2022-23 CCSD Teachers of the Year (scroll down)
Degrees and Certifications:
Cache County School District's 2022-23 Teacher of the Year: Dave Christopherson
Dave Christopherson, affectionately known as Mr. C. by his students, spent most of his teaching career building the Ridgeline High School Ceramics Program into what it is today. When he first started at Ridgeline, Mr. C. had to teach other art classes because there weren’t enough students enrolled in ceramics. However, through his passion, determination, and genuine love for his students, he created a program that serves about 560 students each year. Because of his impact on Ridgeline students, he has been named the 2022-23 Cache County School District Teacher of the Year.
Teaching was not something Christopherson ever planned on doing. When taking his first ceramics class as a student at Mountain Crest High School, he wasn’t excited about it or even very good at it. Because of that, he never planned to take another one. However, during his senior year, he needed to take an extra class to graduate, and ceramics was the only class available. “For some reason, it just kind of clicked for me at that time. I found myself excelling at a rapid pace in that program, and I really fell in love with it. But I then took a very roundabout way of coming back to do it,” Christopherson explained.
After working as a contractor for several years, Christopherson felt he needed to do something different. With encouragement and support from his wife, Ridgeline math teacher, Michelle Christopherson, he decided to return to school for something he was genuinely passionate about. Although he wasn’t sure what to do with it, Christopherson earned a degree in ceramics from Utah State University. Christopherson eventually decided to try becoming a high school teacher. “Even though my wife was a teacher, teaching was not on my radar, “ Christopherson explained. “It was the encouragement from my professors at Utah State that pushed me to become a teacher. They felt like it was something I had a knack for and that I had an aptitude to excel in a teaching career. So I decided to give it a try.”
Although his teaching journey differed from many educators, Christopherson significantly impacts many students who walk into his classroom. Most of his students sign up for ceramics because they need an art credit or because their friends recommend it. But when students enter his classroom, they leave with new skills and new friends. For some students, Christopherson’s class helps them discover a passion, talent, or even a future career. “I needed an art credit, so I signed up for ceramics. I came in, and Mr. C. was super cool and welcoming,” explained Seth, a junior at Ridgeline. “He loves to teach everyone how to make stuff that they like, and he's really open to letting you go off on a project and make what you want. And that's helped me become the artist I want to be.”
Christopherson strives to create a supportive, inclusive atmosphere in his studio. He gives his students the freedom to explore and become their own artist. “We’ve tried to build excitement and a love of learning in this studio. That’s what we really go for,” said Christopherson. He encourages students to work on projects together, learn from each other, and try new things. “Without this, our program wouldn't be able to excel and achieve the goals that we set for ourselves, which are pretty lofty,” explained Christopherson. “Every year, we have goals to exhibit nationally. Every year, we try to go after some of these big scholarship opportunities. We really like to think of ourselves as being a very top-tier ceramics program.”
Christopherson recognizes the importance of the ceramics program in the lives of his students. “Ceramics filled a void in my life and provided a lot of healing for myself. And I see that happen with my students all the time too,” Christopherson explained with emotion in his voice. Christopherson tries to ensure that each student who walks into the studio can feel that love and support from him. “He cares about the students in here. He really shows you that he's here to help you out and let you achieve your goals,“ said Austin, a Ridgeline senior. “That goes a far way when you're struggling and feel like you're not achieving what you want to be. He always makes you just feel like you're doing good.”
Although the art of ceramics is important to Christopherson, he wants to teach his students much more. So, in everything he does, he encourages them and lets them know they will always have someone supporting them. “The biggest thing that I want my students to walk out of here knowing is that they're capable. They're capable in so many aspects and facets of their life that they don't even realize. And one of the best things that we can all do for ourselves is to find something that we're passionate about,” Christopherson said.
“Dave exemplifies hard work, dedication, collaboration, and expertise in how he teaches his students. He is a professional educator of the highest caliber, and we are fortunate to have him represent the Cache County School District in this capacity,” said Kirk McRae, CCSD Human Resource Director. Dave Christopherson will be formally recognized at the September 15, 2022 school board meeting.
Degrees and Certifications:
Birch Creek Elementary: Emma Santistevan
Only three years into her teaching career, Birch Creek Elementary School Teacher of the Year Emma Santistevan has the “skills and insights of a veteran teacher,” says Principal Trudy Wilson. Students, parents, other teachers, and faculty around Birch Creek know Santistevan for two things: she is always willing to try new things and strives to find the best possible practice to use to help her students, and she has a gift for connecting with her students.
Born and raised in Cache Valley, Santistevan grew up attending CCSD schools. She had terrific experiences that inspired her to become a teacher. “I had really good teachers that had good relationships with their students, so that inspired me,” Santistevan explained. One of those teachers was Santistevan’s fifth-grade teacher, Stacie Williamson, who is now the principal at River Heights Elementary School. “I felt like we were a team, and she had our best interest in mind, and that just sparked that joy and the thought that this was something I could totally do. And then I was into teaching forever,” said Santistevan
Experiences like fifth grade with Mrs. Williamson motivated Santistevan to stay in the district. After student-teaching at Edith Bowen Elementary School and graduating from Utah State, Santistevan decided to work at Birch Creek Elementary School as a fifth-grade teacher.
Throughout her time here, Santistevan has seen herself grow and improve as a teacher. In addition, she has discovered her teaching philosophy and style as a teacher. “You can practice so much when you’re a student teacher, but then when you’re actually in it and doing all these things on your own, you have to figure out what’s going to work best for you,” Santistevan commented.
For Santistevan, what works is being willing to try new things and find the best evidence-based approach for every single part of teaching. “I just keep trying new things. I just love learning, and I tell the kids that all the time,” Santistevan explained. “I tell them that just because I got my degree doesn’t mean I know everything. And I share with them all the time what I’m learning. So we’re all learning together.”
Another focus Santistevan has in the classroom is her relationships with her students. “My relationship with the students is the number one most important thing,” Santistevan explained. “I focus on that so hard at the beginning of the year, and building those relationships and making sure they can trust me so that I can teach them. They will not learn from anyone they don’t trust, especially in the upper grades.”
Santistevan’s approach to building relationships is focused on meaningful conversations and getting to know the whole student, including their personality, learning style, how they like to sit, what subjects they are good at, etc. During the first couple months of the year, she observes the students and then adjusts. “Sometimes we force our students to adjust to what we like, but students will learn so much better if we’re able to figure them out,” Santistevan said. “Really getting to know how students are as a whole person can help us be on the same page. Then we can trust each other and start learning from one another.”
Santistevan takes the time to focus on this relationship with her students, especially the students labeled as ‘hard.’ She has found they trust her more and are willing to listen to what she has to say more than if she doesn’t take the time to build those relationships and or treats them a certain way based on the things she’s heard.
Principal Wilson isn’t the only person who has noticed the remarkable gifts Santistevan brings to her classroom. Other teachers, faculty, and parents also see and express their appreciation and awe for what she does. “Mrs. Santistevan encompasses everything you hope your child’s teacher to be and more. We do not say this lightly when we say that a teacher such as Emma comes along maybe once in a student's life,” one parent expressed. “We have no doubt that teaching is her calling in life as it shines through every single day in her classroom.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Cache High School: Mike Hale
Although Mike Hale had always wanted to be a teacher, he didn’t start his career in education until later in life. After spending time running a collection agency, doing mortgages, and working as a general contractor, Hale decided to use his Business Education Degree and become a teacher. Apparently, he has found his calling: Hale has been named Cache High School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year!
Hale started working at Cache High just to get his foot in the door at Cache County School District, but quickly realized he was right where he was supposed to be. “It’s all about the ‘family feel’ here,” Hale explains. “It’s up to each of us, but once you tie into Cache High, you’re part of the family, and we got your back. And that’s exactly how I felt coming in. I felt like a misfit that finally found their place.”
Throughout his 16 years at Cache High, Hale has taught various subjects, including financial literacy, economics, webpage design, desktop publishing, business law, and entrepreneurship. This year, his main focus is math and financial literacy. No matter the subject, Hale’s goal is to teach fundamental life skills that go beyond the classroom and specific subject. When his students leave his classroom, Hale wants them to have learned skills such as showing up on time, doing their work well, meeting deadlines, asking for help when needed, and so much more.
“I always tell my students, ‘I teach you like you’re my employees.’ I’m trying to teach them to be successful in life, not just at learning math,” Hale says. “Math is important, but when was the last time you used the quadratic equation? Probably high school. But there’s that process of learning and trying to understand it and the work ethic that goes into it. That is priceless.”
Whether it’s learning content like debt financing or essential life skills such as finishing projects on time, Hale expects his students to put in their best effort, and as they do, he pushes them to accomplish even more. “My philosophy is, if you can get somebody to try and give that effort, and you are there to support them, then at that point, the sky is the limit for them,” Hale said. “There’s nothing these kids can’t accomplish if they are willing to put forth the effort, do the work, and have patience with themselves.”
Hale believes in pushing students to get outside their comfort zone and test their limits because he believes that that’s when they truly start learning and growing. However, he never wants to push them to the point that they become frustrated and give up. “We have so much more potential in us than we even know, and lot of times, we don’t realize it until those limits are pushed a little bit,” Hale commented.
He explained that he’s never received a letter from a student thanking him for going easy on him in class. However, his students have said, “Hey, Mike, thanks for pushing me to show me what I'm capable of and not letting me get away with the things that I was doing.” According to Hale, the key to this philosophy is that students must know you care. If students don’t know you care, then you won’t be able to heltp them realize their own potential.
According to Principal Sheri Hansen, Hale is willing to navigate support for the individual student. “He is always quick to ask if there is something he needs to do differently or if what he is doing is working for the individual student,” Hansen says.
Degrees and Certifications:
Canyon Elementary: Kris Smith
Kris Smith, Canyon Elementary School 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, is loved by students, teachers, and staff for her dedication, kindness, friendship, and fun sense of humor. Giving her whole heart and soul to her First Grade students, Smith is known for going above and beyond to make sure that her students are learning and being successful.
According to Principal Leslie Burt, Smith is the kind of teacher who shows up 100% for her kids every day, despite difficult things in her personal life. Smith has a gift for setting high expectations for her students and doing everything she can to help them succeed, all while cheering them on and building their confidence in themselves.
“Kris has shown great leadership both with students and colleagues. She is a hardworking, team player who pours her heart into teaching. She loves the kids and her kids love her. She goes above and beyond, and more importantly, she loves her students,” Burt expressed. “She is so dedicated - she’s there late. I’m there late, but she is always at the school later. She works so hard to make sure she gives her students a quality education.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Cedar Ridge Elementary: Jodi Mangum
Throughout her 27 years of teaching 1st grade, Jodi Mangum has seen a lot of changes to the curriculum and the state core. However, one thing that has been consistent over the years is the magic of first grade. “When I first started, I taught the children to read. Now, that happens in kindergarten before they come to me. So, I just reinforce and expand on what they know,” Mangum expressed. “But there's still a magic that happens, and it doesn't matter where they are in their learning. They just take flight, blossom, and bloom, and I love it. It is so much fun to be in a first-grade classroom and watch that.”
As a child, Mangum was always the kid who loved school. She had excellent teachers, many still in our school district, which sparked a love of teaching in her. After school, she would come home and play school, creating her own classroom where she was always the teacher. This passion sparked her long, incredible teaching career.
Mangum has had the opportunity to teach at several schools around the valley including North Park and Greenville Elementary Schools.
In every school where she has taught, Mangum credits a team of teachers and other staff for helping her grow and improve her craft. She explained that, without a cohesive and dedicated team, teaching can be challenging. “A strong team makes everything so much better. It makes you better and helps you become better prepared,” Mangum explained. “The kids are definitely the ones who really benefit, because they need all the tricks that you can throw at them, and a team is how you do that.”
According to Mangum, when you work as a team, you can share materials and ideas, problem-solve and brainstorm, and support each other through the ups and downs of teaching. “We can rely on each other, pull from each other, and support each other. I feel like if you have a team, you can bounce ideas off each other and pull from each other’s strengths,” Mangum explained. “So if I’m weak in an area, someone else is going to be strong in that area. We can balance each other out.”
To Mangum, the content is essential, but the most crucial thing she wants her students to learn is how to love school. “If they don’t want to be here, they won’t learn anything,” Mangum said. At the start of each school year, Mangum talks to parents and expresses the critical role they have in helping their children love school. For example, rather than asking their kids how their day was, Mangum challenges parents to ask, “What was your favorite thing you did today?” By the end of the day, kids are exhausted and ready to be done. Mangum believes that as parents focus on their students’ favorite parts of the day, kids can look back at school and see the positive, helping them come to love school.
Mangum strives to foster a love for school in her students by creating a positive atmosphere in her classroom. “If you make them think about their favorite parts of the day, then it's positive, and we think that way. And I try to keep things positive in the classroom. I try to have them look out for each other and build a team feeling amongst themselves,” Mangum explained. “I feel like that helps, and once we build all of that, the learning can come very easily.”
Cedar Ridge Principal Amy Ivie is grateful for Mangum’s contribution to the school. “Jodi knows her students individually. She is a great example of a teacher that gives her all in everything she does. Her colleagues love and appreciate her and feel that she is very deserving,” Ivie said.
Degrees and Certifications:
Greenville Elementary: Sarah Vazquez
Sarah Vazquez, Greenville Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has her dream job teaching sixth-grade math. She uses technology in her classroom to create interactive lessons, track her students’ progress in real-time, encourage collaboration, allow students to ask questions, make learning fun through games and activities, use manipulatives on computers, and so much more.
“I love integrating technology and seeing how we can track data, improve scores, and help the struggling kids. These are the 21st-century skills that are so essential. It’s the STEM—the direction that education is going,” Vazquez continued.
A student herself, Sarah Vazquez’s passion for lifelong learning and caring for those around her creates a classroom environment that cultivates success in her students. Inspired by her mother, who got her Master’s, and father, who earned his Ph.D., Vazquez is currently pursuing her own Master’s degree in Education and Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences online, while teaching full-time.
“My dad always said to get as much education as you can. So, my goal was to get my doctorate like my dad and follow his example. I’ve always wanted to do it because education has always been important to me,” Vazquez expressed. “ I love being a lifelong learner and learning about everything there is to be a better teacher and a better human.”
Vazquez’s journey to teaching has been different than most educators. After pursuing a degree in music, Vazquez spent ten years working at an insurance company, working up the corporate ladder into management. She also taught private violin and piano lessons. After volunteering in her children’s classrooms, Vazquez realized she wanted to work in education and went back to school for a degree in Elementary Education. Initially teaching sixth grade in Alpine School District, Vazquez moved to Cache Valley two years ago to start working on her Master’s at USU.
A passion for education is not the only thing influenced by Vazquez’s parents. “My sweet mother was a teacher a long time ago, and all she ever cared about was helping others,” Vazquez expressed. “She taught me the value of looking at a person as a whole person, and so I don’t just see these kids as a math student for an hour and a half—they’re little humans.”
According to Principal Stephanie Adams, “Sarah is an amazing educator who truly cares about each and every child and all of their needs.” Adams is inspired by how Vazquez goes out of her way to support her students not just in learning, but also with physical needs like shoes, food for lunch, or a warm jacket for recess.
