“Labels are powerful and we get to choose our own”: Cache High Teacher of the Year, Emma Heath
Congratulations to Cache High’s Emma Heath for being chosen as the school's 2021-22 Teacher of the Year! Heath has been teaching psychology, reading/vocabulary, humanities, and sociology for the last two years.
Heath was born in El Paso, Texas, but has lived in Cache Valley for the last 20 years. While attending Utah State University, she studied clinical psychology with a majority of her background in sexual assault and violence. Heath was presented with the opportunity to teach at the Cache County jail as a part of the Adult Education extension at Cache High. She quickly fell in love with teaching and felt at home at Cache High.
While teaching the crime unit in her humanities class, Heath educates students about labeling theory and the importance of nuanced language. She believes it is important to be careful about labeling who and what you are. “Labels are so powerful,” Heath observed. “As soon as you tell a kid they are a ‘bad kid’ or a ‘criminal,’ they operate on that label.” She also emphasizes to students the importance of saying phrases like “I feel tired” instead of saying “I am tired.” When someone says they are something rather than stating how they feel, it becomes part of their identity.
Heath remembers a high school teacher that impacted her life by labeling her as intelligent and successful. “I had a teacher, and she was the first teacher that I had who told me I was smart,” she explained. “And from then on out, I got straight A’s. I had never gotten a 4.0 GPA before— and it was just because she told me that I was smart and I believed it.” Heath’s goal is to make sure her students know that she believes in them and that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.
Although teaching was not her original career choice, Heath believes she ended up right where she belongs. “I’ve never been so glad that my ‘Plan A’ didn’t work out,” she explained. “I was really glad that I just went with the flow and had the faith that what's supposed to happen will fall into place.” She describes the change in her career path as the “absolute best thing of my life.” In addition to her work at Cache High, Heath continues to teach at the jail every Monday through Thursday after school.
Sheri Hansen, the principal at Cache High, was the person who encouraged Heath to get her teaching license when a teaching position opened up at the school. She describes Heath’s classroom as more than just a place where students learn and complete classwork; it’s a comfortable environment and a safe space for students. “Emma is such a dedicated soul, giving all to her students and the people around her,” Hansen explained. “She goes above and beyond with the contributions to the correctional students in Adult Ed. She believes the best in people and can command a high expectation for her students, which motivates and inspires them.”
Heath was honored at the November 18, 2021 Board Meeting.
Pictured above are Emma Heath, Sheri Hansen, and board member Kathy Christiansen.