Teachers are constantly generating ideas for improving instruction and putting them into practice in their classrooms. They are the secret sauce for innovation, a wellspring of ideas for advancing education—which is why the Canyons Education Foundation each year offers grants to help teachers bring their big ideas to fruition.

Applications are open now for the competitive grants, which recognize and support excellence in teaching by providing funds — up to $10,000 per grantee — to enhance teaching through technology, materials or supplemental programs. All applications are due Monday, Sept. 30, at 5 p.m., and the forms can be found on the Foundation’s website. Awards will be based on the educational merit, as well as the creativity of the proposals. 

Grant winners come from all grade levels and subject areas, from math and science to music and language. Requests range from robotics kits and 3-D printers to technology that helps young musicians practice challenging musical scores at home.

On any given year, a total of about $100,000 is available. Funds earned at a Sept. 18 golf tournament at Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in Midway help pay for the grants.

Questions about the grant process or the golf tournament can be answered by Canyons’ Development Office at 801-826-5178.

The Canyons Education Foundation is pleased to announce it is now accepting applications for the 2018-2019 Innovation Grants.

The grants recognize and support excellence in teaching by providing funds — up to $10,000 — to enhance elementary, middle school and high school curriculum. Applications can be accessed now through 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 on the Foundation’s website. Winners will be announced in November. 

All CSD educators are encouraged to apply. “It’s a chance to directly impact the classroom, students and raise the bar on exemplary teaching methods,” says Foundation Officer Denise Haycock.

Since its inception in 2009, Canyons District has been unwavering in its support of innovation in the classroom.

With rapid advances in technology, the sky’s the limit, but it takes an innovative teacher to put technology to effective use, says Haycock. “The seeds of innovation start with them.”

Since its inception in 2009, Canyons District has been unwavering in its support of innovation in the classroom. Last year, the Foundation competitively awarded $107,000 in grants to 16 teachers. Marcus Voght at Draper Park Middle used the money to invite more than a dozen professional musicians to work the band and orchestra. Others purchased virtual reality systems and 3D printers. Sunny Hafen at Oak Hollow Elementary was awarded $10,000 to purchase devices to facilitate communication among her Dual Language Immersion students.

“Because I was able to house the devices in my classroom, versus in a shared setting, I was much more able to research and play around with the possibilities of this technology,” Hafen says. “Thank you so much for supporting teachers who already have that vision and want to take their students further than current resources allow.”

Haycock says this year’s awards will be based on the educational merit of the projects that teachers propose. She encourages teachers to be specific about how their project would improve learning outcomes or the learning environment for students.
Sunrise Elementary teacher Patricia Stephens-French froze when the door to her classroom opened and a crowd of folks in blue shirts filed in. She took one look at the giant check in the hands of a member of the Canyons Education Foundation and she knew exactly what was happening: her wish was about to come true.

Each year, Canyons’ Education Foundation raises funds to offer grants to teachers with big ideas in Canyons District. Teachers apply to receive the $1,000 to $10,000 grants based on their innovative ideas on how to enhance teaching in their classrooms through technology, materials or supplemental programs. 

The teachers come from all subject areas — from math and science to music and language — with requests ranging from iPads to instrumental clinicians. This year, more than $104,000 will be delivered to 16 Innovation Grant recipients throughout the District.

“I’m shaking — you guys, this is so amazing,” Stephens-French told her students as she took her check for $4,049 into her hands. “We are going to have so much fun!”

Stephens-French, who teaches a fifth-grade SALTA class, submitted her grant application to be able to purchase technology to allow her students opportunities to explore alternative ways to share their knowledge with the world.

Teachers requested robotics kits, a 3-D printer, printmaking supplies, Google cardboard, and music experts and recording equipment to add to their classroom instruction. The Foundation has awarded Innovation Grants to teachers since 2011, after working with members of the community to raise funds to support the educational experience of Canyons’ students.

Each year, the Foundation hosts two fundraisers to generate funds to benefit Canyons’ students. An annual golf tournament is used to raise funds for Innovation Grants. An annual gala is used to raise funds for student scholarships. The next golf tournament is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2018. The gala is April 19.

For Stephens-French, the support she received through receiving an Innovation Grant is vital. Through her grant, she will receive 10 iPads, a cart, three microphones, a Green Screen and three stands.

“We’ll have a chance to be super creative in here,” Stephens-French said. “The possibilities are just endless.”
If Utah’s public schools are the frequent recipient of charitable giving — from booster club donations to the daily contributions of volunteers —they’re also a source of altruism. Canyons District students give back to their communities year-round, and the holidays are no different.

More than 25 Canyons District schools are sponsoring holiday donation drives this year. Despite the robust economy, intergenerational poverty continues to be a problem in Utah. To support for families in need, Canyons District schools are hosting food drives, clothing exchanges, and stuffed animal giveaways. Among the groups to benefit from their generosity are the Utah Food Bank, Sub for Santa, local animal shelters and Utah’s Ouelessebougou Alliance, to name a few.

Following a proud, four-year tradition, Canyons’ administration will be raising money and collecting winter clothing for residents of The Road Home in Midvale, a homeless shelter within the District’s boundaries. The donation drive will culminate with a luncheon featuring a performance by Jordan Valley students and a silent auction.

As part of Canyons’ partnership with the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce, the District also is gathering gently-used purses and jewelry for People Helping People, an organization that helps low-income women, primarily single mothers, find jobs with living wages.  

