Several years ago, Sharon Wallis’ mother asked what she wanted for Christmas. Knowing that many of her first-grade students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary were in desperate need of winter clothing, she asked for children’s boots, socks and coats. The idea grew and soon a small church group from Tennessee was sending items to Wallis. Her “Donation Closet” is now well stocked with items to keep students comfortable throughout the year.
“I remember having days when I didn’t have a friend in the world, but I always knew I could go chat with Mr. (Jim) Griffin,” wrote a former student of the Salem Hills High School teacher. “He taught me to never give up, to reach for my goals and to be successful. He not only has a love and passion for teaching American history, but he has a love and adoration for his students. He wants his students to be successful and dare to do great things in life.”
Walk into Sandra King’s fifth-grade classroom at Elk Meadows Elementary in South Jordan and you will be transported to an ancient Mayan rain ceremony, a Civil War battlefield or a science laboratory. When her students study the history of our country, they become colonists, pay taxes, hail King George and start a revolution. They participate in reenactments that include wearing costumes, decorating the halls and classrooms to fit lessons, and truly learning history through experience.
Wallis, Griffin and King are three of 10 educators honored with 2013 UEA Excellence in Teaching awards during the KeyBank Superstars in Education banquet Oct. 17. The guest speaker for the banquet was former Utah Governor Olene Walker. Walker, Lt. Governor Greg Bell and UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh presented the awards.
Award recipients were nominated by their peers and selected based on their impact on individual students or groups of students. Each winner received an award and a check for $1,500, courtesy of the UEA Children At Risk Foundation.
“Excellence in Teaching” Award recipients for 2013 are:
- Shalice Benedum, sixth grade teacher at Liberty Elementary in Murray School District;
- Amy Christiansen, seventh grade science teacher at Fossil Ridge Intermediate School in Washington County School District;
- Linda Crowther, music teacher at Trailside Elementary School in Park City School District;
- Nicole Deaton, health & study skills teacher at Centennial Jr. High School in Davis School District;
- Jim Griffin, political science, American history and psychology teacher at Salem Hills High School in Nebo School District;
- Marilyn Gutke, fourth grade teacher at Greenville Elementary School in Cache County School District;
- Sandra King, fifth grade teacher at Elk Meadows Elementary in Jordan School District;
- Leann Moody, English teacher at Dixon Middle School in Provo City School District;
- Tony Romanello, physics and chemistry teacher at Herriman High School in Jordan School District; and
- Sharon Wallis, first grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Granite School District.
The UEA has sponsored the Excellence in Teaching awards since 2000. KeyBank has sponsored the banquet since 2012.
“The UEA is honored to recognize these outstanding educators. They are a shining example of the great work happening in our public schools each day,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “On behalf of the Utah Education Association and our 18,000 teacher members, we also express our gratitude to KeyBank for helping us to continue our tradition of recognizing the best and the brightest among Utah’s teachers.”
“We are privileged to support the Utah Education Association as it honors our state’s educators,” said Jill Taylor, President of KeyBank in Utah. “These exceptional teachers comprise a vital part of our communities by ensuring our children receive quality educations. Quality education helps our communities thrive and thriving communities benefit all of us.”
In addition to recognizing the state’s outstanding educators, the UEA presented Honor Roll awards to former Prosperity 2020 Chair Mark Bouchard and State Senator Pat Jones for their ongoing advocacy and support for public education.
A Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award was also presented to Nora Buchanan, Latino outreach coordinator in Park City School District.
About the Utah Education Association
For more than a century, the Utah Education Association has been dedicated to preserving and enhancing Utah public education. The UEA is the largest public education employee association in Utah, representing more than 18,000 active classroom teachers, retired educators, administrators, licensed educational support personnel and campus student organizations. The UEA has local affiliates in each of the state’s 41 school districts, Applied Technology Colleges, and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.
KeyBank operates 39 branches in Utah and is part of one of the nation's largest bank-based financial services companies. Key has assets of approximately $86.5 billion as of June 30, 2012. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management and investment services to individuals and small businesses through its 14-state branch network under the name KeyBank National Association. Key also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets trade name.
