Teachers teach because they care,” once said Horace Mann, known as the father of American public education. “Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience, and care.” Indeed, countless hours of work and acts of patience and care have been carried out by Canyons District teachers in the year since COVID-19 upended life — and learning. Since March 13, 2020, when then-Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced the “soft closure” of Utah schools to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, CSD educators have doubled-down on their dedication to their students, be they learning safely in-person or from remote locations. Seemingly overnight, educators adapted to new environments and adopted new strategies to inspire achievement. As school started in the fall in the midst of a pandemic, CSD teachers welcomed students to safe, welcoming classrooms. Even with masks covering faces, their cheer at being back with students again could not be contained. And the students learning remotely may have seem isolated from their peers — but they were certainly never alone. Day after day, our teachers logged on, reached out, and lifted up.
In a year unlike any other, when so many have gone above and beyond, it’s been a challenge for CSD school communities to select just one teacher as a nominee in Canyons District’s 2021 Teacher of the Year selection process, which for the first time includes a top teacher for online learning. No doubt, every teacher is worthy of the award. But the following are being honored for being the hearts and souls of their schools’ top-notch and tireless efforts to meet the needs of students in an unprecedented era. Every school- or program-based Teacher of the Year received a gift basket full of donated prizes worth more than $700. From the field of the amazing educators featured here, CSD will select one teacher who will be the overall Teacher of the Year. The first-place pick will receive a $1,000 cash prize donated by the Jordan Credit Union. The winner, to be announced at the May 4 Board of Education meeting to be held at Alta High’s new Performing Arts Center, also will represent Canyons in the state Teacher of the Year contest. CSD’s Teacher of the Year program is proudly co-sponsored by the Canyons Education Foundation.
Everybody who witnessed Tami Malan dress up as a crayon during a class this year to make a colorful point about not quitting can attest that this devoted and creative second-grade English Dual Language Immersion teacher will go out of her way to help people learn. Dedicated to increasing literacy, she offers extra reading lessons before school, and runs a summer reading program. Referred to as “a beacon” for others to go to, Tami is also a huge asset to fellow teachers, offering teaching and technological mentorship and serving on the Building Leadership Team, Student Support Team and Safety Committee. She even arranged for a member of the school community to win a set of much-needed hearing aids. For these reasons and more, Tami Malan has been selected as Alta View Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Joanna Young is known for having a big heart, a big, bubbly attitude, and a big work ethic. These characteristics help her spread positivity to her first-grade students and throughout Altara. Not only is she helping to shape the minds of young children as a teacher, Joanna continues to learn on her own while pursuing a Master’s Degree and learning and implementing a new model of partner teaching. Despite losing her sister unexpectedly this past summer, Joanna has buoyed her team by being a caring person, sharing resources, listening, finding the bright side in occasional negative situations, and offering help where needed. She’s also quick to work with and respond to parents. Congratulations to Joanna Young for being selected as Altara Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
These are exciting times for the Bell View community, what with the transition into a beautiful new school in fall 2022. If there’s anybody who displays the proud character of the proud, old school, which is scheduled to be demolished this spring, it’s Kathy Booth. For years, Kathy has worked diligently to ensure that each of her students reaches her or his full potential. She is kind to them and teaches with patience and thoughtfulness. She also creates a positive learning atmosphere that promotes learning in a calm, supportive classroom environment. Although a veteran educator, Kathy knows the learning journey is never over, and she continues to be a student, even when it isn’t easy. Kathy is loved by her students, colleagues, and the community because she takes time to genuinely get to know her students, their families, and her Bell View family that is stronger than when she arrived, thanks to her commitment to excellence. Let’s give three cheers for Kathy Booth, Bell View Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Fabulous is one word that comes to mind when describing Kylee Wolfe and her approach to teaching. In just her first year at Bella Vista, Kylee has created a positive and engaging culture in her classroom. The results: rising student achievement and so many smiles. One parent aptly summed up what many have quickly come to appreciate: “We need more teachers like Ms. Wolfe! We need more teachers who have energy for the work and love for the kids. She is the caliber of teacher other teachers should aspire to be and the standard by which administration should hire new teachers.” Kylee is also gifted at balancing the way she challenges students on grade level to work harder and increase their skills while also helping other students catch up under the challenging circumstances in a pandemic. Fabulous, indeed. Another description that’s been used: “She is a treasure to Bella Vista!” Bella Vista Elementary is excited to honor Kylee Wolfe as the school’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
“Follow the leader” isn’t just a game for Amy Kunzler. It’s a way of life in her classroom. And the first-graders she teaches are fortunate to follow a caring individual who engages children to become active participants in their own learning. Observers of Amy’s style marvel at her organization, consistent approach, and classroom management, which promotes a positive, structured educational experience all while dealing with the operational difficulties of COVID-19. Not to forget, kids also dig her silly socks and aprons, along with her out-of-the-box ideas. One example: Amy turns her classroom into a secret spy lab on “100’s Day” and her corps of “secret agents” spend the day learning academic concepts while also searching for Agent Zero. Amy also serves on the school’s Building Leadership Team and shares her positivity and resources with fellow teachers. Please join us in applauding Amy Kunzler for being selected as Brookwood Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
