We all grumble about our jobs from time to time, and teachers are no different. Those small and subtle messages, however, can quickly snowball to create an unflattering picture of teaching as a career choice—especially when uttered within earshot of impressionable young minds and compounded with news headlines about teacher shortages and walkouts.

But what if, instead of bemoaning the challenges of their chosen occupation, teachers consciously chose in their classrooms to talk about the autonomy they enjoy, the creativity involved in their jobs, and the meaningful difference they make? What if, as an experiment for a year, teachers wove messages into their lesson plans about the joys and rewards of working in education?

“Maybe it’s possible to flip the script, and counter negative talk about teaching with a groundswell of affirmative talk,” thought Canyons District recruiter Jo Jolley who set about doing just that through an ambassadorial program she created in partnership with the University of Utah’s Urban Institute for Teacher Education (UITE).

Here’s how it worked: Seven CSD teachers signed up to be ambassadors for which they received a small stipend from the U. Each was tasked with developing and testing strategies for elevating their profession, the end goal being to help build a healthy pipeline of future educators. The ambassadors were given free-license to come up with a campaign, program or messaging strategy that they felt would work best at their school, and their creativity was inspiring, says UITE Director Mary D. Burbank, Assistant Dean of the U.’s College of Education.

“Over the years, we’ve worked with area schools on dozens of programs to promote teaching and improve recruitment, but this is the first time we have asked teachers who are in the field to be ambassadors for their profession,” Burbank says. “Teachers are influential role models, and we know that daily exposure to positive role models factors heavily into people’s career choices. These ambassadors are exemplary educators who shine a positive light on their profession in ways that will perhaps change the perception of teaching and pique the interest of young people.”

Some of CSD’s ambassadors sponsored “Why I Teach” panel discussions. Others launched full-blown, college-level “Teaching 101” courses in CSD’s high schools. One such course at Hillcrest High, developed jointly with the U., attracted a large number of underrepresented minorities, a high-demand demographic for teacher-training programs looking to build a diverse, sustainable and high-quality teaching workforce.

But most of the ambassadors experimented with micro-messaging, those subtle—or not so subtle—messages that we convey about our values and expectations. Micro-messages can be found in a person’s tone of voice, a facial expression, or the utterance of a common phrase. They betray our beliefs and biases in ways we may not even be aware, but can also be used in constructive ways to drive cultural change.

recruitmentsidebar “We don’t have enough young people going into this profession, which probably has something to do with the way we portray our job on social media and in conversations,” said Denise Sidesinger, a science teacher at Albion Middle whose project entailed planting subliminal messages about teaching into classroom assignments and faculty meetings.

“I might tell my students, for example, that ‘I chose for us to do this experiment today, because as a teacher I have a lot of creative control,’” Sidesinger explained. “Or, if a student said something complimentary about a lesson or lecture, I would reply, ‘See, that’s why I like my job so much.’” She also devoted a column in the school newspaper to teacher testimonials, and wrote a letter to the editor titled, “We need loving teachers,” which was published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Courtney Roberts, a social studies teacher at Hillcrest High, had t-shirts printed for her colleagues emblazoned with the words, “Ask me why I teach.” She then videotaped teachers’ responses and publicized them using posters with QR codes that linked back to the testimonials.

Butler Middle English teacher Anna McNamer provocatively titled her project, “Teaching: It’s Not for Everyone” out of a desire to provide students with a clear-eyed view of education. “Teacher retention is an issue I’m passionate about, and my professors were very honest with me about the realities of the job,” she says. “But for me, the joys of teaching far outweigh the challenges. It’s important for my students to hear that.”

McNamer created a bingo card with categories reflecting what most teachers say they value about teaching. During Teacher Appreciation Week and Career- and College-Readiness Week, she tasked students with obtaining signatures from faculty members whose feelings about teaching matched the categories. “The idea was to plant seeds in their mind about education as a career. It was really reinvigorating for me and many of my colleagues,” McNamer says. “It’s just been a great collaborative process.”

Other school districts along the Wasatch Front have expressed an interest in participating in the ambassador program, and the U. plans to expand and build upon it with a series of “Why I Teach” video testimonials.

“It’s a messaging issue. We’re simply trying to change the narrative a bit,” Burbank says. “Teachers don’t go into teaching to have a spotlight on them, and they don’t get the opportunity very often to showcase their work. But there are so many great things happening in schools, so many pockets of excellence. Why not celebrate the accomplishments of educators who tirelessly engage in the daily work of teaching?”

Four members of the Canyons Board of Education were sworn into office on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 after winning the majority of the votes in the November 2017 General Election. 

Also, in a historic decision, the newly empaneled Board voted to elect Nancy Tingey as the first female Board President in Canyons District history.

The atmosphere was celebratory Tuesday night as friends, families, supporters and Canyons District employees attended the first Board of Education meeting of 2019. They came to witness the re-elected and newly elected Board members take their Oaths of Office in the Board chambers of the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East. A reception followed the swearing-in ceremony. 