Award Winner Profiles
Sixth grade teacher at Liberty Elementary in Murray School District
It’s not uncommon for students from the homeless shelter to attend Shalice Benedum’s class. One entered the school with shoes in such poor condition that they fell apart on the playground. Wanting to go home so his friends wouldn’t see, Benedum pulled up ‘athletic shoes’ on her computer and told him to pick a pair. “He ordered the coolest shoes ever and made it through the rest of the week until the shoes arrived,” wrote a co-worker. “Knowing that his teacher cared about him enough to help with this very personal, yet public problem, gave him confidence to stick it out.”
Another of her homeless students moved from the shelter to transitional housing. Feeling yet another school move was not in the student’s best interest, Shalice made arrangements to pick the student up each morning so he could finish the year at Liberty.
Her fellow teacher said, “the number of students who’ve come to (Benedum’s class) with no hope or desire, and who leave believing in themselves and their future is completely astounding.”
Seventh grade science teacher at Fossil Ridge Intermediate School in Washington County School District
The scores for Amy Christiansen’s science students have consistently improved over her years at Fossil Ridge, with nearly 92% passing CRT exams in 2012. In 2012-13, a serious illness to the chemistry teacher at Hurricane High prompted a request for help.
Christiansen stepped in, following a long-term substitute, and soon realized the students were a quarter behind. “Digging in and using her proven teaching strategies, she helped her students not only catch up, but provided an atmosphere in which students felt safe and willing to put their own time into studying and learning,” wrote a colleague. “She even went so far as to have…‘picnic in the chem room’ lunchtime study sessions.”
At the end of the year, testing results were described as “nothing short of miraculous.” The students surpassed not only the school’s previous high of 59% and Mrs. Christiansen’s initial goal of 70% proficient, but eclipsed them, having 86% pass the chemistry exam. Hurricane High became the top-scoring school in the district for chemistry, a feat few thought possible given the circumstances.
Music teacher at Trailside Elementary School in Park City School District
Here are just a few of the comments from the more than 25 teachers who submitted nominations for Linda Crowther:
“It’s hard to tell who was more touched by the Veteran’s Day salute she directs each year – the students or the many veterans honored during the program.”
“Linda’s 4th grade classroom was the one you wanted to be in during Halloween. I still do not know how she made her room with spiders that moved as you opened the classroom door.”
“I know a special needs student who was unable to tolerate the noise and chaos in the music room. Through Linda’s excellent teaching, organization, class management, and her understanding of his special needs, music became an enjoyable experience for him where he was able to remain in class each music period, sing with his peers, perform in music programs, and learn to play the recorder.”
“She is witty, dedicated, wise and multi-faceted. She is a leader in our school. She is the voice of reason and the voice of compassion. She is the voice of music that travels down our halls.”
“Linda’s positive attitude and professionalism are impressive. She raises the level of teaching around her and one cannot help but smile when Linda Crowther is around.”
“(Students) recall all the counties in Utah due to the musical and magical ways of Linda Crowther’s teaching.”
“Linda’s positive attitude is contagious. You can’t help but smile when Linda is around.”
“She has been a tireless part of the education in Park City for many, many years, and imparts energy, enthusiasm, professionalism and character into everything she does.”
Health & study skills teacher at Centennial Jr. High School in Davis School District
From fitness walks and weekly tracking of health goals to making healthy smoothies, Nicole Deaton helps her students be proactive and take control of their health by developing healthy habits now. “(Deaton’s) approach is about applying what is taught to show kids how to have a healthy adolescence and mature into physically, mentally, socially and emotionally mature adults,” wrote one faculty member. “It is not just about knowing the information, but applying it and doing something with it.”
Deaton recently started a school anti-bullying revolution. Students made posters, encouraging everyone to be allies and not bystanders. She helped organize school-wide activities such as a flash mob and a honk and wave to bring more awareness to the students and the community.
