2018-19 Teachers of the Year

 Cache County School District Teacher of the Year: Marty Reeder

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Cache County School District Teacher of the Year: Marty Reeder

Marty Reeder, an English and Spanish teacher at Sky View High School, is easy to spot in his signature cargo pants, with their pockets stuffed with books. Just starting his fourteenth year of teaching, Reeder has made a name for himself at Sky View, as well as within the Cache County School District and its community. He is known for his passion, good humor, and ability to reach kids at their level. His devotion to his subject, students, and personal development shines through in everything he does. Above all, Reeder practices and preaches the same thing: the importance of becoming a lifelong learner.

Of his classroom practice, Reeder says, “Teaching is a great place for creators.” His creativity is manifest in many areas of his classroom -- colorful books line the back wall, flags from multiple countries hang across the ceiling, multiple sailboats and pirate hats can be found throughout the room, and a cozy reading nook provides a great space for students to read and work on homework. Reeder is passionate about both being invested in his students and continuing his own personal learning. He believes that lifelong learning, changing, and trying new things is what brings happiness. In his own words: “I will keep on learning forever -- for as long as I can.”

Not only is Reeder a devoted teacher in the classroom, but he also advises Sky View’s “Reeder’s Readers” book club, which has the most participants of any club in the school.  Reeder is the annual MC for the school’s Mr. Sky View pageant, where he expertly entertains and engages the audience. “He has this way about him that high school students are gravitated toward,” remarked Mike Monson, Sky View High School’s principal. “He is an outstanding teacher in his classroom practice, but he is also just as great of an individual.”  Reeder is the author of the recently-released book, How to Become a Pirate Hunter, and is the father of five children.

 Birch Creek Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Elise Griffin

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Birch Creek Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Elise Griffin

Griffin, who has been an educator at Birch Creek for four years, considers teaching her sixth-grade students a privilege. She is constantly incorporating hands-on learning into her curriculum in order to better engage the students in her classroom. Outside of teaching writing, science, and social studies to her sixth graders, one of Griffin’s personal hobbies is yoga. Every Monday, she integrates yoga into her school lesson plan. “I feel learning should be active,” Griffin remarked. “We all love Meditation Mondays because of it!”

Griffin’s desire to make her classroom engaging and unique stems from the great teachers she was associated with as a student herself. She recalls being inspired by her high school teachers, especially her Native Studies history teacher, Mrs. Standing Bear. “She taught me the importance of being yourself and of being relatable to students,” Griffin shared. Griffin has sought to incorporate that principle into her own teaching by developing relationships with the students and staff members with whom she works.

“She has worked cooperatively with team members and the faculty as a whole to help children be successful as leaders and learners,” Principal John Anderson said of Griffin. “She is wonderful at helping our staff become more united in both relationships and work.”

 Cache High School Teacher of the Year: Megan Tanner

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Cache High School Teacher of the Year: Megan Tanner

During her 16 years of teaching, Tanner has taught at Cache High for 12 of them. She teaches math and science and is currently teaching Earth Science and Astronomy. Tanner’s desire to become an educator was inspired by her high school teachers. “I had great teachers in high school,” she shared.

In the classroom, Tanner is best known for being compassionate and generous to her students while working to build a creative and engaging curriculum. She has developed a good rapport with her students and it is not uncommon to see them laughing together during her classes.  Tanner expressed that the most fulfilling part of her job is seeing her students happy about coming to class. “I love to see them succeed,” Tanner said. “I love to see them learn and progress and do hard things. They are pretty amazing.”

Her love for her students is reciprocated through their love for her. “Students request Megan’s class,” said Sheri Hansen, principal at Cache High. “They seek her out daily, even when they don’t have her class.” Aside from her great relationship with students, Hansen also appreciates Tanner’s excellent team-player skills. “Megan has the support and love of her colleagues. She was voted in by the faculty, staff, aides, and students of our school.”

 Canyon Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Brad Hawkes

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Canyon Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Brad Hawkes

Hawkes has been teaching elementary students in the Cache County School District for over 30 years, with 14 of those years at Canyon Elementary. He considers teaching math and science his strengths, but he covers all subjects. “The thing that is most fulfilling about my job is watching children explore and succeed,” Hawkes shared. He incorporates hands-on learning in his classes to make science come to life; it is not unusual to see Hawkes’ students elbow-deep in a science experiment, complete with cylinders and scales.

