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Valley Journals

Granite Park Junior High’s Teacher of the Year

Jun 27, 2018 09:43AM ● By Jessica Ivins

Will Pettit works with his students in class at Granite Park Jr. High. He was recently named Teacher of the Year in Utah. (City Journals)

By Jessica Ivins | j.ivins@mycityjournals.com

Will Pettit, business teacher at Granite Park Junior High, was named Educator of the Year for Utah because of his intentionality and everyday efforts. 

Pettit grew up in Oregon and had a wonderful choir teacher that he remembers fondly. He may have even treated Pettit like a person. Pettit told his sister that he wanted to be a rich business man and retire. However, he really wanted to teach. His sister told him, “If you want to teach, just go out and be a teacher!” 

And that is what Pettit did. He teaches. But he doesn’t just teach; he isn’t like any other teacher.

Pettit has a simple answer for the question, “What makes a good teacher?”

“A good teacher treats their students like a person,” he said. 

Pettit treats students like people and so much more. His students feel respected, and it pays. At the school’s recent cultural event, he played the drums while a student sang. He was in the background, and the student was the star. This personifies Pettit’s teaching style. He wants the student to know that he or she is important. The student is a person just like him, the principal or another student walking down the hall. 

He takes time to be kind and understands the student’s time is as important as his. Pettit’s attitude has the ability to change the student’s attitude. And then he can teach; then, the student can understand that each lesson he teaches is worth his or her time. He designs his lessons to include fun activities for the students. 

Pettit’s personality can’t help but change the entire school culture. Aaron Wilson, Granite Junior High’s principal, said, “He’s not only an amazing human being, but he’s an educator that has transformed our school and the culture that student’s identify when they walk into our building.” 

It all goes back to Pettit’s simple belief, “Treat the student like a person.” It sounds simple and tacit, but it isn’t. It’s a gift and talent to do this each and every day and to make each and every child feel like a person that deserves respect and time. Each student learns from Pettit to respect peers and others. It is a common theme that students and all people alike enjoy being treated with respect. 

Teachers that build a rapport with their students get more responsive students. This shows through students that remember his lessons. Pettit takes time to apply lessons into their lives. 

He also builds youth leaders. 

“He’s intentionally built student leaders and trained them with lifelong skills and film-making and video editing, but he’s also used that as a platform through video announcements and excellent teaching so that students, because of his efforts, feel safe when they come into our building,” Wilson said. 

Pettit does a lot of things intentionally. He is kind. He builds leaders. All of the intentionality is paying off because one student said they want him to be his teacher for the rest of their life. Another student said, “He is a really good teacher and makes everything sound clear.” 

The award personifies “All that’s good in Education.” It was recognized at the Partner in Education Banquet where Utah’s Student of the Year, Educator of the Year, Administrator of the Year and Partner in Education were recognized. 

Granite Junior High is a school with a variety of ethnic backgrounds and more than 60 languages spoken. Many students have odds against them due to growing up in low-income homes.

Gov. Gary Herbert said, “Will stands as a testament of what miracles can happen when we believe in and give students opportunities to be successful. Without his contributions, our school could not as effectively educate its wonderful students—90 percent of whom live in poverty, coming from over 40 different countries, speaking over 60 different languages, many of whom are refugees.”