Students purchased and wore “Stand Up to Bullying” shirts. “It was quite a sight to see a large number of students walking around the school promoting such a wonderful cause,” said a fellow teacher. A second order of shirts was needed because so many students wanted to be involved in the school ‘revolution.’
Political science, American history and psychology teacher at Salem Hills High School in Nebo School District
For the past 29 years, Jim Griffin has taken up to 25 students to Washington DC to study for a week with the Close Up program. Each year he registers many 18-year-old students to vote. He takes students on regular field trips to the Utah State Capitol. A fellow faculty member said Griffin “believes learning is a life-long process. He believes in the political process and the importance of citizen involvement. He is committed to youth and their education.”
“I remember having days when I didn’t have a friend in the world, but I always knew I could go chat with Mr. Griffin,” wrote a former student. “He taught me to never give up, to reach for my goals and to be successful. He not only has a love and passion for teaching American history, but he has a love and adoration for his students. He wants his students to be successful and dare to do great things in life. By simply going to work each day, he changes and impacts his students’ lives.”
Fourth grade teacher at Greenville Elementary School in Cache County School District
A co-worker calls Marilyn Gutke, “a quiet hero.” “She does not like to call attention to herself or her excellence, but she certainly expects it of herself…In addition to personal attention to students, I have seen Marilyn continually make revisions on teaching materials that enhance concepts we are trying to teach. She is rarely satisfied with a ‘good enough’ program.”
Gutke has made what is described as a “monumental contribution” to her school by spearheading an outdoor classroom and study garden. She annually organizes summertime student, parent and teacher workgroups to keep the garden presentable. “Were it not for her unselfish efforts, (our school) would be burdened with a weed patch,” said her fellow teacher. “This effort alone could be worthy of recognition as it not only saves the garden, but helps the curriculum and gives opportunity for self-esteem projects for students.”
Fifth grade teacher at Elk Meadows Elementary in Jordan School District
Walk into Sandra King’s classroom and you will be transported to an ancient Mayan rain ceremony, a Civil War battlefield or a science laboratory. When her students study the history of our country, they become colonists, pay taxes, hail King George and start a revolution. They participate in reenactments that include wearing costumes, decorating the halls and classrooms to fit lessons, and truly learning history through experience.
Safety glasses and experiments are common in King’s class. Students use chemicals to do amazing experiments. She teaches students how to make observations using the scientific process.
King’s students compete against other schools across the nation in an online math competition. Often students are so involved they play core-centered math games during free time at home. Through this competition, sixth graders became pen pals with students at a school in Indiana that was hit by a tornado. King helped the students organize fundraising activities that generated more than $2,400 to assist the tornado victims.
English teacher at Dixon Middle School in Provo City School District
Over the past decade, Leann Moody created the tradition of a fall reading festival, bringing many authors to Dixon Middle School. The author events put books in the hands of students. A smile came to her face recently when a former student posted that she had just added the 200th signed book to her collection.
Ashton’s first book report in Moody’s English class covered the 400-page manual “HTML for Dummies.” His parents worried about his ability to interact with other students. When Leann Moody decided to have her media class create stop-motion movies, Ashton helped lead because of his computer skills. Kate was a shy, quiet student. With encouragement and extra time from Moody, these two became class leaders and were invited to participate with 26 educators and students from around the world in the Adobe International Youth Summit and film camp.
A fellow teacher shares, “these are only two of many students that Mrs. Moody has hooked on reading and writing and then expanded their horizons with technological applications.”
Physics and chemistry teacher at Herriman High School in Jordan School District
After a visit to schools in China, Tony Romanello realized that, for his students to compete in a global economy, they would need to be able to research, design and build things using the skills he teaches them.
“Tony does his best to show (his students) that even though it is a demanding discipline, physics relates to the real world,” wrote a co-worker. “Whether the student is accelerated or needs extra help, each is welcome in the class and able to succeed in understanding the concepts.”