After completing his secondary education degree, Hawkes realized that he needed a slight career change. “I decided to become an elementary teacher while teaching Spanish lessons to students at a private school for a year," he explained. "I found that I really enjoyed interacting with elementary age students, so I took another year and moved to elementary education.” Since that choice many years ago, Hawkes has been instrumental in the success of many young students in the district.

Canyon Elementary principal Stacie Williamson describes Hawkes as a “superb teacher with a genuine love for his students.” He makes a point of helping his students to enjoy being at school because he believes that is an important contributor to them being successful. “Brad deserves to be Canyon Elementary’s Teacher of the Year because he works tremendously hard,” Williamson continued. “We admire him for the good man he is and the outstanding teacher he continues to be. He would be the last person to seek after this honor and perhaps that is one of the main reasons he deserves it so much.”

 Cedar Ridge Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Reed Olson

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Cedar Ridge Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Reed Olson

Third-grade teacher Reed Olson teaches his students to not only to expand their minds but also to expand their hearts and is known at Cedar Ridge to be a captivator of students. “Every time I have walked into his classroom the students are fully engaged,” said Cedar Ridge principal Amy Bassett.

Olson makes a point to teach his students skills that will make them better learners as well as skills that will make them more empathic towards others. In one of his recent lessons, he addressed the issue of bullying. He cut out a heart and had students share unkind words they may have heard during recess. Each time hurtful words were shared, Olson would wrinkle the paper heart. Afterward, words of forgiveness and compliments were offered and students would try to flatten out the wrinkles. But the heart did not look quite the same. When Olson asked the students what would be the best way to get rid of the wrinkles in the heart, they responded, “Don’t wrinkle it in the first place!” Olson’s desire to teach important lifelong skills encourages his students to not only excel as students but to become good, charitable members of society. “I want to be a teacher who instills a love of learning and a love of doing what is right,” Olson shared. “There is no greater satisfaction than serving other people.”

When he began studying at University, Olson did not intend to become a teacher. He originally went to school to pursue law. However, after accepting a part-time job as a recess monitor at a local elementary school, he recognized the importance and value of teaching and switched majors and career paths. He has taught elementary children for 27 years, the last two being at Cedar Ridge. He considers teaching to be the “most important profession of our age.”

Olson’s passion for the profession extends past the allotted school year and into the summer months with his annual Harry Potter summer camp. “This is a highly sought after summer activity for students in our valley,” Bassett shared. “Many students earn the money on their own to attend this camp. That speaks volumes.” Olson is a teacher who exuberates enthusiasm, passion and going above-and-beyond when it comes to providing an excellent learning environment for his students. He finds joy in watching his students excel and gain confidence in themselves.

 Green Canyon High School Teacher of the Year: Alexis Bird

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Green Canyon High School Teacher of the Year: Alexis Bird

Alexis Bird is an English teacher and coach at Green Canyon High School. She has been teaching at Green Canyon since it opened in 2016 and loves helping make a difference in her students’ lives. “There is always work to be done,” noted Bird. “But it’s important work and worth every minute.”

Not only does Bird teach Sophomore literature and writing, but she also teaches several PE classes and is the girl’s basketball coach. Throughout her time as an educator, Bird has had the opportunity to come in contact with various types of students. Her individual connection with her students, Bird says, is what makes her excited to teach each day. “I am passionate about forming positive relationships with my students,” Bird explained. “I enjoy getting to know them and helping them succeed in my class and life.”

Bird was fortunate enough to grow up in a home full of educators. Her mother, two of her siblings, and some of her aunts and uncles work in education. She credits her family for having a tremendous impact on her decision to become a teacher. “Their love for teaching has been contagious,” Bird explained. Although she is just in her third year of teaching, Bird is known as someone who is always willing to help and who demonstrates a deep commitment to her students. She sees the bigger picture and understands the impact a teacher can have.

Bird’s colleagues praise her for her ability to reach all types of students, especially those that may be struggling. A fellow teacher wrote, “There are countless examples where I've witnessed Alexis go many extra miles to seek ways to reach, teach, and support those students who struggle the most. She is tireless in that regard and it makes a huge difference for some of our most struggling and vulnerable students.” The colleague continued, “Without a doubt: Alexis Bird deserves the Teacher of the Year award.”

 Greenville Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Stacey Pugh

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Greenville Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Stacey Pugh

Whenever someone enters Stacey Pugh’s fourth-grade classroom, all of her students stand at their desks, face the incoming guest, and say in unison “Welcome!” When the guest leaves, they say, “Thank you, have a nice day!” Just as she teaches her students, Pugh strives to help everyone she comes in contact with to feel valued and loved. “I believe that when students feel loved, they are more willing to learn,” Pugh explained.

