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The City Journals

Murray District’s teacher, employee of year selected for their hard work

Jul 23, 2018 02:35PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest Junior High teacher Jason Carpenter will compete for the 2019 Utah Teacher of the Year after being named as Murray School District’s teacher of the year. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

This fall, the state will announce its candidate for the 2019 Utah Teacher of the Year, but don’t expect Murray School District’s nominee, Jason Carpenter, to be focused on waiting for the notification. 

As an eighth-grade history and ninth-grade honors English teacher at Hillcrest Junior High, Carpenter was selected as the District’s teacher of the year for his hard work. 

“I want all my students to improve,” he said. “I insist that they work hard and learn by doing, all 180 days of the school year.” 

In his class, students have a 1-to-1 ratio of Chromebooks and are able to research topics that may turn into history presentations. 

For example, Carpenter’s history students may have watched documentaries, listened to his lecture and read from their textbook in addition to researching primary sources for a group presentation on “what makes a colony unique” when discussing the 13 colonies. 

In English, he has literature circles where students explore 15 books and focus on writing, reading and comprehension so they are able to write argumentative essays or analyze speeches in U.S. history. 

“I feel I need to give students the skills to succeed. I teach history so they can learn from it, our mistakes and triumphs we made as a country and our mistreatment of others. And English, they will never get away from it. We always need to have communication skills, be able to read and write,” Carpenter said.

The education, history and English triple major with a French minor graduated from the University of Utah and is currently studying to earn his master’s degree in history by fall 2020. 

“I’m learning alongside the students to improve my content knowledge,” said Carpenter, who has gone to several U.S. battle sites to gain a deeper understanding of American history. “I want to share what I learn with them.” 

That’s why Carpenter said he was “very surprised” when his principal, Buck Corser, and Asst. Superintendent Scott Bushnell pulled him out of his class recently to let him know he was selected as the District’s teacher of the year. 

“I was just shocked,” said the teacher who has taught at Hillcrest since 2009, after attending Grant Elementary, Riverview Junior High and Murray High. “I wanted to teach in Murray and feel lucky I was able to find a job here.” 

Earlier in the spring, Carpenter was joined by other teachers and employees of the year for each Murray District school at a luncheon, recognizing all of them. Among the teacher nominees were Melissa Keating, Grant Elementary; Trudy Burton, Horizon Elementary; Lawren Whipple, Liberty Elementary; Chris Calderwood, Longview Elementary; Cynthia Richards, McMillan Elementary; Todd Thompson, Murray High; Lisa Pereira, Parkside Elementary; Kathie Webster, Riverview Junior High; and Cherran Zullo, Viewmont Elementary. 

The classified employee of the year nominees included Fidel Garcia, Grant; Sydney Baird, Hillcrest; Nicole Wintch, Liberty; DeAnn Swensen, Longview; Dee Heath, McMillan; Jean Bayles, Murray High; Tiffany Kastelic, Parkside; Chris Stephan, Riverview; Tyler Walker, Viewmont; Megan Kunzler, district office; and this year’s District winner, Miriam Luna of Horizon. 

“After I received the award, I couldn’t speak,” Luna said. “I could only smile.”

Both winners received an engraved clock as well as a movie theatre gift card.

Luna said that she was overjoyed for being named her school winner before being acknowledged as the District’s choice. 

“I received a letter at home. I was excited and crying. It came from being a hard worker and always smiling and being willing to help. If you work hard, good things come,” she said.

After being honored May 10 at the Board of Education meeting, the computer aide who teaches keyboarding and coordinates dual immersion and SAGE tests, was greeted by classes, congratulating her, after a school-wide announcement was made. 

“I’m always willing to help whether it’s in the cafeteria or as a crossing guard,” she said. 

Luna, who is a native of Guadalaraja, Mexico, also serves as a translator. 

“The best part of interpreting is to make them feel comfortable, so parents can ask questions of the teachers, learn how to help their students and be of help, anytime it’s needed,” she said. “I just want to bring a smile and help everyone.”