Canyons Rolls Out Red Carpet to Welcome New Teachers

When doors open in Canyons District for the 2021-22 school year on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, about 250 new faces will be among the thousands of teachers welcoming students.

Those same teachers received their own special welcome to “Team CSD” on Monday, Aug. 2.

Newcomers from Utah, several other states — from Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas and Oregon to Iowa — and even multiple countries were guests for a party at Corner Canyon High. The towering Wasatch Mountains provided a scenic backdrop for a fun event that included walks down a red carpet, hundreds of free hot dogs, chips and cookies, enthusiastic greetings from Charger cheerleaders, an Alta High drumline performance, vendor booths with samples and prizes galore, free Canyons T-shirts and book bags, a festive atmosphere and many smiles and introductions.

It might be hard to tell who’s more eager for Canyons’ first day of school, the District’s 13th since its founding in 2009, between the recently hired teachers and counselors from around the globe, or the new and returning students. Either way, enthusiasm abounds ahead of a promising school year for 34,000 students and a stellar group of teachers, new and old alike.

Utah’s powder and Rocky Mountains beckoned RJ Green, an outdoors enthusiast, to accept Canyons’ recruiting offer and move from Iowa. “I sat there and thought, ‘Well, I’m kind of sick of driving across Nebraska every time I want to snowboard so, yeah, let’s move to Salt Lake City. It will be a good time.’ And it is,” Green said. “It’s fantastic out here.”

Green became familiar with Canyons from participating in a virtual practicum while working on a master’s degree at Iowa State, a university that has formed a special partnership with Canyons District. Green considered a profession in the medical field, but the thought of spending most of his time in a hospital convinced him otherwise. Students in his earth science and biology classes at Corner Canyon High will benefit from that choice.

Now Green feels like he needs to pinch himself. He landed a job that’s mere minutes away from his ideal recreation spot and in a district that is known for its emphasis on student achievement and classroom innovation. He’s excited to start work at Corner Canyon High, a relatively new school that has quickly become a powerhouse in athletics, academics and the arts. 

“I’m just waiting for somebody to be like, ‘Oh, never mind. We changed our minds,’” he said. “It’s surreal. It really is.”

Two of the District’s new teachers came as a package deal.

Amanda Biggerstaff relocated from Oregon to join Team CSD at Brookwood Elementary as a second-grade teacher. She didn’t come alone. Her husband, John Biggerstaff, was hired to teach special education at Granite Elementary. Their son, her parents, and other family members moved with them.

Ready for a new adventure, the Biggerstaffs made the 600-plus-mile move for a variety of reasons: their impression of the District, Utah’s scenery and outdoor opportunities, and a nice boost in pay that was made possible when Canyons increased teachers’ starting wages to $50,000 in 2019. They also have family in the Salt Lake area.

“The school district here is phenomenal. We researched it before we came, and it’s fantastic,” John Biggerstaff said while holding their young son as Amanda retrieved the prize she won from one of the Canyons Education Foundation’s business partners. “We’ve just already felt really loved and supported.”

The Biggerstaffs are smitten with their new location, too. “We love to go on walks. We live right next door to Dimple Dell Park, so it’s nice to have that little area to go walk in,” John said. “We’ve been in Park City, visited some reservoirs, drove through Cottonwood (canyon). There’s just so much to do here. We’ve been blown away by it. There’s something we’ve done every day. There are so many opportunities.”

The warm welcome has them both feeling like valued members of Team CSD.

“We’re so excited and we’re really excited about how much better Utah pays its teachers than Oregon,” Amanda said. “The (District’s) support has been really great. They’ve already brought us in as a family.”

Green and the Biggerstaffs made quite a splash in their first few days as employees of CSD.  They were featured in a KSTU Fox 13 story about new teachers who made their way to Utah in search of the state’s great outdoors.  

Tia Nash, a new counselor at Hillcrest High, moved from Texas. She was a teacher and school counselor in Spring, a suburb of Houston. Her sister had been trying to get her to join her in Utah since moving here three years ago.

“When I was going through and researching different districts to apply to, reading up on Canyons it seemed like it was an innovative district that was young and growing,” she said.

Winning a 55-inch TV at the teacher party made her even more excited about the transition.

Naomy Sanchez, who moved from Texas for her husband’s new job, is thrilled to be a new counselor at Union Middle School and Diamond Ridge High.

“I started looking for job openings and I read about Canyons and I really liked what they were about, their mission,” she said. “They’re all about students.”

Though she’s farther away from the Gulf of Mexico beaches, Sanchez loves being near a plethora of recreational areas in the mountains and deserts of her new home. Their family has already visited Lava Hot Springs and Las Vegas and plans to explore Utah.

“We’re not into the outdoors, but we’re going to give it a try,” Naomy said. “We’re going to try the whole hiking thing.”

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