The oaths, administered by Megan Allen, chief clerk of the Utah House of Representatives, were taken by Amber Shill, Clareen Arnold, Steve Wrigley, and Amanda Oaks.  Shill, Arnold and Wrigley were re-elected to their seats and Oaks replaces former President and inaugural CSD Board member Sherril H. Taylor, who did not run for re-election.

They join Board members Tingey, Chad Iverson and Mont Millerberg on the seven-member governing body of the 34,000-student school district. 

"The right to vote is a solemn responsibility," said Tingey in her opening remarks. "Tonight we honor and celebrate our newly elected members of the Board, as well as those who participated in the democratic process." 

After being sworn in, the newly elected members were invited to address the audience for a few minutes to thank friends and family members, outline their goals for their terms of office, and present philosophies about governance.

Shill, a Utah native with deep roots in civic engagement, was sworn into office to serve a second term representing District No. 2. Shill thanked her family for their support and said her priorities continue to be student achievement and transparency.

Wrigley took his oath to continue representing District No. 5 for a third term.  “I promise,” he said, “to continue to be your voice in education and to give my all in this public service.”

Arnold is starting her second term on the Board as the representative of District No. 4. A career educator of 30 years, she says she is humbled to represent a community that “cares about kids.”

Taking her oath for the first time, Oaks, an attorney and classically trained musician, said she believes collaborative partnerships between parents, educators, and administrators create stronger schools and communities.

The closing remarks were delivered by former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, a parent of a student at Corner Canyon High. He congratulated Canyons on its successful first decade and urged the Board to always hearken back to the reason the District was founded:  To be responsive to the needs and wants of the community and to encourage inspiring educational innovation and high student achievement.

See the District's Facebook page for a photo gallery of the ceremony and reception.
This January marks the first time in over a decade that Sherril H. Taylor, a member of the inaugural Canyons Board of Education, does not have a front-row to history in Canyons School District. 

With his decision to not seek re-election in November, Taylor’s 10-year tenure as the representative for District No. 6 in Canyons came to an end on Dec. 31, 2018. The Board of Education set aside time during the regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, to present him with a crystal award and read a resolution in his honor. 

“Whereas, Mr. Taylor’s contributions as an exacting, thoughtful, kind, dedicated, and generous leader are unparalleled and will be greatly missed by his fellow members of the Board of Education, Administration, faculty, staff, and volunteers,” read the resolution. “Therefore, be it resolved that the Canyons Board of Education expresses its deepest appreciation for the outstanding contributions made by Mr. Sherril Taylor during his decade of distinguished public service in support of Canyons School District.” 

“He was born of wisdom, wit and a big heart," Nancy Tingey, the Board's 1st Vice President, told the Valley Journal. "He truly loves children and educators and makes every effort to serve the community. He leads by helping others be successful. He ensures everyone is comfortable to speak and he values the voice of his fellow board members."

Amber Shill, the 2nd Vice President, echoed those sentiments:  “He will be missed by our Canyons District family,” she said.

As a member of the first-ever Board of Education, Taylor played a major role in the historic creation of Canyons, the first new school district to be created in Utah in nearly a century. He also helped oversee the division of $1.5 billion in assets of the former Jordan District, and the arbitration agreement that established CSD’s financial foundation. He was instrumental in the hiring of two superintendents and business administrators, the passage of two general-obligation bonds to build and improve schools in all corners of the District, and the approval of a progressive salary schedule to hire and retain the best teachers for CSD. 

Taylor is the longest-serving member of the Board in the history of Canyons District.

During his tenure, he always served in a leadership role, either as President or Vice President. But, his fellow Board members said, he may be most remembered for always having the welfare of students foremost in mind and cultivating learning environments where everyone feels welcome, supported and free to innovate and try hard things. 

"I respect his integrity and honesty and the way he interacts with people,” said Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe. “He’s been a strong leader of the Board, and what I have seen him accomplish is quite a legacy.  He will be dearly missed.” 

As Taylor steps away from service, four Board members prepare to start four-year terms.  Incumbents Shill, Clareen Arnold, and Steve Wrigley were re-elected to their seats and Amanda Oaks was elected to fill Taylor’s old seat.  The public is invited to a swearing-in ceremony for Shill, Arnold, Wrigley and Oaks on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 5 p.m. at Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East.
It’s been said that the influence of a great teacher can never be erased. To celebrate the indelible marks that educators make in the lives of children, the Canyons Board of Education and Administration are asking for nominations for the District’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. 

The community is invited to submit nominations for this year’s top-teacher award, which will be presented to one educator at a community reception and announcement ceremony on Tuesday, April 23 at the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East.  The event, to be in the Professional Development Center, is free to the public. 

To nominate a stellar CSD teacher, fill out the nomination form and return it to your PTA/PTSA or the school where the teacher works. Click here for the form. Nominations for the prestigious award will be accepted until Friday, Feb. 1. 

Following a selection process established nearly a decade ago, Canyons District recognizes a Teacher of the Year at every CSD school. Forty-eight teachers are cheered for their outstanding instructional practices, positive engagement with parents, and professional approach to their craft.

