Sandy City Youth Council students honor outstanding Midvale teachers
Jun 02, 2017 11:01AM
● By Julie Slama
Local teachers Shelly Edmonds, Phil Talbot, Kenneth Herlin, Heather Gooch, Rita Egbert, Robert Violano and John Henrichsen recently were awarded plaques when they were nominated and honored by Sandy City Youth Council. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Hillcrest High School senior Melissa Regalado had one science teacher for three years during her high school career, but it wasn’t until last year when she learned to appreciate him.
“It was during my junior year when I got very distracted and wasn’t focusing on my school work,” she said. “I procrastinated doing it and then would finally turn it in late. When Mr. (Phil) Talbot thanked me for turning it, but still marked me down for being late, it made me feel miserable. I knew I needed to make a change and he helped me see that.”
While Regalado did turn around her scholastic work, she remembers he always supported her.
“He was always willing to answer questions. He’s one of the first teachers at school and one of the last to leave. He’s always patient and has a sense of humor. I’d groan when he announced a test and he’d just respond, ‘oh well,’ and make me laugh,” she said.
Talbot, who teaches advanced placement, international baccalaureate and honors biology, was one of five teachers in Midvale who were recently recognized as one of Sandy City Youth Council’s outstanding teachers at their 23rd annual teacher appreciation dinner.
“It was a surprise when Melissa told me she nominated me for this recognition,” Talbot said. “I’m a little surprised when she admitted turning in her homework late. It’s nice to get an award and be recognized for what you love doing. I’ve received some nice awards through the years, but when a student nominates you, it means so much more since it’s coming from their heart.”
This may be one of the last teaching recognitions the 41-year teaching veteran receives since he will be retiring this school year. Talbot, who took students to study evolution in the Galapagos Islands when he taught for 31 years at Skyline High, has been honored with national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Education, the National Association of Biology Teachers outstanding biology teacher award, the national Tandy award and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s most inspirational teacher award and distinguished teacher recognition.
“I’ve always had a fascination with animals and plants. I like to think I was born a biologist. I’d hike with my two brothers when I was little and I’d just look into the water in a ditch and be interested in algae and critters. I hoped I’ve shared that love with students,” he said.
Sandy City Mayor Tom Dolan said that he thinks the world is in good hands because of the teachers’ encouragement with students.
“These students are our main successes with their scholarship and their service to our community and we thank our teachers for their influence,” he said. “We appreciate our teachers and what they mean to us, to our students. Every teacher has the right heart and how they express it and how students remember it is moving.”
For junior Megan Okumura, it was having her English teacher, Shelly Edmonds, be supportive of her as she had transferred to Hillcrest from another school.
“She can be fun and stern, understanding and loving, but you can tell how much love she has for her students,” Megan said. “She helps us see our potential so we can be better students.”
“It’s a privilege to teach these kids, who are both community and academically orientated, and especially, to be honored by one of them,” Edmonds said. “I had some great teachers in my life who had significant influence on me and so I’m thankful when Megan says I inspired her. It’s about getting to share great literature with them, watching them discover and learn from it and having fun doing it.”
Sophomore Alex Cheng said learning some of the toughest math principles was made fun through memory techniques with songs and sayings, such as “the integration by parts, d(uv) – udv =vdu, is ultraviolet voodoo.”
“Mr. (Kenneth) Herlin is one of the best math teachers I’ve ever had,” Alex said. “He can answer any question on the spot and he can find fun ways to review math that we’ll remember.”
Around the holidays, those fun ways may be singing about calculus to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” or about tangents or Pi to other songs of the season.
However, the 32-year veteran teacher, who said this is his first teaching award, is quick to admit that he doesn’t make those songs up.
“I’ve found them on the internet and one year, a student wrote one,” Herlin said. “I just try to have a little fun with the topic and find it interesting that this is something Alex remembers. I just try to have some patience and a sense of humor.”
Alex also appreciates Herlin’s help outside class when he has been the school’s adviser for math competitions, including this year’s State Math Contest, where Hillcrest won the 4A division, and the American Mathematics Competition, where Alex and classmate Alan Zhao advanced to the American Invitational Mathematics Exam.
Starting and advising the extra-curricular activity of FIRST LEGO League at her middle school was part of the reason sophomore Amelia Slama-Catron nominated her former middle school science teachers, John Henrichsen and Robert Violano.
“Not only did we learn how to design, make and program a robot, Mr. Henrichsen and Mr. Violano guided us to work as a team to create a project based on a theme,” she said. “Under their leadership, we ended up having our project win an award which was both surprising and exciting.”
They also inspired her in the classroom.
“Mr. Henrichsen always joked around with us and made the lessons interactive. One time, when we were learning about genetics, we each received a paper butterfly in which our job was to camouflage it within the classroom. It was not only fun, but educational. The same can be said about Mr. Violano when he encouraged us to create a rap song to remember the rock cycle. Mr. Henrichsen and Mr. Violano work together to make sure the curriculum flows between the two grades and they’re both passionate about science, which was obvious when they both helped design the science wing of the new Midvale Middle,” Amelia said.
For both teachers, this is the first time they’ve received a teaching recognition outside of Midvale Middle School.
“I’m really grateful and feel some validation that I’m doing it right, but there are so many other teachers out there who are so deserving,” Henrichsen said.
Henrichsen, who discovered his career path after being a summer camp counselor, said that he appreciated good teachers, like his 12th-grade anatomy teacher who taught him how to dissect a cat.
“It was the coolest thing to learn how a cat works from the inside out,” he said. “I gained an appreciation of science and a sense of understanding and observing in the world.”
Violano learned he liked to teach after showing others how to snowboard.
“I like to motivate kids to learn through meaningful conversations,” he said. “I remember how hard eighth-grade was when you’re seen both as a young adult and as a child. I don’t care if they can’t recall the five criteria of minerals, but if they see education as an impact in their lives. We can start them in the right direction for their high school career.”
Two other students honored area teachers. Brighton High student Tyler Sunde honored Eastmont Middle School sixth-grade science teacher Rita Egbert and Jordan High student Hudson Cline recognized advanced placement biology and environmental science teacher Heather Gooch.