by a Utah school district — has been one of the most rewarding projects she’s been a part of in the 

decades she’s worked in public education. It’s been three years in the making, but Canyons’ Peer Court, thanks largely to Hilton’s sage oversight, is now attracting state, regional, and national attention for its effective approach to student discipline based in the concepts of restorative justice. Last year, CSD’s Peer Court heard more than 100 cases and this year’s student judges are on track to hear even more. They are trained by Hilton, whose personal commitment to kindness and connections clearly influences the training she provides to Peer Court students, to not just focus on punishment, but on what harm has been done, who has been harmed, and what can be done to repair the harm. Hilton’s penchant for turning seemingly-negative moments into positive learning experiences is evident in the peer adjudication process. Time and again, the students and parents who are referred to CSD’s Peer Court comment about how they are treated with civility, courtesy, and respect. As a Program Administrator in the External Relations Department, her portfolio of responsibilities also has been extended to acting as the liaison for the CSD’s School Resource Officers, an advocate for gang-prevention programs, and a vital voice on the District’s school-safety and security committee. In recognition of her dedication to District-level programs that support positive student growth, security, and safety, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are proud to honor Charisse A. Hilton with the 2023 Apex Award for District Administrator of the Year.

2023
EDUCATION SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS
of  THE YEAR
CSD Nutrition Services Department

Two days. That’s how long Canyons District’s Nutrition Services Department was given to solve the problem of how to serve breakfast and lunch following the Friday March 13, 2020 “soft closure” of Utah’s schools. The COVID-19 outbreak had just been declared a pandemic. Schools were mobilizing to keep students learning from home. But more immediately, knowing that without school meals many students would go hungry, there was the problem of keeping students fed.

“It was a scary time, because we didn’t really know much about the virus,” recalls Nutrition Services Director Sebasthian Varas. But his team jumped into action and by Monday, they were ready. While most Utahns were working from home and heeding orders to avoid exposure, CSD’s cafeteria workers masked up and showed up to prepare and package sack meals and deliver them into the hands of families at grab-and-go sites throughout the District. With worker shortages, every one played a role, from securing increasingly scarce supplies to meal planning and prep. It wasn’t easy. But there’s pride in knowing not a single school day went by without meal service, which Varas credits to the courage and heart of his employees who served nearly seven million meals during the pandemic. “This is not just a meal service program. This is a people-oriented program,” Varas said. “We care about what we do and we care for each other.” For the essential connections they maintained with students during the pandemic, and continue to nurture every day, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are honored to present the 2023 Apex Award for Education Support Professional of the Year to every worker in CSD’s Nutrition Services Department. 

2023
COMMUNITY PARTNER
of  THE YEAR
Tacos El Cuñado

They say the way to the heart is through food. It should be no surprise, then, that Tacos El Cuñado has earned the affection of thousands throughout the Salt Lake Valley for its savory Mexican cuisine served with a smile. The bright orange and red taco trucks, which quickly have become a favorite of Canyons District families, have become a familiar sight at school and community events. After the taco truck operators served food at Midvalley Elementary’s annual World Night, they approached then-Principal Jeff Nalwalker with an offer to sponsor a free taco activity at the school. 

Since that event 10 years ago, owners Gabby Arreola and her husband, Josue Onofre, have fed students across the District, and they are dishing up more than food. With every dash of spice, the family pours their heart and soul into providing the best possible service to the community, especially when they roll up to a school for an activity. Josue Onofre’s brother and part-owner, Ever Onofre, says it’s important to encourage children to get an education — an opportunity he did not have in his formative years. Gabby’s daughter, Karla Farias, who attended the original Midvale Elementary, lights up when she talks about the family business and the chance to give back to the community. Like her parents, she loves to contribute to the growth and success of the District, one delicious taco at a time. For all these reasons, and many more, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are proud to present Tacos El Cuñado with  the 2023 Apex Award for Community Partner of the Year.

2023
STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES PROFESSIONAL
of  THE YEAR
Gretchen Zaitzeff

If you ask Gretchen Zaitzeff what keeps her up at night, she’ll say, “the next chapter.” She was the kind of kid you’d catch late at night reading under the covers with a flashlight, unable to sleep without knowing what she’d find on the next page and the next — and it’s with that same curiosity and drive she approaches her job today. Like the deus ex machina of ancient Greek theater, Zaitzeff came on board as Canyons District’s library and media specialist at just the right time and with just the right attitude to resolve the growing problem of book challenges. She’s 

proud of Canyons’ library policy, a legally sound solution that grew from collaborating with parents, librarians, administrators and members of the Board of Education. But she’s more preoccupied with “what’s next.” While navigating policy changes and book reviews, Zaitzeff also advocated to overhaul the outdated library collections at 30 schools. She expanded the “Book Blitz” reading competition to involve elementary students, updated school library websites to be more transparent and parent-friendly, and worked with her Instructional Supports Department colleagues to land a News Literacy Project grant to train teachers to teach students to be smart consumers of information. Librarianship, for Zaitzeff, is about helping “students learn to love reading and become conscientious consumers of information.” Preserving democracy, she says, depends on it. For her tireless efforts to build leaders from readers, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration can think of no one more deserving than Gretchen Zaitzeff to receive the 2023 Apex Award for Student Support Professional of the Year.