“She works incredibly hard for her students and takes time to get to know them individually. She learns what they need both academically and emotionally,” praised Greenville principal Dee Ashcroft. “She goes above and beyond in her preparation and instruction on their behalf--there isn't anyone more deserving of this award than Stacey Pugh. She truly is an example of the educator and person that we all aspire to be.“

Pugh loves to see the change in her students as they grow and develop. “I feel so grateful to be a teacher when I see the light bulb come on in the student's eyes as they learn a new skill. It empowers them,” she explained. “I also love being able to help them grow and accomplish new things. I want each student to know that they have someone who believes in their success.”

Pugh is a phenomenal teacher and she has taken the role of “student” yet again as she has gone back to school to pursue her Master’s degree. “She constantly seeks to improve herself so that she can benefit others with her knowledge,” continued Ashcroft. “Her expertise in teaching has given her the ability to improve curriculum not only in her classroom but at the district level.”

 Heritage Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Lucia Martin Garcia

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Heritage Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Lucia Martin Garcia

Martin is a third-grade teacher who has been at Heritage for four years and teaches all subjects - math, science, and Language Arts. However, there’s something unique about Martin’s teaching: As part of Heritage’s Dual Language Immersion program, she teaches all of her subjects in Spanish!

Before coming to Heritage Elementary, Martin taught for five years in Spain. She is grateful for the opportunity to teach her culture and language through the Utah Common Core. “DLI is an amazing program,” said Martin. “The students are able to learn to enjoy differences from other cultures. It brings communities together.”

Martin’s classroom is full of life. Her walls are decorated from floor to ceiling and her energetic students can be found chatting amongst themselves in Spanish - which, for most, if not all of them, is their second language. Martin understands that learning another language is hard. She expressed pride in her students for learning to articulate their thoughts in Spanish, and for learning core subjects, such as science and math, in the language.

Heritage principal Lance Robins shared, “Lucia loves being a teacher and it shows in her personality and attitude. She is a wonderful staff member and seeks to build a better future for all.”

Martin’s focus is to help her students become valuable contributors to society. “I decided to be a teacher when I was 18 because I felt the desire to help my society grow,” Martin explained. “I consider education to be a way to help my community understand and defend their rights, to have access to fair jobs, and as a way to achieve growth in all areas.”

Thank you, Ms. Martin, for using your energy, enthusiasm, and kindness to bring awareness of a new culture and language to Heritage Elementary. Cache County School District is lucky to have you be part of our Dual Language Immersion Program!

 Lewiston Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Teanna Michaelis

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Lewiston Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Teanna Michaelis

Michaelis attributes her love for teaching elementary school students to her own experience in school -- she herself was a student at Lewiston Elementary! She has been teaching at Lewiston for seven years and describes teaching as “the best job ever.”

“I am passionate about finding better ways to teach and improved ways to help my students understand,” Michaelis shared. “The most fulfilling part is watching children grow. It’s exciting to watch a child gain an understanding of a new concept or to comprehend something that they didn’t before.”

 Michaelis’ interest and strength in developing effective course teaching materials are noticed and influence the administration, colleagues, and students around her. Her colleagues describe her as someone who goes above and beyond. “She creates materials that are beneficial resources and then shares them with others,” one colleague noted. Michaelis strives to help all those around her succeed. One of her students explained, “If you don’t get it, she helps until you do.”

 “When you walk into her classroom, her students are paying attention and they are learning,” said Lewiston Elementary principal Leslie Burt. “Her students consistently score well on the end of year assessments. She prepares her students for school and for life.”

 When Michaelis isn’t teaching, she can be found traveling around the world. Some of her recent trips include Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Thailand! However, Michaelis described Lewiston Elementary as the “best place in the whole world."

 Lincoln Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Kelli Babbitt

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Lincoln Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Kelli Babbitt

In total, Babbitt has been teaching for seven years and is in her third year at Lincoln Elementary.  She goes above and beyond to ensure that every student she comes in contact with feels valued and important.

As a first grade teacher, Babbitt matches her students’ energy for life. “She is energetic and willing to put the extra pizzazz in her classroom teaching!” said Lincoln Elementary principal Jeni Buist. Babbitt is known for reaching out to students outside of her classroom and taking time and effort to learn their names. Her individualized approach with people and attention to detail earns the trust of students and fellow teachers. Babbitt loves having a job where she is able to seek out the best in every person and find their strengths.

