Joani Richardson is the kind of teacher who can breathe new life into words, pull magic from a page, and spark wonder in the eyes of eager-to-learn children. “I love to teach children to love to read,” says Richardson. “I have failed if I have not taught a child to love to read.”

For her dedication to inspiring her first-grade students at Altara Elementary to learn and grow, Richardson, who is beloved by scores of students, parents and fellow educators, has received one of the most prestigious awards given to public-school educators in Utah. 

On Friday, April 28, 2017, in front of cheering Altara Kittyhawks of all ages, Richardson was announced as a winner of a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. She’s one of 11 Utahns selected for the honor, which comes with a crystal obelisk and a $10,000 cash prize. The winners — six general education teachers, three administrators, one special-education teacher and a volunteer — are hand-picked by a panel of prominent citizens and educators after a public-nomination process. Awards will be given at a May banquet in Salt Lake.
 
2017 Huntsman Award Winner Joani Richardson

“Every year, our family has the opportunity of going all over the state of Utah,” said Karen Huntsman, the philanthropist and wife of billionaire businessman Jon M. Huntsman Sr., who delivered to the news to Richardson personally at an assembly. “You know what they we are looking for?  Outstanding teachers.” 

At the Friday morning assembly, which was attended by Richardson’s family (some had dialed in via FaceTime on iPhones), Principal Nicole Svee-Magann, Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe and School Performance Director Alice Peck, Huntsman pulled Richardson close and said, “She doesn’t teach for the money,” Huntsman said.  “She teaches for the love of teaching.” 

Svee-Magann is effusive in her praise of Richardson, who has taught for some four decades. The principal calls her a top-notch teacher who doesn’t let anything — not even breast cancer — slow her down. Even while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, she said, Richardson ran last Saturday’s Salt Lake Half-Marathon. 

“Sometimes when we have hard things happen, we have to keep going. We have to keep going forward and making a difference. This good woman is the best example of this that I know,” Huntsman added. “When hard things happen, do you think she forgets her students?  Do you think she forgets her lesson plans?  She does everything because she loves and cares about what she’s doing.  When you think about all the children she’s taught … she has impacted their lives for years and years and years.”

Richardson’s selection extends Canyons District’s streak of being home to a Huntsman award-winner. Last year’s winner from CSD, Brighton High’s Aaron Hadfield, was at Friday’s assembly to surprise Richardson with the news. But he was there in a different capacity — as a volunteer in the WatchDOG program for fathers. Also, his wife, Jody, is the School Community Council chair at Altara and was the driving force behind Richardson’s nomination.

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  • Has your child watched the trending Netflix show "13 Reasons Why?" If so, it may be an important time to start a discussion about any challenging emotions he or she may be feeling, according to counselors and psychologists who provide supports to school-age children.

    Based on a 2007 young adult novel of the same name, the series is raising concerns of student-support and mental-health specialists, says Tori Gillett, Canyons District’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance Program Coordinator.

    Gillett says school counseling centers have seen an uptick in students seeking support after watching the popular show, which premiered on March 31 and, according to Twitter, is the most-tweeted-about show of 2017. The show, a fictional account of a teenage girl's suicide, has prompted some 11 million tweets, according to Variety. 

    Gillett says: “They are coming down (to the counseling centers), saying, “I watched this and it bought up some feelings, and you know I have experienced some of the same things.’”   

    As this online resource provided by the National Association of School Psychologists explains, "The series revolves around 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says in some way were part of why she killed herself."

    The show’s producers, which include pop singer Selena Gomez, have defended the series’ graphic content, saying they hope “13 Reasons Why” can open the door to discussions with teens or adolescents about suicide.   

    However, many teens are binge-watching the 13-episode series without adult guidance —and this could lead some to idealize or glamorize the thought of suicide. Gillett says Canyons counselors and school psychologists are aware of the content of the show and are prepared to provide support to students. 

    “We do have a lot of help out there,” she said. In addition to school counselors and psychologists, Canyons District sponsors the Canyons Family Center, located inside Copperview Elementary, 8449 S. 150 West. The Canyons Family Center provides a spectrum of individual and family-based counseling, student-support groups, and parent-education classes.

    The center’s services, which include preliminary counseling sessions that help experienced school psychologists determine what services may be needed to meet a family’s specific needs, are provided at no cost to families in Canyons District.

    Gillett urges students to seek the help of counselor if they need to talk or have questions. Also, students have 24-hour access to licensed counselors at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute via the SafeUT mobile app.
     

