2020-21 CCSD Teachers of the Year (scroll down)
Degrees and Certifications:
Cache County School District Teacher of the Year: Randall Beach
Green Canyon High School band director Randall Beach has been creating stellar band programs for over 30 years. Beach has a way of inspiring his students to reach their potential, and in the words of Green Canyon Principal Dave Swensen, “watching him conduct a practice is like watching a masterpiece unfold.” We are proud to announce that Beach is the 2020-21 Cache County School District Teacher of the Year.
Randall Beach has always loved music, but as a child, he had a hard time picking just one instrument to play. Because of this, he learned to play the piano, alto saxophone, trumpet, drums, and other percussion instruments at an early age. He worked in Mountain Crest High School’s band program while he studied at Utah State University. Once he graduated, he began his first year of teaching in 1990. After briefly teaching band in Arizona, he moved to Utah County where he worked with BYU and high school bands for over 18 years. After earning his master’s degree in percussion performance from BYU, Beach returned to Cache County and became the band director at Sky View High School in 2009. He taught there until he transferred to Green Canyon High School when it opened in 2017. Over his career, Beach has led bands from these schools to many division, regional, and state titles.
As a teacher, Beach is known for having a gift to motivate students while still being aware of their unique needs. “He has an incredible gift in communicating, inspiring, and motivating,” explained fellow Green Canyon teacher and color guard coach, Katy Anderson. “It's an honor to observe him during band practice each day.” Anderson started working with Beach when she was still a university student and this is their eighth season working together. She continued, “He constantly tries to grow and improve. Even though he's easily one of the best band directors in the state, he isn't satisfied. He works to improve and create the best possible program and atmosphere for his students, and they turn into incredible musicians and people under his tutelage.”
Other colleagues at the high school are equally impressed with Beach’s efforts and dedication to his students. Green Canyon secretaries Wendy Balls and Amy Goodsell appreciate the enthusiasm and excitement Beach has brought to the school since the day it opened. “He has a gift of keeping the focus of his students and molding them into great musicians and students,” Balls said. She and Goodsell described how every summer Beach is outside with his marching band students during rehearsals. No matter how hot or long they may be, he is out there with them. “He is simply amazing,” they declared.
Green Canyon teacher and wrestling coach, Ryan Webb, believes that Beach is the epitome of a true leader. “In band, there are so many components that have to come together. The reality is that one person can’t do it all,” Webb explained. “What Randall has been able to do is establish a vision and organize a group of leaders (both youth and adult) who ‘march’ toward that vision with equal parts unity and loyalty. The kids and adults with whom he works are fiercely loyal and work hard for him; for the vision.” Webb concluded, “That’s a leader in my eyes.”
Not only is Beach beloved by his colleagues, but his students also adore him. Annalee, a junior at Green Canyon, said, “Mr. Beach is the best teacher ever! He helps all of us so much and he cares a lot about us.” Her classmate, Bethany, agreed. “Mr. Beach is the best teacher I have ever had in my entire life,” she said. “All the stuff that he says motivates me to do my best--no matter if I am doing band, or something else. He is not a run-of-the-mill kind of coach either; he doesn’t say empty words. He means everything he says.”
Perhaps Beach’s greatest strength is his ability to encourage and influence students to pursue greatness. “Mr. Beach is a really big inspiration for me,” explained Isaac, a junior in the Green Canyon band. “He really helps motivate us to achieve our best and work to achieve that level of perfection that he knows we can make. I am really appreciative of him for that.”
Beach said that he has high expectations of his students because he knows they are capable of achieving excellence. “High school kids are capable of way more than we often ask or expect of them,” he said. “If we keep raising the standards higher and higher and give them the resources and the instruction that they need in order to get there, they’ll always rise to the occasion. There is nothing more fun than being really, really good at something. If you’re going to do something, do it all the way.”
Beach was honored as the CCSD 2020-21 District Teacher of the Year during the September 17th board meeting. He was also awarded a free year-long car lease from Murdock Auto Group during a Green Canyon football game on October 2nd. “We want to thank all of the Cache County School District teachers and administrators for their tireless, and often underappreciated, dedication to the youth of Cache Valley, and recognize Randall Beach as the Cache County School District Teacher of the Year,” a spokesman for Murdock Auto Group said.
Degrees and Certifications:
Birch Creek Elementary: Danielle Bingham
Danielle Bingham is an expert in classroom management. She believes that every student is different and unique, so her techniques to help her students succeed are as individual and diverse as her students are. Bingham directs her classroom with love and kindness. Because of this and many other reasons, she has been chosen to be Birch Creek Elementary's Teacher of the Year.
Bingham's desire to teach started when she was a young girl. She has always loved working with children and teaching them new things. She thrives on making a difference in young people's lives. As a teacher, her motto is a quote by educator Ignacio Estrada: "If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." Bingham applies this idea in all of her class plans and curriculum.
For the first year of her teaching career, Bingham taught math at Sky View High School and South Cache Middle School. The next year, Bingham taught Language Arts at White Pine Middle School. After this time, she decided she wanted to teach elementary school and she started teaching 5th grade at Birch Creek Elementary, where she is currently in her fourth year.
Considered a masterful teacher by her colleagues, Bingham believes she has succeeded when her students learn and grow. "I define success as that moment when I see the lightbulb go off for a student who has been struggling with a concept and they persevered," she explained. "I define success as when a student feels safe, loved, and valued in my class."
Bingham takes time to care for the individual student's needs. She works tirelessly to make learning engaging, challenging, and fun. Her colleagues note that she keeps an organized and well-run classroom, while still maintaining a great relationship with her students.
Birch Creek principal Trudy Wilson is impressed with how Bingham can help students individually while still bringing her entire class together to work together and achieve success. "She is an amazing teacher who cares a LOT about her students," she said. "Her classroom management is awesome, and even though she lays down the law, she also shows how much she cares while doing it. She is a great representation of our school!"
Degrees and Certifications:
Cache High School: MaKaela Cutler
MaKaela Cutler has CCSD in her blood. Her mother, current Mountain Crest principal Teri Cutler, worked at many schools throughout the valley and Cutler grew up moving around the valley and attending different CCSD schools. Little did she know that she would eventually become an educator and be chosen as Cache High’s 2020-21 Teacher of the Year.
While pursuing a psychology degree at USU, Cutler worked as a special education aide at Cache High. After graduating from USU in 2018, Cutler earned her teaching certificate and began teaching psychology at Cache High. With the help of Cache High Principal Sheri Hansen, Cutler later received an endorsement to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and started teaching that as well.
“MaKaela is impressive,” Principal Hansen said. “She is a self-starter who can get more done in ten minutes than the average person can do all day. She is a thorough, precise, and critical thinker. MaKaela is passionate about education and helping kids and she has valuable leadership skills which she demonstrates daily as she works with youth. She is a team player and works well with others. Students look up to her because she is an excellent role model. She is honest, dependable, and proactive. MaKaela is an all-around good person and kind adult.”
Cutler is not only an inspiring teacher, but she strives to have a personal connection with her students. Santos, a senior at Cache High, said, “Kaela actually cares. She’ll check up on you when you’re not at school. If you’re behind on stuff, she’s always there to remind you.” His classmate, Dixie, has also been positively impacted by Cutler. “Ever since I got here, she has been so helpful,” she said, “and I get along with her like she is my friend and not just my teacher.”
Cutler believes that building relationships is paramount to a successful educational experience. She hopes that her students always know that she is there to support them, even after they’ve graduated and moved on from Cache High.
“I want my students to know that even after they leave Cache High, we’re not going anywhere,” Cutler explained. “I hope they know they can always count on me for the rest of their lives. I will always be there for them. Even though I was their teacher in high school doesn’t mean I will stop looking out for them and want to know what they’re doing. I am proud of my students for what they do every day and that they strive to be what they really want to be.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Canyon Elementary: Jocelyn Murdock
During her 15 years of teaching kindergarten at Canyon Elementary, Jocelyn Murdock has helped hundreds of young students learn and grow with her natural kindness and genuine care. Principal Stacie Williamson describes Murdock as a “delight” and an “incredible team player.” She said, “Jocelyn is always willing to go the extra mile and help on any team--and she does it all with such a positive attitude! It is truly my pleasure to get to honor her as Canyon’s Teacher of the Year.”
Murdock graduated from Utah State University in 2006 with a dual major in early childhood education and early childhood special education. “Because I studied early childhood education, I’ve always liked the early childhood years,” Murdock explained. “I love that age group; they learn so much. It is fun to see them grasp and catch onto new learning. They can go from not knowing any of the alphabet at the beginning of the school year to reading by the end. It’s amazing to see their growth and their personalities.”
It is this growth that brings joy to Murdock’s teaching. Not only has she taught kindergarten since she began teaching, but she has been in the same classroom for all those years. Her first class of kindergartners recently graduated from high school and are moving on to big things. Murdock said that even though it feels strange to see her students get married and go off to college, it is fun to see who they have become and the great things they do.
Principal Williamson has worked with Murdock for many years and considers her a pivotal staff member at Canyon Elementary. “She has been giving Colts the foundation they need, as one of our phenomenal kindergarten teachers, since the beginning of her career,” she elaborated. “For many years, Jocelyn has been known for her organization, excellent classroom management, wonderful communication skills, fairness, kindness, and her true love for her students. I love going into her classroom to observe her teach any subject. Not only is she prepared with a great lesson full of movement, repetition, activity, and engagement strategies, but it is fun! She is having fun and so are her kids!”
Murdock has faced some formidable challenges during her time as a teacher. For example, in her first year of all-day kindergarten teaching, 20 out of her 22 students did not speak English. Principal Williamson remarked that although it was incredibly difficult, Murdock approached the challenge by loving each of her students and helping them through their anxiety of being in the classroom. By December, the students were flourishing.
“Seeing that lightbulb moment is my favorite part about teaching,” Murdock said. “We work and we work and they might not be getting it--but then all of a sudden, it just clicks and they just take off. It seems like every child gets to that spot where it all makes sense.”
She continued, “All children can learn. All children deserve to learn. And when I give it my all, they flourish, and they do their best. We see so much growth from them! We come together and create something amazing.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Cedar Ridge Elementary: Allison Erickson
Allison Erickson has been chosen to be Cedar Ridge Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. Erickson is a first-grade teacher who works with the Chinese dual language immersion (DLI) program at Cedar Ridge. She teaches English writing, reading, and vocabulary to her young students.
Soon after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in elementary education, Erickson taught for eight years in Preston, Idaho, before taking a 16-year break to raise her two children. Once they were both in school all day, Erickson began working in Cache County School District as a reading aide. During those seven years as an aide, she rediscovered her love for the classroom and decided to return to teaching. She has now been teaching first grade for six years.
Teaching first graders was intimidating at first for Erickson, who previously taught third and fourth graders. She was “scared to death” and nervous about teaching such young children how to read and write. However, she found that her time as an aide had given her valuable experience and she was confident in her abilities to help students succeed. Never afraid of a challenge, she pursued professional development with new techniques and methods that were not in place when she began teaching 30 years ago.
Erickson has found that she really enjoys teaching first-grade students. “They are kind, pure, innocent, and sweet,” she explained. “They aren’t mean to each other. They love their teacher and they love each other.” Her students' admiration and love for Erickson is apparent when observing her interactions with them.
The years Erickson spent away from the classroom, along with raising her own children, gave her valuable experience which she draws upon as she teaches. However, her philosophy as an educator never changed. “The more you teach your students, the more they learn,” she said. “You have to be the one in front teaching. You don’t just ask them to do things. You have to go through all the motions, modeling and showing them how to do things. That is when they learn.”
Principal Amy Bassett described Erickson as “a master teacher” with the ability to engage her students. “She has every student's eyes glued on her,” Bassett explained. “She makes learning exciting. She has a calm demeanor and is a lot of fun!"
Degrees and Certifications:
Sky View High School: Christa Bell
Christa Bell is an exceptional educator whose teaching methods focus on the student first, content second. "My personal philosophy as a teacher is that you have to love students," she explained. "You have to love being around students and love teaching students. If you don't have a relationship with them, it doesn't matter what you know. Nothing is going to stick." This conviction has enabled Bell to be an impactful, influential teacher. She has been chosen to be Sky View High School’s Teacher of the Year.
Bell received her bachelor's degree from Utah State University in English education and a master's degree in philosophy from Illinois University. She has taught for sixteen years in the Cache County School District: twelve years at North Cache Middle School and four years at Sky View High School. She currently teaches ninth-grade writing, literature, and AP Literature.