Students know that Romanello wants them to succeed. While many teachers are enjoying summer break, he has designed an honors Physics course to help those who would like to get ahead on credits.
Known throughout the school for his hotcakes and scones, Romanello comes in on Saturdays before the AP exam to cook breakfast for his students in an effort to “feed their bodies and their brains. This combination of sustenance and study has paid off…Romanello’s students have a 100% pass rate for the AP physics exam.
First grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Granite School District
Several years ago, Sharon Wallis’ mother asked what she wanted for Christmas. Knowing that many of her students were in desperate need of winter clothing, she asked for children’s boots, socks and coats. The idea grew and soon a small church group from Tennessee was sending items to Wallis. Her “Donation Closet” is now well stocked with items to keep students comfortable throughout the year.
A kitchen fire forced a school family to relocate to a hotel where their car was broken into and everything was stolen, including Christmas gifts for the children. When the family was unable to pay the $500 insurance deductible, Wallis spearheaded a donation drive. She managed to collect the money and delivered it to the family on Thanksgiving Day.
Working in a Title 1 school with a 90-110% transiency rate has its challenges. Often few of her students speak English at home. Yet Wallis remains tirelessly dedicated. A colleague wrote, “Words cannot describe the trust, comfort and admiration that so quickly blossoms between Ms. Wallis and her first graders.”
Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award
Park City is a difficult place to be middle class, but it is even more difficult to be poor and undocumented. Nora Buchanan, the Park City School District Latino outreach coordinator has done more than her part to support Hispanic students and parents in our wealthy – and not so wealthy – school district.
Working with the ACLU, Nora has hosted a number of informational meetings and follow-up conferences to help "walk people through" the documentation process. She has assisted numerous 'Dreamers' in pursuing their educational goals by becoming ‘legal’ and therefore able to receive equal education.
Nora has been a quiet force in Park City for years, but her influence is felt loud and clear in the Latino community where she has stood firm for equal opportunity in education. As a result of her efforts, many students in Park City are able to enter into higher education as legal citizens. Nora is an invaluable voice and advocate for the Latino people in our community who wish to pursue higher education and equal civil rights.
On a more personal note, Nora supports individual Hispanic students in such things as opening bank accounts and gathering the proper documentation for receiving a driver's license. Nora's quiet but persistent advocacy has changed lives in the Park City community. She is an amazing woman who is completely deserving of this recognition.
UEA Honor Roll Awards
It is my privilege to recognize Mark Bouchard for the UEA Honor Roll Award. During my first term in office, Mark has become a good friend and advocate.
Mark served as the Chair of Prosperity 2020 and the Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Education Excellence. In both of these roles, he has continually advocated for valuing our teachers as the education experts.
My respect for Mark runs deep. He has always been willing to listen and take counsel on the difficulty of being a public educator. At no time has he ever assumed a position of “education” expert.
As a successful business executive, it would be easy to espouse the tenets of the current business model of education reform. Mark exhibits great respect for the work teachers do every day and brings that reality to every discussion.
Under Mark’s leadership, the UEA has built relationships with those in the business community. I am grateful for his dedication to the students and teachers in Utah.
It is my sincere honor to recognize Mark’s tireless efforts on behalf of public education by awarding him the UEA Honor Roll Award.
Senator Pat Jones
Senator Pat Jones is most deserving of this recognition. During this past legislative session, Senator Jones served on the Senate Education Committee and the Education Interim Committee. Pat established a communication link with the UEA throughout the session.
Despite much opposition from her Senate colleagues on multiple issues during her time in office, Pat has been courageous and tenacious in her fight for good policies for public education. I am in awe of her dogged determination to ask the hard questions and push back on bad policy.
Throughout her career in the legislature, Pat has tried on multiple occasions to seek additional revenue sources for Utah’s strapped public education system. She continues the fight and even in her last year as a legislator, she is offering a proposal to increase revenues to the local school districts and individual schools.
As she ends her many years of public service, it is my sincere honor to recognize Pat Jones with the UEA Honor Roll Award. She is most deserving.
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