On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, after school lets out for the day and classrooms fall dark and silent, Draper Elementary teachers shed their dress clothes — and daily cares — for tights and t-shirts and head to the gymnasium. For 30 minutes, they sweat, stretch and breathe to the soothing voice of yoga instructor Stephanie Williams who volunteers her time each week to provide these teachers a little time for themselves.

“I love yoga,” she says, “I love teaching yoga.” The 32-year-old hatched the yoga-on-the-go idea over Christmas break with her mother, Draper Elementary Principal Christy Waddell. Williams was looking for a professional outlet that she could squeeze into her busy days as the stay-at-home mom of two young children, and WaddellScreen_Shot_2018-02-09_at_10.21.31_AM.png was looking for a way to squeeze time for yoga into her workday. “I was dealing with some stress-oriented health problems and my doctor recommended yoga, and I thought, ‘Well, my daughter would love that,’” Waddell says.

Yoga offers people more than a retreat from their busy lives. The 3,000-year-old practice enhances personal fitness, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular and respiratory health. Studies have shown it can ease stress, chronic pain, anxiety and depression and promote recovery from injury and addiction. Yoga has even been shown to improve focus and reduce employee burnout — and it doesn’t matter if you’re practicing the cobra pose in a school gymnasium, a studio, or ashram in India.

In fact, bringing yoga to the workplace makes it more convenient and harder for people to make excuses to not give it a try, says Williams, who has been doing yoga since she was 12 and is working toward her certification as an instructor. “It can be daunting to get started. You have to find a yoga studio and the right class, and face the newness of it all alone. But here, everyone can come with their friends and colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere where we can set the pace based on everyone’s comfort level.”

Since December, each class has drawn between 10-20 educators who say it’s helped them feel more mentally balanced and energized. “Even though today was on the stressful side it gave me a chance to relax and do something for myself,” remarked second-grade teacher Madison Ellingson after a yoga session. “I was able to leave [school] and actually get stuff done rather than being wrapped up in the day.”

Said first-grade teacher Tawna Glover in an email of thanks to Waddell, “It really helped my back. I woke up with no pain today.”

What Waddell didn’t expect, however, is how much yoga would contribute to the overall climate of the school. Everyone just seems more relaxed and school seems to function more harmoniously. “We’re like a little family here,” Waddell says.


The Draper Dragons received a special visit this week from a Chinese dignitary. Education Minister Counselor Cen Jianjun toured Draper Elementary’s Mandarin Chinese-English Dual Language Immersion classrooms while on a visit to Utah sponsored by Brigham Young University.

Fourth and fifth grade students had a chance to interact directly with Counselor Cen, and ask him questions about where he lives and the types of food he likes to eat. "Ask him if he knows about cotton candy," an enthusiastic student asked her teacher after struggling to describe the fluffy confection in Mandarin. Younger students sang songs and performed language and math drills to the visibly-impressed audience. Counselor Chen and his guests were joined by Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, Board of Education Second Vice President Nancy Tingey and Board member Amber Shill. 

Draper Elementary is one of eight schools in Utah selected by China's Education Ministry and the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah to house “Confucius Classrooms.” This isn’t the school’s first foray into diplomacy. Last year, at the Utah Capitol a group of Draper students held a live teleconference with students at a sister school in China. Utah lawmakers hope to expand the digital diplomacy sessions, which give young learners a chance to hone their language skills and observe and learn differences in social norms and cultural beliefs.

Utah’s Dual Language Immersion Program was created by lawmakers in cooperation with former Gov. Jon Huntsman who is fluent in Mandarin and also served as U.S. Ambassador to China. CSD’s first immersion classes opened in 2009, the same year that the District was founded. The District is now home to eight elementary immersion programs, eight middle school programs, and soon will have world language programs in its high schools.

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  • At Canyons District, it’s never too early to start thinking about college.

    Capping the first week of kindergarten at CSD’s 29 elementary schools is a special celebration called, "College-Ready Day” where students receive cobalt wristbands bearing the message, “I will be college-ready … Class of 2029,” sign pledges and talk about dreams for their future.

    The activity drives home the point even from students’ first moments at school, that it’s important to work hard every day to be ready for the challenges of college and careers. For all students, but especially those students who have never had a family member attend college, it plants a seed in their minds for what’s possible, Bell View Principal Chanci Loran told a KTVX reporter who covered the event.

