The bell at Union Middle is about to ring, but Drew Fosse’s class has a tough task at hand: Don’t smile.
Everyone is silent as Fosse slowly walks around the room with a fake scowl. The challenge to make eye contact with Fosse and stay serious carries a reward, which students redeem at the end of class by choosing to participate in one of their teacher’s zany activities, from karaoke to walking like a pro-wrestler.
Fosse’s creative approach to keeping students motivated and engaged is just one of the reasons he was selected as Canyons School District’s 2017 Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The history teacher was chosen from a pool of 48 of the District’s best educators who represent each of Canyons’ schools, including Canyons Virtual High, alternative high school Diamond Ridge and the academy at the Utah State Prison.
“I know who you are, and I know you get up every morning and you get to work before most of your colleagues,” Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe told the Teacher of the Year nominees. “I know you clearly understand what it means to get that human connection. You know without the human connection you don’t get the cognitive connection.” Each teacher was nominated for their abilities to inspire students and colleagues, lift their fellow educators and collaborate with their school community.
Parents, administrators, colleagues and students expressed love and appreciation in nominating their school’s Teacher of the Year, who were honored with gifts and recognition at a community celebration event hosted by the Canyons Board of Education at the Canyons Administration Building-East. “I don’t care how old you are, when you look back, you have a teacher in your mind that helped you somehow, some way, when you were young,” Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor told the crowd. “Be that teacher that those kids will remember.”
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As the districtwide Teacher of the Year, Fosse received prizes and a $1,000 check from the Canyons District Foundation. He will represent the District in the Utah Teacher of the Year contest. In his acceptance speech, Fosse paid homage to Canyons’ 2016 Teacher of the Year, Gretchen Murray, who recently lost a valiant battle against cancer. Fosse said he plans to donate his cash award to Murray’s family.
The fun in Fosse’s class begins at the door, where he greets each student individually and chats with them about their lives and hobbies, and it just gets better from there. He keeps his students writing constantly and participating verbally in a way that inspires his fellow teachers, even if it’s just through the sounds that drift through Fosse’s door and down the hallway. “From the minute class starts, the kids are engaged and having fun learning,” Union Middle Principal Kelly Tauteoli says. “The kids are constantly talking they talk to their partner, they all read out loud, they talk in a group, they answer questions, they are constantly engaged and there’s no time to get off task. Every kid in that class feels comfortable to participate.”
Fosse began his teaching career 10 years ago in a tiny Oregon town with 24 students registered at the local high school. After living in other small towns and working as an administrator at a school for teens who have been hospitalized for mental illness, he returned to teaching, received a special education endorsement and moved to Union Middle where he now oversees a mainstream classroom. His goal is to make sure that all of his students are comfortable and thrive in his class, no matter what difficulties they face. “I want them to be brave,” Fosse said recently, after his class overwhelmingly flubbed the ‘Don’t Smile’ game. “I want them to feel it’s better to go ahead and open up your mouth and realize, yeah, you might look stupid, but it doesn’t matter. If you can be brave enough to try different things, you can be brave enough to realize you can make mistakes and keep trying.”
Teacher of the Year Celebration Photos
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Photos from the Teacher of the Year Photo Booth
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