Babbitt decided to be a teacher during her senior year of high school when she worked in a preschool. One student, in particular, captured her heart and altered the direction of her life. “We worked and worked so diligently to help a particular student to be able to recognize any of the letters in the alphabet,” Babbitt shared. “I can still so vividly remember the moment, the sound, and the cheers as he was finally able to recognize his first letter correctly! The excitement on his face and the feeling of accomplishment is something that I will not ever forget. I knew, at that moment, that I wanted to spend my life helping others find those moments of success!”

“Lincoln Elementary is a better place because of her,” Buist said of Babbitt. Not only is Lincoln a better place, but our whole district benefits from outstanding educators such as Babbitt. Their influence is far reaching and we are grateful to count Kelli Babbitt as one of our own here at Cache County School District.

 Millville Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Tanya Doran

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Millville Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Tanya Doran

Tanya Doran, Millville Elementary’s speech-language pathologist, spends her time working with students who have communication disorders in articulation, stuttering, language, and social pragmatics. She provides services for preschool through 6th grade, as well as a life skills class. Doran has been teaching at Millville Elementary for 16 years and has spent that time focused on helping kids reach their language and communication goals.

“I love what I do,” Doran said. “Being able to create unique learning environments for such a wide variety of students is incredibly rewarding. Effective communication has such a positive impact on self-confidence, social interactions, and academic success. It’s amazing to be able to change kids’ lives and know you are making a difference.”

Brady Johnson, the principal at Millville Elementary, describes Doran as a miracle worker. “She is very good at what she does,” Johnson explained. “The students love to go to speech… She has developed great routines and practices that encourage her students to improve their speech and language deficiencies.”

Doran is noted by her colleagues for bringing energy into every room she enters and for contributing to the overall culture of the school. She comes in early before school hours, works through lunch, and often stays after school to attend to the needs of her students on an individual basis. “She always puts her students first,” Johnson continued. “She is an amazing part of our staff.”

 Mountain Crest High School Teacher of the Year: Artus Amundson

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Mountain Crest High School Teacher of the Year: Artus Amundson

Artus Amundson knows the impact of her teaching on students will last long beyond graduation. As a Family and Consumer Science teacher, Amundson teaches students skills that they will use throughout their lives. She has taught various classes during her 33 years as a teacher, but currently teaches Child Development, Early Childhood Education, Foods, and Interior Design at Mountain Crest High School. She has a great love of learning and is dedicated to helping students develop essential life skills.

Mountain Crest principal Teri Cutler explained, “Artus is a positive and uplifting colleague to be around. She has a great rapport with students and parents. Her fellow teachers appreciate her perspective and thoughtfulness, and she exemplifies kindness and is always helpful. She makes Mountain Crest a great place to be.”

Amundson believes that the most rewarding aspect of her job is watching students succeed when they didn’t think they could. She loves seeing her students take a concept from an assignment and then creatively make it their own. In her youth, she participated in the 4-H program and knew by the age of seventeen that she wanted to teach Family and Consumer Sciences. Her decision to become an educator was also influenced by her parents, grandmother, and a high school teacher. “It was my teacher’s example that solidified my desire to teach,” Amundson shared.

“Not only do the subjects I teach impact the lives of those that are eager to learn,” Amundson said, “but they directly impact the lives of future families. I truly enjoy helping my students find a love for learning and preparing them for their adult life.”

 Mountainside Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Shannon Erickson

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Mountainside Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Shannon Erickson

Shannon Erickson is known for her energy, creativity, and the beautiful artwork she helps her students produce. Erickson has taught at Mountainside for four years as the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Grant art teacher.

For Erickson, the arts have been a big part of her life since she was young. “I was in the third grade and I couldn’t add, subtract, or multiply numbers without using my fingers,” Erickson explained. “Now that I am an adult, I know that the symbols of 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. did not register with a numeric value in my mind. My mom tried flashcards, I went to special classes, but nothing helped. What changed my learning experience was the arts. Taking art classes and learning to think differently through the arts changed my ability to learn.”

Erickson has been teaching art in the community for over 25 years but has only been working in public schools for the last eight years. “I love teaching because I feel like I can reach children through the arts,” Erickson shared. “The most wonderful part of my job is witnessing children's discovery process. When they create and learn through the arts, it is a similar breakthrough process that I went through as a child.”