When classroom volunteers and staff spend time in the classroom with Summer Briggs, they come away with first-hand knowledge of her patience, understanding, and the way that she teaches each child. Befitting someone who’s considered an “amazing educator” by her peers and administrators, Summer is enthusiastic in her endeavor to see her students succeed. That includes a willingness to go the extra mile for all of them—or even just one of them. All the better, she cares as much about her students’ emotional success as she does about their academic success. She keeps parents involved in their children’s education. She simply wants the best for her students. Her positive attitude and willingness to help colleagues are assets to her school community. Congratulations to Summer Briggs, Butler Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
If you ever wonder if Alison Parkinson is in her element, there’s an easy test to tell: She’ll be in her classroom with her students. Alison’s amazing personality envelops a child with warmth and caring while also motivating them to do their best. She’s clear and concise, responds quickly to parents, and provides helpful solutions for continued growth at home. In the classroom, Alison’s teaching is always spot on. Her anchor charts are creative and helpful. Her classroom expectation posters show pictures of her students modeling best behavior. Every resource she uses has a valuable purpose. Her Canvas and Class Dojo sites and her Friday packets are easy to use and keep students on track and parents up to speed. Around school, Alison radiates kindness with her smile, her sincerity and care for those she works with and for. It’s easy to understand why she’s been described as “an incredible teacher.” For these reasons and more, Alison Parkinson has been selected as Canyon View Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
In some ways, this has been an extraordinarily challenging year for Abigail Muller. Along with the pandemic-related difficulties, she’s had to deal with health concerns, a move, ongoing work for her master’s degree and a new team of fourth-grade teachers to mentor as a Building Leadership Team leader. Abigail has handled all of that like an exceptional professional, which isn’t surprising to anybody who knows her. Regardless of circumstances, she’s gone above and beyond for her students and colleagues. The Copperview staff marvels at the incredible way she’s navigated different situations. Whether in person or online, she engages students, reaches out to families and meets others where they are, and then supports them to a higher level of achievement. Through the ups and downs of a unique year, others appreciate how Abigail has maintained her grace and consistent, relentless movement forward, her focus on successful outcomes and a commendable agility. From her principal: “Her classroom is a place of learning, a safe haven from the chaos that many of our highly impacted students experience in their lives, and truly one of my favorite places to be in the building.” Please join us in applauding Abigail Muller, Copperview Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Parents whose children end up in Becky Lawson’s classrooms must feel like they won the lottery. She’s a great educator who inspires, teaches, engages and encourages both the mind and heart. Those who work with her know Becky for being loving, giving and sensitive to the needs of learners in her class, grade and school and elsewhere. Students feel her genuine concern for them and belief in them through her calm and friendly demeanor, gentle responses, highly effective teaching techniques and positive actions. They learn, have fun and feel welcome. Her patience, passion, support and love inspires effort and excellence. Becky gets to know each student well, helping her to determine their strengths, and to identify strategies and resources that will help students grow and improve. She implements evidence-based instructional strategies, universal screening, and progress monitoring, while matching needs of individual students to activities and materials best suited for them. She also has a growth mindset that allows her to hone her teaching craft. Principal Camie Montague gave a ringing endorsement: “All hail to Queen Quail! Crescent Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year—Becky Lawson!”
If you’re looking for an optimistic teacher who always sees the glass as at least half full, look no further than Aimee Anderson. With 20 years of education experience in Idaho and Utah classrooms, Aimee has developed a remarkable ability to handle any situation in amazing fashion. That has come in quite handy with the challenges that educators and students have endured during the pandemic. Her ability to always find the good that can come from difficult situations is one reason why Draper Principal Christy Waddell said the school is fortunate to have Aimee, whom she refers to as a “first-grade teacher extraordinaire,” on staff. “There is honestly no one more deserving (of this award) during this extremely stressful time.” Students trust her and colleagues often confide in Aimee because of how supportive, understanding and optimistic she is. Aimee excels with students who need extra TLC, too. Added her principal, “Aimee is loving and kind and makes school a place where all of her students want to be.” Aimee Anderson deserves applause for being named Draper Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
When parents reach out to the school, it isn’t always for a positive reason. Thanks to veteran first-grade teacher Michele Jardine, her administration couldn’t help but smile and nod when reading message after message they received in support of Michele for the top-teacher award. One parent credited Michele for always having the nicest things to say to her son to help build up his self-esteem, and noted that the community appreciates how her positive influence transfers to her students and colleagues. One parent gave a recommendation that was glowing, calling her “a pillar of what a great teacher should be,” and adding a compliment uniquely suited for these unprecedented times: “To not give Mrs. Jardine Teacher of the Year would be as painful as 2020.” Others raved about her willingness to help students and staff with anything, her radiating love, and the engaging, core-focused lessons she teaches. Michele works with students to build a solid foundation for their future, showing them that learning can be fun and rewarding. She also attends PTA meetings, acting as a liaison for vital parent-teacher relationships. Her generosity of donating to fundraisers and activities with her own time and money is also noteworthy. For all of these reasons, Michele Jardine is being celebrated as East Midvale Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