“I’m happy to help wherever I can because everybody deserves somebody watching out for them. I want these kids to know how much they’re loved. I tell them all the time, ‘You are loved and important.’” Vazquez continued. “It’s important that they know somebody cares about them, they’re valued, and they matter.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Green Canyon High School: Alison Ence
Alison Ence, Green Canyon High School’s 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year, believes that teaching her computer science students coding is important, but it’s not the only thing she wants them to learn in her class. She also teaches them valuable principles that they can use in their future careers.
Currently a computer science teacher at Green Canyon, Ence worked as a web developer for eight years before finding her love for teaching. She received her teaching degree at Weber State University and taught business in Vernal, Utah. After three years in Vernal, she moved to Cache Vally to fill a business teacher position for Green Canyon High School. She was excited to return to the Valley since she received her undergraduate degree at Utah State University. She taught business at Green Canyon for two years before becoming a computer science teacher.
With a lot of professional experience under her belt, Ence is now teaching skills that she learned in her career, to her students. These skills are not only computer skills but also skills that will help them in their future careers. “It’s not just coding,” Ence explained. “I want to teach them principles they can apply in everyday life.”
To encourage students to figure out problems by themselves, Ence utilizes a teaching method called the rubber duck method. With this method, if they cannot figure out a bug in their code, they are encouraged to talk to one of the many rubber ducks in the classroom about the problem before seeking Ence’s help. She has found that when her students first explain it to one of the rubber ducks, they often solve the problem themselves before she needs to help them.
Not only does Ence teach problem-solving for their future careers, but she also encourages her students to become leaders. “I like to do a lot of hands-on learning,” Ence said. “If you were doing this in a job, you would be working with a team, you would have deadlines, and you would have to report to the team leader. They take turns being the team leader in the classroom.”
According to Principal John Anderson, Ence is known for being a thoughtful and kind teacher. She makes learning fun and exciting, and her love for her students and those she works with is reflected in her teaching. “Alison is known for being friendly, helpful, relating well to her students, a master of her content, and always willing to help students in need,” Anderson shared. “She is always willing to help in any way needed.”
Ence hopes that if her students learn just one thing from her, it would be to be kind and love learning. “I love learning, and so if I can help them to love learning, then I have done my job,” she said.
Degrees and Certifications:
Heritage Elementary: Carol DeFriez
After learning Spanish, Carol DeFriez, Heritage Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, was excited to help others learn English. This experience led her to get a degree in elementary education and an English Language Learning (ELL) endorsement.
DeFriez taught first grade for two years and fifth grade for eight years. She has spent the past four years as an ELL teacher, and her favorite part of the job is the relationships she builds working one-on-one with students of all grades and abilities, helping them become better readers.
“I love helping kids learn and seeing that light come on in their eyes when they get it. I love being with these kids year after year and seeing them progress and finally get it and do better because now they know how to read,” DeFriez explained.
DeFriez spends her days working with students one-on-one starting at 8 a.m. She has morning reading groups where students can come and get 30-40 minutes of extra reading intervention. Using different computer games and programs, DeFriez helps students practice reading and other subjects they may struggle with. Students can earn prizes and awards for reading a certain number of books and taking low-stakes quizzes through a program called Amira.
“My goal is to give all students the opportunity that I’ve had to be able to learn. I want to help them see that they can learn,” DeFriez expressed. “Sometimes the students don’t believe they can do it, but I know they can if they just put in the work.”
Throughout the day, DeFriez works individually with students in each class throughout the school, providing interventions and one-on-one instruction to students who need it. The goal is to support and help students improve their English while learning the content and being around their peers.
DeFriez understands the value of being able to read. She recognizes that everything students do - both in and out of the classroom - requires them to have reading and comprehension skills.
“I love to get them reading because it affects every other part of their education. For example, if students can’t read the problem in math, they can’t do it. I have students who are very good at putting numbers together, adding, subtracting, and doing multiplication and division. But if they can’t read and understand the problem, it doesn’t do them any good,” DeFriez explained. “And I don’t think we realize how much reading affects everything. I believe the more kids read and take these little quizzes, the more they’ll be able to focus and comprehend even more in all other subjects.”
Students, faculty, and staff admire the impact DeFriez has on the school. “Mrs. DeFriez is a dedicated teacher and one that truly cares about students. She shows up early every day to help her ELL students with reading and wants all of her students to be successful in and out of school,” explained Heritage Principal Lance Robins. “She is a teacher we all wish we would have had.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Lewiston Elementary: Meaghan Porrit
With a classroom full of plants, animals, and other fun activities, Meaghan Porritt creates a hands-on, self-directed learning environment for her fourth-grade students. Porritt, Lewiston Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, strives to create a classroom that sparks her students' excitement, exploration, and creativity.
Porritt focuses on finding ways to make her curriculum hands-on, knowing that when school is fun and engaging, students learn better and want to be in school, which in turn makes them more successful. “Hands-on learning makes it more fun, and I’ve found that kids like learning more. And so they’re more successful because they’re engaged,” Porritt explained. “I’ve had parents talk about how their student’s enjoyment levels seem to increase compared to previous years. And I’ve seen that attendance has increased for the most part because the kids are excited and like coming to school.”
Throughout her six years as an educator, Porritt has written for and received over $20,000 in grants and donations for her classroom, allowing her to integrate hands-on learning activities into her curriculum. Whether hatching baby chicks, growing vegetables and herbs in the classroom, building school garden boxes, raising trout, or using an aquaponics system, Porritt finds new grants and activities her students will be excited about each year.
This year, Porritt’s class is working on many exciting projects. They have a giant aquaponics system in the classroom where they grow different vegetables and herbs. The class is also doing Trout in the Classroom, sponsored by the Cache Angler's Society, which is a project where students participate in raising trout in the school. The class helped set up an aquarium tank and stocked it with live trout eggs. Students then get to watch as the eggs grow into 2-4 inch minnows, and towards the end of the year, they will go on a field trip to release the trout into a local body of water.
Students recognize and appreciate the magic that Porritt creates in her classroom. “I love that she teaches us in a fun way, but she is also super nice and funny. She’s just a really good teacher,” said one of her students.
While creating a fun, hands-on classroom, Porritt also encourages students to take responsibility for their learning. “I just want every student to know they can succeed, no matter their ability. They might have different goals, but every child can succeed if you give them the right tools and expectations,” Porritt expressed.
“Mrs. Porritt inspires hope, ignites student imagination, and instills a love of learning in her students. She genuinely loves her students and actively works to find hands-on activities that engage the students,” explained Principal Troy Pugmire. “Meaghan is constantly seeking ways to improve her teaching. She is truly making a difference! Lewiston students, staff, and parents are lucky to have her.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Lincoln Elementary: Christy Storrs
Loving her students as if they were her own children, Christy Storrs sees the strengths and potential in individual students and strives to help them build confidence in themselves. Storrs, Lincoln Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has a reputation for handling challenges or difficulties that come her way with love, compassion, patience, and flexibility.
Born into a family of educators, Storrs pursued a dual major in Special Education and General Education, specializing in birth to three years old. That educational background has been essential over the past six years. In addition to her general education students, Storrs has had the opportunity to teach students with severe medical needs, behavior problems, and disabilities. Through it all, her goal is simply to love all her students and make her classroom a place that nurtures learning and growth.
When working with children, Storrs believes it’s essential that each child feels cared for and respected. “I see them as future adults, so I’m very honest with them,” Storrs said. “And not being talked down to helps them feel much more understood.” With this approach, Storrs forms a connection with her students, working with them and their parents to create an environment where they feel comfortable and valued.
Storrs individualizes instruction and classroom environment for her students' progress - no matter where they are in the curriculum. “I love teaching the whole gradient of kids. We have those kids who come in only knowing three letters, and those who read at a third-grade level. I love finding out how to help each of them and watch them progress from where they are.”
Each student in Storr’s class has a binder that they use to do their work each morning, where Storrs puts specific worksheets and activities for students based on where they are at and what skills they need to be working on that day. For example, some might be working on double-digit addition while others are practicing tracing letters and numbers. “You have to teach everyone the curriculum, but you can take those little moments to do what that specific child needs,” Storrs explained. “I think it means a lot to them to be seen and recognized. It helps build them up and give them confidence.”