“The true test of evaluating a great art teacher is not by what artistic talents she has, but by the wonderful art produced by her students. Our students are producing unbelievable art through all sorts of various media. Our students are artists!” exclaimed Mountainside principal Lynette Riggs.

Erickson’s impact is felt and appreciated by students, parents, and staff at Mountainside. “She goes far above the extra mile to contribute to an upbeat and creative school environment,” Riggs said. “We love Mrs. Erickson!”

 Nibley Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Nicole James

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Nibley Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Nicole James

Although she has only been teaching for three years, James jumped right in and hit the ground running. She joined in working with Nibley’s after-school program, assisted their school counselor, and helped with the leadership program. She was able to do all of these things while simultaneously earning her Master’s degree. Her lesson plans are unique and dynamic, including everything from hatching brine shrimp to baking brownies.

As a teacher, she is passionate about helping her students develop a growth mindset and instilling in them a love for learning. “Having a growth mindset allows students to understand the potential that they have and the power that they have to reach it,” James expressed. “The most fulfilling thing is the look a student gets when they have been struggling with something and they finally get it. It is so rewarding to see how their hard work pays off.”

James’ colleagues recognize the impact her passion for teaching has in her classroom. “She has an infectious love for what she does,” shared a coworker of James. “She goes the extra mile for our students. She is a champion for them over and over again.”

Nibley Elementary principal Kelly Rindlisbacher believes that James’ maturity and past experiences have helped her to be a good teacher. “She is dedicated, hard-working, selfless, and has a great relationship with her students,” Rindlisbacher said of James. “Nicole has been at our school for three years. From the beginning, I have always told her: you were never a first-year teacher.”

 North Cache Middle School Teacher of the Year: Anne Ballard

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North Cache Middle School Teacher of the Year: Anne Ballard

Anne Ballard has been teaching at North Cache for three years and is currently a seventh-grade math teacher. She considers teaching to be a great responsibility and works hard to make math class an enjoyable experience. “Mrs. Ballard shows genuine love and concern for all of her students,” shared Terry Williams, North Cache principal. “She makes math and math class fun and meaningful. I have heard many times from both her students and their parents that they or their child likes math again.”

Ballard’s philosophy toward working with students stems from a quote by Haim G. Ginott, who wrote the book Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers: “If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” This idea of helping others to become better is what sparked Ballard’s interest in teaching. After working with the youth in her church, she said she found "a great love for teenagers.” She explained, “I wanted to make their lives better.” She has been striving to do so as an educator for just over 15 years.

Aside from school, Ballard engages in a relatively new interest: dog training. Of this activity, she said, “My new favorite past time is learning how to train service dogs for diabetics. My son just passed away this year from Diabetic Ketoacidosis, and in his memory, I wanted to do something that may help a family who may face the same challenges that Jameson did.”

Whether it is at home, in the community, or in her math classroom, Anne Ballard puts her heart into what she does. Her compassion, dedication, and creativity have all contributed to Ballard’s honor of receiving North Cache’s 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year.

 North Park Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Chad Hawkes

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North Park Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Chad Hawkes

Hawkes is a veteran when it comes to working with fifth graders -- he has been teaching fifth grade for over 20 years! He comes from what he calls “an educationally-minded family,” and many members of his family work and volunteer at various schools in the Cache County School District. Although he covers many subjects as an elementary school teacher, Hawkes’ passion lies in social studies, particularly studies of the United States. He believes it’s important to help students understand the struggles, triumphs, and sacrifices that came with the establishment of this great country. “The kids that leave my class each year hopefully have a better understanding of just how fortunate we are to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms we do,” Hawkes shared.

North Park principal Alden Jack described Hawkes as someone who “exemplifies the spirit of North Park.” Hawkes is very involved in his school. He leads the Click-It Club, arranges the DARE program, and heads the annual Veterans’ Day Assembly. “When you're a student in his class, you know you are in for a unique experience not to be had by others,” explained Jack. So, what can you expect being a student in Hawkes’ classroom? “In his classroom, there are visuals, book reports, miniature cabin building, guest presenters, and kickball championships,” Jack shared. “His students are engaged in all types of learning.”

“My goal is to try and have each student leave their elementary experience on a positive, happy note,” Hawkes said. “I hope to have the same influence on the children in my classes that I experienced from my teachers when I was a kid.”

 Providence Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Lara Cook

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Providence Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Lara Cook

Just over eleven years ago, Cook returned to the classroom after taking a break to start her family of three children. She came back into the profession as a computer specialist at River Heights, then made her way to Providence Elementary where she currently teaches first grade. Cook describes her decision of returning to the classroom as an “easy yes.” She has now been teaching first grade for the past seven years.

Cook’s influence at Providence Elementary has been substantial. In addition to praising Cook’s teaching ability, Trudy Wilson, the principal at Providence, describes Cook as a “critical asset” when they first started using computers for end-of-level testing. Staff needed to learn the new systems and relied on Cook’s expertise to solve the various problems that occurred as they were rolled out. Even now, though computer-based testing is more widespread, Wilson says she refers to Cook as one of her “go-to tech teachers.”

Cook has a deep respect and adoration for her students. “I want my students to know how much I believe in them,” Cook said. “My hope is that they will believe in themselves the way I believe in them. Teaching is so rewarding because it gives me a sense that I am helping make the world a better place one student at a time.”

Her dedication to her students does not go unnoticed; she is known for putting in extra time and effort to meet the needs of her students. “Lara has the ability to recognize the learning needs of her individual students,” Wilson explained. “She addresses their needs in ways that students flourish and grow.”

Wilson praised Cook for her ability to organize, her patience, and her kind heart. She continued, “Lara’s students love and respect her because they know what she expects of them. They trust her to help them succeed… She teaches them hard things, and reassures them they can do hard things and amazingly, they do!”

 Ridgeline High School Teacher of the Year: Bonnie Odd

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Ridgeline High School Teacher of the Year: Bonnie Odd

Odd has gone above and beyond in her role as Ridgeline’s librarian and media center specialist. She has extended her outreach past Ridgeline High School and started an online blog in an attempt to keep track of her book recommendations. Her efforts have paid off! According to Ridgeline principal Robert Henke, “Mrs. Odd has the highest daily circulation of all the high school libraries in the district and it increases every year. This year, she has averaged 100 books per day.”

Odd says that her day is always made when a student comes back to her and says, “I loved that book you recommended! Do you have another like it?” In order to keep up-to-date with book recommendations, Odd is constantly reading -- she is a member of three book clubs!

“Kids that read are smart,” Odd shared. “Kids who read are good students and generally test well. If I can convince a student to spend some of his or her free time reading, then I consider that as a success.” She goes to great lengths to encourage every person in the building to read. Students and faculty get a kick out of Odd’s “Perusing on the Potty” series, which entails a book recommendation taped up in all the stalls of the school bathrooms.

“Students and staff alike love her,” remarked Henke. “She takes the time to get to know the many students who visit her library and helps them feel welcome and excited to read.” Educators like Odd not only enrich the lives of individual students, but the district as a whole.

 River Heights Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Sarah Meldrum

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River Heights Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Sarah Meldrum

Although this is only her third year of teaching, Meldrum has already developed a natural way of connecting with and caring for her students individually.

Meldrum didn’t always plan on being a teacher. After graduating from cosmetology school and earning an associate degree, she started substitute teaching and realized she loved working with students. She went back to school and pursued a degree in elementary education at Utah State University. “Sarah is who you would want in every classroom in your school,” shared Stephanie Adams, the principal at River Heights Elementary.

“She is a phenomenal teacher,” continued Adams, noting the high skill of Meldrum’s teaching while still being a fairly new teacher. “She is able to anticipate the misconceptions of students and plan her instruction so that kids are really able to get a great grasp of the concepts, no matter how complex. Often times she will bring in guests or plan activities that help kids have as many ‘hands-on’ experiences as possible.”

On Friday afternoons in Meldrum’s classroom, students engage in a hands-on STEM activity. They plan, create, build, and test what they make. Recently, her students participated in an activity where they used materials to create a safe landing for their astronauts (giant marshmallows) traveling in a small paper cup. They used straws, mini-marshmallows, and paper to lessen the blow and keep their astronaut safe. Lessons such as this help students learn crucial teamwork and collaboration skills, practice building and executing plans, and gain a basic understanding of the problem solving real-world questions.

“I’m most passionate about the growth I see in my students,” Meldrum shared. “I love seeing something that was challenging become easy, though we don’t use the word ‘easy’ in my classroom. I love seeing them push past not understanding something, to enlightenment.”

 Sky View High School Teacher of the Year: Shelley Robinson

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Sky View High School Teacher of the Year: Shelley Robinson

Even though Robinson has taught in five different high schools in five different states, she considers Sky View to be “a magical place that feels like home.” She currently teaches English 1010 and 11th-grade Writing and Literature.

Initially, Robinson did not plan to be a teacher. However, at the age of 21, she took a job opportunity teaching in California when she was pursuing the Olympic Trials. That job propelled her life in a whole new direction. “Calling it a ‘job’ is laughable now,” Robinson explained. “It is my life -- and it has defined me from that time forward. I fell in love with those students and the profession and never looked back.”

Robinson has also coached track for as long as she has been teaching. She is a former track athlete with Utah State University and her husband currently coaches football at Sky View. She draws on her experiences with athletics to help motivate students and athletes alike: "I love using past experiences of triumph and failure in sports to teach students the value of trying, sometimes falling short, but never being a spectator.” She encourages her students to push themselves toward goals that may at first be daunting, whether they be academic or personal accomplishments.

Mike Monson, principal of Sky View High School, described Robinson as “a rare individual who is perpetually happy.” He acknowledged her dedication and passion for her students’ learning and development. “She spends hours and hours giving feedback to student writing and worrying about each student as an individual. She is fully invested in making a difference for good in the lives of young people,” Monson shared. Robinson, however, claims that she gains more from her students than she could ever give to them: “I want to continue my days soaking in their youthful enthusiasms and count that as a generous currency for the thousands of essays graded.”

 South Cache Middle School Teacher of the Year: Jeannie Allen

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South Cache Middle School Teacher of the Year: Jeannie Allen

Allen teaches 7th- and 8th-grade art, painting, and ceramics. She also advises the Art Club, which is part of South Cache’s after-school program.

Allen has been teaching art for 20 years, five of which have been at South Cache. As an educator, she is known for her cheerfulness and enthusiasm. According to assistant principal Andrew Lund, if you were to walk into her classroom, she would greet you with “a positive attitude and a handshake.” He continued,  “Jeannie is the most positive teacher I have met. She is an example to all those who are lucky enough to work with her.” Although she has faced many challenges as she battles Stage 4 Breast Cancer, Allen has chosen to courageously and optimistically approach each day with an “I will beat this” mantra.

Being a teacher in the visual arts program, Allen has the unique opportunity to work with nearly every student enrolled in the school. “I believe that each child has amazing potential that we as teachers can influence,” Allen shared. “Art is an awesome tool for children to use their senses, think openly, and not just respond to stimulus, but to ask questions.”

At the beginning of class, Allen often gives her students a time to share happy or exciting news about themselves or their families. Students love to be in her classroom, where an inviting and friendly atmosphere inspires them to explore and create. “My passion is to help others learn, grow, and succeed in life,” Allen explained. “The art room at South Cache is an ideal learning environment where all are comfortable.”

 Spring Creek Middle School Teacher of the Year: Thayne Weston

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Spring Creek Middle School Teacher of the Year: Thayne Weston

Being a great teacher runs in his family! Growing up, Weston’s mother was a teacher in the valley; through her example, she introduced the idea of teaching as a profession to him. He liked the idea of having a career where he could continue to learn and help others to learn as well. “I wanted to do something that would give me a sense of value and make a difference in other peoples’ lives,” Weston explained. “Following my mom's footsteps into teaching seemed like a great career choice for me--luckily I was correct! This is what I enjoy doing.”

Blake Pickett, Spring Creek’s principal, counts the students at Spring Creek blessed to have Weston as a teacher. “He is an outstanding educator who has the ability to motivate students to learn,” Pickett shared. Weston has been teaching History at Spring Creek for 8 years. He currently teaches seventh grade Utah History and eighth grade US History. Pickett describes Weston as a “marvelous teacher.” Weston is passionate about helping students learn history. He loves to see students excited about learning new things and enjoys seeing them come up with their own interpretations and thoughts about the material.

“He is the teacher we all want for our kids,” Pickett explained. “He instills his students with a love of learning, a love of critical thinking, reading, debate, discussion, and writing. He is a leader in our school.” The skills students learn in Weston’s classroom will continue to help them throughout the rest of their school and professional careers. “I hope they are learning not only history but life skills that translate into future success,” Weston shared.

 Summit Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Sherilyn Wilson

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Summit Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Sherilyn Wilson

Sherilyn Wilson possesses positivity, empathy, and dedication to her students’ success. Wilson, who has worked as an educator in Cache County School District for sixteen years, teaches English to speakers of other languages and finds joy in helping her students accomplish their language goals. “Sherilyn cares deeply about her students and puts forth her very best efforts to help them excel,” remarked Summit Elementary principal Troy Pugmire. “She sees her students not only for who they are but also for who they can become.”