2023
VOLUNTEER
of  THE YEAR
Rebecca Martin

Rebecca Martin is the rare breed of volunteer who is in it to help everyone’s kids, not just her own. For the past 15 years, Martin, the Parent Teacher Student Association president at Hillcrest High, has invested countless hours in Canyons schools and the students who attend them. Her fellow volunteers are in awe ofat her ability to embrace every volunteer project, even those outside her comfort zone, with verve and positivity. From hauling supplies and cleaning up after student activities to wielding power tools and reconciling band records, she doesn’t shy from doing 

what needs to be done to make experiences special for children.  Other parents don’t hesitate to laud her work ethic and enthusiasm, saying she’s one of the greatest examples of effective and dedicated local PTA leadership they have ever encountered. Martin began her District-related voluntarism helping with the PTA’s annual Reflections contest. She jumped in with both feet — and never looked back. She served for two years as PTA at the elementary level, two years at the middle school level, and is now in her third year as PTSA president at Hillcrest High. True to form, Martin is soft-spoken when it comes to speaking about herself — but her passion shines through when she is advocating for students at every level, from individual schools all the way up to Utah’s Capitol Hill for PTA Day.  Her heartfelt care for students, teachers, and public education is evident every time she walks into a school, and it’s easy to believe her when she says her work is all about ensuring the strength of public education for generations to come. In recognition of her selfless devotion to students across the years, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are proud to honor Rebecca Martin with the 2023 Apex Award for Volunteer of the Year.

2023
ELECTED OFFICIAL
of  THE YEAR
Sen. Kathleen Riebe and Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion,
Rep. Steve Eliason, and Rep. Andrew Stoddard

In the 2023 General Session of the Utah Legislature, the Canyons District-area legislative delegation of Sen. Kathleen Riebe and Reps. Gay Lynn Bennion, Steve Eliason, and Andrew Stoddard stood valiantly in the battle to support public education. These four elected officials — three Democrats and one Republican — cast brave votes against HB215, which in effect created Utah’s first voucher system. The surprise House bill was rushed through in the first week of the session under suspended rules allowing lawmakers to approve it without the required wait time. 

The four CSD legislators, who have been longtime supporters of not just Canyons District but the advancement of public education in all parts of the state, were among the few who represented the will of the vast majority of Utahns who have repeatedly repudiated proposals to funnel public money to private ventures. They stood with the generations of parents who have consistently chosen their local public schools as their preferred choice of education for their children. They raised their voices in favor of public schools as the engines of economic prosperity, launching pads for innovation, and centers for community unity. Public schools, after all, turn no one down, turn no one away, and turn up for the students who need just a little help to do big things. Looking back at the most recent legislative session, it’s hard to recall another year when public education was placed in so many crosshairs. Still, Riebe, Bennion, Eliason, and Stoddard stood strong in favor of supporting public schools. The political valor shown by these leaders on many education-related issues, including the vote against the voucher bill, is chief among the reasons the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are presenting them with the 2023 Apex Award for Elected Officials of the Year. 

2023
LEGACY AWARD

Dr. Robert M. Dowdle

It makes sense that Bob Dowdle has lived at the base of Mount Olympus for most of his life. After all, Dr. Dowdle has been a titan in Salt Lake Valley public education for 35 years.  In particular, the influence he’s had in Canyons District schools, where he served as one of the founding administrators, has been Herculean. Dr. Dowdle, the first-ever Assistant Superintendent in CSD, considers pursuing a career in education and working with children, their families, and fellow educators to be “one of the best life decisions I have made.” 

 In response, it’s not hyperbole to say the entire Canyons community has certainly benefited from that decision.  Utah history books will undoubtedly recount Dowdle’s major role in helping to build up the first new school district to be created in Utah in nearly a century. Leaving a solid principalship behind, he put his trust in building the future of Canyons as a member of the nimble and energetic start-up team. With nary a blueprint to follow, Dowdle was tasked with recruiting and hiring  directors for nearly every department, serve as a stabilizing factor for employees uneasy about the future of the fledgling District, and speak truth to power in the legal battles regarding the vote to form the new school district. His was a heavy lift that could have carried a huge personal toll, but Dr. Dowdle pressed forward in his quiet but firm leadership style. Throughout Dowdle’s tenure as a top administrator in Canyons, CSD solidified its reputation as an innovative and responsive school system that takes seriously its charge to ensure all students graduate college- and career-ready. Under Dowdle’s watchful eye, graduation rates ticked upward, Canyons students outperformed their peers on year-end exams, and employees reported high rates of satisfaction and feelings of support. Dr. Dowdle is not one to take credit for such accomplishments and instead points to the hard work of his team for finding solutions, building bridges, and brainstorming the best ways to make once-impossible tasks very much possible. For his dedication to the vision and mission of Canyons District since its very first days, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are honored to present the District’s highest honor — the Legacy Award — to Dr. Robert M. Dowdle.

Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

Specialty Schools

High Schools

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Statement

Canyons School District is committed to making this website compliant with the ADA. At this time, we recognize that not all areas of this website may be ADA compliant. We are currently in the process of redesigning and creating new website content to be compliant with the W3C Level Two guidelines. If you are experiencing issues with this website, please contact us here communications@canyonsdistrict.org