Draper Elementary’s Katie Tinoco Named CSD’s 2022 Teacher of the Year

The COVID-19 pandemic, which required heroic measures from teachers across Canyons School District, had an enduring and unexpected impact on Draper Elementary teacher Katie Tinoco and her classroom.

Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, Tinoco’s Mandarin Chinese-English Dual Language Immersion teaching partner was stuck in China for the first six months of the school year. This predicament placed extraordinary demands on Tinoco, who had to write additional lesson plans, mentor and guide many substitutes — some who spoke Chinese, others who didn’t — coordinate with her partner on the other side of the world, and pick up the teaching slack in order to educate 56 second-grade students in the DLI program.

Tinoco, who willingly accepted double duties and went far beyond expectations and her job description, was announced on April 19, 2022 as the 2022 Canyons District Teacher of the Year.

Tinoco will now represent the 34,000-student District in the annual Utah Teacher of the Year selection process, which is part of the national Teacher of the Year program.

“She was working much more than she was being paid for, but she just did it because of her love for her students,” Draper Elementary principal Christie Waddell said. “We are so fortunate to have her teaching at Draper. … There is seriously no one who is more professional than Katie. She does her job. She loves her job. And she wants to do what is best for the kids.”

Waddell marveled that Tinoco and her students’ parents never made one complaint during the unusual circumstances. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts, and Tinoco enthusiastically answered that call for her young students.

“I want my kids to know that my classroom is a safe place for them to be, that it’s OK for them to make mistakes, that we’re in this together, and that even when things are unpredictable and we don’t know when our Chinese teacher is going to be back, it’s OK,” Tinoco said. “And we’re going to learn and we’re going to push through anyway, and we’re going to do our best whatever comes our way.”

Tinoco received a $1,000 cash prize from the Canyons Education Foundation for being named the District’s overall winner. Like the 46 other Teachers of the Year representing Canyons’ schools and programs, she previously received a gift bag full of donated prizes worth more than $500 — and $250 of that was a cash prize the teachers could spend however they chose.

Brighton High chemistry teacher Nicole Shon and Mount Jordan Middle choir and theater director Skyler Bluemel earned runner-up honors, the District also announced during the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony at Hillcrest High. Shon and Bluemel each won $500 cash prizes from the Foundation.

Seven CSD Teacher of the Year semifinalists, including Tinoco, Shon and Bluemel, were selected from the record 1,800 nominations that were submitted during the public-nomination process.

Other semifinalists included Jordan High English teacher Alaina Stone, Union Middle special-education Elise Taysom, Oakdale Elementary third-grade teacher Danielle Wheeler, and Sprucewood Elementary kindergarten teacher Tiffany McDaniel.

Colleagues credit Tinoco for being one of the most dedicated teachers they have ever met.

“She is always looking for ways to better her craft and help her students be as successful as they can be,” one fellow teacher said.

With a data-driven mindset, Tinoco carefully monitored each of her students’ progress toward end-of-year benchmark goals. Waddell loves that she always searches for ways to reach kids who are struggling.

“She helps students understand why they are learning something, not just to learn it, and she does it in an engaging way,” an impressed colleague noted. “Her classroom is well-managed and students know that it is a safe place to learn.”

Tinoco jokes that she was “voluntold” to teach in the DLI program. She trusted her principal and embraced the opportunity. Now she wouldn’t want to return to a traditional classroom, much to the delight of her students, their parents and Draper Elementary.

“You have to know those kids by their name and, not only that, but you have to know the kids, and she is a master at that,” the Draper administrator added. “She knows what a certain child needs. Parents know that if their child is in her class they are loved and cared for, and if they are struggling in any way that Katie is going to go take care of them.”

Tears welled up in Tinoco’s eyes as she pondered what it’s like to be part of her students’ educational experience.

“To see the light come on for a kid, and to know that you played a part in that, is magical,” Tinoco said. “Not that you’re solely responsible for it but getting to be a little piece of a kid’s life is meaningful in a way that I don’t think any other job gets to experience.”

2022 CSD Teacher of the Year Awards

District Teacher of the Year:

Katie Tinoco, Draper Elementary teacher

District TOY Runners-Up:

Nicole Shon, Brighton High chemistry teacher

Skyler Bluemel, Mount Jordan Middle choir/theater director

Elementary TOY:

Katie Tinoco, Draper Elementary teacher

Middle School TOY:

Skyler Bluemel, Mount Jordan Middle choir/theater director

High School TOY:

Nicole Shon, Brighton High chemistry teacher

District TOY Semifinalists

Nicole Shon, Brighton High teacher

Alaina Stone, Jordan High teacher

Skyler Bluemel, Mount Jordan Middle teacher

Elise Taysom, Union Middle teacher

Katie Tinoco, Draper Elementary teacher

Danielle Wheeler, Oakdale Elementary teacher

Tiffany McDaniel, Sprucewood Elementary teacher

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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!

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