Move over, Kelly Clarkston, there's a new idol in town.

Kelly Vogrinec of Jordan High has been chosen as the 2014 winner of the districtwide Canyons Idol competition. Vogrinec, a sophomore who was chosen out of 69 auditioning groups and soloists ages second through 11th grades, won the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Canyons Night at the Real Salt Lake game on Saturday, May 17 at 7 p.m. She also received a $500 scholarship from the Canyons Education Foundation, courtesy of Jordan Credit Union, in a surprise delivery to her school.

Contest runners-up also received a $250 scholarship. They are: Indian Hills' Brianne Crismon, second place; and Ridgecrest Elementary's Carol Wang, third place.

This is the sixth year of the Canyons Idol competition. Last year's winner, Lexie Walker, a student at Peruvian Park, has gone on to be featured on Good Morning America, the Queen Latifah show and the Stadium of Fire.

Vogrinec will follow in Lexie's footsteps by performing the National Anthem at 7 p.m. at Real Salt Lake's Canyons Night on May 17, where 46 Canyons Teachers of the Year will be honored at halftime. Congratulations, Kelly!


Kelly Vogrinec, our 2014 Canyons Idol, sang the National Anthem at the Real Salt Lake game on Saturday, May 18, 2014. Great job, Kelly!

The Canyons Board of Education announced that Dr. James Briscoe, who has 12 years of experience as a superintendent of schools, most recently in DeKalb, Ill., has been selected to serve as Canyons School District’s new Superintendent.

The seven-member Board voted unanimously in an April 29, 2014 meeting to approve the appointment of Dr. Briscoe, who for the past six years has served as Superintendent of Schools of the DeKalb Community Unit School District No. 428, located about 50 miles west of Chicago. The appointment, effective July 1, 2014, follows an exhaustive national search for the new superintendent, which began last fall and included three months of community input meetings, an extensive application and interview process, and site visits.

“The Board has been committed to selecting the best possible leader, and we’re confident that Dr. Briscoe’s skills, talents and experience meet the expectations of the community and are a perfect fit for Canyons School District,” Board President Sherril H. Taylor said. “We have been fortunate in our new district’s history to have had strong leaders who have focused on student achievement and college- and career-readiness for all students. Dr. Briscoe will continue to forward the Board’s college- and career-ready academic plan, and work shoulder-to-shoulder with employees and community members to achieve optimal educational outcomes for students.”

Dr. Briscoe, who chose early retirement due to pension reform in Illinois, thanked the Board for the opportunity to serve the students and families of Canyons School District.  

“The Board, Administration, teachers and the entire staff should be proud of the outstanding job they have done to implement innovative programs and set high expectations for teaching and student learning,” Dr. Briscoe said. “I am looking forward to learning more about the community, Canyons School District and our teacher and student successes.  I also plan to provide continued support to the Administration and teachers in their work to implement the initiatives and innovative programs that have helped Canyons School District develop an outstanding reputation as a leader in public education in the state of Utah."

Dr. Briscoe will transition to the Canyons superintendency this summer. The District’s first-ever superintendent, Dr. David S. Doty, resigned in spring 2013 to lead a national education reform organization. Dr. Ginger Rhode has served as Interim Superintendent since July 1, 2013 and recently announced her intention to retire July 1, 2014. 

Similar to Canyons District, the 6,200-student DeKalb School District is focused on increasing student achievement and college- and career-readiness. Under Dr. Briscoe’s leadership, the DeKalb district has focused on enhancing curriculum in reading, writing and math, improving education technology, and closing achievement gaps. DeKalb district utilizes data-driven decision-making, research-based curriculum, and the Response to Intervention framework. The DeKalb district partners with Northern Illinois University to raise student achievement and improve the preparation of future educators. It also emphasizes parent and community engagement in schools, and lauds student achievements in an array of academic, artistic, and athletic disciplines. In 2013, the district’s flagship high school, DeKalb High, was ranked in the top 10 percent of U.S. High Schools by U.S. News & World Report.

“Jim has a very unique ability to see in the heart of issues before him,” said Tracy Williams, President of the DeKalb CUSD428 School Board, citing Dr. Briscoe’s work in creating a three-tiered learning system to help close student achievement gaps. “You are very fortunate to be receiving a gentleman who is one of the most compassionate leaders you will ever meet. The students absolutely love Dr. Briscoe. He is truly all about the students.”

Prior to his DeKalb superintendency, Dr. Briscoe served six years as superintendent of a 1,800-student high school district in Oak Lawn, Ill. A former sixth-grade social studies and math teacher, Dr. Briscoe worked six years as a high school principal in the high-performing Elmbrook school system in Brookfield, Wis. He served three years as a high school principal in Round Lake, Ill., and worked as an assistant high school principal for five years and junior high dean of students for three years in the community of McHenry, Ill.

The Canyons search for the new superintendent began in September 2013 and was facilitated by Superintendent Search Consultants Rickie McCandless and Claudia Seeley. The search included three months of public input meetings in which School Community Councils, students, employees, parents, and community leaders voiced the characteristics and qualifications they most desired in the new superintendent. The input was used to shape the job posting for the new superintendent.

In March, the Board announced it had narrowed its field of candidates to three finalists following an exhaustive application-review and interview process. Finalists included Dr. Briscoe; Craig Hammer, Executive Director of Secondary Schools in Washington County School District in St. George; and Dr. Kathryn McCarrie, Canyons Assistant Superintendent and Chief Performance Officer, Canyons School District.  Briscoe was selected following additional interviews and site visits to the workplaces of the finalists.

Michele Law knew what she was going to do with her life by the time she was in kindergarten: She would become a teacher. Not only has she achieved her childhood dream, but she's skyrocketed to the top of the class in Canyons School District.