Audrey McKell, Principal at Lincoln Elementary School, admires Storrs for all she does in her classroom. “She loves her students with all her might. She never gives up on any of them, no matter how hard the struggle is,” McKell expressed. “She always follows through, giving them confidence and the skills needed to succeed. Christy is a gem. She is a good friend, a great listener, and has the ability to love all children no matter what.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Millville Elementary: Cari Bodily
Determined to make learning hands-on and fun, Cari Bodily, Millville Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has transformed her second-grade class into a hard-working, inclusive pirate crew.
“Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking we can either work hard or have fun, but we can’t do both at the same time. But you can do both - you can work hard and have fun at the same time,” Bodily expressed. “And one way to do that is hands-on learning. It reaches more kids, it’s more engaging and practical, and it’s easier to see why you’re what you’re doing. It touches on all learning styles.”
Bodily picks a theme for her classroom each year, giving students classroom jobs and challenging them to achieve a quest through different learning activities and goals. Bodily has noticed that when she creates a fun, hands-on learning environment, her students are happier to be at school and more excited about learning. She’s also noticed that students are more inclusive of others and her classroom has a more positive, engaged feeling.
Throughout her 22 years in education, Bodily has taught in various positions. She taught first, second, third, and fifth grade, and has also worked as a reading aid, gifted and talented aid, music teacher, and English teacher.
No matter what age or subject she teaches, Bodily’s core passions and beliefs guide her decisions and how she structures her classroom.
“There are a lot of things I’m passionate about in my classroom. For example, I’m passionate about helping kids discover that problems have solutions and choices have good and bad consequences,” Bodily explained. “I always want to remember that if I’m developing gracious human beings, those are really important skills.”
She continued, “I’m also passionate about inclusion and educational opportunities for traditionally underserved populations. I want to make my classroom a home. I believe there’s a lot you can do with kids if they are comfortable in your classroom and it’s a space where they belong. You have to build a climate where people feel like they want to be there.”
According to Millville Elementary School Principal Brady Johnson, Bodily’s love for students and passion for education make her classroom one that students are drawn to and excited to learn in.
“There are several things that make Mrs. Bodily deserving of this award,” Johnson explained. “First and foremost, Cari loves her students and they know it. She will never give up on students and advocates for them in any way she can. Her classroom is such a fun place to be! Her students are excited to be there and are always engaged in learning. Finally, Mrs. Bodiy has a thirst for knowledge and is constantly studying ways to improve her craft. Cari’s love for her students, tireless efforts to improve her craft, and endless creativity in the classroom make her an excellent choice for Millville Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Mountain Crest High School: Marcus Maw
In his roles as both a teacher and IHC athletic trainer, Marcus Maw spends long hours at Mountain Crest High School, arriving at work as early as 7:00 am and often working as late as 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. Why? Simply because he loves the kids. “I just like working with the kids. I can relate to them really easily. I’m a kid at heart, and I just get along with them really well,” Maw expressed. “It’s fun to see them learn, and see them heal and be able to come back and compete in their sport when they get injured.”
While teaching a full class load, taping ankles, and helping student-athletes recover from injuries, Maw uses his time to connect with students and push them to be the best they can be. Maw’s dedication and passion for helping students are just a few reasons he was named Mountain Crest High School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.
His love and passion for sports motivated Maw to earn a degree in athletic training from the University of Utah. He then moved to Cache Valley to earn a Master’s in Exercise Science from Utah State. His first job was as an athletic trainer and teacher at Sky View High School. At first, he only taught exercise science, but once he earned his teaching license and continued his education, Maw could teach various subjects. Now, he teaches several health-related subjects, including Advanced Health Science, Exercise Science, Intro to Health Science, and Intro to Emergency Medical Services.
Whether he’s teaching or working with athletes, Maw’s role as a father has greatly influenced his approach to teaching. With two kids of his own, Maw strives to treat every child as if they were his own. “I want my child to be treated well. You want your kids to learn; you want them to be successful. You want your kids to be kind and enjoy their schooling experience,” Maw expressed. “And so that’s how I’ve always looked at it. If that’s how I want my child to be taught, then that’s how I would teach all those other kids.”
During the morning, Maw works as a CCSD teacher. In the afternoons and evenings, he works at the school as an athletic trainer employed by Intermountain Health Care. As Mountain Crest’s athletic trainer, Maw has the opportunity to work with all the Mustang student-athletes and occasionally athletes from other schools. His goal is to treat each athlete the same and help them succeed, no matter which school they play for or the sport they play.
His role as an athletic trainer is to help athletes who have suffered an injury, provide rehabilitation care, and create programs that help strengthen athletes and prevent injuries. He attends every practice and home sporting event the school has - no matter the season or sport. He is there to provide first aid and medical help to any athlete who gets injured.
“Marcus is one of the hardest-working teachers at this school. Not only does he teach all day, but then he spends most of his nights at the school helping our student-athletes. Yes, being an athletic trainer is part of his job description. However, he goes above and beyond by being the best athletic trainer in the region,” explained Teri Cutler, principal at Mountain Crest High School. “Every student-athlete I’ve talked to loves Marcus and thoroughly trusts him. Marcus keeps each student-athlete’s best interests in mind and does a great job expressing his medical opinion and expertise.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Mountainside Elementary: Shalon Hansen
Shalon Hansen, Mountainside Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has had a different journey than most to become an educator. Originally from Eastern Utah, Hansen earned a degree in Finance and Economics at Utah State University. She worked at the Smithfield Bank for a few years, and during that time, she had the opportunity to volunteer at Summit Elementary School.
After staying home with her kids for a few years, Hansen was ready to return to work, but she wanted to try a new career. Seeing how fun it was to work with kids and spend time in the classroom, Hansen returned to school to get a degree in elementary education. Eight years later, Hansen knows she made the right choice.
“I feel like I’m a happier person. Teaching can be hard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a really fulfilling and fun job,” Hansen expressed. “I just love the kids. It’s so fun to see them grow and become a little closer to who they’re meant to be. When you look at some of the kids, you can see how amazing they are and how strong and powerful they are going to be. And it’s amazing.”
Throughout her years in the classroom, Hansen has been guided by the philosophy that “every child matters” and has made that her focus.
“I have always had that philosophy,” Hansen explained. “But in a day when you’re taking charge of 30 kids, it can be hard to make sure that you touch base with everyone and make sure that everyone is doing okay.”
She continued, “It’s hard sometimes to find that time and juggle it with everything we’re supposed to do. But I feel like if I keep that focus in the forefront of my mind, and make sure that I’m touching base and looking out for every kid in some way every day, then it helps me stay focused on what is important in this job and why it matters that we’re here.”
With a focus on the individual, Hansen does little things each day to ensure she cares for each child. For example, she does this by being available in the morning for students to come in and chat with her. This allows her to get to know the kids better, find out what’s happening in their lives, and check in on them daily.
Hansen has found that when students feel like they belong, are loved, and accepted, it creates a better classroom environment that invites more learning and engagement for each student. By creating a team environment within her classroom, Hansen sets up her students to learn even more.
According to Cam Amott, Mountainside Elementary School Principal, Hansen is a beloved and integral part of the school. “Shalon is everything you want in a teacher: dedicated, loving, smart, and an advocate for her students. She holds every one of her students to high standards and supports them individually to reach those high expectations. She also holds herself to an incredibly high standard and works to develop instruction, content, and questions that will engage her students and make learning meaningful to them,” explained Ammott. “Her influence goes beyond just her students and the classroom. She is an incredible colleague to her peers and constantly finds small ways to serve them and give the school a shot of positivity when it needs it most.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Nibley Elementary: Jessica Von Der Lieth
Since she was little, Jessica Von Der Lieth, Nibley Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has been passionate about teaching and helping others learn things. Fourteen years into her teaching career, she continues to bring an energy to her first-grade classroom that helps her young students develop a love for school and education.