Though Wilson has dreamed of being a teacher since she was young, she did not originally plan on teaching English as a Second Language. However, after an opportunity volunteering at a migrant summer school, she fell in love with the Hispanic community and decided to minor in Spanish in college. She pursued a masters program at Utah State University in second language teaching and has also taught courses at the English Language Center and Utah State University’s Intensive English Language Institute.

“What I feel most passionate about as a teacher is the belief that all students can learn, achieve, progress, and succeed,” Wilson explained. She has high expectations for her students and loves to see her students’ desire to learn and grow. According to Pugmire, “Her students perform well for her because they know she cares and she expects them to do their best.”

 Sunrise Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Meaghan Downs

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Sunrise Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Meaghan Downs

For sixteen years, Meghan Downs has been making a difference at Sunrise Elementary School. Downs spent the first nine years of her career teaching special education students and then switched over to third grade, which she has taught for seven years.

Because of her teaching experience, Downs is passionate about educating students in a variety of ways that will help them grow on an individual level. “She takes her background as a special education teacher and applies it on a daily basis,” said Sunrise Elementary Principal Derek Beer. When you walk into Down’s classroom, you might see her sitting on the floor with students while reading in small groups or doing a hands-on math equation. She is not afraid to dive right in and teach to her students’ needs.

Downs also strives to foster a classroom environment where students help each other succeed by implementing peer tutoring. “Meghan is truly a highly effective teacher,” Beer shared. “Her open-mindedness creates a classroom environment that allows all students to reach their potential.”

Downs, who was inspired by her own mother’s example as a teacher at Lewiston Elementary School,  is determined to see her students understand and succeed in school. She strives to adjust her classroom to meet the challenges and differences of every class. “The smiles they give and their eagerness to try are most fulfilling to me… I love to just see growth,” she explained.

 Wellsville Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Jill Hunsaker

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Wellsville Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Jill Hunsaker

Growing up, Jill Hunsaker always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. As a young student, she knew her teachers loved her. This tender care motivated her to want to be that kind of teacher for her own students one day. Sure enough, now that she's a teacher, Hunsaker's unconditional love for her students is one of the many qualities that gained her the honor of being named Wellsville Elementary School’s teacher of the year.

Upon graduating from Utah State University, Hunsaker began her career as a first-grade teacher at Lewiston Elementary, where she taught for six years.  After taking some time off to be a mother, she returned to the classroom, teaching fourth grade at Wellsville Elementary. While working at Wellsville, an opening arose to teach first grade once again, and she jumped at the opportunity. “This is my twelfth year at Wellsville, and I love it,” said Hunsaker.

Wellsville Elementary’s principal, Glenn Harris, had high praise for Hunsaker. “She ensures that her students are taught with high expectations, yet makes it fun and enjoyable for them,” he remarked. “She’s a positive role model for all our teachers and keeps us all smiling, laughing, and enjoying each other in our important work with children.”

Hunsaker finds satisfaction in creating a classroom where students can grow and succeed. “I love watching students make progress in their learning and to see their excitement as they feel success,” Hunsaker said. “I want every child that is in my room to know that they are loved and cared for. I want them to feel safe and comfortable at school. I want their school experience to be a positive learning experience, while still having a good time.”

 White Pine Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Jacob Downs

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White Pine Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Jacob Downs

Jacob Downs’ lucky number seems to be four: he has taught fourth-grade for four years, decided in fourth-grade he wanted to teach when he grew up and switched his major in college four times before landing in elementary education. In his fourth year of teaching at White Pine Elementary, Downs was recognized as the school’s 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year.

“Jake is a superb teacher,” said White Pine principal Shellie Healy. “He is masterful in understanding the needs of students and finding ways to meet those needs.” Downs believes his purpose as a teacher is to help prepare his students to lead happy lives. He has a bigger goal in mind for his students: he not only wants them to succeed in school and at home but also to succeed as contributing citizens and members of society in the future. “Being a guide to help students grow into their happy lives is what I find most fulfilling,” Downs shared.

Though Downs is now a teacher, he is also currently a student. He is continuing his personal education by studying in a Ph.D. program, devoting much of his free time to learning how to conduct literacy research. Because Downs is constantly learning, he is a valuable member of the faculty at White Pine. “[He] is always willing to help faculty and staff by sharing his knowledge of technology,” Healy explained. “Jake has also been willing to serve on district committees concerning our ELAvate reading program.”