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2010 Excellence in Teaching

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William and Pat Child, UEA Name 2010 Top Educators and Public Education Supporters

Awards presented at "Superstars in Education" Celebration

Working in an alternative high school has its challenges, including many students who lack motivation. Millcreek High (St. George) U.S. history and government teacher Katherine Wood sees past this to the person within. One example is a student who disliked school. Ms. Wood saw potential in him where others had seen only laziness. She nominated the student for a summer leadership program. He was so excited to be recognized that he turned things around. When he returned for his senior year, other teachers commented, “it was like watching a different student.” If asked why he changed, he says because Ms. Wood believed in him and motivated him.

In 2005, the Tintic High band program had declining numbers and little student interest. Kodey Hughes changed all that. Under the direction of Mr. Hughes, the high school concert band went to the state band competition for the first time in 25 years. He took the band to Disneyland to perform. Students started to take pride in themselves, their ability and their school. At a national competition at Sea World in San Diego this year, the band won first place in their class, first place overall and the trophy for best attitude and behavior.

With saltwater tanks containing sharks, starfish, crabs, coral and other marine life positioned all around his science classroom, Steven Drott literally brings science to life for his Woods Cross High students. His enthusiasm for his subject and his acceptance of students makes him one of the school’s most beloved teachers. So, imagine the distress of students and faculty when it was discovered he had cancer, which he has been fighting now for two years. “His making science captivating to the least motivated is reason enough for Steve Drott to be selected for the ‘Excellence in Teaching’ Award,” wrote a colleague. “But even more significant is that Steve is providing his students with life lessons—about participating to the fullest, about cherishing every moment, about taking action and fulfilling dreams, and about realizing what is most important.”

Wood, Hughes and Drott are three of 10 educators honored with 2010 William and Pat Child “Excellence in Teaching” Awards during the UEA’s annual “Superstars in Education” Awards Celebration, Oct. 14. Award recipients were nominated by their peers and chosen based on their work with individual students or groups of students. Each winner received a crystal award, a check for $1,000 courtesy of William and Pat Child and a plaque for their school.

Excellence in Teaching Award recipients for 2010 include:

  • Ginger Brakke, sixth-grade teacher at Grant Elementary School, Murray City School District;
  • Susan Ericksen Bruschke, kindergarten teacher at Heritage Elementary School, Washington County School District;
  • Kari Cahoon, third-grade teacher at Dilworth Elementary School, Salt Lake City School District;
  • Leslie DeMille, welding instructor at the Canyons Technical Education Center, Canyons School District;
  • Steven Drott, science teacher at Woods Cross High School, Davis County School District;
  • Kodey Hughes, district superintendent and band instructor at Tintic High School, Tintic School District;
  • Amy Lasater, first-grade teacher at Arrowhead Elementary School, Washington County School District;
  • Janet Wayman, Career and Technical Education instructor at Riverview Junior High School, Murray City School District;
  • Michelle Willden, drama teacher at Bingham High School, Jordan School District;
  • Katherine Wood, U.S. history and government teacher at Millcreek High School, Washington County School District.

In addition, the UEA presented the following awards:

  • UEA Honor Roll Award to Senator Robert F. Bennett for distinguishing himself as a senior statesman and a friend of public education. This award is presented to a non-educator who has provided outstanding service to public education.
  • Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award to Scott Berryessa for his efforts to raise funds and assist at-risk students as president of the UEA Children at Risk Foundation for the past eight years. This award is presented to an individual who has engaged in human and civil rights activities that have benefited education and had communitywide impact.

The Superstars in Education Celebration was held in conjunction with the 2010 UEA Convention & Education Exposition at the South Towne Exhibition Center.

 


Award Winner Profiles


Ginger Brakke

Fourth Grade Teacher at Grant Elementary School
Murray School District

Before school begins each Friday, a few of Ginger Brakke students, known as “Recycle Rangers,” go to each class and collect paper that would otherwise go to the school’s garbage bins. The students learn how rewarding it feels to volunteer and help others.

The 23-year veteran elementary teacher runs a volunteer tutoring program two days a week after school to help students master reading, writing and math skills. She also makes home visits to students who have long-term illnesses, some of whom are not in her class or even her elementary school.

