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Valley Journals

Dilworth Teacher Wins Prestigious Teaching Award

Aug 04, 2016 01:37PM ● By Natalie Mollinet

Cathy Johnson is surrounded by family and students as her award is announced. —Jared Wright

By Natalie Mollinet | natalie@mycityjournals.com


Sugar House, Utah - When sixth-grade teacher Cathy Johnson walked into her classroom last month, she thought it would be a normal day at Dilworth Elementary. Little did she know that her family, friends, Karen Huntsman and school administrators were waiting to give her the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education.

​“I was totally shocked!” Johnson said. “You know people say things to you in passing like, “I’d love to nominate you,” and that in itself is an honor, but to have someone follow through with it is remarkable.”

​Johnson, along with 10 other teachers, administrators and volunteers in Utah, received the prestigious award. Johnson was nominated by Susan and Dave Koelliker, who felt she deserved the nomination. Johnson had no idea that they had actually followed through with it, so when everyone walked into her classroom and suddenly surrounded her, she was shocked.

​“I was just overwhelmed,” Johnson said. “It was so surreal. It’s certainly a moment I’ll never forget, and certainly an honor I cherish.”

​Johnson — a Southern California native — grew up watching her oldest sister enjoying her career as an educator. She admits that she wanted to do everything her older sister did, so becoming a teacher was a natural thing for her.

​After graduating from BYU with a degree in elementary education and special education, she worked in the Park City School District.  She got married while teaching in Park City and then transferred to the Jordan School District.  After a 10-year break she taught at Rosslyn Heights, then found her way to Dilworth elementary, where she’s been for 28 years. For 17 of those years, Johnson has had help from Ron Ricks, who teaches math, and for four of those years she has worked with Shelly Stanfield, who teaches science.

​“I work with some fabulous people,” Johnson said. “My biggest blessing is that I teach at an amazing school, with an amazing community that supports the school.”

​Johnson said she can always count on numerous parents volunteering for just about any activity. One example of this was having 48 parents signing up for a class activity where students had to build castles in a certain amount of time. She’s always grateful for the numerous parents that volunteer.

​“I don’t think I’m the greatest; I think I work hard,” Johnson said. “But I work with people who, as a team, do our best to make school exciting and fun. We believe in our kids and we believe in doing what’s best for our students.”

​Johnson admits that she works with great administrators and said that she has to give thanks to her fellow teachers, from whom she has learned a lot. She said that they make work fun and that she shares this award with them. Through her years of teaching, she said that she has learned so much from other teachers, and even if they didn’t know they were mentoring her, they were.

​“I wouldn’t be here without them,” Johnson said about her fellow teachers, “so I share this with my colleagues and my fellow teachers in the district.”

​Dilworth principal Jared Wright said that Cathy is very deserving of the award.

“She is someone who exemplifies the dedication and passion that teachers need to have an impact,” Wright said. “Cathy is one of those teachers whose positive influence will continue long after her students move on from her classroom. I hold her in the highest regard and hope that she never retires!”

​Sadly, Johnson does plan on retiring in 2018. She was planning on leaving this year, but the students she has had this year inspired her to stay. Johnson plans to use the $10,000 prize money she got from the reward to travel more. She said her granddaughter thinks she should use the money to take them both on a Disney cruise, but she isn’t sure if she’ll use it for that.

​“This is something you don’t ever put on your wish list,” Johnson said. “You just go about your job because you like it and you like teaching. All the teachers I work with are all Huntsman winners in my book; I was just lucky enough to be named it.”​