    If college is too abstract an idea for some kindergartners, most can say with enthusiasm what they want to be when they grow up. At Peruvian Park, faculty wore t-shirts from their alma mater. At Bell View students came dressed in costumes and uniforms representing the career of their choice.

    There’s usually a policeman or fireman, or two, in the crowd at most schools. But every so often, a five-year-old surfaces with the unexpected. Draper Elementary is home to a budding forensic anthropologist and an aspiring Batman. “When I grow up, I want to be a Dad,” said one Draper student.

    Whatever goals students have in mind for their future, it’s through education that they learn the skills, knowledge and work ethic to achieve them. College-readiness day is one reminder of an important step along the way.


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  • In 1976, when Draper Elementary opened mid-school year, students formed a “moving day” brigade and carried their own tote trays up the street from the old Draper Park School to the new building where the school resides today.

    It’s a moment recorded in photos and now part of the 40-year-old school’s lore — and, for Head Secretary Marian Broderick, an example of the school’s close ties to the community.

    In her 21 years at Draper, Broderick has seen seven principals come and go and generations of children. “Some of the kids I watched grow up are now bringing their own kids here to school,” she says. “They’ll come in and say, ‘Oh, you’re still here,’” which is kind of embarrassing, but I love it.”

    Broderick remembers the “open classroom” era when there were no walls and partitions and bookcases were all that separated one class from the next. Her own children attended Draper, though back when the school was year-round.

    Draper has exploded in size, and the demands upon teachers today are much different than they were 20, or even 10, years ago. But what hasn’t changed is the school’s commitment to student achievement, a responsibility that the community has always helped shoulder through donations and the tireless support of parent volunteers. “That’s what I love about my job. I get to know all these kids well and their parents,” says Broderick. “It just feels like a big family.”

    On Monday, March 14, the Draper Elemenatry community came together again to commemorate the school's anniversary. Cake was served and live entertainment was provided by the school's choir. The event doubled as an art gala to showcase the collective works of Draper's students, which is appropriate considering the central role that art has played in the school's history.

    Did You Know?
    • When Draper opened, the school inherited an art collection that over the years has grown to include: a Norman Rockwell original "Ichabod Crane," a piece by Utah artist Greene Richards titled, "Spring Fancies," and an untitled mountain scene by Bob Ross of PBS fame.
    • Forty years ago, Draper City's population was 5,000; today it exceeds 45,000.
    • The school cost $1.9 million to build. 
    • School staff, teachers, the PTA and students helped pack boxes in preparation for moving day.

    The following slide show is a compilation of historical photos found in Draper Elementary’s archives courtesy of the PTA.

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  • Get a group of American fifth-graders videoconferencing with students at a “sister school” in China and this is the conversation that transpires.

    What kinds of food do you like to eat? How do you get to school, and what subjects do you learn? Do you have a favorite hobby or sport?

    These questions and more topped the foreign affairs agenda Thursday evening at the Utah Capitol as a group of Mandarin learners in Draper Elementary’s dual language immersion program virtually sealed a "sister schools" agreement with the Shenyang Wanghulu Primary School of China. The digital cultural exchange was facilitated by Legislative leaders following a trade mission to Liaoning Province, a region of China with 10-year-long ties to Utah.

    Chinese government officials, District and Legislative leaders, including Superintendent Jim Briscoe, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, were on hand to mark the ocassion with gifts and dinner in the Rotunda. It was the second time Draper students have teleconferenced with their Shenyang Wanghulu peers, and an educational tool that Legislative leaders hope to use with other Utah schools.

    The digital diplomacy sessions give young learners a chance to hone their language skills and observe and learn differences in social norms and cultural beliefs. Senate President Niederhauser hopes the new friendships “will last a lifetime, and bear results for generations."

    Said Marianne Barrowes, a Draper Elementary parent with two children in Chinese language immersion, “It’s so valuable for these children to meet kids in another country and to actually talk to them. When we were little, we had pen pals; this is a whole new level.”

    Utah’s Dual Language Immersion Program was created by lawmakers in cooperation with former Gov. Jon Huntsman who is fluent in Mandarin and also served as U.S. Ambassador to China. CSD’s first immersion classes opened in 2009, the same year that the District was founded. The District is now home to eight elementary immersion programs, eight middle school programs, and by 2016-17, will have world language programs in all five of its high schools.

    A vocal supporter of the program, House Speaker Hughes believes it will give Utah children the skills they need to thrive in a 21st Century, global economy.
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