Utah Education Association
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UEA Excellence in Teaching Awards are presented to Utah public school teachers whose efforts in the classroom significantly impact the life of an individual child or group of children.

View the 2017 Excellence in Teaching award winner profiles (below)

Other UEA Awards:

About the Awards

The Excellence in Teaching Awards are presented each year to Utah public school teachers whose efforts in the classroom have significantly impacted the life of an individual child or group of children. In 2016, KUED became the official media sponsor. The UEA has sponsored the Awards since 2000.

Photos from the Awards Banquet

2017 Winners

Andrew Lund

Vice Principal - South Cache Middle School - Cache County School District

Andy Lund often works with students who struggle with behavior challenges and, in some cases, are in trouble with law enforcement. He approaches each student interaction as a learning opportunity. He works with resource officers, parents and other administrators to help these students grow and improve through these experiences.

As Mr. Lund worked this past summer to transition South Cache Middle to a seventh and eighth grade school with changing student boundaries and several new staff members, he worked closely with juvenile and adult community members who needed to serve probation hours. He helped these individuals experience service opportunities at the school to meet the needs of their probation by working right alongside them under the direction of their supervising deputies.

"Andy Lund is a wonderful example of a service leader,” wrote a co-worker. "From the first time that I met him I have looked up to him because Andy’s focus is about helping others. Mr. Lund does not go through the day without contemplating new ways that he can serve kids and staff members at South Cache."

Richard Kimball

Counselor - Diamond Fork Junior High School - Nebo School District

Helping students set goals and plan for their futures is only a small part of what Richard Kimball does. He also helps those who are on the fringe of the student body feel needed and wanted. He works with those who may be suicidal, self-harming, have low grades, suffer from low self-esteem, experience anxiety and depression or face any number of academic and personal challenges.

Mr. Kimball coordinates a variety of activities to help students be aware of their peers who may be in crisis or may just need a friend. As director of the school’s 'HOPE Squad', he motivates students to reach out to their peers. He helps them understand they are the link to fi nd and support students at risk.

When a student was hospitalized for an attempted suicide, Mr. Kimball stepped in to help her and her mother move forward. He arranged for home-bound services so the student could still get her school work done and earn credit for graduation. He also helped her mother fi nd available community services.

Katie Frederiksen

English Teacher - Legacy Junior High School - Davis School District

"Katie Frederiksen is an incredible teacher and powerful advocate for the overlooked and underserved," wrote a fellow educator. "She fights for these students every single day. She believes in them and persuades them that education is their ticket to success." When a student in Mrs. Frederiksen’s creative writing class came out as transgender, the student struggled with reactions from peers and acceptance from parents. As a result, this child missed a lot of school. Her co-worker wrote, "…because Katie establishes such a safe and welcoming environment, the student opened up…, was able to feel accepted, was able to use writing as a tool to help in the process and was able to feel valued as a person."

Perhaps Mrs. Frederiksen’s drive comes from personal experience – she dropped out of high school. It was only later that she earned her GED and went on to college to become a teacher. She learned the hard way that education is the key to financial security, personal achievement and controlling one’s own destiny. This message comes through clearly to her students.

Mui Tran

Kindergarten Teacher - Holt Elementary - School Davis School District

Seeing a need to strengthen transitions from preschool to kindergarten, Mui Tran worked with the Davis Community Learning Center to implement the “Ready Freddy” program. This summer program exposes students to the rigors of school learning and activities. In the summer of 2016 she brought the program to Holt and saw three times the number of students enroll.

"Mui remembers parent names and details of students and families years after having a student in her class," wrote a co-worker. "She builds relationships with everyone and she often educates not just the child but parents and families. She is personable, down-to-earth, and makes everyone around her feel like a rock star even on days when they don’t feel it themselves. Her energy and 'You Can Do It!' attitude make her a sought-after teacher and colleague.

A parent of a former student said, "When I was a single dad she really helped me. She taught me the best way to help my child. She wasn’t just my child’s teacher, she was a great support to me as a parent."

Kathy Sherman

English as a Second Language Teacher - Ellis Elementary School - Logan City School District

Kathy Sherman developed a "Newcomer's Summer School" program to help kids whose families had recently moved to the area. The program ran four days a week for eight weeks. Two aides and 54 volunteers amassed 219 volunteer hours. Nineteen students, primarily from Ethiopia and Mexico, received one-on-one time with an adult instructor who had been well-trained by Ms. Sherman. Participating students learned letter names and sounds, learned to say and write numbers to 100, improved reading comprehension and increased basic language skills.

During the school year when not all students and parents show up for parent conferences, Ms. Sherman calls to offer rides to those without transportation. Often she takes families who have no transportation to the grocery store or to their doctor appointments and then translates for them. She helps parents understand their utility bills and legal documents, fi nd housing and arrange for dental care.

