RSL, Utah Royals owner gives Canyons teachers $350,000 for classroom supplies
Feb 26, 2019 03:01PM
By Julie Slama
RSL and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen is all smiles, as is his golden Royals court (aka Sprucewood students), at the school’s assembly to celebrate Hansen’s donation that funded teacher grants. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
When Denise Haycock talked to Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals professional soccer teams’ owner Dell Loy Hansen, the Canyons Education Foundation development officer didn’t know it would result in Canyons School District elementary teachers being offered one-third of $1 million.
Haycock introduced herself, and Hansen jumped right in with,
“You’re going to want to know me. I like schools.”
They met two days later, and then a couple weeks later, in January, they rolled out a plan where Hansen would fund elementary teachers $250 after they applied through the pilot program, Scoring for Schools. He also funded similar programs in Jordan and Alpine school districts, bringing the total to $1.2 million donated for teacher grants.
“I couldn’t say no,” Hansen said.
Two weeks later at the end of January, the teachers’ proposals were funded and schools were celebrating with their new classroom supplies in February — complete with RSL’s mascot, Leo, spraying students with silly string and several players from both RSL and the Utah Royals giving students high-fives.
“He funded everything,” Haycock said. “This donation is the largest single gift the foundation has ever received and it’s making an immediate difference in classrooms in every corner of Canyons district.”
Hansen, the president of Wasatch Property Management, said he realized he had a knack for building homes and business and not the family business of being a teacher. As a son, grandson, nephew and brother of teachers, the value of education is ingrained in him, so he committed to helping. “My penitence for not being a teacher is to take care of teachers.”
By knowing his donation would go directly to classrooms where the money would make the most difference, he compared it to his three teams — the Utah Royals, Real Salt Lake, and its reserve team, Real Monarchs.
“Just like professional soccer players, students need to train with the right equipment in order to score big in the classroom,” he said. “If a teacher needs something, we want to make it happen.”
East Midvale Principal Matt Nelson, who challenged Leo to hand stands at a school assembly, said the grants gave the teachers a chance to be creative.
“This was about more than what we needed; it could also be what these teachers have wanted in their classrooms,” he said. “For the kindergartners, it means puppets to learn with and in the upper grades, we have robotics. The grant allowed teachers to be creative and brainstorm for more, not to just have what is needed to get by.”
East Midvale first-grade teacher Robert Carter, whose class hand-wrote Hansen thank-you notes, had his mind set on a rekenrek (an arithmetic rack) and other math tools.
“This can help students learn quick addition and subtraction,” he said, adding that the students also learned a lesson in gratitude.
Carter was one of more than 75 elementary teachers in the Midvale area schools who submitted Scoring for School proposals. All of them had their funding requests granted, including 100 percent of the teachers at Midvalley Elementary.
“We have great teachers,” Midvalley Principal Tamara Baker said. “With the right tools, they can do magical things.”
Utah Royals midfielder Erika Tymrak surprised Midvalley students with a visit — and a lesson.
“I was bullied when I was in school, but I realized it’s OK for me to be different,” she said. “When kids realize we’re all in it together in elementary school, middle school and high school, and they learn kindness and respect, we all succeed.”
At East Midvale, her teammate and goalkeeper, Abby Smith, also shared she was bullied in middle and high school — and urged students to report it.
“Bullying is not OK,” she said. “Say something. Figure out your friend group. These, like your parents, are the ones who should be supporting you.”
Smith also focused on education.
“Education is really important,” said Smith, who eventually wants to be a teacher like her husband. “Right now, whenever I can, I want to let kids know I support them and go give soccer balls. It may be super small to say hi, but it’s huge to kids.”
In Sandy, more than 300 elementary teachers submitted proposals and received grants, including 100 percent of the teachers at Altara, Edgemont and Sprucewood. Several schools celebrated similarly to Midvalley and East Midvale, including Altara and Sprucewood, hosting Hansen and his players. Crescent Elementary had an assembly scheduled late February.
Altara students were thankful for balance ball seats, books, science and math supplies and Royals T-shirts. They made a giant heart for Hansen that read, “Thank you for helping our little hands score big!”
At Sprucewood, students applauded when teachers opened boxes containing magnetic place value math supplies, Megablocks and a car mat. They also cheered for their principal, Lori Reynolds, when she received an RSL jersey, which midfielder Tate Schmitt and defender Aaron Herrera signed.
Schmitt shared with students about his desire to improve his soccer skills, starting in elementary school, and how he maintains a healthy lifestyle, eating high-protein foods and staying away from candy and soda pop.
“It’s great sharing our healthy habits as professional athletes that these kids can use every day as students and student athletes to be successful,” he said.
Herrera, who starts his game day with a healthy breakfast after a good night’s sleep, said he stays away from Hot Cheetos.
“These kids are awesome,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces makes it worthwhile.”
Hansen also wanted students to recognize teachers.
“I want to thank your teachers,” he told students. “Every one of your teachers cared enough to work a little extra to get some resources to come into your classroom to make learning a little more fun.”
More than 75 Draper elementary school teachers had their requests funded by Hansen.
Willow Springs Elementary kindergarten teacher Jen Archuleta took advantage of the grant to help her students, two-thirds of them with disabilities, to gain art supplies and foam shapes that built an environment that appeals to auditory, visual and tactile learners.
“It was so much fun to watch my students’ faces fill with delight as we opened packages,” she said. “It’s been great to see how they are all playing together and finding ways to share so everyone gets a turn with the new materials.”
Other Willow Springs teachers were granted a weather station, a fossil and rock collection, a Clark Planetarium field trip, interactive science supplies, headphones for iPads and writing tablets amongst others.
Ridgecrest Elementary teacher Katlin Jones knew how she could directly benefit her students, who sometimes need to move around to learn better — wobble seats for her wiggly third-graders.
In her grant proposal, she wrote, “My students are creative, thoughtful and full of energy. They love to talk and share their ideas and I would love to give them a way to release all their energy while still focusing.”
Her proposal — along with similar requests for bouncy yoga balls, cozy bean bags and portable lap desks — was among 76 submitted by Cottonwood Heights schools, which were fully funded.
Districtwide, 74 percent, or 525 full-time elementary teachers, received funding from the Scoring for Schools grant-making program.
Over the past 30 years, Hansen has donated more than $30 million to Utah public schools and colleges. He also gave every Canyons elementary student free tickets to a Real Monarchs game and a signed collector’s card.
Utah Royals’ Smith said she supports Hansen.
“He has a huge heart,” she said. “He wants to support the teachers in getting what the kids need and wants to get it for them now. The kids are the future of our country.”