If East Sandy administrators and staff were forced to sing a karaoke song about Carolyn Rivero—and how fun would that be?—they might break out into a stirring rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” That’s how Principal Angela Wilkinson views her. “If I could use one word to describe Carolyn it would be ‘sunshine.’ She radiates such a bright and warm light that is felt by all in her presence.” Carolyn strives to help each child in her class experience those “lightbulb moments” and reach a high level of academic growth. She customizes her teaching to fit the children in her classroom and works to reach all students. She treats all of them with love and respect, and that fosters a classroom environment that is calm and caring. Carolyn is very explicit in her teaching and works to implement engaging activities and increase content integration throughout the subject areas. She has a flair for making even the most mundane lessons interesting. So let’s all sing it together: She’s our sunshine — and our jolly good hero. She’s Carolyn Rivero, East Sandy Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Jessica Whitney is a prime example of an educator who shapes students in a positive way to reach her or his highest potential. Jessica radiates a passion for teaching and learning that reflects in her every day practices. Even in the COVID-19 year, students have shared that this has been their best year ever since coming into her classroom. Edgemont’s staff has recognized how loved she is by the students. Parents truly appreciate all Jessica does and say that she is always willing to help in any situation. Her wit and humor are greatly appreciated. “Jessica has a natural talent of teaching,” Principal Michelle Snarr said. “I call her Edgemont’s Game Show Host. She sells every aspect of learning as if it is a million-dollar prize.” Her persona and teaching style make it so kids are excited to learn and try new things. Students feel valued in her class where she sees the unique abilities each student has. The staff has shared that Jessica helps to problem solve as issues or concerns come up at school. She is kind to new teachers, helping them feel like they are part of the Edgemont family. Jessica also offers support to anyone that needs it. Her incredible instruction and positive attitude are inspiring to colleagues, who want her to be recognized for being an incredible educator. Congratulations to Jessica Whitney, Edgemont Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Granite Elementary just wouldn’t be the same without LeeAnne Walker. That goes for the second grade to the annual school art project, lending a hand to students and teachers in need, and even down to the Grizzlies’ website. Those are just some of the things that are fortunate to have LeeAnne’s imprint on them. Having been a school teacher for 25 years, LeeAnne has a wealth of experience to enhance her energetic efforts all over Granite. Nobody benefits more from her expertise, passion and devotion than her young students. They’re the lucky ones who get to participate in the educational lessons she prepares and teaches and get to engage in the fun activities she organizes to encourage engagement. LeeAnne uses positive encouragement to motivate students, and she’s willing to spend extra time with them to help them feel more confident and comfortable in their learning endeavors. Once a year, the school comes alive with colors, shapes and creations as the hallways are filled with masterpieces made by students for the school-wide art project. Colleagues also appreciate the attention she gives the entire Granite community and the fun, positive environment she helps foster at the school. For so many reasons, LeeAnne Walker has been selected as Granite Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
“To say that Ms. Davis should be the Teacher of the Year would be an understatement. She is the most dedicated teacher I know.” That glowing recommendation is all the more impactful when you realize it came from another teacher. It’s easy to admire what Kristi brings to Lone Peak. Not only does she do a splendid job at teaching students in her class, sparking academic, emotional and social growth, but she also shares her keen insight with faculty members. She also cares tremendously. One colleague said Kristi is the type of teacher she’d feel confident and safe sending her kids to, as both a fellow teacher and mother. “She cares about her students as if they were her own,” another teacher pointed out. She excels at communicating her expectations for students, and they’re so drawn to her nurturing nature that they do what they can to meet and/or exceed them. And they know they can rely on her to help out if they’re struggling to keep up. For her tireless dedication, Kristi Davis is Lone Peak Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
If you ever have the privilege of walking into Leticia Tarin’s Dual Language Immersion classroom, you are immediately immersed into an engaging lesson in Spanish. Hola! She greets every child with a smile, and makes instruction visible through speaking, actions, and writing so that all students are learning the language with ease and confidence. Como estas? Leticia’s relationships with students and families are built through love, high expectations and trust. Her principal couldn’t feel more fortunate to have her positive influence making a difference at Midvale Elementary. “Her smile behind that mask is beautiful,” Principal Lori Reynolds said. “Her personality is infectious, and she exudes positivity even through challenging times.” Felicitaciones to Leticia Tarin-Jimenez, Midvale Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