James Cavan

Music Teacher - South Sevier Middle School & South Sevier High School - Sevier School District

Five years ago, James Cavan taught a single class at South Sevier Middle School with about 35 student musicians ranging from beginning to more experienced. This year there are 137 students between two classes, including about half of the entire sixth-grade class. The auditorium is filled and the parking lot packed at each of the four annual student-led concerts. Standing ovations are not uncommon.

Because of his desire to help the program grow, Mr. Cavan developed a three-pronged approach to recruitment: 1) He conducts an instrument “petting zoo” for fifth-grade fi eld day where students can touch and play different instruments, 2) He has the fifth-grade attend the high school band concert, and 3) He follows up with a letter to parents requesting students sign up.

Melissa Brown

Math Teacher - Riverton High School - Jordan School District

Several years ago, Melissa Brown organized other calculus teachers in the district to brainstorm ways to help their students prepare for the AP exam. Ultimately they came up with the idea of the Jordan District Calculus Bowl. Ms. Brown hosted the fi rst event at Riverton High School. Questions were taken from previous AP exams, allowing students to have fun while reviewing for the test. The Calculus Bowl grows and improves each year.

When a chemistry teacher quit mid-year, Ms. Brown agreed to take the class. Teaching this class meant she would have seven different courses to prepare. Having never taught chemistry, she spent hours studying her lessons and learning to perform the demonstrations and laboratory experiments. This allowed a group of students to continue their current schedules without interruption.

"Your generosity, your dedication to your students, your respect for all people and your fun-loving personality are all major inspirations for how I hope I can live when I’m out in the real world," wrote a former student. "I am truly a better person because of your influence."

Laura Eliason

Fifth-Grade Teacher - Taylor Elementary - Davis School District

Laura Eliason requested that Anne be assigned to her fifth-grade class. Anne had left school in second grade because of severe anxiety and what was later diagnosed as autism. Despite the eff orts at two elementary schools, homeschool and an online school, Anne refused all attempts to learn for almost three years. Anne’s grandmother tearfully expressed fear Anne would never succeed. In Mrs. Eliason’s class, Anne found security. She succeeded as a reader (12th grade level!), writer and artist and placed second in the school geography bee. "I don’t know what we would have done without Mrs. Eliason," said Anne’s grandmother.

Another student with long hair combed down over his eyes threw objects if a teacher required anything of him. He mostly hid behind his hair and refused to talk. Mrs. Eliason adapted his testing by giving him just one problem. She whispered, "I just need to know if you can do this problem." The student quickly wrote the answer. With Mrs. Eliason’s help, he gradually came out from behind his hair and joined the class.

Jennifer Ellsworth

Fourth-Grade Teacher - Rolling Meadows Elementary - Granite School District

Jennifer Ellsworth believes teachers should continually be students themselves. She is always on the lookout for new ways to meet students’ needs. Some innovations she has incorporated include sharing yoga balls among students when they need more focus, giving students a kinesthetic experience by providing actions to vocabulary instruction, having students create a slide for each science concept taught to be used in a slideshow, and teaching her students coding.

Mrs. Ellsworth works daily on creating a community within her classroom. She often uses a starter activity to focus students on acknowledging kind deeds performed by others both in and out of the classroom. She pushes students to understand the impact of those thoughtful deeds and challenges them to "pay it forward."

A colleague wrote, "Knowing what [Mrs. Ellsworth] is doing with her class motivates me as well as other teachers around her. Jen makes me want to be a better instructor daily because of her excellence and dedication to this profession. Because of her passion for education Mrs. Ellsworth is a key ingredient to the success of our school."

Kathy Riddle

First-Grade Teacher - Circleville Elementary School - Piute County School District

Kathy Riddle makes her students eat dirt and worms. It’s only crushed Oreos and gummy worms, but her students remember “Daily Individualized Reading Time (DIRT),” a time when every student reads individually selected books aloud. Her classroom is energized as the students remember alphabet sounds while enjoying green eggs and ham, popcorn flying from the popper, bubble gum machines and other engaging activities. Whenever possible, math manipulatives are everyday objects rather than just paper or plastic. She uses song and dance to teach new concepts and her students continue singing even when out of the classroom. “The bottom line is she makes learning fun,” said a fellow teacher.

In Mrs. Riddle’s classroom is a rocking chair used not only for story time, but also to mend broken hearts. She used it extensively when one of her students lost her father unexpectedly in an accident during the school year. When the day was too rough, Mrs. Riddle rocked the student while reading a book and the other students took turns rubbing her hand.

Support for the UEA Excellence in Teaching Awards on KUED.org is provided by the Utah Education Network.