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The City Journals

Outstanding Educators of the Year

Jul 20, 2021 10:15AM ● By Jet Burnham

Fifth grade teacher Genevieve Randall was surprised to be selected as an Outstanding Educator. (Photo courtesy of JEF.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

The Jordan Education Foundation 2021 Outstanding Educators of the Year are an inspiring group of teachers who, through this difficult year, inspired students, overcame obstacles and even helped save lives. Educators were nominated by colleagues, students and parents who had this to say about these inspiring educators:

Copper Mountain Middle

Julie Willeitner, Special Education

“When school went online in March of 2020, Julie Willeitner immediately organized her team of special education teachers and assistants to best help students. As the school year continued online, Julie took the time to contact students and parents if they missed a Zoom session.”

Fort Herriman Middle

PJ Smalley, Language Arts/Instructional Coach

“He taught me the importance of respect in the classroom, and he helped me to realize that my teachers weren't just there to teach me but also to help me to become a better person.”

"Mr. Smalley was the best English teacher I’ve ever had! He taught me how to believe in my writing abilities. [Now] I’m in the process of publishing a poetry book.”

Bastian Elementary

Genevieve Randall, fifth grade

“[Genevieve] has been the JELL and PLC leader since her first year teaching [which is a huge deal].”

“She maintains classroom management through respect and always engages kids in their learning.”

“She uses data to drive her instruction and planning and in continually finding ways to improve her instruction and understanding of increasing student learning.”

Blackridge Elementary

Lisa Jensen, fifth grade

“I’m so grateful for wonderful people like Mrs. Jensen that inspire and uplift our children to do and be better.”

“She is an amazing educator. She believes in [my kids] and makes them strive for greatness because of how much she believes in them. I have learned that good leadership doesn’t come from fear or intimidation but from lifting up others and Lisa excels at this— seemingly effortlessly! She is one of the very best.”

Butterfield Canyon Elementary

Janet Hall, third grade

“Janet goes out of her way to let students know they are important.”

“Everyone who is lucky enough to know Janet understands just how much she loves students, her school and community. She spends countless hours doing things that often go unseen. She is a great employee who does her best to help other people feel important.”

Herriman Elementary School

Kiana Livingston, fourth grade

“A favorite memory that I have of Miss Livingston was when she sent me the sweetest note about how my daughter inspired her. She went on to talk of my daughter’s kindness. She won my heart that day!”

“Kiana loves her students. She adores them so much she even teaches recorders. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.”

Herriman High School

Casey Pehrson, School Psychologist

“Casey has been an integral part of our intervention program to identify students who struggle with social/mental health and depression. We have decreased the number of desperate tips (265) to the Safe Utah assistance program by 70% in the last three years.”

Mountain Ridge High School

Ashley Taylor, Language Arts & Sources of Strength

“Ashley is a mentor teacher, she is a concurrent enrollment teacher and she is the Sources of Strength club adviser and has taken on the new role of developing curriculum for the Sources of Strength class that we started this year.  Ashley jumps in with both feet and fully entrenches herself in school culture. She supports our students in their extracurricular activities and creates an environment at Mountain Ridge where kids want to be involved in anything that Ashley is in charge of.”

Ridge View Elementary 

Devionare Howland, kindergarten

“Devionare has been amazing with all that’s been expected for online school. I know that she has spent countless hours preparing videos and other resources for the entire kindergarten team.”

“I absolutely love Devionare. She has taught me so much about focusing on each child and doing whatever it takes to find the resources to help each one. She is one incredibly dedicated teacher. She is one of a kind!”

Silver Crest Elementary

Matt Smith, second grade

“Matt is professionally generous. He is always willing to share what he is doing in his classroom. Teachers come to him for information and advice about what works well, especially with technology.”

“Even through personal challenges such as treatment for cancer, Matt shows up for his students. He is an outstanding educator and our students are so lucky!”


2021 JEF Outstanding Education Support Professionals:

Natalie Casper, administrative assistant, District Accounting

Debbie Soelberg, route coordinator, District Transportation

Lou Ann Burnett, administrative assistant, Herriman High School

Monique Forman, nutrition manager, Bluffdale Elementary School

Mindy Kinder, nutrition manager, Southland Elementary School

Debra Schmidt, administrative assistant, Rosamond Elementary

Jeremy Peart, head custodian, Oquirrh Hills Middle School

Alicia Mckendrick, nutrition manager, Mountain Point Elementary

Christy Green, administrative assistant/attendance, South Hills Middle School

Lou Schick, administrative assistant/registrar, Riverton High School

Emily Gates, nutrition manager, JATC South Campus

Autumn Penney, head custodian, Kauri Sue Hamilton School