One name constantly comes up for who parents in the Midvalley Elementary community want as their kids’ teacher: Jenifer Robinson. They say things like, ‘Your child has just got to work with her,” or “She is phenomenal,” and that their children run to the car every morning to get to school because they love being in her class so much. As a parent, that is as wonderful as it gets. One parent, who used to be a school teacher, said she’s very grateful to have chosen this school—and Jenifer. The family’s move happened during the middle of the school year, which is difficult, and Jenifer went out of her way to ease the transition and make the best of the situation. “I used to teach and I know that it meant more to me when a parent nominated a teacher and shared how they felt,” one parent noted. “So, I am reaching out to celebrate a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students and their families.” The parent also thoughtfully added that Jenifer’s love for Midvalley’s kids, school, and community is apparent. Students, faculty, administration and other parents have also noticed and are appreciative, as well. Congratulations to Jenifer Robinson for being named Midvalley Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Affably referred to as “The Queen of Transitions,” there are few around who can rock a tiara like Michelle Dunn. Students know it’s time to transition to the next station during SBI time simply by looking at her head. When the fun crown she wears comes off, it’s time to move to the next spot. Though it’d be fun if Michelle always wore her tiara, she certainly has earned our respect over her 16-year career at Oak Hollow with and without it on. Colleagues admire her calm and positive demeanor, leadership and mentoring skills, and her student-centered approach to education. She’s determined to meet the needs of all of her students by creating lessons and opportunities for each of them. Parents appreciate weekly messages from Michelle, who shares updates and photos of class activities. She’s also a valued member of the school’s Building Leadership Team, is piloting a partner-teacher program, and oversees the English Language Arts development of half of our first graders. In Oak Hollow Principal Julie Mootz’s words: “Our first graders continue to SOAR because of Michelle.” We applaud Michelle Dunn, Oak Hollow Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Jocelyn Cox is cheerful, positive, and passionate about her craft. Families in the community appreciate the examples of her professionalism and the enthusiasm she maintained during the COVID-19 crisis. One parent won’t soon forget a reminder Jocelyn gave students during the pandemic. “I saw these cute signs all over the neighborhoods that said, ‘My teacher misses me. Love, Ms. Cox,’” the parent noted. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow!’ That is a teacher who loves her students and goes the extra mile for them. You can tell she loves the students and loves teaching.” Other parents commend the way she influences students to work hard and succeed. She’s committed to helping them regardless what level they’re on. That makes kids look forward to attending her class every day. They don’t want to miss her goodness or the fun. Her social media posts are also a hit as they help bring parents into her organized classroom. Colleagues admire how Jocelyn goes the extra mile and genuinely loves her students, which is apparent in her classroom. “Her students adore her, and the parents of her students love her, which says a lot about a teacher,” a parent noted. “It is one thing if you can win the heart of a student, but if you win the parent, you must be pretty amazing.” Yes, she’s amazing, and Jocelyn Cox is Oakdale Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Suzanne Harris has absolutely gone above and beyond what has been asked of her during this challenging year. Because of the pandemic, Sue began the 2020-2021 school year with a very different environment. It was one not only new for students to learn in, but also for teachers to teach. She has done it with ease. She meets students where they are and encourages them to move forward. In addition to teaching online, Sue agreed to be our first-grade online team lead. Again, she has done this seamlessly. When things get difficult, Sue chooses to laugh. Her positivity is infectious. “I could not be more grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Ms. Suzanne Harris,” said Michelle Shimmin, the District’s online learning coordinator. For these reasons and more, Suzanne Harris has been named the 2021 Teacher of the Year for Online Learning.
Know those people who roll up their sleeves, work well with others, remain kind in tough situations, don’t complain, and just get the job done? Meet Angela Haycock. That’s who she is and why she’s so beloved at Park Lane. Whether it’s tutoring a student who’s been out sick, helping her class overcome the difficulties of learning in pandemic conditions, dealing with large classes, or assisting fellow teachers, Angela accomplishes the task at hand—and does it with an uplifting smile. She’s been described as a “true friend, confidant and cheerleader.” From another admirer: “Mrs. Haycock truly cares about each individual student and makes sure their needs are seen to, whether educational, emotional, physical or social. She fosters a positive environment and puts their needs above her own.” Incredibly, she does that while seemingly changing grades every year. During her time at Park Lane, she’s taught four different grades and is moving back to the second grade after being a fifth-grade teacher this year. No wonder Principal Justin Jeffery calls her “a super nice team player.” Join us in applauding Angela Haycock for being named Park Lane Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
It’s likely few, if any, of Calbert Beck’s students know their teacher used to be a football and track star. The former University of Utah speedster, nicknamed “The Rocket,” was even named MVP of the Freedom Bowl. Some things Calbert’s students do know: He’ll beat them in a foot face, he does an impressive Elvis impersonation, he’ll help them overcome obstacles, he makes learning math and other subjects enjoyable and achievable, and he cares about them and their future. Calbert is the MVP of their educational team. “Whether Mr. Beck is chosen to be the school’s Teacher of the Year, he is the Teacher of the Year for my son and me,” wrote one of the multiple parents who nominated him. “And I would think that all of my son’s classmates and their families would agree.” During this year impacted by COVID-19, Cal has gone above and beyond to make sure each student progresses, whether by delivering packets, following up with ill students, doing extra Zoom sessions or bonding with them in special Friday “lunch meetings.” It’s no wonder kids flock to him before and after school. As another parent noted, “From the way he interacts with all students, it is obvious that he loves teaching and helping children reach their full potential, and that he is devoted to their future.” Like crowds in the stands at a football game, let’s cheer for Calbert Beck, Peruvian Park Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