Rather than simply encourage a chronically tardy student to be punctual, Ms. Brakke took the time to discover the real cause of the student’s lateness. Turns out, he did not have an alarm clock. Ms. Brakke bought him a clock, delivered it to his house and showed him how to use it. “This small act made a real difference for (the student),” says a colleague. “He knew that his teacher cared whether he was at school or not, but most importantly, that she cared about him.”

Susan Ericksen Bruschke

Kindergarten Teacher at Heritage Elementary School
Washington County School District

Whatever the disability a student may have as they enter Susan Ericksen Bruschke’s kindergarten class, they will learn. From the moment they enter her class, students know they are safe and loved.

One boy came to Mrs. Bruschke’s class who did not like to be touched and had difficulty relating to people. Within a few months, she had him feeling so safe and loved that he would come to her each day and want to give her a hug. He began to learn quickly and was a very capable student when he left her class.

A few years ago, Mrs. Bruschke faced a challenge in leaving her students to care for a dying husband. “We had to push her out the door and tell her over and over that everything would be OK at school,” wrote a fellow teacher. “It was a very difficult time in her life, but I think having her students to come back to gave her a reason to continue living with the loss of the love of her life.”

Kari Cahoon

Third Grade Teacher at Dilworth Elementary School
Salt Lake City School District

According to a co-worker, Kari Cahoon “expects the best from herself (and) instills the quest for excellence in her students and colleagues.”

One student came to her class struggling both in school and in life. Rarely was someone home to greet him when school was out. Ms. Cahoon devoted countless hours to tutoring him. She anonymously provided clothing for him through Sub for Santa. He proudly wore his new clothes to school, turning his self-esteem around. At the end of the school year, Ms. Cahoon consoled the student who was distressed at leaving her class. A fellow teacher witnessing the conversation observed that “tears were also flowing down Kari’s face…She has a deep affection for her students.”

Another of her students, who was being cared for by her grandmother, struggled with behavior and academics. Every day after school, Ms. Cahoon would share ideas with grandma about how to help her granddaughter. She arranged for a dental checkup and help with medical costs. With Ms. Cahoon’s help, the student turned herself around and is now a successful fourth grader.

Leslie DeMille

Welding instructor at Canyons Technical Education Center
Canyons School District

Leslie DeMille often faces the challenge of teaching welding to students who have behavior challenges and other special needs. He also teaches advanced students. No matter their individual needs, Mr. DeMille engages his students in a respectful, patient and cooperative way.

One student in particular had many difficulties outside school and would often come to class drunk. Mr. DeMille worked patiently with the student until he became a proficient welder. The student, who could have easily lost his way in high school, continued his education at Salt Lake Community College and is using his welding skills to become a productive member of society…thanks in large part to the patient mentoring of Mr. DeMille.

A co-worker writes, “Leslie always sets a high standard for his students, but is willing to reach out to all of his students to bring them to a higher standard without compromising rules, safety or other standards of learning…He loves what he does and says he is happy to be entertained by his students each day.” 

Steven Drott

Science Teacher at Woods Cross High School
Davis School District

Nine saltwater tanks, ranging in size up to ten-feet long, are positioned all around Steven Drott’s science classroom. Growing in those tanks are sharks, starfish, crabs, coral and other marine life.

Mr. Drott, literally, brings science to life for his students. His enthusiasm for his subject and his acceptance of his students, no matter their skill level, makes him one of Woods Cross High School’s most beloved teachers.

So, imagine the distress of students and faculty when it was discovered he had cancer. In the two years since his diagnosis, he has been in several comas, had his kidneys shut down and has undergone weeks of chemotherapy. Yet if he can move, Mr. Drott is at school.

“His making science captivating to the least motivated is reason enough for Steve Drott to be selected for the Excellence in Teaching Award,” wrote a colleague. “But even more significant is that Steve is providing his students with life lessons—about participating to the fullest, about cherishing every moment, about taking action and fulfilling dreams, and about realizing what is most important.” 

