One of Emma Moss’ superpowers as a teacher is being able to help her students see themselves as she sees them: brilliant, resilient, and full of promise.
“Students love going to her class,” says Stacy Kurtzhals, Principal of Eastmont Middle where Moss teaches digital literacy and Utah studies as well as advises the student government. “There are never discipline issues in her classes. Even the toughest kids respond to her.”
Moss’ “Wonder Woman”-like ability to inspire even the most reluctant learner, as well as her stronger-than-steel instructional, classroom-management and organizational skills, are chief among the reasons she was selected on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 as the 2020 Canyons District Teacher of the Year.
As CSD’s top teacher, she will represent 34,000-student Canyons in the annual Utah Teacher of the Year selection process, which is part of the National Teacher of the Year program.
On Tuesday night, Moss was honored not just for how she interacts with students, but her willingness to go above and beyond for the entire school community. Kurtzhals says she jumps to help colleagues with tasks ranging from infusing technology into lesson plans to moving classroom furniture.
“She is always the first to reach out and support the other teachers and staff members,” she said, adding that Moss didn’t hesitate to use her tech-savvy to aid other teachers as Utah schools pivoted to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the “soft closure” of schools as ordered by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, she worked alongside Eastmont’s Education Technology Coach to support fellow teachers in the digital learning environment.
As Canyons’ Teacher of the Year, she receives a $1,000 cash prize from the Jordan Credit Union. The third-year teacher, who earlier this year was named Utah’s New Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year, received the award during a special ceremony hosted by the Canyons Board of Education at the Canyons District Office, 9361 S. 300 East. The event was broadcast via Facebook Live.
Other finalists in this year’s selection process included Albion Middle mathematics teacher Mary Simao, Crescent Elementary first-grade teacher Marci Reeves, and Hillcrest special education teacher Becca Remy. They all received $500 cash prizes from the Jordan Credit Union.
The four finalists were chosen from a field of 47 teachers from Canyons District schools and programs. All school-based nominees were nominated by peers, parents and students for the honor, for which they received donated gifts and prizes from local business partners. A gift basket delivered to all CSD Teachers of the Year was packed with $500 in donated items from local businesses.
Moss turned emotional when her name was announced as Canyons’ top teacher. Her heart, she says, is with her students, who in turn say Moss is thoughtful, caring, holds them to high standards, and yet lightens the mood of everyone in the classroom. In fact, in recent days, students who’ve missed her presence have traveled to her home to deliver cookies to her doorstep. “I said, how did you get so big?,” she says she exclaimed when the students arrived. “I said, ‘You grew two feet!’“
“When I was looking for a job as an educator, I came to Canyons School District because of the values they had,” she says, “because of the vision and the goals to get to that vision.”
Canyons schools embrace engaging strategies and innovative instructional practices to make sure that every child is college- and career-ready at the time of graduation, she says, “so we can help our students grow and be prepared for whatever life throws at them.”
Board President Nancy Tingey said says Canyons teachers such as Moss, Simao, Remy and Reeves were “at the forefront of our community’s response to the COVID-pandemic. Teachers reached out through digital means to ensure that children continued to learn and grow.
“Through their computer screens, sometimes while also caring for their own children, they made connections to boost students academically and emotionally,” she said. “For many of our students, the daily emails or video-conferences with their teachers were meaningful points of stability in unsettled times.”
Each Teacher of the Year will receive a crystal award from the Board of Education at next fall’s Apex Awards, the ceremony at which the highest awards given by the Board and Administration are presented. “For all the teachers and family members of teachers who are watching tonight,” Tingey said on Tuesday night, “we thank you. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for everything you bring to the Canyons District family.”