In a year requiring constant change and adjustments, Emily Decker has maintained a consistent and predictable learning environment for her students. She goes out of her way to make sure each student’s needs are met by catering to their level of learning, challenging the more advanced students, and spending more time helping those who may struggle. Emily is innovative and progressive in her teaching. She has created a classroom setting of ownership, respect, and empathy. She takes time to teach her students life skills and lessons that will help them now and in the future. Parents appreciate her communication and her efforts to maintain and update her online learning for her students. Despite all the challenges that have accompanied the year of COVID-19, she remains positive, loving, patient, and professional. For so many wonderful reasons, Emily Decker has been selected as Quail Hollow Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Whether for academic or emotional reasons, Sarah Hamel constantly goes above and beyond expectations to help her students succeed. She simply cares about each one of them and has their best future in mind. It doesn’t go unnoticed that Sarah willingly sacrifices her own time to give students the attention they need. That’s even the case when things aren’t going very smoothly. In situations where a student’s behavior is difficult, Sarah calmly proceeds to turn the rough patch into a learning moment. She accepts students with dignity, respect, and love. It’s no wonder she’s described as amazing, an inspiration, incredible and wonderful. One grateful parent even called Sarah “an absolute angel” for the way she empathetically and patiently worked with her kids with special needs when they were in her class in the past. Congratulations to Sarah Hamel, Sandy Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
The Spanish word for love is “amor,” and Maria Teresa “Maite” Gallo makes sure her students know she feels that for them. Mucho amor, to be precise. One of her students felt so much amor from her Spanish immersion teacher that she went out of her way to nominate Senorita Gallo for this award. “She loves her job. Maite loves teaching. She loves me and I love her,” the second-grader wrote. “And that makes me love coming to school.” One colleague noted how students sometimes don’t even know they’re learning. They’re just engaged in a fun, creatively planned lesson and it happens intuitively. Her efforts to make students feel empowered and valued pay off in big ways. She’s also actively involved in helping other teachers, improving the school, and works on lessons and professional development for teachers on a statewide level. One teacher called Maite “a light to all those around her.” Her enthusiasm is contagious. Principal Julie Fielding summed up their feelings in three words: “Everyone loves Maite!” with so much “amor,” Silver Mesa Elementary has chosen Maria Teresa “Maite” Gallo as its 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Isaiah Folau has a can-do attitude. You quickly recognize and appreciate that upon meeting him, He specializes in making school fun. Isaiah skillfully builds students’ confidence using encouragement. Parents report their children insist on attending school every day because they can’t wait to see him, and are thrilled when the students come home, bursting to share what they learned with him that day. One student even said Mr. Folau is her very best friend in the class. His positivity and uplifting words have created a safe and welcoming environment where children are thriving. Isaiah goes out of his way to make every student feel special. He is kind, inclusive, and accepting of all students. They light up when he greets them by name and shares an individual “hello” each morning in line. Parents share their gratitude about how receptive he is to their emails, phone calls, and questions. His communication is unparalleled. Isaiah Folau’s ability to engage his students and help them enjoy learning is such a wonderful asset to students and the Canyons School District. It’s among the many reasons he’s been selected as Sprucewood Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
About six years ago, Jolene Farley decided to make a career shift. She said goodbye to her job as a social worker and began teaching. You won’t hear any students or staff at Sunrise complain about that change. She’s become an integral part of students’ success at the school. One colleague even compared her to being the gears of their team’s engine because she keeps everyone organized, running smoothly and on track. She works tirelessly, too. Bonus: She does that cheerfully and seemingly without effort. Her positivity and calm vibe are mirrored in her students and co-workers. One colleague appreciates that she teaches with finesse and sees how much her students love and adore her. Another colleague noted, “She puts so much thought into everything we do and always has the bases covered.” Families of her kindergartners love her. One family even requested that she be the future teacher of younger children regardless of whether her class was in the morning or afternoon. Parents appreciate her leadership, high quality teaching and weekly communication in which she lets parents know what’s coming up for the week. Her Mary Poppins costume always brings smiles, too. Congratulations to Jolene Farley, Sunrise Elementary’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Karen Pedersen has a true love of teaching—and it definitely shows. It’s also evident that this wonderful woman truly loves her students and helping them grow. Karen has been called “an advocate” for students and teachers because she does whatever she can to help them achieve the best result, using her positive influence and wealth of experience. Though she’s been honing her craft of sharpening the minds of youth for 40 years, Karen is always open to feedback, growth and change. This is another example of her heart being in the right place—there for students, teachers, and staff. Colleagues love her “Let’s do it” attitude she has when implementing new ideas that are in the students’ best interest. It’s heartwarming to see her provide a great learning environment and devote time and resources to encourage and enlighten the special education students in the extended core program to reach their full potential. She’s held many positions over the years in an effort to improve Willow Canyon and currently serves as Canyons Education Association vice president. As one colleague put it, “She is a good listener and cares for others. She considers us a family and is there for everyone.” Please join us in applauding Karen Pedersen for being named Willow Canyon’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
It takes somebody with unique attributes to be able to provide guidance to students in special education programs, and there’s nobody more qualified than Dana Crosby for that important role. Not only is she patient while giving Willow Springs’ special education students extra support, attention and respect, Dana also helps maximize their educational, emotional, social and physical potential through specialized learning experiences. Her classroom is a calm, welcoming, supportive safe space for her students, who range in age from first to fifth grade. She meets with students on an almost-daily basis, and plays roles as their cheerleader, mentor, teacher, and counselor. Using a fluid schedule, she adapts as she assesses students’ skills and learning pace. With compassion and encouragement, she develops activities and lessons that best meet their needs, working with them in one-on-one situations and in small group settings. She thoughtfully keeps parents in the loop, too. This year has presented some challenges because of COVID restrictions, but Dana has followed the laws and enforced procedures all while maintaining a positive learning environment. Colleagues commend her for providing the best services, resources and opportunities to the special education students. She’s their loyal advocate. Willow Springs Elementary is proud to announce Dana Crosby as the 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Nicole Clark began working at Butler Middle as an aide to help struggling students with math almost a decade ago. That experience sparked a desire in her to become a teacher and a permanent source of enlightenment. She went back to school to earn a master’s degree in math. Butler Middle celebrated the day she was hired as a seventh-grade math teacher. She’s been a terrific addition to the school ever since. Nicole is a constant source of positive energy and makes sure those around her feel comfortable, safe, and supported. “Ms. Clark exemplifies every part of teaching I hope to be,” a colleague said. “Her compassion, preparation and unequivocal patience is second to none. Students feel how she sincerely wants them to do well in math without any judgment.” She’s excelled as a team lead this year. Her colleagues know she’ll help in a bind. Her example has been so strong that her daughter decided to follow in her footsteps as a long-term substitute teacher. Nicole’s role at Butler Middle has grown. Beyond being an amazing classroom teacher, Nicole is a student body officer advisor, math counts advisor and an after-school Math Help tutor. Students rely on her consistency. They know she’ll be there to help with their learning. And she’s like a best friend and big sister to many colleagues. For so many reasons, Nicole Clark has been selected as Butler Middle’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Dr. Jared Collette wears a lot of hats at DPMS–literally and figuratively. His hat collection comes in handy as he dons different caps to bring history to life for the eighth-graders in his U.S. history classes. This year, he is serving as a team lead, teaching online courses, and has also run a debate class and our chess club. Dr. Collette is a talented musician, and has loved making music since growing up in the Bay Area. He’s an accomplished scholar, having earned his Ph.D in education at Utah State after graduation from BYU as a history major. And he’s simply a great influence on everyone who associates with him. Dr. Collette always juggles a variety of assignments with a calm demeanor and genuine interest in the well-being of students. His lessons are rigorous, engaging and thoughtfully planned. He makes frequent contact with families and is always willing to help students succeed. Draper Park is proud to select Dr. Jared Collette as Draper Park Middle’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
As the visual arts teacher and new teacher-mentor at Eastmont Middle, Whitney Zordan is able to use her passion, knowledge, creativity, and talented skill set to help students and fellow colleagues thrive in their stages of the educational process. Whitney embraces the instructional priorities within her classroom and models methods for structured class discussions and classroom engagement. She does a wonderful job mentoring instructors, diligently working to make sure all new teachers at Eastmont get everything they need to be successful in their first three years of teaching. She is kind and respected by peers, parents and staff. For these reasons and many more, it is Eastmont Middle’s pleasure to have Whitney Zordan represent the school as its 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Lucky 13. That’s how many nominations this popular eighth-grade history teacher received from students, coaches, colleagues and parents. Consider it payback for a job well done. Sheradee Bradfield has dedicated her career to the students and community of Midvale Middle over the years and has impacted the lives of thousands. One parent mentioned, “Sheradee is an incredible educator. She cares deeply about her students and challenges them to be their best self.” A colleague commented that when you walk in Sheradee’s classroom you feel “the community, engagement and mutual respect.” Sheradee’s collaboration and willingness to help others are appreciated. “Sheradee has been an exemplary educator for her entire career,” one colleague noted. Not surprisingly, Sheradee embraced the pandemic challenges, creating meaningful lessons and incorporating virtual reality into her curriculum. She is always willing to find a creative solution. It’s clear she believes in kids and wants them to succeed. That influences the climate and culture of the school. Some comments from her students: “Ms. Bradfield is a king of teaching history. … Bradfield is good because she knows a lot about history and she explains things very well. … I like Ms. Bradfield because she is so fun and nice with me.” Congratulations to Sheradee Bradfield, Midvale Middle’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
After his first year of teaching traditional English Language Arts, Gage Pulsipher found his calling in elective creative writing and debate courses. His passion and creativity for these subjects is obvious, and he has been a teacher who truly employs a student-centered focus in every lesson and personal project created throughout the year. The popularity and success at District competitions in debate represents his growing legacy. Students appreciate his influence. “I look forward to going to his class every morning,” one student noted. “He has really helped me to look at things in a more positive way, and he has helped me to be a better writer and a better person.” Students know he cares about their schoolwork and how they’re doing emotionally. He keeps them engaged and focused in class, and helps them overcome a very common phobia: public speaking. “He has made one of the scariest things—speaking in front of people—fun,” one student wrote. Parents glow about the impact Gage has on his students and his commitment to their success. He’s even inspired one student to become a teacher. A parent said he helped her realize what an incredible influence you can be in other’s lives by sharing your talent to teach, that one person can make a difference. Gage also excels as a leader in the WEB program (Where Everyone Belongs), which connects sixth-grade students with eighth-grade mentors. Indian Hills Middle is proud to celebrate Gage Pulsifer as the school’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Milagros Vasquez’s dedication to her students and their success was evident as she took the lead on WIDA testing. She ensured students’ preparation through these steps: writing a letter to parents about action steps; organizing a pizza lunch to inform ELD students about the test and get them excited about showing their progress; coordinating a WIDA practice testing session to familiarize students with the software; and following up with monthly postcards to let parents know Mount Jordan is there for their students. As one colleague put it, “She has a big picture mentality that is a huge asset to the school.” Her day-to-day teaching also reflects a genuine caring attitude about each student’s needs and a game plan for their engagement. Her growth mindset leads to action such as an after-school tutoring session. She truly believes all students can learn. Colleagues feel the love she has for them and the school, too. She went the extra mile to help Daniel Aguilera, the new DLI/ELD teacher, find an apartment, learn about the local area and transition to teaching in Utah. A trusting relationship, which ultimately helps students, is one result. She is friendly to all staff members. “Mily’s presence,” a colleague noted, “makes you feel valued and appreciated.” Former students and parents also credit the strong foundation built in her class for paving the way for high school success and passing the AP test. For these reasons, Milagros Vasquez has been selected as Mount Jordan Middle’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Marcus Chen has a gift for building relationships with his students. In fact, students of all types—shy, boisterous, new English learners, clinically depressed, Honor Roll achievers and even some who don’t like science—say the seventh-grade science teacher is their favorite. Marcus cares deeply about his students, learns about health and mental conditions they might be dealing with, and reaches out to parents, counselors, and social workers for advice to support them. He has had tremendous success with engaging online students. He’s been described as “phenomenal” when it comes to how he works with the most complex students. Marcus is leading the way at Union to provide a more personalized, individualized system for learning. This includes a self-pace course he created, which allows students to work through an engaging, interactive, self-paced curriculum on Canvas. Accelerated learners get to conduct research and scientific experiments. He also keeps students’ interest with hands-on labs. He even purchased specialized microscopes that plug into Chromebooks to allow students to view samples and take screenshots. His “crime scene activity” is a hit as students study blood splatter and DNA and dissect cow eyeballs. Marcus is a strong teacher leader at Union. He has been the Science Department Chair, a grade-level team lead, and has served on the Building Leadership Team for five years. He cultivates a strong sense of mutual respect and collaboration. He’s also beginning to do collaborative projects, including one with the Ceramics teacher in which students research properties of rocks in Utah before crushing the rocks and making pottery. Please join us in cheering for Marcus Chen, Union MIddle School’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
It’s fitting that Rebecca Hill teaches for the Chargers. She’s been charging forward since joining the Corner Canyon staff six years ago, and everybody in her path reaps the rewards. “She is the teacher we all wanted in high school,” a colleague wrote. Her lessons are well planned with supports and challenges. She maintains a classroom that is safe and high-energy. Ultimately, the success of her students is her top priority. She provides a voice for those students and her teachers as the Department Chair. Some of her work happens behind the scenes. She strives to create a culture of learning and insists on remaining positive. One student expressed gratitude for how hard she worked to help students master college level concepts during the pandemic. There were frustrations aplenty as the school transitioned between in-person and online learning, but she continued her charge to make a positive impact. “I had moments of extreme challenges and frustration. Learning math online is very frustrating and made me cry at times,” the student explained. “Mrs. Hill is the only reason I passed this course. I emailed her numerous times on questions, tips, etc. and she responded every time quickly. She has worked so hard and made a difference for me in this course.” Rebecca exemplifies the CHARGE motto: Care, Honor, Respect, Give, Engage. The Chargers are cheering for Rebecca Hill, Corner Canyon High’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
You’ll have to ask her for the exact formula, but the probability of success and increased performance has an impressive multiplication factor for students who are taught math by Kristina Klekas. The good news for Hillcrest’s math students: She is the Department Chair, so they’re all being influenced by her. That’s a great thing. As one colleague put it, “She goes well above and beyond to give students every chance possible to make it through her classes.” Kristina even went the extra mile recently when a concurrent enrollment student dealing with health issues transferred to Entrada. She’d been encouraging him at Hillcrest and then tracked him down to invite him to return to finish his finals for SLCC. He took advantage of the kind gesture and passed the test. The experience positively changed his outlook. Her positive vibe just radiates. “Math is so difficult for many students. She thinks outside the box,” her colleague mentioned. “She really makes the kids feel like they can do it.” Hillcrest thanks Kristina Klekas for her efforts, and congratulates her for being named the school’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Considered a gifted educator by peers, JP Kentros has shown he won’t let any obstacle prevent his students from learning, progressing and performing. It’s a testament to his passion for his students and choirs and his persistence that Jordan High’s choirs are blossoming and building an award-winning tradition even during the duress of a pandemic. He adapts to students’ needs when faced with challenges and keeps them at the center of his actions. One example happened a couple of years ago when a snowstorm threatened to cancel a choir trip on the morning when 100-plus students were supposed to fly to Washington, D.C. He worked tirelessly with the airlines to split the groups up and get them to their destination. The altered trip was a big success. Each choir group placed in the top three, and Jordan High returned with the coveted Sweepstakes Award for the highest-performing music program in the national competition. JP hasn’t let COVID-19 slow down the program. He worked out a way for students to sing their parts on Googlemeets and used technology to beautifully blend their voices. To allow more people to enjoy performances, he learned how to livestream concerts. It worked so well he’s since taught teachers statewide how to accomplish that. He also set up a studio in his own home so he could continue to teach online during a school lockdown. His classes are organized, taking advantage of every minute. He’s personable, warm and talented, so it’s no surprise he’s become a favorite of the Beetdiggers. The ‘Diggers honor JP Kentros as the school’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Sometimes, it takes a soft touch to inspire even the toughest-to-reach students. Lindsay Eberhardt, who teaches in the Youth Academy at Diamond Ridge High School, is the kind of educator who can do just that. Her extra efforts at connecting on a personal level are much-needed and appreciated. She truly cares about helping students set themselves up for a brighter future through education. Principal Amy Boettger has one word to describe Lindsay: “Awesome.” For these reasons and more, Lindsay Eberhardt has been selected as Diamond Ridge High School’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Edwin Lehauli came to the Canyons Technical Education Center with a rich and diverse background in criminal justice. Students love his engaging classroom and look forward to real-world scenarios conducted by the Sandy and Unified Police departments on the CTEC campus. Recently in his Criminal Justice class, students learned about the difficult job of directing and working with inmates in mock jail scenarios. Students act as both inmates and correctional officers. They attempt to manipulate the officers through verbal and physical techniques during each scenario. It is an authentic test of skills, patience and stress management. Students study the psychology of behaviors of those incarcerated, while also learning the skills to be effective in a corrections career. A moderated debrief follows each scenario. Finally, the class cheers each other’s performance to reinforce the team aspect. Edwin takes extra time each semester to customize scenarios for students. He contacts students’ parents directly without the knowledge of the student, so the experience is truly individualized and reinforces problem-solving skills under intensely stressful conditions. And there is something unique about the storage closet in Mr. Lehauli’s classroom. It’s the only one on campus—or in the District—full of real shackles and handcuffs. Edwin is truly an excellent teacher and is always striving to enhance his teaching skills. We congratulate Edwin Lehauli for being named CTEC 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Colleagues recognize David Dau as an amazing educator who’s made a significant impact since joining the staff this past year. David has become a student-favorite while teaching a variety of subjects: Adult ESL, U.S. Government, U.S. History, Exploring Computer Science, Life Hacks, English 11, Botany and Writing Skills. Students appreciate that he makes learning interesting and relatable to their lives, which keeps them wanting to come back to learn more. “I like this teacher because he understands students,” one student noted. “He makes good jokes as well, and he knows how to get through to students.” With a straight-forward and realistic approach, he helps students figure out ways to accomplish dreams. Another student commended him for making class fun and schoolwork less intimidating. “He taught me how easy essays actually are to write,” the student said. “I probably won’t ever have a panic attack over one again. I always look forward to any of his classes, even if I hate the subject. He will be one of those teachers I always remember and admire.” Please join us in honoring David Dau as Entrada’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
As a member of an interdisciplinary team that involves physical, occupational, and speech therapy as well as student aides, nurses, psychologists and other professionals, Kelsie Wilson has the opportunity to share her natural ability to teach to a very diverse population of students and the ability to listen to other professionals to maximize her students’ ability to learn. She gets to know her students, empathizes with them and develops individualized lesson plans for their intellectual abilities and sensory/social capabilities. Kelsie has a passion for teaching and serving, and her warm personality enhances her strong interpersonal skills. She is professional, knowledgeable, approachable, organized, hard working, sincere, loyal and respectful. Colleagues are impressed by her out-of-the-box problem-solving, too. Her idea to attach fabric envelopes on the back of students’ chairs helped them feel independent as they organized their school supplies and knew where to search for what they needed. For so many reasons, Kelsie Wilson has been selected as Jordan Valley’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
The Utah State Prison is a better place because of Mara Bennett. The same could be said of the lives of inmates who’ve been fortunate to cross her path at the Canyons School District’s education center at the Draper-based prison. Mara’s desire to improve the lives of students at South Park Academy is laudable and inspiring. In a school that has had many success stories despite challenges, Mara continues to enhance the education of a wide variety of students. She carves out time to work with students who are so ill or injured they cannot attend school for a significant period of time. Her colleagues at the prison say she has worked tirelessly to collaborate with correctional officers and gain access to her students in ways that have never been allowed before. For so many reasons, Mara Bennett has been selected as South Park Academy’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
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