How can you help? 
  • Drop off donations of winter coats, warm sleepwear and clothing (including new socks and underwear), blankets, toys, and gifts at Canyons District’s administration building (9361 S. 300 East in Sandy).
  • Donate an item to our silent auction (gift baskets, branded merchandise, gift cards) by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Checks, cash and gift cards may be given at any time to the Canyons Education Foundation and earmarked for the Gathering for Good fundraiser: 801-826-5171, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
School Holiday Fundraisers
Elementary Schools
Altara, Spring charity drive March 5-9
Bella Vista, Food drive through Nov. 11
Brookwood, January fundraiser benefitting the Ouelessebougou Alliance
Crescent, Food drive benefitting the Utah Food Bank Nov. 6-17
East Sandy, “Month of Service,” food, clothing and stuffed animal drive, Nov. 13-17.
Edgemeont, Food drive benefitting the Utah Food Bank through December.
Granite, Food drive benefitting Utah Food Bank Nov. 13 – Dec. 6
Lone Peak, Collecting money to help pay off student lunch balances, Nov 6-17.
Oakdale, Food drive benefitting the Utah Food Bank through Thanksgiving.
Park Lane, Project Teddy Bear with the Bank of American Fork, Nov. 27 – Dec. 11.
Ridgecrest, Food drive benefitting Ridgecrest and East Midvale Elementary, Nov. 6-17.
Silver Mesa, Food drive, Nov. 13-17.
Sprucewood, Food drive benefitting the Utah Food Bank, Nov. 6-20
Sunrise, Food drive benefitting the Utah Food Bank, week of Dec. 4.
Willow Canyon, Service project benefitting Midvale Elementary, food drive.
Willow Springs, Donation drive for residents of The Road Home and Ronald McDonald House.

Middle Schools           
Albion, Cereal drive, Dec. 11-16.
Butler, Clothing drive benefitting Midvale Middle store, Dec. 11-15.
Draper Park, Cereal drive benefitting CSD’s Title 1 schools.
Eastmont, Food drive benefitting the Utah Food bank.
Indian Hills, January fundraiser benefitting the Make a Wish Foundation.
Mount Jordan, Sub for Santa drive.
Union, Fundraiser benefitting local animal shelter.

High Schools
Corner Canyon, Drive benefitting the Tyler Robinson Foundation, Nov. 18-Dec.19
Jordan, Clothing and donation drive benefitting Boys and Girls Club of Sandy, Dec. 4-17.
Family is important to Vinnie Vala’au, though for most of his youth, the stable home life he yearned for, and wanted to provide his two younger siblings, remained just out of reach. “Growing up, I faced a lot of trials,” says the Alta High senior.

But sometimes home is where you find it, and Vinnie found it in Sandy, Utah, miles from his Samoan homeland, and in the caring, supportive teachers and counselors at Alta High. “Their expectations were high for me, and I’m so grateful for that,” he says.

Vinnie first enrolled at Alta two years ago as a sophomore. He and his siblings had just moved from America Samoa to live with an aunt and uncle. “That’s a huge culture shock, a huge change in his life, and he just jumped in with two feet,” says school counselor Kelsie Court.

The transition wasn’t easy. There were plenty of ups and downs, Vinnie says. But with perseverance, he exceled in his Honors courses and landed a position on the football team. “He impressed me with his quiet leadership and work ethic,” says Alta business teacher Kim Batey. “Nowadays students are so focused on grades, and it’s not about the learning. But Vinnie wants to learn…and that is so gratifying as a teacher.”

Earlier this year, Vinnie encountered a few setbacks that threatened to derail him from his academic goals. Sidelined by a football injury and experiencing some trouble at home, Vinnie recalls, “things got a little bit rough.”

He retreated into himself and stopped attending some of his classes. Worried staff and faculty reached out, offering up their classrooms after hours so that Vinnie could access computers to complete his homework. They shared their lunches and, when Vinnie was open to it, words of advice. But mostly, they were just there to lend a listening ear.

“Vinnie doesn’t ask for anything, or want to put anyone out. But he’s the first to extend a helping hand,” says Court, who credits Vinnie, and his never-say-die attitude, for turning things around. “Pretty much everything about him inspires me; his entire outlook on life, everything he has been through. I’ve seen a lot of students go through even a fraction of what he’s gone through and they’ve just folded.”

Vinnie says he’s “grateful for the chaos” in his life, because, “it’s made me who I am today.” He finds daily motivation in his family and his surrogate Alta High “mothers” whom he wants to make proud. His advice to other students: “Don’t be afraid to go outside your boundaries. Be uncomfortable.” And don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it. “It’s fun to have friends,” he says.

This summer, Vinnie will proudly join his peers on the commencement stage to receive his diploma. Next stop: Southern Utah University where he’ll explore a career in counseling.

Through his determination and hard work, he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to succeed at college, and beyond, says Canyons Education Foundation Officer Laura Barlow. For these reasons, and more, Vinnie is the recipient of the Foundation’s $2,500 Rising Star Scholarship, one of six scholarships awarded this year to deserving students.

The Foundation announced the following scholarship winners at its Spring fundraising Gala, held at Corner Canyon High on Thursday, April 27. Money raised at the event will support student scholarships and grants to fund teachers’ ideas for enhancing classroom instruction.

Rising Star Scholarship • $2.500
Vinnie Vala’au, Alta High

Bright Star Scholarships • $1,000
Jennifer Pomeroy, Alta High
Cassandra Hatcher, Brighton High
Hailee Thorn, Corner Canyon
Danielle Coccimiglio, Hillcrest
Ismael Zarate-Guillen, Jordan

Canyons Foundation Gala Photos

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    Canyons Foundation Gala Photo Booth

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