    Here are some tips for families provided by the National Association of School Psychologists:

    • Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series “13 Reasons Why.” While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
    • If they exhibit any of the warning signs above, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
    • Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
    • Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
    • Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.
    The bell at Union Middle is about to ring, but Drew Fosse’s class has a tough task at hand: Don’t smile.

    Everyone is silent as Fosse slowly walks around the room with a fake scowl. The challenge — to make eye contact with Fosse and stay serious — carries a reward, which students redeem at the end of class by choosing to participate in one of their teacher’s zany activities, from karaoke to walking like a pro-wrestler.

    Fosse’s creative approach to keeping students motivated and engaged is just one of the reasons he was selected as Canyons School District’s 2017 Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The history teacher was chosen from a pool of 48 of the District’s best educators who represent each of Canyons’ schools, including Canyons Virtual High, alternative high school Diamond Ridge and the academy at the Utah State Prison.

    “I know who you are, and I know you get up every morning and you get to work before most of your colleagues,” Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe told the Teacher of the Year nominees. “I know you clearly understand what it means to get that human connection. You know without the human connection you don’t get the cognitive connection.” Each teacher was nominated for their abilities to inspire students and colleagues, lift their fellow educators and collaborate with their school community.

    Parents, administrators, colleagues and students expressed love and appreciation in nominating their school’s Teacher of the Year, who were honored with gifts and recognition at a community celebration event hosted by the Canyons Board of Education at the Canyons Administration Building-East. “I don’t care how old you are, when you look back, you have a teacher in your mind that helped you somehow, some way, when you were young,” Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor told the crowd. “Be that teacher that those kids will remember.”



    As the districtwide Teacher of the Year, Fosse received prizes and a $1,000 check from the Canyons District Foundation. He will represent the District in the Utah Teacher of the Year contest. In his acceptance speech, Fosse paid homage to Canyons’ 2016 Teacher of the Year, Gretchen Murray, who recently lost a valiant battle against cancer. Fosse said he plans to donate his cash award to Murray’s family.

    The fun in Fosse’s class begins at the door, where he greets each student individually and chats with them about their lives and hobbies, and it just gets better from there. He keeps his students writing constantly and participating verbally in a way that inspires his fellow teachers, even if it’s just through the sounds that drift through Fosse’s door and down the hallway. “From the minute class starts, the kids are engaged and having fun learning,” Union Middle Principal Kelly Tauteoli says. “The kids are constantly talking — they talk to their partner, they all read out loud, they talk in a group, they answer questions, they are constantly engaged and there’s no time to get off task. Every kid in that class feels comfortable to participate.”

    Fosse began his teaching career 10 years ago in a tiny Oregon town with 24 students registered at the local high school. After living in other small towns and working as an administrator at a school for teens who have been hospitalized for mental illness, he returned to teaching, received a special education endorsement and moved to Union Middle where he now oversees a mainstream classroom. His goal is to make sure that all of his students are comfortable and thrive in his class, no matter what difficulties they face. “I want them to be brave,” Fosse said recently, after his class overwhelmingly flubbed the ‘Don’t Smile’ game. “I want them to feel it’s better to go ahead and open up your mouth and realize, yeah, you might look stupid, but it doesn’t matter. If you can be brave enough to try different things, you can be brave enough to realize you can make mistakes and keep trying.”

    Teacher of the Year Celebration Photos

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  • Photos from the Teacher of the Year Photo Booth

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  • The Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 approved an innovative and progressive salary schedule that will boost the starting salary for a beginning teacher more than $5,000 a year while also providing salary hikes for mid-career and veteran educators.

    The new salary schedule pushes the starting salary for a new teacher in Canyons District to $40,500. Also, every licensed employee will see no less than a 4 percent jump, and the average increase will be 6.5 percent. 

    Members of the Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of passing the salary schedule, which Canyons’ Human Resources Department and Principals can use to attract high-quality candidates for classrooms and special programs in the District’s 29 elementary schools, eight middle schools, five traditional comprehensive high schools, electronic high school, alternative high school, adult high school, and school for students with severely disabled students. 

    The new salary schedule also continues Canyons District’s commitment to providing professional compensation packages to employees. Every year since CSD’s inception in 2009, and even during the years of the Great Recession, the Board of Education has approved some kind of salary increase for employees. 

    “The Board of Education believes it is important to invest in the District’s people,” said Board President Sherril H. Taylor. “In turn, our students will benefit. Our classrooms will be led by the best and brightest educators that we can attract and retain, especially in this era of a nationwide teacher shortage.”

