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South Park Principal Todd Bird Among CSD Crew to be Honored at Upcoming 2022 Retirees Banquet

South Park Academy Principal Todd Bird

South Park Academy Principal Todd Bird doesn’t hesitate to admit he was “a terrible, terrible high school student.” He remembers a counselor telling him he’d never make it in academics.

Fortunately, Bird learned about perseverance and redemption after his high school struggles. Those valuable lessons, in turn, helped the career educator, counselor, and coach help countless students — including South Park’s adult learners at the Utah State Prison — learn and earn extra chances through education.

With the prison moving outside Canyons District’s service area, from Draper to Salt Lake City, and Bird wanting to spend time with family, focus on his health, and work on renovating a classic truck, he decided this spring is a fitting time to retire from education and begin the next chapter in his life.

“I still feel young,” Bird says. “There’s still a lot of things I want to do.”

Bird is among dozens of employees in Canyons School District who’ve announced their retirement this year. Following a two-year, pandemic-related hiatus, Canyons is proud to resume the annual tradition of hosting a by-invitation-only Retirees Banquet. This year’s event will be held Thursday, May 12, 6 p.m. at The Gathering Place at Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South.

Schools and departments also are scheduling Open House events to further honor their colleagues (see schedule below).

In preparation for the banquet, the crew at Connect Canyons have been interviewing CSD’s retirees and inviting them to reflect on their careers.

Asked what motivated him to become an educator, Bird says the seeds for him were planted many years ago. Bird was a talented wrestler in high school but figured his shot at being a collegiate athlete was shot because of low grades.

For five years after graduation, he worked as a welder until the plant closed and he lost his job. A friend then asked a life-changing question: “Why didn’t you ever go wrestle in college?” Though scholarships weren’t available, Bird’s buddy let him know there was a different path available. He could still walk on and pay his own tuition.

“I didn’t really know that,” Bird recalls. “So I did it.”

Bird seized that opportunity. He embraced education. He eventually earned scholarships, blossomed into an NCAA Academic All-American wrestler, helped Idaho State win a conference championship, and then qualified for the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials finals. Considering where he started and what he’d been told, Bird considers that comeback story to be the biggest accomplishment of his life.

Bird, who went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling, spent the ensuing 35 years paying it forward to students in Idaho and Utah. He naturally gravitated toward working with at-risk students, which made him a great fit for being an administrator at the prison, including the past eight years as South Park’s principal and a previous stint as a vice principal.

“There are a lot of students that will succeed without your help, but I’ve always gravitated to those programs and schools and … the students who, without your intervention or support, may not make it,” he says. “It almost goes full circle back to when I didn’t get the right help when I was young.”

It warms Bird’s heart thinking about a hard-working, end-of-the-bench football player named Reggie, who made a key tackle during a championship game in a rare playing opportunity. The moment meant the world to Reggie, Coach Bird, and inspired onlookers.

He’ll never forget a card he received at graduation from parents of a student he’d worked closely with for years. The card included a message of gratitude: “Thank you for all you’ve done to help Matt. … Always remember, when you take a child by the hand, you take a parent by the heart.”

He’s also touched by the memory of a dad in prison who spoke at South Park’s graduation ceremony after working to become an honor graduate. During his speech, the adult student, who thought he was unable to be a good dad or role model from prison, looked at his smiling 13-year-old daughter in the crowd and said, “You’ve always been there for me. I’m getting my diploma today because maybe I can show you that education is important no matter where you’re at and to be an example to you today.”

Bird has been on all sides of taking a child (or adult) by the hand and taking loved ones by the heart.

“I could even say in adult education that you could switch that up,” Bird says. “You take an adult student by the hand, figuratively, and you help them and you guide them through their education or you help them in life and the people who love them, love you.”

As he leaves his unexpected career in education behind, Bird is grateful to have helped make a difference.

“In 35 years, hopefully I’ve impacted a ton of people positively,” he says. “I tried to always be positive and help people every way I could. But I’m pretty sure I don’t realize the impact I’ve had on others over the years. I don’t know if that’s anything you can really measure, but it’s something we do in education.”

Below is a list of these events to bid bon voyage to CSD’s departing teachers, administrators and Education Support Professionals. To be added to the list below, email the name of the retiree and the date, time and place of the Open House to communications@canyonsdistrict.org

Retirement Open House Events

  • An Open House for Becky Morgan will be held on Friday, May 6, 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Bell View Elementary’s library, 9800 S. 800 East in Sandy.
  • An Open House for Corner Canyon High’s Debbie Clark and Jeanne Shaw will be held on Tuesday, May 10, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Corner Canyon High’s library 12943 South 700 East in Draper.
  • An Open House for Draper Elementary’s Marian Broderick, Spring Park, and Christy Waddell will be held on Monday, May 16, 3:30-5 p.m. at Draper Elementary, 1080 E. 12660 South in Draper.
  • An Open House for Brighton High’s Penny Petersen and Debra Kyriopoulos will be held on Tuesday, May 17, 2:30-4 p.m. in Brighton’s library, 2220 Bengal Boulevard, Cottonwood Heights.
  • Two Open House events for Alta View Elementary’s Libby McShinsky will be held Tuesday, May 17 and Wednesday May 18, 7:30-8 p.m. (directly following the production of her final plays).
  • An Open House for Dr. Jan Hansen will be held on Tuesday, May 17, 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Hillcrest High’s faculty room, 7350 S. 900 East in Midvale.
  • An Open House for Draper Park’s Michael Armstrong will be held on Tuesday, May 17, 2:45-4:00 p.m. in Draper Park Middle’s library, 13133 South 1300 East in Draper
  • An Open House for Quail Hollow’s Dawn Gonzalez will be held on Tuesday, May 17, 3:30-5 p.m. in Quail Hollow’s library, 2625 Newcastle Drive in Sandy.
  • An Open House for Hillcrest High’s Dr. Suzanne Riches will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 2:30-4 p.m. in the school library, 7350 S. 900 East in Midvale.
  • An Open House for Misty Suarez in the Special Education Department will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 2-4 p.m. in the Canyons Center at the District Office, 9361 S. 300 East in Sandy.
  • An Open House for Karma Bateman will be held on Thursday, May 19, 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Jordan High’s Tech Atrium, 95 Beetdigger Blvd in Sandy.
  • An Open House will be held for Becky Lind on Monday, May 23, 4-5 p.m. in the gymnasium at Oak Hollow Elementary, 884 E. 14400 South in Draper.
  • An Open House will be held for Alta View Elementary’s Bruce Wagner on Friday, May 20, 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium.
  • An Open House for Hillcrest High’s Maureen Howe will be held on Monday, May 23, 2:30 p.m. in the Hillcrest Faculty Room, 7350 S. 900 East in Midvale.

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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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