Kodey Hughes

Superintendent and Band Instructor
Tintic School District

In 2005, the Tintic High School band program had declining numbers and little student interest. Kodey Hughes changed all that.

Under the direction of Mr. Hughes, the high school concert band went to the state band competition for the first time in 25 years. He took the band to Disneyland to perform. Students started to take pride in themselves, their ability and their school. At a national competition at Sea World in San Diego this year, the band won first place in their class, first place overall and the trophy for best attitude and behavior.

“His high standards and his willingness to put himself out there for his students encouraged students to do their best,” wrote a co-worker. “Mr. Hughes has influenced students’ attitude in a positive way and it has spread and impacted the entire school.”

Mr. Hughes was recently named district superintendent, but will continue as the high school band director and as an instructor for sixth-grade band at the elementary school.

Amy Lasater

First Grade Teacher at Arrowhead Elementary School
Washington County School District

In Amy Lasater’s classroom, students can be found doing things one would find in many other first-grade classrooms…reading books, writing stories and studying math. But Ms. Lasater understands the importance of being part of the 21st Century. Her students are also blogging, podcasting and using GPS units to learn about the world around them.

Using e-pals from places like Ireland and Brazil, Ms. Lasater helps students reach out to the world, comparing the culture and geography of those places with those in St. George, Utah. She spearheaded a project to have students earn money for shoes to be donated to a local charity. When students brought the shoes to school, they lined them along the school track and held a royal parade, marching around the more than 100 pairs of donated shoes.

“Amy finds every opportunity to help students see that what they are learning in the classroom makes a difference in their lives, home and community,” says a fellow teacher. “Her kids are learning how to make the world a better place.” 

Janet Wayman

Career and Technical Education Instructor at Riverview Junior High School
Murray City School District

Janet Wayman teaches important life skills to junior high students. Because her CTE course cycles the entire seventh-grade class through her classroom, she is able to get to know every student and support them through their entire junior high experience.

“Janet is a master teacher who exemplifies the best in all of us,” writes a fellow teacher. “She is an amazing teacher who makes a positive difference in the lives of her students.”

Ms. Wayman initiated a long-standing tradition at Riverview Junior High: the annual Dutch oven competition. This competition involves teams of students who sign up to prepare full Dutch oven meals, which are then served to professional judges to determine the winners. Typically more than 80 teams compete, requiring a great deal of planning and the support of parents and faculty. Ms. Wayman organizes a large contingent of parent volunteers as well as volunteers and supervisors from the school. She also publishes a recipe book of the student recipes each year. The event will celebrate its 20th year in 2011. 

Michelle Willden

Drama Teacher at Bingham High School
Jordan School District

In schools, students sometimes get lost in large class sizes. Michelle Willden makes sure individual students never get overlooked, and she manages to help everyone—adults and students alike feel important. According to a co-worker, her “high energy and enthusiasm for life bring out the best in her colleagues, her students and the adults she comes in contact with.”

A student who struggled as merely a lost face in a sea of 900 sophomores found a nurturing place as a member of Ms. Willden’s stage crew. He developed marketable skills in theater production, stage technology and acting, one of many under her tutelage. Her co-worker wrote that Ms. Willden “develops young, raw talent and leadership abilities with her constant refocusing of the spotlight onto her students and away from herself.”

As drama director, Ms. Willden runs perhaps the busiest auditorium in the state and has developed a first-rate theater program, rivaling any other in the state. She is unconcerned with the accolades and personal accomplishments and is highly supportive of the school, its culture and traditions.

Katherine Wood

U.S. history and Government Teacher at Millcreek High School
Washington County School District

Working in an alternative high school has its challenges, including working with many students who lack motivation. Katherine Wood sees past this to the person within.

“I have seen such a change in (her students’) personal esteem as they have been successful and come to realize that with hard work and determination goals are obtainable,” observed a colleague. “There are not many teachers who would see the worth of these young people and spend so many hours of their own time working with them and helping them to experience success.”

One example is a student who disliked school. Ms. Wood saw potential in him where others had seen only laziness. Recognizing his skills, she nominated the student for the Boys’ State summer leadership program. He was so excited to be recognized that he turned things around. When he returned for senior year, other teachers commented “it was like watching a different student.” He has chosen a career path and decided to go to college. If asked why he changed, he says because Ms. Wood believed in him and motivated him.