    In addition, the new single-lane schedule provides an opportunity for educators to make continuous, positive impacts to their lifetime earnings. The level on which teachers start is based on years of experience and educational level. They find their current step and then convert it the increment level on the new schedule. 

    “In Canyons District, we strive to create a sense of unity and common purpose. Yes, it takes a village, and our teachers, with their experience and knowledge, are a vital part of the Canyons District family,” President Taylor said. “After all, teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions. Teachers, on behalf of the Board of Education, I thank you for your commitment in this noble endeavor of educating our children.”

    The Canyons Education Association lauded the vote by the Board to give across-the-board salary increases to licensed educators in the District.

    “CEA is so excited about the commitment of the school board to not only attract and retain the best and brightest but to recognize that they have the best and brightest," said CEA President Jen Buttars. "Together, we make CSD the place to be.” 

    FULL STATEMENT FROM BOARD PRESIDENT SHERRIL H. TAYLOR

    "In 2009, we launched an experiment in public education in Utah. On July 1 of that year, Canyons became the first new school district to be created in the state in nearly a century. On that first day, we pledged to focus on student achievement, innovation, customer service, and community engagement. We acknowledged then, as we do now, that education is the key to a successful life. Our teachers are the backbone of our efforts to ensure that every child is college- and career-ready at the time of their high school graduations.  Great teachers do so much: They inspire. They encourage. They elevate. They care. Tonight, we are showing in word and deed how much we care. Not only will we be recognizing the commitment and excellence of our Teachers of the Year, we’re also putting into place a competitive salary schedule for all licensed employees in Canyons District. The new salary schedule will increase the starting yearly salary for a first-year teacher more than $5,000 while also providing salary hikes for mid-career and veteran educators. Every licensed employee will see no less than a 4 percent jump, and the average increase will be 6.5 percent. In addition, the new single-lane schedule provides an opportunity for educators to make continuous positive impacts to their lifetime earnings. The Board of Education believes it is important to invest in the District’s people. In turn, our students will benefit. Our classrooms will be led by the best and brightest educators that we can attract and retain, especially in this era of a nationwide teacher shortage. More than that, in Canyons District, we strive to create a sense of unity and common purpose. Yes, it takes a village, and our teachers, with their experience and knowledge, are a vital part of the Canyons District family. After all, teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions. Teachers, on behalf of the Board of Education, I thank you for your commitment in this noble endeavor of educating our children. Yes, you touch the future.  You teach."
    The Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 approved tentative negotiated agreements for the 2017-2018 with the Canyons Education Support Professionals Association and District Administrators. By accepting the tentative agreements, and with the vote to put into place a new salary schedule for licensed educators for the 2017-2018 school year, all employees in the Canyons District will see a boost in compensation in the coming academic year.

    For administrators, the District agrees to fully fund increment steps for eligible employees; a 3.25 percent cost of living adjustment to the base of the Administrative Salary Schedule; and a one-time 1.25 percent stipend for the 41 administrators who are at the top step during the 2016-2017 school year. The District also agrees to the recommendations of the District Insurance Advisory Committee regarding the insurance premium increase. The total dollar increase will be 11.3 percent. The District will contribute 83.7 percent of the increase and employees will contribute the remaining 16.3 percent. The administrators also agree to the plan-design changes recommend by the DIAC. The administrators who have a master’s degree plus 30 semester hours in pursuit of additional education will receive a $2,100 stipend, which is 50 percent of the stipend for those with doctorate degrees. Also,administrators must have 240 sick days to be eligible to participate the sick-day redemption program.

    For the Education Support Professionals, the District will fully fund increment steps for eligible employees. The District also will fund a 3.25 percent cost of living adjustment to the base of the ESP salary schedule. The District will maintain the same number of working days and hours for current contracted employees. Exceptions would be governed by regular District policy and procedures. The salary schedule changes and increment increase for all ESP employees, regardless of the employee’s contracted day of work, will go into effect July 1, 2017. Changes will be retroactive if negotiations extend past that date. In 2018, there will be an 11.33 percent insurance premium increase, but the District will contribute 83.7 percent and the ESP employees will contribute the remaining 16.3 percent. The District will maintain health premiums with no increase between July 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017.  Also, upon retirement through URS, and based solely upon sick days accrued since July 1, 2009, the District will pay $100 per day for 25 percent of the employee’s accrued, but unused sick leave.

    In addition, the negotiated agreement states that salary lane movement for promotions of current employees promoted after Jan. 1 will be given service credit from their previous hire date and eligible for step increments increase.
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