As the curtain falls on her 30-year career as a performing-arts teacher, Alta High’s Traci Raymond has received a standing ovation for a literal and metaphorical grand finale.
This time, though, it was not for the twists and turns of her talented dancers. It was for Raymond’s skill as an artful educator who has inspired legions of students to sparkle like diamonds in the spotlight.
Raymond, a health, physical education and dance instructor, as well as the adviser for Alta High’s award-winning Dance Company and Dance Academy, was announced on May 4, 2021 as the 2021 Canyons District Teacher of the Year.
As such, Raymond, a one-time recipient of the prestigious Sorenson Legacy Awards for Excellence in Arts Education, will 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.
“Traci Raymond is the epitome of just a phenomenal educator, leader, and mentor of her students,” said Alta High Principal Dr. Brian McGill. “She is a great example of the kind of teacher who should be in the classroom, as well as a mentor for students outside of the classroom.”
Raymond received $1,000 from the Jordan Credit Union for being announced as CSD’s top teacher for the pandemic year. The Canyons Education Foundation presented the check to Raymond during a ceremony at Alta High’s new Performing Arts Center.
Also honored were Albion Middle math teacher Dan Croshaw, the CSD Middle School Teacher of the Year, and Maria Teresa Gallo, a Silver Mesa Elementary dual-language immersion teacher, who is the CSD Elementary School Teacher of the Year. They both received $500.
At the event, which was held in line with COVID-19 wellness restrictions, the Board of Education presented all 48 CSD school and program Teachers of the Year with crystal awards. In a first for the District, one of CSD’s online teachers was also chosen for recognition. The tradition of holding a community celebration to honor CSD’s Teachers of the Year resumed this year after a one-year hiatus because of last spring’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“As I look out over this auditorium, I am in awe of its beauty and excited for the generations of students that will be given opportunities to develop and share performance talents to enrich lives. Yet when I look at each of you here tonight, I think of the thousands and thousands of lives whose trajectories have been and those that will be changed for the better in immeasurable ways because each of you chose to be a teacher,” said Board President Nancy Tingey. “The individual and collective force for good in this room cannot be defined or quantified by words, yet the ripple effects will expand through time and become the foundation for much good in our world.”
The elite quality of Raymond’s instruction displays itself every time her students step on the dance floor. She has positively influenced students by way of her top-tier instruction, mentoring and connections.
In addition, her efforts in aiding, supporting, and advocating for her students beyond the classroom and dance studio have not gone unnoticed, say colleagues and former students.
McGill says “you see time and time again” of students who come back to thank Raymond for the lessons they learned, both as dancers and people, while under her tutelage.
“Traci has been one of my greatest mentors in life,” said former student Natalie DeGering. “She has taught me a great work ethic and how important education is and to express myself through dancing and working hard …. She truly cares about her students as if they were her children.”
Melissa Whitworth Zurcher, a former student, says she owes much of her success as a group-fitness instructor, former drill team coach, and a mother, to Raymond’s example
“She embodies the qualities of a nurturer, a teacher and guide to teenagers during their most impressionable and formative years,” Zurcher said.
When schools were forced to pivot to online learning because of COVID-19 restrictions, Raymond utilized technology to continue teaching students how to improve their artistry.
She shared her leadership skills in other ways, serving in several capacities with the Building Leadership Team, acting as master calendar coordinator for Performing Arts and fulfilling the role of Department Chair for the Performing Arts team.
“These children are my future. I want them to be successful,” Raymond says. She also says it is important to teach students how to problem-solve and think critically — and “get on the path to where they want to go.”
“This is not a job. I love going to work,” Raymond says. “I feel like I’ve been lucky to have been blessed to do something that I love to do for so many years.”