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The City Journals

Murray District names Pinnacles winners – gala on hold

May 18, 2020 12:00PM ● By Julie Slama

One of this year’s Pinnacle award winners, Ginger Shaw, got help during her class’ annual Paris day in 2010 from then fourth-grade students Annikka Jaramillo and Stewart McKenna. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It was going to be an incredible night. Parent volunteer Monica Giles was to be honored with Murray School District’s Pinnacles Award as her son would be one of the students performing opening night on stage at Riverview Junior High in “Into the Woods, Jr.,” which she was producing.

However, hours before the big night, Murray School District shut its doors—a day before other districts and schools statewide did—in prevention of the coronavirus spread.

Before the announcement, Giles said she was in “shock” that she was being honored.

“I just never once thought of it,” she said about receiving the award. “It’s what you do—you help, you volunteer. When I see a need, I just want to help.”

And that’s just what she has been doing—serving on PTA boards at three different schools: vice president of legislature at Horizon Elementary, treasurer at Murray High and Reflections chair and musical producer at Riverview Junior High. She recently stepped down as co-PTA president and overseeing Horizon’s fun run for the past eight years.

Giles was just one of eight people who were to have been honored in March as the 17th annual Pinnacle Awards gala.

Other honorees include: Riverview Junior Hugh math teacher Randy Bodily, who has worked for the district 43 years; Longview Elementary special education teacher Sheri Heaton, who has worked for the district 28 years; Murray High art teacher Ryan Moffett, who has worked for the district 23 years; Grant Elementary fourth-grade teacher Ginger Shaw, who has worked for the district 33 years; Murray High athletic director and physical education teacher Lisa White, who has worked for the district 25 years; McMillan Elementary second-grade teacher Sheri Winn, who has worked for the district 24 years; and district technology specialist Brady Nielsen, who has worked for the district 12 years.

“The individuals recognized as Pinnacle receipts this year come from all different backgrounds and represent various roles in the education profession,” Superintendent Jennifer Covington said. “They are role models who show our students how to work hard to reach their potential. They walk into our schools each day because they love what they do and are eager to help our students recognize the best versions of themselves. Their work is critical to the success of our district and most importantly critical to the success of our students. We appreciate the opportunities each of these individuals provides to help our students learn and grow. They are a vital part of our ‘We Are Murray’ spirit.” 

Just being honored is something that Grant Elementary fourth-grade teacher Shaw appreciated.

“I was sitting down by the projector teaching math, and all these ‘tall’ people started coming in,” she said. “I’m used to students, so I was caught off guard. I just was staring at them. It was just fun to be recognized.”

Along with a bouquet of flowers, recipients are expected to receive a statute and $500 as well as a basket full of items from the local community. They also were expected to be honored at a March 12 dinner at Murray High, where each recipient would be introduced with remarks from a student. 

Shaw had chosen a student from a couple years ago, but she had many she could have selected from not only those who have been in her classroom over the past three decades, but also those from the 25 years she has led the after-school tutoring program. 

Shaw also organized and continues to oversee the student school recycling program, teaches students how to play chess and created a chess tournament, and established pen pals with at first, Long Island students, and currently, peers in Oklahoma.

In her classroom, she greets students daily in different languages, but then she teaches them vocabulary in French year-round in preparation for the pretend class trip to Paris day at the end of the school year that includes boarding a plane made of desks, having passports and luggage claim tickets they read, tasting French cuisine, drawing the Eiffel Tower to scale, and singing songs in French.

“During the year, we learn different words in several languages—French, Farsi, German, Spanish, Somali, Portuguese, Mongolian—so they have a connection and can take the time to greet someone in their native language,” Shaw said. “We learn more French as it is one that is taught in secondary schools and this opens a door which may allow some to explore the language and culture more. It’s considered a free day, but instead of just turning on a movie, we’re still exploring and engaging in learning. We learn about geography with map assignments, art and math with drawing the Eiffel Tower, science as we learn about snail habitats before tasting escargot, history, languages and so many ways, it ties into curriculum.”

Another perk to being in Shaw’s class is that students learn through song to know the difference between adjectives and adverbs, understanding different kinds of clouds or learning how many pounds are in one ton.

Shaw sets lines about those and other subjects her students are expected to learn to familiar melodies, such as “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or “Camptown Races.” Her “Utah County Song” was even recorded and sent to the Utah State Board of Education to share on a blog three years ago.

So, when Superintendent Covington sang, “‘Congratulations to Ginger, you’re a winner of the Pinnacles,’ it was just perfect since she knows I incorporate songs into my teaching,” Shaw said. “This is such a joy.”