Bell started out as a business major at Utah State, but did not thrive in her math classes. Eventually, it came to a point where she felt she would have to either leave school or change her major. She realized that she was outstanding in her English classes, and after switching majors, she was on the Dean's List every year. A past English teacher's example motivated her to ultimately pursue a career in education.
Once she earned her bachelor’s degree, Bell wanted to get her master's degree in something that she found genuinely intriguing, so she chose philosophy. This part of her education enables her to tie morals and ethics into literature and to help her students analyze characters and figure out why they do the things they do.
Sky View Principal Mike Monson calls Bell a "kid magnet” whose students love being in her class and will rise to any challenge she gives them. "Christa is one of those people that meets every day with joy," he explained. "In French, they call it "joie de vivre"... the joy of life. She has the ability to challenge the best and brightest of students in her AP Literature class, yet also reach a 9th-grade freshman that does not like language arts."
Bell's students agree that her classes are a joy to be a part of and her attentiveness to their education is apparent. One student declared that "Mrs. Bell should be the teacher of the year every year! She makes me feel appreciated and she gets me involved every day, no matter what we are doing." Another student explained, "She is always really nice to everybody. She makes us feel like we know what we are doing, even when we don't. She gets down on our level to talk to us and she always helps us out when we need it."
"At the end of each year, students get to write about a teacher that has impacted their life," Principal Monson said. "Christa Bell gets many, many nominations through beautiful essays or expressions. I really think that combinations of challenging students, but making it so they love it, is the pinnacle of what teaching and learning are all about.” He continued, “Christa is well respected by our faculty. They made this nomination and there were so many kind words expressed by her colleagues that it was evident that they recognize her teaching talents as well. We are all very happy to have Christa Bell represent Sky View as Teacher of the Year."
Degrees and Certifications:
South Cache Middle School: Rod Buttars
Rod Buttars is always there when people need him. From injuries to technology questions, he drops everything to help those around him. And as a teacher with over 15 years of experience and a certified EMT, Buttars is well-qualified in what he does. We are excited to announce that Mr. Buttars is South Cache Middle School’s Teacher of the Year!
After graduating from Utah State University in Earth Science Teaching, Buttars started his career at Willow Valley Middle School. When the grades realigned and Willow Valley became Wellsville Elementary, he moved to South Cache Middle School, where he has been teaching science for the past five years. During this time, he returned to school and got his master’s degree in Secondary Education.
On top of being a teacher, Buttars is a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). His journey to become an EMT began many years ago when he lived right across from a volunteer fire department. For years, he would watch the volunteers show up in response to emergencies. The fire chief, noticing his interest, encouraged Buttars to join, and finally, he decided to stop watching and go help. After he finished his master’s degree, Buttars started taking classes at Bridgerland Technical College in fire management and EMT training. A couple of years later, Buttars became part of the fire department.
Buttars’ skills as an EMT have benefited many students and staff at his school. “Rod is just the best,” South Cache secretary Jody Stout said. “Anytime we need him, he drops everything to help us. If anyone has a cut, or a broken arm, or trouble breathing, he is there. He is so good with the students.”
Principal Doug Snow appreciates Buttars’ large skill set and his contributions to South Cache. “His pedagogy is just phenomenal,” Snow said. “He knows how to teach. He understands the age group of his kids and his classes are fun. He knows what he is doing. Daily, he is helping a teacher somewhere with their technology. He is soft-spoken and a good example, and though he has a lot on his plate, he hits it out of the park.”
Buttars also worked at the CCSD district office as a science specialist for two years, developing middle school curriculum. Tim Smith, Chief Academic Officer, worked closely with Buttars and agrees that he thrives in the classroom. “Buttars is an outstanding teacher who loves being with kids and teaching middle school,” Smith explained. “That’s where his passion lies. We are very lucky to have him in the classroom and in this district.”
When asked about his goals as a teacher, Buttars said that he hopes that students become more curious about science and gain confidence in their ability to understand it. "I want students to leave my classroom knowing that they can succeed in science and that it can be fun," he explained. "I want them to enjoy what they are learning while they are here." His hope is that giving students a positive experience with science during middle school will encourage them to take more science classes as they continue their education.
Just as importantly, Buttars cares deeply about the well-being of the students in his class. "I want my students to know that they were cared about in middle school and that someone was watching out for them. Then, when they move on to high school, they can take those positive feelings and emotions and they can be successful there, too."