In special education, small successes lead to big successes, and they happen every single day with an exceptional group of teachers celebrating along the way.
In October, Canyons District takes a moment to recognize those who give so much of themselves to ensure all children reach their potential. Over the past few weeks, CSD’s Special Education Department visited schools to surprise nine educators and related service providers with Exceptional Service Awards.
This year’s awardees are exemplary of the caliber of instruction delivered each day with patience and care in schools throughout the District.
|Julie Lott, Hillcrest High
Julie Lott puts in extra hours to make sure Hillcrest’s special education students complete all the courses they’ll need to graduate, often arriving to school 45 minutes early and staying 2-5 hours after the final bell rings. As the Department Lead, she also goes above and beyond to support her peers, working with special and general education teachers alike to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to meeting students’ needs. Parents look to her as a sounding board, and appreciate her calm, commonsense approach to solving problems. Administrators value her selfless approach to leadership, and morale-building spirit.
|Nikki Spoto, Hillcrest High
Like many special education teachers, Nikki Spoto advocates for her students. It’s important to her that the students on her caseload are fairly challenged and supported toward reaching their educational goals, which often means consulting with her peers on team-approaches to classroom accommodations. She’s respected by her fellow faculty members for her knowledge and skill but also for her big heart. When she’s not at school, she’s finding ways to serve her community; most recently in working to become certified to adopt children with disabilities and other special needs.
|Andrea Miller, Park Lane Elementary
Andrea Miller has an unassuming manner for someone with 20 years of experience. Perhaps it’s the Speech Language Pathologist’s never-say-die attitude, or the fact that she’s ever on the hunt for new interventions like the grant she applied for last year to purchase a curriculum she thought would help some of her learners while also exposing them to technology. She never complains, even when the workload is heavy as it so often is. She welcomes every student into her room and strives to meet them on their level, and she’s the first to remember a staff member’s birthday or offer condolences to ease a friend’s loss.
|Linda Tognoni, Park Lane Elementary
Not a moment of learning is lost in Linda Tognoni’s Accommodated Core classroom. Every minute of every hour is devoted to helping students progress academically while also teaching them to make good choices and be the boss of themselves. With her kind, welcoming demeanor and masterful classroom management skills, Tognoni can keep students on task whether they are working in small groups, reading silently, or being introduced to a new concept. She sets a new goal each week, and students are rising to meet those goals, having achieved three-to-five-star growth on benchmark tests this year.
|Madison Thorpe, Peruvian Park Elementary
Simply put, Madison Thorpe exemplifies what it means to teach. She does not view her resource room as a final destination. Combined with an unwavering belief in her students, the research-backed teaching practices she artfully deploys have helped many a student regain lost ground and exit special education services. She has high expectations for her students, and time and again, they rise to the challenge. In so doing, she has helped students chart a new path for themselves while also helping others to see special education differently.
|Lauren Schriner, Adapted Physical Education Teacher
As an itinerant teacher, Lauren Schriner doesn’t belong to a specific school. She brings adaptive sports and physical education to all schools toward ensuring all students benefit from the gross motor development and fitness associated with getting up and moving. In the short amount of time she’s been with Canyons District, she has built a website for her department, updated neglected paperwork and fine-tuned the referral process. Her classroom teachers love her because she comes prepared with lesson plans geared toward helping individual students reach specific goals. Students love her because she puts the fun in fitness. The new Ga-Ga Ball game she developed for Adapted Sports Day may well be the most popular of all time at least, until she brainstorms something new for next year.
|Ashton Luneke, Bell View Elementary
It’s one thing to set ambitious goals, and quite another to achieve them. Ashton Luneke does both. She set her sights last year on having nearly 80 percent of her students reach proficiency in grade-level phonics and word analysis skills a feat she achieved through no small amount of work, and may well exceed this year. Luneke was able to move six of her students back into less-restrictive, mainstream classes in their neighborhood schools. Additionally, she coordinated a week-long event to create awareness for Autism at Bell View, and is a trusted ally and resource for parents.
|Lisa Hayes, Silver Mesa Elementary
The best teachers are master jugglers who, like Lisa Hayes, can remind a student to use complete sentences while coaxing another to maintain eye contact and motioning to a third to be silent while teaching a new concept in science or math. For Hayes, it all comes down to building a welcoming classroom where everyone is expected to treat one another with respect. But her peers will say she also has an uncanny ability to use data to reflect on what’s working in the classroom and make adjustments to remedy what’s not working. She has an affinity for technology and willingly shares her expertise. She also works to promote inclusion, and is the first to pitch in to help a teammate or take on a new assignment or task.
|Julie Humphrey, Oak Hollow Elementary
Julie Humphrey does all she can to support students, parents and teachers. Parents feel safe and included when meeting one-on-one with her to keep apprised of their student’s progress. She secures resources for families and introduces them to special education in a manner that’s both informative and child-centered. She has provided training for teachers, too, and encouraged greater teamwork among her peers to improve morale and instruction for students. Communication has improved and Oak Hollow’s resource program has been nothing short of revitalized.