“I have to be excited about what we’re learning. If I’m not excited and into it, then they’re not going to be either,” Von Der Lieth explained. “If I come with a good attitude and make learning hands-on, it makes the kids more eager to learn.”
Whether students are practicing telling time or reading, Von Der Lieth finds ways to make the curriculum fun and engaging. For example, anytime the class is talking about how to read a clock, they each have a clock in their hand, which helps them engage in the lesson and better understand the concept.
In addition to making learning hands-on, Von Der Lieth tries to find new ways to make programs more effective and beneficial for her students. For example, in the past, the school did a reading program with students taking quizzes about what they read. This proved to be challenging for first graders. To make reading a more positive experience for students, the first-grade team decided instead to track how many minutes students read and reward them for spending time reading.
“We’re just trying to set a goal of how many minutes we can read, so that everyone can read, no matter your level. It’s a lot more positive way to talk to parents about reading and learning, and it allows us to celebrate reading and all of our students,” Von Der Lieth explained.
For Von Der Lieth, one of the most important things to her is that each student in her class feels successful and confident in themselves. She pushes them daily to work hard, try their best, and learn something new.
“I have the approach that everyone can try. I don’t want anyone in my class to feel like they’re left behind or can’t do it,” Von Der Lieth explained. “I tell my kids that I want everyone to try, and if you try your hardest, that’s great with me, but we can’t not try. It’s okay to get it wrong, but you can’t learn if you don’t try.”
She continued, “I love first grade because of the growth students make. It’s amazing to see students go from barely getting the letter sounds at the beginning of first grade to being able to read. They have to mature a lot. And it’s hard for them, but it’s fun to see them grow and be excited and learn to love school.”
Faculty, students, and parents at Nibley Elementary recognize the love and passion Von Der Lieth gives to her students. “Jessica is a dedicated educator committed to helping each child succeed,” explained Cindy King, Nibley Elementary School principal. “She excels at making difficult concepts seem easy and achievable, which helps students reach their full potential. We are fortunate to have her as a first-grade teacher at Nibley Elementary.”
Degrees and Certifications:
North Cache Middle School: McKay Cordner
Stepping into McKay Cordner’s eighth-grade science class, you’ll most likely see students doing some sort of fun, real-world activity. Making science hands-on, Cordner’s students roast s’mores when discussing chemical reactions,flip pancakes to learn about exo- and endothermic reactions, and so much more. But through all the projects and activities, Cordner, North Cache Middle School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has one main goal.
“My biggest thing I want [students] to learn is to think critically. So, a lot of times, I’ll ask them questions that are counterintuitive just to make them think,” Cordner explained. “I try to teach them that they need a basis of knowledge to think through what they’re trying to understand; otherwise, they won’t be able to think critically and decide where they stand.”
He encourages students to try learning for themselves, instead of just depending on everything he says. As a result, Cordner hopes his students can successfully navigate the world and develop the skills to make meaningful, informed decisions.
This year, Cordner has implemented a more significant focus on literacy in his classroom and curriculum. For example, the eighth-grade science team has started gathering articles, having students read and annotate them, and write summaries of what they learned. Cordner explained that he hopes this will help students learn to critically analyze material and form conclusions, which will assist them in all aspects of their lives.
Cordner is known for being willing to try new things and go above and beyond to ensure his students’ growth. According to North Cache Principal Cindy Parkinson, “McKay is a positive influence at North Cache Middle School. He is a strong advocate for helping our students to be successful.”
She continued, “McKay provides many opportunities for students to learn science principles through hands-on experiences, which adds to the positive experience students have in his class. We are fortunate to have McKay as an integral part of our North Cache family.”
Before coming to North Cache, Cordner explored quite a few different pathways - including a social worker, Family and Marriage Therapist, and construction worker. But he quickly realized that between his passion for science and teaching, the classroom is where he wants to be.
“I love the interaction you get in a classroom, which you didn’t get in the construction field,” Cordner expressed. “These kids are amazing. They want to do well, and they’re trying hard. They’re motivated to be good and do good things. I love teaching them.”
Degrees and Certifications:
North Park Elementary: Charity Moore
Taking a lesson from the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, North Park Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, Charity Moore, aims to turn her classroom into a family with high expectations and lots of fun. One student said, “This classroom feels like my family—it feels like my house!” That’s exactly what Moore is hoping for. “I have rules and expectations, but I want them to feel like it’s a safe spot,” she expressed. “We do all these different activities to get to know each other so that they’re not just classmates, but friends. It just makes it so nobody’s left behind or forgotten.”
Moore creates this environment by spending time at the beginning of the year to get to know students and set high expectations. She teaches the students that while they don’t have to be best friends with everyone in the classroom, it’s essential that they are kind to everyone. “We can all find things about someone in the class that we like and appreciate. So setting up those types of expectations and feelings in the room at the beginning of year is important,” Moore explained. “If we’re a team, when the kids see that someone needs help, they’ll just step in and help right away. And most times, I don’t even have to ask, because they just know that we’re here to help everybody.”
While teaching her students to be kind and compassionate humans, Moore also recognizes that there is a lot to learn in third grade. “Third grade is a big transition. We go from teaching the kids how to read to teaching them comprehension skills,” Moore said. “It’s a huge year for math. We teach them so much—like division, multiplication, fractions, elapsed time, and all types of things.”
Knowing that third grade can be challenging and overwhelming, Moore strives to bring moments of fun to her classroom. “It’s all about finding those little moments to let them be kids, and remembering that they’re third graders, not adults, and making sure they have those moments to enjoy being children,” Moore said. “Some math we teach is so hard. We expect a lot of kids, and I want to make sure they still have those moments.”
Moore uses positive rewards and fun activities to create an environment that lets students be kids and have fun while still being engaged in learning complex content. For example, this week, Moore’s class earned a ‘New Name Day,’ where they each got to pick a new name to go by for the whole day. “The new name day is simple. And rewards don’t have to be a big party that takes a lot of time away from teaching. But just something interesting that makes them laugh,” Moore explained.
A fun, family-like environment helps to create a classroom where everyone feels like they belong. Returning to her favorite Disney movie, Moore expounded, “Stitch is kind of an interesting looking character; he’s a hard character. People don’t know how to treat him or accept him. But they take the time to get to know him and realize he’s family.” She continued, “That’s how I approach it with kids. I take the time to get to know them. And with most kids, if they can tell you really care, they’ll want to listen and help. I think people just need that. People need to know that no matter what, they are welcome.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Providence Elementary: Hannah Cobabe
When first graders enter Hannah Cobabe’s classroom, they enter a ninja training center focused on having fun while learning, becoming good humans, and pushing themselves to reach goals. Whether she’s teaching curricula such as math and reading, or essential life skills like being a good friend or being respectful, Cobabe, Providence Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, incorporates fun into her lesson. “I think learning should be fun, especially in first grade,” Cobabe explained. “This is their first exposure to an all-day classroom. This is the beginning of their whole life, so for them to understand that learning can be fun is a huge thing to me.”
One way Cobabe makes learning fun is by inviting students to consider themselves ninja learners. Referring to them as ninjas throughout the day, Cobabe encourages each of her students to set goals for things they want to accomplish and then work hard to reach them, all while providing the support and resources they need to be successful. For example, throughout the year, students can earn Ninja Belts - from a white belt up to a black belt - for learning how to read their sight words.
Cobabe also incorporates the ninja theme into teaching her students what it means to be a good person. “We are ninjas, and we learn about things that ninjas would do. We talk about how ninjas are kind, respectful, and responsible, and they’re safe; and ninjas work together,” she explained.
