Utah Teacher of the Year (UTOY)

2016 - Melody Apezteguia

2016 Teacher of the Year Melody Apezteguia and others celebratingMs. Apezteguia has been teaching for over 20 years, 6 of those years at American Fork High School in Alpine School District. Melody did not set out to become a teacher, she started with studies in business and quickly decided it was the wrong career for her. As she was thinking of degrees, she remembered many of the positives in her life to that point. She started helping others with mathematics in middle school. It was rewarding to see the “light” of understanding come on when she helped someone understand a difficult concept. She decided this was a career she would enjoy and make a difference in the lives of children. So her teaching career began.

She believes that for students to truly learn, they have to feel that the teacher cares about their success. