Maxwell Eddington learned an invaluable lesson from a dear relative earlier in life that continues to impact him and those whose lives he positively influences as an eighth-grade mathematics teacher at Midvale Middle School.
“My great-grandma used to say, ‘Love is the answer — and now what was the question?’” Eddington recalled. “That’s been my personal mantra the whole time I’ve been a teacher. No matter what I’m doing, whether it’s a lesson or a conversation with a student, I need to make sure that everybody in the room knows that I care about them so that what I say has meaning. This is something that I care just so deeply about.”
If only great-grandma could see her wisdom in action years later.
Eddington, whose empathetic approach and heartfelt concern for students forms a solid foundation for relationships and learning, was announced on Tuesday, April 25, 2023 as the 2023 Canyons School District Teacher of the Year.
“Congratulations, Mr. Eddington!” one of his students said in a video played during the Teacher of the Year celebration event at Hillcrest High. “You made math my favorite subject and I just want to say, ‘Thank you.’”
Eddington, an exceptional educator who helps students believe in themselves and their ability to do math, will represent the 33,000-student District in the annual Utah Teacher of the Year section process, which is part of the National Teacher of the Year program.
“ I think the thing that makes Max such an amazing teacher is his ability to connect and care genuinely about students,” Midvale Middle Principal Mindy Robison said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a teacher that has the ability that he has to connect with students, make them feel safe and valued, but most of all, they enjoy math.
“They need someone that really genuinely believes in them, and he does.”
That love was reciprocated in the nomination process for Teacher of the Year. Twenty-plus students wrote a recommendation for Midvale Middle’s popular, respected and effective math teacher.
The teens credit him for making math interesting and a class they look forward to attending even though some have never liked the subject; for teaching in a unique, fun, creative, and understandable way; for helping students feel comfortable; and for making sure they know he cares regardless of their behavior or the situation.
“He loves his job and what he does,” one student wrote. “He does all that he can to help and love everyone in the school. He’s the reason so many kids succeed in math and schooling, in general.”
Another student shared this message: “I think you are the best teacher because you’re so nice and you help every single student, every day, and everybody likes you.”
Eddington received a $1,000 cash prize from the Canyons Education Foundation for being named the District’s overall winner.
Like the 45 other Teachers of the Year representing Canyons’ schools and programs, he received a gift bag full of donated prizes worth more than $400, including a $250 cash prize, along with tickets to an upcoming Real Salt Lake game and an inscribed crystal award from the Board of Education.
Hillcrest High science teacher Tasha Jensen and East Midvale Elementary second-grade teacher Rachel Teasley earned runner-up honors, the District also announced during the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony at Hillcrest High. Jensen and Teasley each won $500 cash prizes from the Foundation.
Seven CSD Teacher of the Year semifinalists, including Eddington, Jensen and Teasley, were selected from nearly 3,000 nominations that were submitted during the public-nomination process.
Other semifinalists included Silver Mesa Elementary’s Sarah Smith, Sprucewood Elementary’s Jennifer Dean, Indian Hills Middle’s Andrew Robbins, and Corner Canyon High’s Jana White.
Colleagues and administrators are in awe of Eddington’s abilities, collaboration, problem-solving, insight, and support. Principal Robison enjoyed reading the students’ nominations.
“I used to teach math, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t remember eighth-graders ever being excited to go to math,’” Robison said. “More than anything, they do it for him because of that relationship that he builds with them.”
She also admires how he empowers and teaches students.
“Hey, Max, I feel so fortunate to get to learn and grow when I’m around you. I know that you are one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen,” Robison told Eddington in a video message. “I know you’re humble and you have taken this all in stride, but the reality is you are a phenomenal teacher who is loved by our entire school, but especially the students that you teach each day.”
True to his character, Eddington’s reaction to the award was humble and heartfelt.
“This is such an extraordinary place to work and is full of so many amazing educators. I honestly have imposter syndrome about it,” Eddington said. “It’s extremely validating. It makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing with my life and that I’m doing a good job.”
Many students and fellow educators can vouch to that being the case.
“Students are so incredible. They’re so complex and interesting and funny, and there’s just never a boring day. Being a teacher is never boring, and I really love that,” Eddington added. “I love coming home from work knowing that I’ve done something more than just earn money. It feels like a calling. It gives purpose to my life. I don’t think a lot of people can say that about their jobs, and that makes me feel really lucky.”
At Hillcrest, Jensen hasn’t skipped a beat since returning to the classroom after taking a couple of years off. Students thrive thanks to her approach to teaching science.
“She instantly jumped back in and has changed lives,” an impressed colleague said. “She is one of the most thorough and well-prepared teachers I know and loves her students.”
Remarkably, East Midvale’s entire school adopted the spreadsheet Teasley designed to monitor her second-grade students’ typical growth in reading and math. She helps children from a wide variety of backgrounds, including refugees, succeed at learning and life.
In the words of a colleague, “Rachel is incredibly passionate and thoughtful with her students and co-workers.”
2023 CSD Teacher of the Year Awards
District Teacher of the Year
Maxwell Eddington, Midvale Middle
District Teacher of the Year Finalists
High School: Tasha Jensen, Hillcrest High
Middle School: Maxwell Eddington, Midvale Middle
Elementary School: Rachel Teasley, East Midvale Elementary
District Teacher of the Year Semifinalists
Jennifer Dean, Sprucewood Elementary
Maxwell Eddington, Midvale Middle
Tasha Jensen, Hillcrest High
Andrea Robbins, Indian Hills Middle
Sarah Smith, Silver Mesa Elementary
Rachel Teasley, East Midvale Elementary
Jana White, Corner Canyon High