Cobabe’s philosophy of making the classroom fun stems from her father, a second-grade teacher for 30 years, who was beloved for his ability to make learning engaging and exciting. After observing how demanding being an educator was for her father, Cobabe was adamant that she never wanted to be a teacher. However, after trying accounting and statistics in college, Cobabe quickly realized that teaching was her calling in her life. “I had this moment where I realized that this is what I am meant to do. And from then on, I jumped full-on into teaching, and I’ve never looked back,” Cobabe recalled. “This is what I was meant to be; this is why I was put on the earth, honestly.”
Throughout her career, Cobabe has always taught first grade. “First [grade] is my love. They come in, and they want to learn. They have such a desire to grow, and they grow so much within the year,” Cobabe expressed. “You watch them go from these little kids that struggle to know the letters to kids who are reading almost chapter books. The growth you see is beautiful and is just so fun.”
“Hannah is such a wonderful teacher. She is the epitome of dedication. She is kind to everyone, takes on the lion's share of responsibilities for her grade level, cares, and has real, connected conversations with everyone,” said Jeff Keck, principal at Providence Elementary School. “She has incredible interactions with the students in her class and empowers them to make their own choices, make progress, and work hard. Hannah is the most friendly and hard-working teacher I have ever met. She is a friend to everyone in need and is so quick to love and support you no matter who you are or what’s going on.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Ridgeline High School: Erika Biehn
When students, teachers, and faculty talk about Erika Biehn, Ridgeline High School 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, they often say things like “she’s always looking for ways to help” or “she takes the time to build relationships with her students” or “she is quick to share with others” or simply, “she cares.” When she comes to work each day, Biehn’s focus is on building relationships with her students and colleagues and making math exciting for her students.
With a focus on creating a positive environment, Biehn helps students at all levels of understanding and ability walk out of her classroom with confidence and a better attitude toward math. “Math is hard, and it’s not everyone’s favorite subject. I just want my kids to believe in themselves and know they can do it,” she explained. “So if they can learn anything from me, it would be to believe in themselves. Don’t decide you can’t do it before you’ve tried. I encourage students to be willing to try and fail, make mistakes, and grow.”
During her ten years as a math teacher, Biehn has taught 8th-10th grade math. No matter what grade she has taught, her goal is to make math engaging and interesting for her students by expressing a positive attitude about the content. “I try to be energetic and show them how cool it is. There’s nothing magical that I’m doing. I just try to have fun, be happy, and get them engaged and excited about it,” said Biehn. “I focus on explaining the why and how. I’m not just going to say ‘Here’s the formula’. Instead, I will show them how it works and where it comes from.”
From the time she was a child, Biehn always wanted to be a teacher. As she grew older, she fell in love with math and wanted to help others find that love. “I just always really liked math. It came naturally to me and made a lot of sense. I liked that there were rules and steps,” Biehn explained. “It’s so fun when you get things to work out, and I always thought that if I could help someone else figure out how to do this, that’d be really cool.”
In kindergarten, Biehn thought it looked like fun to grade papers. However, now Biehn is quick to say that her favorite part of her job is her students and seeing the lightbulb go off when they understand something. Although math is important to her, Biehn’s love and concern for her students extend beyond their grades in her class. She wants them to succeed in all aspects of life and is proud of everything they do. “I just love my students like they’re my own kids. I get so proud of them when they do good, and just want to see them succeed,” Biehn expressed.
“Erika Biehn is a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students,” explained Ridgeline Principal Doug Snow. “Nominated by her colleagues and peers, Erika is a wonderful team member who is quick to share resources with department members and equally quick to help her students.”
Degrees and Certifications:
River Heights Elementary: Tessenie Humphreys
Tessenie Humphreys, River Heights Elementary School 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has a reputation around the school for being kind, positive, and a fabulous team member.
Principal Stacie Williamson expressed respect and admiration for Humphreys when presenting her award at the January 19th board meeting. “One of the things I noticed right off the bat about Tessenie is that she is so positive. She is so kind and willing to do anything. Tess is a naturally-gifted teacher, and we are lucky to have her at River Heights,” Williamson shared.
Just three years into her career as a fifth-grade teacher, Humphreys always knew she wanted to be a teacher. “My whole life, I have liked teaching. When I was younger, I would make my sister play school, and I’d be the teacher, and I would make her do schoolwork,” Humphreys explained. “Now it’s my whole life, and it’s all I can talk about. It’s so fun being with the kids and seeing that little light bulb go off when they finally understand something.”
Students and staff members are grateful for the kind and positive energy Humphreys brings to the school. “Tess is just so easy to work with. She is so sweet, she’s always smiling, and can get along with staff members and students,” one of her colleagues said. “I’ve never heard her say anything negative or even mildly pessimistic. I love working with her.”
Attending Utah State University, Humphreys graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and an emphasis in Language Arts. She now teaches the language arts rotation for the fifth-grade team. “Language Arts has always been my favorite subject. I love writing and reading. I love teaching writing because the kids can’t just copy everyone,” Humphreys continued. “They have to come up with their own thoughts and be able to write on their own. And it’s fun to see them progress throughout the year.”
Humphreys believes in ensuring that each student has the opportunity to succeed daily. “Especially in fifth grade, they’re starting to become more aware if they’re behind in certain areas, and I don’t want them ever to feel like they can’t do it because I know they can. They just need little successes to push them to do it,” Humphreys continued. “I always tell them I’m going to push them, and I’m going to push them hard because if I just let them float by, then they’re not going to learn anything.”
Although she makes her students work hard, Humphreys creates an inviting environment that allows students to do their best, make mistakes, and find little victories along the way. Through her kindness, compassion, and positivity toward her students, she teaches them to celebrate their accomplishments while continuing to push themselves and work hard.
“I feel like the quote from William Arthur Ward sums up what Tessenie is trying to do in her classroom. ‘Teaching is more than imparting knowledge; it’s inspiring change. Learning is more than absorbing facts; it’s acquiring understanding.’ That is the epitome of Tess and what she does in her classroom,” explained Amy Smith, secretary at River Heights.
Degrees and Certifications:
Sky View High School: Amanda Saltern
No matter the subject she’s teaching, Amanda Saltern strives to create an environment that encourages students to never give up or be afraid to fail. “Failure just means you’re trying, and even if you’re not perfect at it the first time, you try again,” Saltern shared. Throughout her four years at Sky View High School, and 11 years teaching, Saltern has taught Photography, Health Science, Business Office Specialist, Digital Graphic Arts, and Yearbook.
When her students get frustrated and want to give up, Saltern pushes them to keep going. She reminds them, “You’re learning, and it might not come easy to you at first. But you have to keep trying. That’s why there’s a ‘Command Z’ - to undo what you did before. Then, you can go back to the start, see where you missed this step, and move forward.”
According to Principal Shane Jones, Saltern was named Sky View High School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for her willingness to help wherever needed in the school and her positive influence on students. “Her attitude and willingness to accept that and start a new program a week into the school year was commendable,” Jones explained. “She is so good at relationships with kids, and they want to do so much to make her like them. They respect her and love being in her class,”
Saltern explained that she tries to find a common interest she shares with the students, whether that be riding horses, liking dogs, or other similar interests. Saltern firmly believes that when you find something you can connect with students about, they’ll be much more respectful and learn better.
“My approach to teaching starts with building relationships with my students,” Saltern explained. “Classroom management is super important to being a good teacher,” Saltern said. “If your classroom is managed, then teaching content and anything that comes with it is much easier because your kids are paying attention, they know what to expect from you, and you’ve laid a foundation out for them.”
Saltern emphasized the importance of having a relationship with students in order for this type of teaching approach to work. “When you build a relationship, all those things that you want kids to learn will just come. But you need the relationship first,” she explained.
