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The City Journals

Local teachers honored for hard work, passion of educating school children

Dec 02, 2016 03:50PM ● By Julie Slama

South Jordan Chamber of Commerce sponsored its annual teacher appreciation luncheon, which honored 21 local educators. (South Jordan Chamber of Commerce)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

South Jordan Chamber of Commerce recently awarded 21 educators with certificates of appreciation for their efforts and their knowledge and dedication to students.

“We find we have exceptional teachers who work hard, put a lot of effort and love into teaching students, so we wanted them to know how much they are appreciated,” said Kelsey Anderson, who is the chamber teacher appreciation committee chair. 

At the Oct. 13 annual luncheon ceremony held at the Sagewood at Daybreak, each of the 21 school principals or administrators from charter, private and public schools spoke about the qualities that made the educator special to his or her school.

Elk Ridge Middle School Principal Wyatt Bentley said instead of him selecting the outstanding teacher, he let his faculty nominate their peers.

“Overwhelmingly, they nominated Liz Thomas, who is very innovative and communicative, and she is always learning and involved in seeing what works well for the students,” he said. “She is a team player and a mentor to her colleagues.”

Bentley said Thomas makes sure her students are not only learning but making progress in their reading levels. Thomas, who worked with her team, had about 60 students last year improve from below reading levels to being on grade level or above.

“She was working hard with them so students could take another elective,” he said. 

Bentley said one of her peers wrote: “She always talks in a positive light about her students and their abilities, even when they struggle or are behind in their learning. She just takes whomever she is assigned and nurtures and loves them along the way to becoming a better reader and writer.”

South Jordan Elementary Principal Ken Westwood spoke highly of his school’s teacher, Jami Oakley, who teaches second grade.

“Miss Oakley sets the bar pretty high for second-graders, and they reach for it,” he said. “Perhaps the most rewarding thing I’ve observed is the way she takes on a challenging student. She’s been charged with some unique student and parent challenges since she came to South Jordan, and she’s earned her stripes. It’s heart-warming to see tricky kids gain confidence and become superstars.”

Anderson said the honored teachers are  inspirational to their peers.

“Many principals will pick teachers for the creative ways they do things or have given so much of themselves to their students,” Anderson said. “Many have pointed out how they have been innovative, how they are prepared and how they gone above and beyond. I enjoy seeing principals and teachers working together to make education in our schools better. Personally, I see teachers being so motivating and wish we could recognize all the teachers.” 

At the luncheon, Jordan School District Superintendent Patrice Johnson addressed the teachers, giving them praise. Each recipient received the certificate of appreciation, a pencil holder with his or her name engraved on it and a gift bag with donations from local businesses. In addition, several area businesses also help sponsor the event.

The educators who were honored include Katherine LaLonde from the American Academy of Innovations, Noelapoomaikala Loane from Bingham High School, Leigh Hicks of Daybreak Arts Academy, Diane Holland of Daybreak Elementary, Ryan Talty from Early Light Academy, Kerry Hoffmann of Eastlake Elementary, Janice Snow of Elk Meadows Elementary, Elisabeth Thomas of Elk Ridge Middle School, Shannon Zobrist from Hawthorn Academy of South Jordan, Becky Stone from Jordan Applied Tech Center, Patricia Simister of Jordan Ridge Elementary, Tracy McCurdy of Monte Vista Elementary, Alden Thorpe from Mountain West Montessori Academy, Darci Call from Paradigm High School, Kerry Heywood from River’s Edge, Jason Major from Roseman University, Jami Oakley of South Jordan Elementary, Ashley Taylor of South Jordan Middle School, Lisa Clarke from Stillwater Academy, Jean Mikkelson of Valley High School; and Haley McCall of Welby Elementary.

In addition to Anderson, the South Jordan Chamber teacher appreciation committee includes Pamela Barnett, Marie Decker and Brooke Smith.