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The City Journals

Canyons teachers celebrate two surprises: Teacher of the Year, proposed salary hike

May 14, 2019 03:04PM ● By Julie Slama

Teacher of the Year runner-up, Josh Long, of Hillcrest High School, shakes hands with Canyons Teacher of the Year Jessica Beus, of Midvale Elementary. Anna Alger, of Eastmont Middle, also was named a runner-up. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

There was not one, but two standing ovations April 23 when Canyons School District officials named the Teacher of the Year and a possible teacher pay increase.

After 47 teachers from Canyons District schools and programs were recognized, Midvale Elementary’s Jessica Beus was announced the district Teacher of the Year. 

The other two finalists were Anna Alger from Eastmont Middle and theater teacher Josh Long from Hillcrest High. Each of these three teachers received $500, with Beus as the top teacher, receiving an additional $500.

Every school teacher received a crystal award plus a Real Salt Lake jersey with their name silkscreened on it that they can wear to the Canyons School District-RSL night May 24, where they will be recognized on the field.

But afterward, teachers got another treat. 

Canyons Board of Education President Nancy Tingey read a statement addressing a tentative agreement with the Canyons Education Association proposing that this fall all Canyons teachers would receive a $7,665 per year salary increase. 

“This would put the starting teacher annual pay at $50,000 — elevating the teaching profession by bringing salaries in line with those of other professionals in Utah, and making it possible for teachers to pursue their passion and do what they’re good at while also earning a living wage,” Tingey said.

This would be made possible with a property tax increase, which will be presented for approval at a required Truth-in-Taxation hearing in August, she added. (See Canyons Board announces proposed teacher salary increase.)

For Beus, it was an unbelievable evening.

“I had let my mom know that I was in the final eight, but when they announced my name, she was emotional for both of us,” Beus said. “She was just bawling. I was more shocked, surprised — and very honored. It was fun to see the support of my school there.”

The support was a crowd of teachers and her principal all holding up cut-outs of Beus’ face and cheering her on.

“Nobody deserves this more than Jessica,” said Midvale Elementary Principal Chip Watts, who acknowledged that Beus can reach even the toughest students at the Title I school. “She’s incredibly hardworking and is a teacher willing to do whatever it takes for her students. She always puts them first and is a critical part of our incredible turnaround progress we’re making here at Midvale.” (See Midvale Elementary turnaround status extended.)

However, Beus quickly shares the credit.

“It’s exciting what we’re doing and where we’re going with Midvale, but it comes from the support we have of each other. We are a team, we all dive in and do what is best for our students,” she said. 

Her role at Midvale is to team-teach third grade, focusing on math and science.

“I have a natural curiosity about the world and am bursting with observations in science. I encourage them to become more independent thinkers,” she said.

Beus began her focus on becoming an elementary teacher after taking a year off to teach English in China. She graduated with a bachelor’s in elementary education and a minor in English language development from Brigham Young University, then began her teaching career in Alpine School District. She now has taught five years, her third year with Canyons District.

Beus also had inspiring role models, starting with her mom, Anne Beus, who taught music and Spanish in Granite School District and currently is teaching orchestra at Park Lane Elementary.

“My mom inspired me with her dedication to kids. She believed and helped them succeed,” the Canyons School District Teacher of the Year said.

Beus also credits her former third-grade Silver Mesa teacher, Kay Cook, who made “learning so fun and totally put everything into it.” She also interned for Westmore Elementary (Orem) teacher Aleesha Ottley, from whom she learned patience in working with students.

“She is able to connect with students in tough situations and has a demeanor where ‘everything is going to be fine.’ I’ve tried to emulate that and take the best from her, my mom and Mr. Cook as I teach,” she said.

However, she has her own talent, as was shared at the ceremony, when she also was referred to as the “child whisperer.”

“That started with the principal saying that. He said I’m able to reach students, connect with them and help them make progress,” Beus said. “I speak to them as adults, on the same level, with love and respect, and empower them. I want them to realize, they are the boss of themselves and they are capable of success.”

At the ceremony, middle school runner-up, Alger, was commended for her classroom that is known for its positive climate and culture, for her use of a variety of methods to check student understanding and how she masterfully provides specific feedback to her students.

The high school runner-up, Long, was highlighted for his ability to bring the team of choir, band, orchestra, stage crew and theater students together to realize an award-winning program. 

“Josh welcomes everyone who wants to participate in theater, drawing diverse teachers together and overseeing casts of hundreds of students. He chooses plays and musicals that connect to a wide variety of students and their experiences, and no matter how many awards his students win — and they win a lot — he is always working with them to become even better,” his statement read.

Tingey showed her appreciation for every teacher who has a positive impact on students.

“The positive influence and knowledge you and your fellow educators impart to young people strengthens our community and individual lives in immeasurable ways,” she said. “Words cannot adequately express the gratitude we have for the wonderful work you are doing. So please, accept this simple and heartfelt thank-you.”