Teaching CTE classes and electives, Saltern recognizes the importance of creating a safe, fun environment for students. She expressed just how important these elective classes are for students to take. “First of all, these classes give students a glimpse into careers. Education is important. Whether it’s a trade, college bound, or just learning a skill, it’s important,” Saltern said.
Saltern makes her classroom a safe place that allows students to explore and try new things. Her favorite part of teaching is sharing her passion and love for the things that she gets to teach with her students, and watching them take it and succeed. “It’s rewarding. You know they are truly grasping something when they come in and want to show you something they’ve done. Seeing them proud of their work is the highlight of my day,” Saltern shared.
Degrees and Certifications:
South Cache Middle School: Monte McKinnon
When you put in effort and work hard, things will turn out and the reward will be worth the effort. This has been Monte McKinnon’s philosophy throughout his 35 years as a teacher at South Cache. Whether it’s teaching science in his classroom, helping other educators, or running the afterschool program, McKinnon strives to exemplify this to his students and coworkers. In recognition of all he does and contributes to the school, McKinnon has been named South Cache Middle School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year.
As a 7th and 8th grade science teacher, McKinnon has the opportunity to introduce students to many different facets of science. “The science we do in 7th and 8th grade is a combination of them all. It allows the kids to get their feet wet and and try the different types of sciences,” McKinnon explained. “Then they can figure out which ones they like best and get started on science.”
Before starting his career in education, McKinnon considered being a veterinarian or even an accountant, but eventually he decided to become a teacher. “I tried a couple of other things, but teaching was one of those things that I thought would be a good fit for me because I like serving people,” McKinnon said. According to Randy Bennion, South Cache Principal, McKinnon consistently goes above and beyond what’s expected of him in order to help not only his students, but fellow faculty as well.
“Monte works hard to help the climate of our school. He is the head of our Socials Committee, and spends a large amount of extra time to help us care for all of our school staff members,” Bennion explained. “He also puts an incredible amount of time in here at school working and coordinating our afterschool program. He oversees the entire program and helps the students to have a wonderful experience as they participate in it.”
McKinnon values the collaboration that can happen between teachers as they come together as a community. “It’s easy to get stuck in your hallway. But we all have a common goal - we want to help the kids,” he explained. “Oftentimes we have the same kids, and we need to talk between ourselves because someone else may have found something that works for a kid, something that ignites that kid and helps them light up. But if we never talked to the other teachers, then we don't learn that. So it’s important that we're always learning from each other.”
McKinnon also focuses on developing strong relationships with his students. His goal is to make sure that he gets to know each of his students personally and helps them access the tools they need to be successful. One way he does this is through overseeing the afterschool program at South Cache. According to McKinnon, the afterschool program provides different homework help and fun activities for students to participate in before and after school. The main purpose of the program is to provide math and homework help. Different teachers are available to tutor and give a little extra help to students who need it. The program also coordinates activities such as a musical, show choir, pickleball, tennis, art, and so much more. McKinnon has been involved in the program for around seven years, and has been in charge of it for the last three.
“My favorite part of the program is that you get to work with the kids and it's more one on one. You can get to know them a little bit better and it's different being in that situation than in the classroom,” McKinnon said. He explained that he loves being able to joke around more with students and spend time getting to know them at a more personal level.
No matter what he is doing, McKinnon focuses on the individual student and ensuring that they are getting what they need, whether it’s directly related to the content or not. “Not only are we expected to teach our subject, but we have to figure out what the kids need and how to get them motivated. I had a student this year that said, ‘I didn't used to like science. And I like science now.’ And that's a compliment,” McKinnon shared.
Degrees and Certifications:
Spring Creek Middle School: Jonathan Marchant
From an early age, Jonathan Marchant was drawn to the Spanish language. When he was young, his dad knew a little Spanish and would speak it around the house for fun. Then, when he was six years old, Marchant had Hispanic neighbors who were from Mexico. They got a book that had a picture with the English and Spanish word next to it and would sit down together and try to talk to each other using that book.
Marchant started taking Spanish classes at school in sixth grade. Later, while attending Mountain Crest High School, his Spanish teacher was Greg Hamilton, who still teaches at Ridgeline High School. “I loved watching the way Mr. Hamilton taught. It was so much fun for me. And everyone in my family are educators, so I wanted to be a teacher,” Marchant explained.
After high school, Marchant went on a religious mission to Venezuela for a couple of years, where his Spanish started to progress. “My first month there, I lived with just Venezuelans who didn’t speak English. That’s when my Spanish really took off,” he shared. Marchant then went to Utah State and was leaning towards teaching. While in school, he decided that if he was going to teach, he might as well have fun with it. So, he pursued a degree in Spanish.
Initially wanting to teach high school, Marchant started his career teaching in any school or grade he could - which happened to be at Box Elder Middle School. However, once he began teaching, he discovered how much he enjoyed working with middle school students. He then spent the next four years at Box Elder Middle School, until he got a job at Spring Creek. “Middle school is hard for everyone. Eighth grade was the worst year of my life, but knowing what these kids are going through helps you relate to them,” Marchant explained. “They’re still kids, their sense of humor is developing, and we can have fun together.”
According to Blair Powell, principal at Spring Creek, Marchant’s classroom is one where students want to be. “One thing that all his students will tell you is, ‘I learn a lot in Mr. Marchant’s class, but I learn it in a fun way.’ I have had so many students tell me that,” Powell explained. “They love the class because it’s entertaining, and they love Jonathan, and they love the learning that happens.”
Marchant has helped to grow the Spanish program at Spring Creek through his exceptional talent, hard work, and creativity in the classroom. When he first came to the school eight years ago, there were 75 kids enrolled in his class. He now teaches full-time, with no prep period, and the school hired another part-time teacher. As a result, the Spanish program has flourished, with almost 400 students enrolled, which is about half of the school.
When it comes to learning Spanish, Marchant hopes his students will absorb more than just the grammar and vocabulary of the language. He wants them to learn about the cultures and traditions of the people who speak Spanish worldwide. “I just give a little culture lesson about what life is like at each place,” Marchant commented. “I just try to open students’ minds to life in other parts of the world and show that it’s not the same as it is in Cache Valley.”
Marchant also strives to teach students crucial skills that will stick with them for the rest of their lives, even if the Spanish doesn’t—such as how to get along in the real world, be nice to each other, and have fun no matter what they’re doing. During class, Marchant shares stories about real-world situations to help students see all the opportunities and paths they can choose. “I believe I do more than teach kids Spanish. I teach them what it means to be a whole person,” Marchant expressed. “Spanish is just the vehicle I use to teach them how to be successful in life.”
Degrees and Certifications:
Summit Elementary: Sherri Cole
Over her 25 years of teaching sixth grade, Sherri Cole, Summit Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has been driven by a deep desire to see each student succeed. Whether it’s providing one-on-one help to her students, assisting with the after-school program, organizing a new school-wide HERO program—a program that sets expectations for students’ behaviors—or simply building meaningful relationships through conversations with her students, Cole is the kind of educator who goes above and beyond.
Like most teachers, Cole dreamed of being a teacher when she was little. However, her motivation for that dream was a bit different: she had a challenging second-grade year that affected how she viewed school and learning. In fourth grade, however, she had a teacher who changed everything. “I had a fabulous teacher. It was her first year and she just loved us. And so ever since then, I wanted to give that experience to kids,” Cole emotionally expressed. “I don’t want anyone to dread coming to school or not come to school at all because of the way they’re treated. And I never wanted to do anything else. There are so many kids that this may be the only place they feel safe. And I want to ensure that kids in my class feel wanted and loved here.”
Throughout her career, Cole has recognized that one of the most important things teachers can do is cultivate an environment that allows students to feel safe enough to learn. “It doesn’t matter how well you cover the curriculum. If you don’t have a climate in your classroom of acceptance and that it’s okay to make a mistake, kids won’t learn,” Cole continued. “My philosophy is to make the kids feel safe and make it a classroom where they want to be. In my room, it’s okay to make a mistake. And they know they won’t be ridiculed in any way for that. And when they feel that way, they rise to the occasion and do what you ask them to do, almost every single time.”
