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The City Journals

Meet South Valley’s Teachers of the Year

Jun 05, 2017 03:26PM ● By Tori LaRue

Pamela Spitzer holds back tears as Fort Herriman Middle School Principal Rodney Shaw reads aloud a note a former student wrote about her. Spitzer and 22 other teachers were honored at the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Teacher Appreciation Lunch. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
Carol Hoffer calls herself a “nontraditional” teacher because she didn’t know she wanted to pursue a career in the classroom until she had grandchildren moving through the education system.
“I saw their teachers and some of the ways teaching is done, and I just wanted to be a part of that,” she said. “I was just saying, ‘I think I can do this. I think I have something to give here.’”
Hoffer, who started her degree in nursing some 30 years earlier, found herself back in the classroom—first as a student to finish her bachelor’s and licensing requirements, and then as a teacher at Blackridge Elementary in Herriman.
The first-grade teacher “brings all of the mothering and nurturing of a grandmother to every single one of her students,” according to Principal Nick Hansen. That’s one of the reasons he selected Hoffer as Butterfield’s Teacher of the Year for 2016–17.
The Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce invited Hoffer and the 22 other South Valley Teachers of the Year to its annual Teacher Appreciation Lunch at the Riverton Hospital. The chamber gave the teachers a plaque, flowers and gift bag, and school administrators took turns describing their honoree’s contributions to the school.
“(Carol) just goes above and beyond,” Hansen said during his remarks about Hoffer. “She does extracurricular activities for the kids, provides academic interventions during the school day, and then she has even done before school tutoring for kids who are struggling.”
Rufine Einzinger, a chamber board member and also an assistant principal at Herriman High School, said she was honored to be in the presence of so many fine teachers. Their accomplishments ranged from helping students achieve success to implementing new programs.
Rosamond Elementary’s Teacher of the Year Traci Rindlisbach obtained over $24,000 in grant money for her school. Shannon Mechling, the Jordan Academy of Technology and Careers South honoree, is creating a summer school program to allow aspiring nail technicians an additional 120 hours toward their certification, and Bluffdale Elementary’s award-winner Jennifer Romriell has helped 16 of her 18 Portuguese immersion second-graders reach proficiency in reading.
“She has all of them on grade level besides our two little special ed kids, who are also ESL,” Bluffdale Principal Karen Egan said.
Romriell cut in. “But the year’s not done,” she said, exposing her faith in the two struggling students. The luncheon audience members laughed and nodded in response to Romriell’s spunk.
In her remarks, Herriman Elementary Principal Kim Gibson praised “master teacher” Kelsey Jacobsen for teaching rowdy youngsters. Gibson claims the toughest people “can either teach kindergarten or be in the Marines.”
“When you peak in (Jacobson’s classroom), you will see students sitting, quietly raising their hands,” Gibson said. “They are intent, and they are listening. I have to step back and think ‘Is this kindergarten?’ because her management, her control of children, is just amazing.”
The chamber accidentally misprinted Jacobson’s name on the program, calling her “Kelsey Gibson.” Gibson had a good laugh about this, claiming she’d always wanted to adopt the award-winning teacher. “Thanks for your support in this,” she said to chamber members jokingly.  
For Pace Gardner, the senior English specialist at Summit Academy High School, the best part of his Teacher of the Year designation wasn’t the acknowledgement from his principal but from the students he teaches. While teacher of the year is usually determined by administrators, Principal Ted Mecham threw names of the top nominees at senior students and asked them to select the Teacher of the Year. They chose Gardner.
“That made me feel really validated and good that it wasn’t just a populous vote of administration,” Gardner said. “It was those guys who I worked the most with who tipped the scales in my direction, so that made me most proud.”
Gardner’s background was first as a writer; then, after graduate school, as an adjunct university professor where he said he caught the “teaching bug.” As a lecturer at Utah Valley University, Gardner taught remedial writing students.
“I got sick of seeing ill-prepared college students,” he said. “You get sick of that, so what do you do? You go teach at high school.”
Gardner runs a no-nonsense class where students know what is expected and when, but that’s one thing students like about him, Mecham said. Gardner said he feels well-positioned as the last English teacher ensure seniors are ready to leap into college-level work.
Side Bar
South Valley Teachers of the Year 2016–17
Herriman High: Jackie Burr

Riverton High: Taletha Judy

Providence Hall High: Jill Stark

JATC South: Shannon Mechling

Summit Academy High: Pace Gardner

Copper Mountain Middle: Chris Bergum

Fort Herriman Middle: Pamela Spitzer

South Hills Middle: John Wunderli

Oquirrh Hills Middle: Malina Oberg

North Star Academy: Troy Fernley

Kauri Sue Hamilton: Kyanne Matheson

Blackridge Elementary:  Michelle Lindsey

Bluffdale Elementary: Jennifer Romriell

Butterfield Canyon Elementary: Carol Hoffer

Foothills Elementary: Jennifer Knowles

Herriman Elementary: Kelsey Jacobson

Midas Creek Elementary: Tiffany Bowen

Riverton Elementary: Maralynn Urie

Rosamond Elementary: Traci Rindlisbach

Rose Creek Elementary: Jason Hart

Silver Crest Elementary: Carol Ramsay

Southland Elementary: Stephanie Chase

Summit Academy Bluffdale: Danielle Ruff