2021 UEA Excellence in Teaching Awards

Ten Utah Educators Receive Top 2021 Teaching Honors

UEA/doTERRA Excellence in Teaching Awards to be presented at the KeyBank Superstars in Education Banquet

With the onset of COVID and the transition to online learning, Hillside Middle School (Salt Lake City School District) science teacher Carla Were wanted to continue making science fun for her students. She came up with the idea to provide a “science kit” to each student. She worked with other science teachers to find experiments that could be conducted at home then ordered items and spent most of her summer creating 600 science kit bags.

Knowing each student by name and where they are academically, socially and emotionally is very important to Monument Valley (San Juan School District) science teacher Theresa James. She often jokes with students in her native Navajo or uses English play on words like only an indigenous person can. She shares her personal stories to let her students know she understands their struggles first-hand.

Were and James are two of the 10 educators honored with 2021 UEA/doTERRA Excellence in Teaching Awards. The awards were presented at four separate KeyBank Superstars in Education Banquet events held in October 2021. Video profiles on each of the 10 winning teachers, produced by PBS-Utah, will be shown at the banquet awards ceremony and are available to view online at pbsutah.org/teachers.

Award recipients were selected based on their impact on individual students or groups of students. Each winner receives an award, a poster to display at their school and a check for $1,500, courtesy of award sponsor doTERRA.

UEA/doTERRA Excellence in Teaching Award recipients for 2021 are (click name to view winner profile and video):

  • Denise Abbott, tenth- through twelfth-grade Medical Anatomy and Physiology Medical Assisting teacher at Timpview High School, Provo School District;
  • Jennifer Barone, pre-school teacher for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind South Region;
  • Alexandra Castellanos Smith, seventh- through ninth-grade Spanish and ESL teacher at Sand Ridge Jr. High School, Weber School District;
  • Rebecca Diamond, sixth-grade teacher at Dry Creek Elementary School, Alpine School District;
  • Theresa James, agricultural science teacher at Monument Valley High School, San Juan School District;
  • Mindy Layton, kindergarten through fifth-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, Granite School District;
  • Heather Reich, sixth-grade teacher at Majestic Elementary School, Jordan School District;
  • Stephanie Ruiz, eighth-grade English teacher and Latinos in Action coordinator at Hillcrest Junior High School, Murray School District;
  • Dari Thacker, fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Silver Summit Elementary School, South Summit School District; and
  • Carla Were, eighth-grade science teacher at Hillside Middle School, Salt Lake City School District.

View all teacher award winner profiles and videos.

“This past year has been particularly stressful for our public schools, so it is a tremendous honor to recognize these outstanding teachers for the work they do,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “They are just a few examples of the remarkable educators serving students each day in schools across Utah.”

The UEA has presented the Excellence in Teaching Awards since 2000. This years’ winners will be honored at the KeyBank Superstars in Education Banquet to be scheduled later this year, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. KeyBank has sponsored the banquet since 2012.

“We are honored to support the Utah Education Association as it celebrates our educators,” said Ram Halteh, Business Banking Sales Leader for KeyBank in Utah. “Quality education is key to a thriving community, and these teachers go above and beyond to ensure our children have bright futures. It is a pleasure to do our small part honor them for their commitment.”

Since 2016, PBS Utah has partnered with the UEA to produce video profiles of the Excellence in Teaching Award winners. “The videos are a moving tribute to educators across Utah who are committed to ensuring Utah’s children receive a quality education. We are honored to be a part of these awards,” said PBS Utah Education Program Manager Elise Brimhall.

In addition, three awards for outstanding service to public education were presented:

  • 2021 UEA Honor Roll Award to Julie Nelson of Zimmerman Booher Appellate Attorneys for her work in securing due process rights for educators…read more;
  • 2021 Robert “Archie” Archuleta Human and Civil Rights Award to Davis School District teacher Adrienne Scott-Ellis for advocacy on behalf of human and civil rights in her classroom at Doxey Elementary School, as a certified REACH (Respecting Ethnic and Cultural Heritage) instructor, and as founder of the “Sewing Seeds of Change” program…read more; and
  • 2021 Elaine Tzourtzouklis Service to Association Award to UEA Director of Policy and Research Jay Blain for his demonstrated outstanding service to the Association in the areas of member advocacy, political action, leadership, collaboration and coalition building throughout his career as an educator, association leader and UEA staff member…read more.

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 represents more than 18,000 active classroom teachers, retired educators, administrators, licensed educational support personnel and campus education students. 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.

About doTERRA

doTERRA® International is an integrative health and wellness company and the world leader in the Global Aromatherapy and Essential Oils market. doTERRA sources, tests, manufactures and distributes CPTG Certified Pure Tested Grade® essential oils and essential oil products to over nine million doTERRA Wellness Advocates and customers. Through industry leading responsible sourcing practices, doTERRA maintains the highest levels of quality, purity and sustainability in partnership with local growers around the world through Co-Impact Sourcing®. The doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation®, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, offers resources and tools to global sourcing communities and charitable organizations for self-reliance, healthcare, education, sanitation, and the fight against human trafficking. Through the life-enhancing benefits of essential oils, doTERRA is changing the world one drop, one person, one community at a time. To learn more, visit doterra.com.

About PBS Utah

PBS Utah is Utah’s PBS station, providing the state with access to exceptional content that entertains, informs, and enriches viewers. PBS Utah airs PBS programming plus award-winning, locally produced documentaries and series. Recognized as one of the leading public television stations in the country, PBS Utah is committed to serving and engaging with the Utah community through its diverse productions, as well as its educational and outreach programs. PBS Utah is always evolving to provide Utahns with relevant programming and services while maintaining its core values of integrity, fairness, independence, education, and innovation. PBS Utah also provides three additional broadcast channels: WORLD, PBS KIDS 24/7, and Create. PBS Utah broadcasts from The University of Utah.

About KeyCorp

KeyCorp’s roots trace back 190 years to Albany, New York. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Key is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $176.2 billion at March 31, 2021. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management, and investment services to individuals and businesses in 15 states under the name KeyBank National Association through a network of approximately 1,100 branches and more than 1,400 ATMs. 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. For more information, visit key.com. KeyBank is Member FDIC.

View the 2021 UEA/doTERRA
Excellence in Teaching Award
Winner Profiles and Videos at PBSUtah.org/teachers