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The City Journals

Canyons honors those who provide excellence, commitment, leadership

Jan 10, 2022 03:16PM ● By Julie Slama

Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg shakes hands with Dr. Allyn Kau, Canyons’ 2021 volunteer of the year Apex award-winner. (Photo courtesy of Canyons School District)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Alta View Principal Scott Jameson called volunteer Dr. Allyn Kau, asking her to come to his office to talk rather than over the phone.

Immediately, the mother wondered if something happened with her children, but she knew that they weren’t ones who get in trouble. 

Kau had volunteered at the school for five years and even had substituted so she couldn’t imagine why he needed to talk to her in-person. Nevertheless, she emailed him back and went into his office the next day.

“He told me that he just got a notice from the (Canyons) Board (of Education) that I was chosen as the volunteer of the year,” she remembered. “I didn’t even know I was nominated.”

Kau recently was honored as the Canyons School District’s 2021 Volunteer of Year Apex Award-winner. She was honored for her excellence, commitment and leadership along with other Apex recipients, including teacher of the year Traci Raymond, who recently retired from Alta High; school administrator of the year Tom Sherwood of Brighton High; district administrator of the year Steve Dimond; student support services professional of the year Amy Boettger; education support professionals of the year Rick Hoggard, Lorraine Miles and Jeff Wren; elected official of the year Rep. Andrew Stoddard; community partner of the year Scheels; and legacy award-winners former Canyons administrators Kathryn McCarrie and Karen Sterling.

“Dr. Kau has been our PTA treasurer for several years; she’s been a substitute teacher whenever we’ve needed one. She’s here for career day, for our fun run, for every event. She’s been a driving force for our equity discussion for all kids; she has a Ph.D. and instead of working full time, she’s here volunteering,” Jameson said. “She’s been the individual who developed our summer reading program two years ago that is a collaborative effort between teachers and the Salt Lake County Library. If I ever need something, she’s immediately here, offering help. Dr. Kau is the heart of our school.”

Kau deflects Jameson’s praise.

“He’s always thanking people and doesn’t take the credit he deserves; everyone here is helping and deserves this recognition,” she said. “What I do is for all of them—the SCC (school community council), PTA, parents, teachers. I’m just shocked I’m being recognized when all I’m doing is trying to help everyone, many who are overwhelmed while working hard through the pandemic.”

The reading program Kau developed stemmed from helping a former third-grade student with math. 

“The student couldn’t read the problem, but once it was read to the student, he could do it. That’s when I began to wonder what is he going to do next year. Reading affects all subjects and most schools only have reading K-3 interventionists. I knew I needed to find a way to help him otherwise he’d always struggle, and I also knew if there was one student struggling, there likely were more,” she said.

With teachers already consumed by their workload, Kau took it upon herself to start outlining ideas. She attended a PTA conference where the Utah State Board of Education presented research about DYAD reading, which she was able to bring into her program outline. She also found out information from United Way and the Promise Partnership Third-Grade Elementary Reading Network. She also reached out to the Salt Lake County Library System.

At the same time, Jameson had heard from a number of teachers about the need for a strong summer reading program after attending a training. He put Kau together with those teachers to see how her program could support their needs. Then, Kau coordinated with the Alta View librarian to see about opening the school library during the summer and gained the support of the PTA.

“I know education has helped me and given me my life. If I can help these students and give them the confidence to succeed in the classroom, they can gain confidence and have what I have,” said Kau, who has her Ph.D. in physical therapy and who credits her mother for teaching her and her seven siblings how to read and supporting her education while growing up. “Everyone was willing to help and asked how they could support us.”

While Kau continues to work one weekend per month, she knows volunteering can make a difference in people’s lives.

“We all have different experiences, all the people we meet. By volunteering, it can help combat all the challenges we may be facing, the inequities there are, to give the best possible academic learning possible to everyone,” she said, adding that it was her mother who told her to be known around Alta View as Dr. Kau, so it will motivate students to inspire to achieve similar career goals.

The reading program, also known as Roadrunners Read, completed its second summer in 2021 (after one year off during the COVID-19 summer of 2020). It has a partnership with a Salt Lake County librarian who presents a storytime around a theme and brings a literacy project for students to be engaged in come to the school library, which is open during the summer for students to check out books, sometimes two levels higher than grade level. DYAD reading is modeled to families and teachers contribute and are supportive of the reading program, she said.

“Mr. Jameson is willing to offer a way to help students by opening the school in the summer and the librarian welcomes students to the school library, teachers are supporting it, and we have support from the community; it’s all been huge to helping these students. It benefits the whole school; it benefits the neighborhood,” Kau said. “My name is on the award, and Mr. Jameson took the time to do something kind even though he knows that I’m uncomfortable being in the limelight. It’s really an Alta View award. I’ve just crossed paths to help. To me, it has just been so inspiring to see how many people are wanting to help.”