PBS Utah, with its 60-year commitment to education, congratulates this year’s Excellence in Teaching Award winners.
The UEA Excellence in Teaching Awards are presented each year to Utah public school teachers whose efforts in the classroom have significantly impacted the lives of their students. The last few years have been extraordinarily difficult, and these Utah teachers continue to exceed expectations, ensuring their students continue to receive a high-quality education. PBS Utah is honored to produce the video profiles spotlighting these public educators.
First Grade, Gearld Wright Elementary School
“Mrs. Bayles makes learning fun for her students,” wrote a parent about Kimberly Bayles. “She has genuine excitement watching her students learn. She is very organized, patient, creative, fun and structured. She makes her students feel important, loved, and confident.”
A school colleague wrote about the many students helped by Bayles. “She spent hours creating a curriculum for a student who came mid‐year speaking no English and helped him complete the year on grade level. She had a student with extreme anxiety who cried all day who she taught daily affirmations to and helped her build her confidence. By the time this student came to me in second grade, she was reading above level and had no more anxiety. Another student in her class one year had extreme anger issues…she taught this child calming strategies and helped her learn to recognize manage her feelings on her own. These are just a few examples of how much time she puts in to finding ways to reach every child no matter what their needs are.”
Third Grade, Hurricane Elementary School
Students in Chantelle Browning’s class each create a ‘super-secret handshake’ they share every morning. Students look forward to Browning doing the silly actions with them. She uses the activity to build relationships and show the students she cares for them and is interested in their learning, talents and abilities.
At the beginning of the school year, Browning delivers a STEM kit containing project supplies to each of her students. She continues making STEM kits over every school break so they can continue learning. “The students are immediately attracted to her passion for learning and they are all very excited to start the year,” wrote a co-worker. “The students love the STEM kits and always come back to school proclaiming how much fun they had with the kits and they talk about some of the observations and discoveries they made.”
Browning also collects donations from friends and family to purchase books for her students to select and take home each month. Many of Browning’s low-income students comment these are the first books they have ever owned.
Agriculture and FFA Advisor, North Sevier High School
Jason Goble “teaches many good skills needed for agriculture,” wrote one student. “We have done many hands-on things such as building electrical circuits, building/fixing fence, preg-checking cows, feeding animals, hauling hay, cow gathers, horse rides and many other things.”
One of Goble’s FFA students wrote about the many service activities they do. “Last summer we helped at our local county fair to teach people about GMOs. We go over to Salina Elementary School and read books to the kids. We also do a special Thanksgiving activity where we teach the kids about where their food comes from. I have witnessed how this impacts our rising generation.”
“Jason was my high school agriculture teacher and he pulled me aside multiple times to tell me how I would make a good AG teacher myself,” wrote a former student. “Fast forward to now, I graduated from USU with my bachelor’s in agricultural education, I started the first virtual agriculture program in the state of Utah and I’m now the executive director of the Utah FFA Foundation.”
Credit Recovery Specialist, Riverton High School
In her Graduation Action Plan (GAP) class, Amy Goodrich gets students on track to graduate. In addition to credit deficits, many of these students face daunting challenges outside of school, have lost all hope of graduating and are on the verge of dropping out.
Goodrich’s principal said, “she is worth her weight in gold because she doesn't just throw make‐up work toward students and expect them to complete it; she mentors them and sits with them to help them understand expectations and how to take small steps toward what can be overwhelming goals.”
“Amy thrives on teaching the skills that many of her students lack,” wrote a fellow teacher. “These skills range from basic reading, writing, arithmetic, to executive functioning skills like time management, goal setting, communication and overcoming setbacks and disappointments.”
The first thing you see when you walk in Amy’s classroom is a bulletin board covered with graduation announcements. Last year alone, she helped 482 students complete 81 graduation credits ranging from PE to math. There were 100 seniors who graduated specifically because they were working with Amy.
English, Reading, and Resource, Springville Junior High
“Elizabeth Hylton is always looking for new ways to reach students,” wrote a fellow teacher. “She truly analyzes the students she teaches. She knows their likes and dislikes, things about their families. She is really good at appropriately asking questions to get to know the needs of her students.”
One student came to the school with a chip on his shoulder and poor behavior. When he got into trouble, Hylton would speak to him, help him understand why he was in trouble and help him resolve to be better. As they worked together, Hylton became a teacher of trust. The student then confided with her his difficult situation…there were days he needed to stay home so his parents didn’t over‐dose. This young man had a lot on his 14‐year‐old shoulders.