Law, who teaches third grade at Sprucewood Elementary School, was named the 2014 Canyons School District Teacher of the Year at an April 22, 2014 Board of Education Teacher of the Year Reception and Recognitions event. As part of her award, Law received a $1,000 check, plus another $1,000 for Sprucewood Elementary, courtesy of the Canyons School District Education Foundation.

Yet perhaps the most valuable prize for Law is her students, and watching them rise to the challenge and become more prepared for college and careers – even as third-graders.

"Teachers do not become teachers so they will get rich, so they will get glory or power ... they do it because they want to make a difference – and it's something they love. You don't find someone staying as a teacher if they don't love it. I love it," Law said.

The Board of Education honored Teachers of the Year from all 46 schools at its event. It also recognized the following finalists for the District Teacher of the Year award:

Debbie Delliskave, Midvale Middle 
Diana Haggerty, Draper Elementary 

The finalists received $500 checks from the Foundation, which this year tripled its investment in the Teacher of the Year program.

The Board also honored two other semi-finalists for the top prize:

Jody Cheever, Sunrise Elementary 
Cassie Hill, Midvale Elementary 

School teachers of the year were announced districtwide in surprise celebrations March 28, 2014. Winners were nominated by their peers, leaders, parents and students, and selected by their school selection committees. The Canyons Teacher of the Year was selected following classroom observations and additional interviews by District academic leaders.

Law is known for her genuine care for her colleagues and students, and going the extra mile to make sure they know it.

"She cares about her students, and that shows through in how she interacts with them, in how she cares for them. If there's a sick student, she calls them and follows up with them until they get back," Sprucewood Principal Garth Anderson said. "She also communicates well with parents and makes them a part of the learning environment."

Law uses a highly effective positive behavior program in her classroom to help students become more engaged in the learning process. 

"If you were to walk into Michele's classroom, you would see students doing all of the time," said Achievement Coach Tami Dautel. "They're actively engaged, they're participating, they're on the computers ... they're writing, and engaged in practice stations."

"The most important determining factor for a child's success is what they think about themselves and what they themselves are capable of doing," Law said. "I feel like the most important thing I can do as a teacher is capitalize on that, and make sure every child in my classroom believes they can succeed."

Law, who also is involved in her School Community Council and Building Leadership Team, is Canyons' nominee for Utah Teacher of the Year. All teachers of the year will be honored at halftime at the May 17 Canyons Night at Real Salt Lake game. Discount tickets are available to the Canyons community. For each discount ticket sold, Real Salt Lake will donate $5 to the Foundation to benefit students.

Real Salt Lake and the Foundation are among several sponsors and community supporters of the Canyons Teacher of the Year program, including: 

• The Horace Mann Companies
• Farmer's Insurance
• Fabulous Freddy's
• Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort
• Anytime Fitness
• Region 17 PTA
• Specialized Embroidery
• Nothing Bundt Cakes
• Jordan Credit Union
• Chick-fil-A South Towne
• Costco, Sandy Store
• Sandy City
• World's Finest Chocolates
As Midvalley Elementary's fifth-grade students clapped, stomped and leaped their way across the floor as part of Ballet West’s year-end I CAN DO performance Wednesday night, they smiled and beamed — and so did the audience.

The fifth-graders participated with students from other 11 other schools who attended weekly practices for seven months to prepare for the performance. This is the first year that a Canyons District school has participated in Ballet West's Inspiring Children About Not Dropping Out (I CAN DO) outreach program.

The program aims to inspire children to stay in school while also teaching them confidence and discipline through dance and movement. Ballet West reaches some 100,000 students a year through programs like I CAN DO, said Peter Christie, Ballet West Director of Educational Programs.

“The support you show these kids is the best thing they have going for them,” Christie told the audience. “Don’t ever give up.”

Students from each school who had good attitudes, worked hard, and showed great improvement were chosen to participate in I CAN DO’s Dream Team. Those students can choose to continue to participate in the program on their own in grades 6-9 as part of the Celebration tTeam. Several students from Midvalley Elementary also received full scholarships to attend the prestigious Ballet West Academy.
The top high school marketing educator in the state is at Jordan High

Teacher Angela Short, who is celebrating her 20th year as an educator, recently received the 2014 Marketing Teacher of the Year Award from the Utah Association of Career and Technology Education Teachers. 

Short was surprised with the honor at a state conference held at the Davis Conference Center. “I had no idea. I was shocked,” she said. “I almost missed it. I stepped out to grab a sandwich and made it back with a second to spare.” 

Her family, though, had been told about the award by the event organizers — and arrived in time to see her accept the prestigious award. “They kept trying to hide, dodging behind pillars,” she recalls with a little laugh. Their behavior at home the morning of the event should have tipped her off, she says. Her husband questioned her hairstyle choice and her daughter insisted on picking out her outfit for the day. 

“I thought it was odd they were so interested in the state DECA conference,” said Short, who received a plaque for the honor. “I am thrilled with my plaque. I keep it right by my desk.” 

Short works hard to make her class fun. There are a lot of hands-on lessons. Students leave her class knowing how to bolster a brand, build customer loyalty and create retail displays that are eye-catching and convenient for the customer. She advises the students who run Jordan’s school store, where students can buy snacks and supplies. In all, they’ve been able to make about $10,000 from the store. 

“Honestly, the best day of my life is when we have a discussion in class, when we are thinking through things …and seeing the world in a different way. There is something so satisfying in that,” she said. “My goal coming in was that my students would know that I care about them. I never know if I am the only one who is saying a kind word to these kids. I take that very seriously. Once you get that, that the ultimate goal is to make the students feel loved and have a good spot to come to every day, then the test scores come.”
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