From that field, the District selects one teacher to represent the District in the state top-teacher competition. That educator also will receive the 2019 Apex Award for Teacher of the Year — the highest honor given to teachers by the Canyons Board of Education. 

For the second year, the Canyons Board and Administration will announce one top teacher from the elementary, middle and high school levels. One of those three will be named the District’s top teacher. 

Every school-based Teacher of the Year will receive a basket of donated gifts, a banner with their name to hang outside the school. The Canyons District Teacher of the Year program is generously supported by local businesses and the Canyons Education Foundation. 

Last year’s top-teacher honoree, Corner Canyon High’s Amber Rogers, received a $1,000 cash prize from the Canyons Education Foundation. Previous CSD Teacher of the Year winners include Union Middle’s Drew Fosse, Peruvian Park Elementary’s Gretchen Murray, Alta High’s Matt Leininger, Brookwood Elementary’s Monica Rotermund, Sprucewood Elementary’s Michele Law, Eastmont Middle’s Amy Bateman, Quail Hollow’ Elementary’s Naomi Damron, and Brighton High’s Barb Scrafford.
The past year has been a period of momentous change and milestones achieved for Canyons District.

The fall of 2018 marked the start of CSD’s 10th school year and the conclusion of a fiscal year that ended $6 million under-budget. Canyons completed the 13th and final school improvement project promised to the public in 2010 when voters approved a $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond, and broke ground on the first three projects promised to voters with passage of a new bond in 2017. The Board added another pay raise to an already progressive salary schedule to aid in hiring and retaining the best teachers, and invested in new safety measures and tools to keep our classrooms welcoming, safe and secure.

We celebrated Peruvian Park Elementary's designation as a Blue Ribbon School, honored inspirational colleagues and cheered our students who graduated in greater numbers than ever before and excelled in sports and the arts.

Reflecting on the past decade, Board of Education President Sherril H. Taylor said in a farewell message to Canyons District patrons: “With every passing year, we've continued to build, strengthen, and fortify. Student achievement and new schools have risen, improved school-to-home connections were established, and student performances on stages and athletic fields drew cheers and championships. Looking back, I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to realize, walking hand in hand and standing shoulder to shoulder. ”

Here are a few of the most memorable moments from 2018:

•   The Board funded the districtwide implementation of a new school safety tool known as DIR-S, or “duress.” With a push of a button, the app allows teachers and staff members in an emergency to give an immediate update on their status through a mobile device or computer, providing everyone, including administrators and law enforcement officers, with the real-time information needed to ascertain the source and location of a threat.

•   The District hired more counselors and school psychologists, and opened a youth academy for secondary students who need extra academic and behavioral support.

•   CSD students outperformed their Utah peers on most year-end SAGE tests, in some areas by as many as 12 percentage points. Four students earned a perfect score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam. The District’s graduation rate rose three percentage points to 89 percent, and the number of students who take and pass Advanced Placement exams for college credit continued its upward trajectory.

•   Peruvian Park Elementary was named by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School.

•   The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages honored CSD’s Dual Language Immersion Program with its prestigious Melba D. Woodruff Award for exemplary elementary Foreign Language programs.

•   Midway into the school year, individual student athletes and teams have claimed five state championship titles: Corner Canyon won 5A football, 5A boys cross country, and 5A girls soccer; Alta High’s Emilee Astle won the 5A state championship in girls singles tennis; and Corner Canyon’s Lizzie Simmons and Emma Heiden won 5A girls doubles. Additionally, Corner Canyon’s mountain biking team took first place at a non-sanctioned state championship event.

•   The Theatre Departments at Hillcrest and Corner Canyon shared the podium as sweepstakes winners in the Utah High School Shakespeare competition.

•   Twenty-six students earned Academic All-State honors in fall sports for excelling athletically and academically.

•   Eighteen high school seniors were named National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists.

•   Midvalley student Ashlyn Phillips was named Utah Playworks’ Junior Coach of the Year.

•   A major renovation of Indian Hills Middle was completed in time for the start of school, the 13th and final project promised to the public in 2010 when voters approved a $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond.

•   Crews began work on rebuilds of Brighton and Hillcrest high schools and a major renovation of Alta High, the largest and most complicated of many more projects financed by the $283 million bond approved by voters in 2017.

•   A record number of volunteers (12,952) contributed hundreds-of-thousands of hours of service to CSD’s classrooms, and 6.3 million people visited Canyons District’s websites.

•   Five CSD employee were applauded for their extraordinary work: Morgan Brown, Alta High Athletic Director, 2018 Athletic Director of the Year; Stephanie Johnston, Hillcrest High counselor, Rookie Counselor of the Year; Connie Crosby, CSD homeless student liaison, Utah School Counselors Human Rights Award; Mark Mataya, Diamond Ridge and Entrada Assistant Principal, Outstanding Adult Educator Award; and Kevin Ray, CSD Risk Management Coordinator, and Kierstin Draper, Canyon View Elementary Principal, Think Safe Award.
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