In his ninth-grade year, he wasn’t doing so well with passing classes. He was masterful, however, as a peer tutor to students with severe disabilities. To help him succeed in classes and earn graduation credit, Hylton, with a small team, orchestrated a way for him to receive credit for his peer-mentoring work.
K-12 Severe Special Education, Digital Education Center
Amy Jaskowick creates educational miracles with her students. “I'm astounded at the progress Amy has been able to achieve with her students,” wrote her school principal. “Just this week I sat in on an IEP led by Amy where her skill and talent were evident as she had a student showcase her talents by remotely running a PowerPoint presentation and narrating it at the same time. A year ago, this same student had to be prompted to on how to pronounce multisyllabic words. This year the student was confidently reading them on screen with relative ease.”
“In 28 years in education, I can honestly say I've never been more impressed with a teacher's tenacity, skillset and compassion, than I have by Mrs. Jaskowick. Her heart and mind are in the right place, she loves her students, and they know it. Her students and their parents trust and adore her. A master teacher draws students in and teaches them, often without students realizing they are learning. Master teachers help students to love learning, providing them ample opportunities to practice learning. Amy is a master teacher.”
Drama, American Fork High School
Neal Johnson works magic in the classroom and on the stage. Through his outstanding productions, students discover themselves and an understanding of the world around them. Neal consistently works with students who struggle and helps them discover purpose and zeal for life.
“I have seen many students who have been depressed, had difficult family lives, or other hard things to deal with rise and succeed because of Neal's commitment to them,” wrote a fellow educator. “He has an uncanny ability to help them see that no matter what their struggles are, they are the only ones who can take charge of their lives and change the direction they are going.”
“In addition, Neal provides an opportunity for his students to perform in high-quality productions. They learn to work hard, refine and perfect, and perform beyond what they thought their capabilities were. As the audiences stand on their feet in ovation after another stellar performance, the students’ faces shine with pride in their work and their success. These are experiences they will reflect upon for the rest of their lives.”
Fourth Grade, Sandstone Elementary School
Working in a Title I school often means students have complex needs, but Heidi Murray always finds a way to connect with each student and their family. “Heidi teaches her students to take pride in their work, but most importantly, Heidi creates a classroom environment that encourages students to celebrate the successes of their peers,” wrote a co-worker.
Students originally struggled to accept a student who uses a wheelchair, is legally blind and is unable to communicate verbally. Through Murray’s efforts to teach inclusion and understanding, her students now “talk about reading books with him, what makes him happy, how he loves recess and how much they love him in their classroom,” according to a parent. “If you ask any student in Heidi’s class how they communicate with this student, they will proudly tell you how they can stomp their feet or snap their fingers to create vibrations for him to feel, how he smiles when you talk about his favorite books, or how great it feels when he smiles because he recognizes their voices.”
English and Drama, Tintic High School
As a teacher in a small town, Elinda Nedreberg has had the full rural schoolteacher experience. She teaches three grades of English, Drama I & II as well as Technical Theater. And “she has done so with gusto and with great commitment to our students,” according to her award nominator who himself is a parent to one of Nedreberg’s students, a fellow teacher and the district superintendent.
“Mrs. Nedreberg has revitalized and rebuilt a drama program at Tintic High School that has become integral to the arts in our small community,” he wrote. “In her first year, she trailered one of the district's vehicles and hauled props from a school over 50 miles away to create an amazing ambience for her student’s performances.
“She pushed that small group of students to do something challenging, like Shakespeare. Elinda has pushed through putting on performances with an aged lighting and sound system that dates back to the Reagan administration.
To top it off, she recently earned a Master’s in Education degree
Speech, Hillcrest Elementary School
A co-worker explains that Emily Phillips “approaches her job like a detective, getting to know her students so that she can use the clues they provide to determine the best approach for their learning. She seems exhilarated by the challenge and persists in her efforts until she finds an effective strategy for helping her students. Her goal is always successful, independent students and she is creative in her approach to getting there.”
Helping children with articulation is only one part of what Phillips does for her students. “Emily knows that the function of language is communication, and communication relies on much more than correct pronunciation of sounds. It is in this work that Emily really stands out. She recognizes what children need to thrive.”
“One year I had a (Kindergarten) student who I struggled to understand…By the end of the school year, I could understand almost everything she said. And, when she was in first grade, she was able to communicate clearly with people unfamiliar to her speech patterns. By working with Emily, her life was forever changed.”