Not only does Cole try to create this environment in her classroom, but she is also heavily involved in making the school a welcoming space for all students. For example, Cole is the Assistant Coordinator for the REACH-OST after-school program, which is a program that provides homework help, a snack, and a fun activity for students after school. “I think it’s nice for parents to know that their child is someplace where they’re cared about and safe,” Cole explained.
Cole also has been a huge part of organizing the school’s HERO initiative, which stands for Helpful, Exceptional, Responsible, and Optimistic. Each month, students and staff focus on a different HERO attribute, discuss what it means, and acknowledge students demonstrating that attribute.
Aimee McNeil, Principal at Summit Elementary School, expressed her admiration and gratitude for Cole and all she has done for the school. “If I could describe Sherri in one word, it would be dedication. There is a positive energy in Sherri’s classroom evidenced by the uplifting quotes that decorate the room, the interactions her students have with her and one another, and the extra time and effort she puts into building positive relationships,” McNeil expressed. “Summit is fortunate to have Sherri as a teacher, colleague, and friend.”
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Sunrise Elementary: Debbie Lee
If you were to take a peek into the classroom of Debbie Lee, Sunrise Elementary School 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, you would find that her teaching is driven by an emphasis on the individual learner. Lee focuses on helping students create goals they want to work on and achieve based on their learning abilities, skills, and growth. At the beginning of the year, Lee sets generic classroom goals in different parts of the curriculum. Then, as she gets to know the students, she can see where students are at and begins to set individual goals that will challenge each of them.
These individual goals which Lee sets with her students take work. She has high expectations for them and sets goals that require a lot of effort and determination. “They have hard goals they have to reach. So I encourage them and am positive with them,” Lee explained. “I encourage them to reach their goals, work with them one-on-one, call their parents if they’re not doing what they need to, and do whatever they need. And I just really try to push them to do the hard things.”
Lee also believes in the importance of rewarding students for their growth and efforts. Each trimester, students can attend an all-day reward party if they have achieved the goals they set and completed all their work. This trimester it was an all-day Christmas pajama party.
“Mrs. Lee goes above and beyond for her students. She puts in hours and hours of extra work in grading so that her students can redo or complete missing assignments because she genuinely wants to see them succeed,” explained Shellie Healy, principal at Sunrise Elementary School. “She cares about every single one of her students and does whatever it takes to help them and to help their parents help them. I’ve never met a more dedicated teacher.”
After 33 years in the classroom, Lee has developed another focus for her classroom - resiliency. She explained that kids face many challenges and struggle with mental health more than when she first started teaching. So, she takes time in her class to do things like gratitude journals, meditation, a quote of the week, and much more. Lee believes that by doing these little things, students develop mental resiliency and the skills needed to overcome challenges.
“Kids have challenges, and at this age, they give up. So I try to teach them that you’re going to have downs and ups, but you keep going through those hard things. Students learn to do hard things in my class and learn who they are. They learn that they can accomplish a lot and how to believe in themselves,” explained Lee.
Students and parents are grateful for Lee and recognize the benefits of all that she does in her classroom. “Mrs. Lee is an amazing teacher. She pushes her students to be the best they can be and to not give up. She inspires her students to do and be better in all things,” one parent explained. “She is one of the first teachers to see my child for his true potential and is helping him achieve it. The impact she has on students will last a lifetime because of the skills she is teaching them.”
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Wellsville Elementary: ShaReece Kunz
ShaReece Kunz, Wellsville Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, spends each week helping students of all ages with speech and communication skills. As the school’s speech-language pathologist (SLP), Kunz works with individual students, parents, and teachers to set personalized goals to help students communicate better.
Using small groups and one-on-one time, she helps qualifying students with skills such as grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, and others with stuttering or everyday social language skills, plus much more. Each student receives individualized activities and attention from Kunz that help them work on the specific skills they need help with.
“Communication is so important. It is frustrating if you cannot communicate your wants and needs,” Kunz explained. “It’s so rewarding when you see students start to get it, and you see their sentence structure improve and their ability to communicate with their peers and in the classroom improves. I love seeing them start to share their ideas more confidently. I think that’s really important.”
When she was 14, Kunz had the opportunity to job-shadow a neighbor for a school assignment. Seeing how fun being an SLP is, the importance of communication, and the impact a teacher can have on a child’s life, Kunz decided that was exactly what she wanted to do.
After working as a speech-language pathologist for 15 years, Kunz recognizes that the skills she helps students learn can be challenging and overwhelming. “I think that when we do hard things, there should be some frosting or a cherry on top to make it fun,” Kunz explained. “I expect a lot from my students, but we have a lot of fun.”
Kunz incorporates games, movement, and engaging activities in her classroom to motivate students to learn the necessary skills. She is driven by the belief that you learn better when having fun and moving around. She also values the importance of building relationships with her students.
“My favorite part of being a speech-language pathologist is the student interaction,” Kunz expressed passionately. “I love to get to know the kids, celebrate accomplishments with them, and work with them individually and in small groups. You get to know each other better.”
She continued, “When we succeed, we succeed together. There’s so much power in having that connection that when we win, we all win. I love that I get to work so individually with students and have that relationship with them.”
According to Principal Glen Harris, speech with Mrs. Kunz is often the highlight of a student’s day. “ShaReece is an amazing teacher and human being. She makes learning fun. Articulation and language groups could be mundane and boring, but she brings a fun energy to her groups,” Harris explained. “ShaReece is always coming up with new ways to teach and engage her students with activities and games. There’s never a dull moment in the speech room.”
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White Pine Elementary: Mirian Canfield
Twenty-six years into her career, Mirian Canfield, White Pine Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year, has seen a lot of changes in education and learns new things each year. Regardless of what has changed however, she has realized that one thing is constant — combining high expectations with a lot of love is key to helping her students succeed.
“I’ve learned that you must love your students and they have to know of your love. If they know that you care and are invested in them, they will want to learn and perform better,” Canfield explained. “I want them to know without question that they are loved. And, once you build that, you can generate respect from there, and then the learning can happen.”
Canfield runs her classroom with high expectations and freedom of choice. At the beginning of the year, Canfield sets expectations for student behavior and a healthy learning environment. She explains that students always have choices. But, each choice has consequences, positive or negative. She holds students accountable for their choices. She believes that most students will become invested in their education as they make more positive choices that help them grow and learn.
Currently a fourth-grade teacher, Canfield has worn many hats throughout her career. She has taught first and second-grade, and has been a P.E. specialist, an art specialist, a music specialist, and a librarian. In 2019, she completed her Masters degree in Mathematics. She also has helped with the REACH program for the past few years and was an integral part of sustaining the program when the school switched buildings. She explained, “I knew how important the program was for my students to get that extra help. So I said I can take this on, and pretty soon, I was running both the morning and afternoon programs.”
In whatever role she has been in, Canfield focuses on connecting with her students and helping them through the hard times by creating an environment that allows them to talk and open up. For example, she will have “pow wows” with students, when she talks with them and asks about what’s going on in their lives, reassuring them that she is there for them.
She also shares her own personal experiences with students to help them laugh and know that she understands what it’s like to work through hard things. “I open up discussions to have students share experiences about their lives, and I talk a lot about mine. I want students to be aware of their surroundings, of nature, and to really love living in this world,” Canfield explained. “I was raised on a farm, and I have lots of crazy stories to tell them. I want them to be curious, adventurous, and aware.
Her peers admire Canfield's love and dedication to her students and the school. “Mirian Canfield cares deeply about each of her students,” expressed White Pine Principal Derek Beer. “She also cares deeply about the other staff members. She is a great mentor and continually supports her team and others in the building.”