Charles E. Bennett Award for Human and Civil Rights in Utah

Scott Berryessa

Sixth Grade Teacher at Bluffdale Elementary School, UEA Board Member and Director of the UEA Children At Risk Foundation
Remarks given by former UEA President Pat Rusk

Scott Berryessa has led the UEA Children at Risk Foundation for the past eight years.

I asked Scott to take over CARF when I became UEA President and he was the President of the Jordan Education Association because I wanted someone who would not only follow through with the many tasks required to keep the foundation viable, but also because I wanted someone who would be committed to its success and to the expansion of CARF programs. Scott readily accepted and has never disappointed.

Since agreeing to head CARF, Scott has worked with State Farm Insurance agents to award over $400,000 in classroom grants to teachers statewide. He initiated $2500.00 and $5000.00 grants from CARF for innovative projects designed to help students at risk. Those grants have assisted many teachers or groups of teachers in funding programs for their schools.

Most recently, CARF has assisted the Ogden/Weber UniSev in promoting Future Teachers of America groups on the campuses of Ogden and Ben Lomond High Schools and on the Weber State Campus. Scott understood the great impact Rick Palmer’s work could have on the future of our profession.

Another recent grant enabled teachers at Monument Valley High School to take Navajo students to nearby college campuses to meet their distance learning teachers and to experience the college campus first hand. The grant also allowed students to take multiple ACT tests, thus raising the percentage of those who passed to 14 out of 16.

With Scott’s encouragement, perseverance and assistance, CARF started the A+ Professional Tutoring Program, which has tutored students in three schools to date and plans to add two more schools this year. Nearly 200 students have received math and reading tutoring, using only highly qualified, certificated teachers to provide instruction. In each case, the participating school has made AYP at the end of the year. And as an added bonus, UEA has often been seen in a new and positive light by educators.

Scott has, almost single handedly, advocated over the years for more sustainable funding for CARF and for greater support from UEA and our members. His vision for the number of children we could reach and the positive effect we could have on both teachers and students continues undaunted.

Scott has been an unsung hero for children and teachers and for that I believe he is deserving of this recognition.

 

UEA “Honor Roll” Award

Senator Robert F. Bennett

Remarks given by NEA Directors Ryan Anderson and Jesse DeHay

This year, the UEA Board is presenting a UEA Honor Roll award to Senator Robert F. Bennett.

Senator Bob Bennett has distinguished himself as a Senior Statesman and a “Friend of Education” both at home in Utah and in our nation’s capitol. Bob Bennett is a sincere, thoughtful listener whose wealth of historical information contributes positively to conversation and debate on diverse issues facing education.  When meeting with Senator Bennett, you are aware of his strength of presence and serious, respectful contemplation of ideas shared.

Senator Bennett always has children’s interests in the forefront of his education decisions and is willing to modify his position on issues when he hears convincing argument to benefit our students, educators, schools, and communities.  He has always been open and eager to hear from UEA representatives about the concerns in Utah Schools, never passing them off to staffers, but always meeting in person upon our visits.

Bob Bennett was one of eight Senators who, from the beginning, opposed the so-called “No Child Left Behind” legislation, because he believed it was too restrictive on the states’ decision making abilities regarding education issues. However, in response to the mandates of NCLB, he was instrumental in securing funding for rural Utah teachers to become “highly qualified” through professional development.  He also got federal funding to initiate a pilot program for teacher mentoring, pupil/teacher ratio reduction, and retention of new teachers.  He has procured funds for technology programs in areas needed to bolster those programs.

For all that Senator Robert F. Bennett has done for the state and nation during his years of service, as well as for all of the children who have benefitted from his compassionate concern, we can think of no person more deserving of UEA’s Honor Roll Award 2010 than Bob Bennett.

It is our great pleasure to honor Senator Bob Bennett with the UEA Honor Roll Award.

(Note: The UEA “Honor Roll” Award was accepted on behalf of Sen. Bennett by the Senator’s State Director Larry Shepherd, pictured.)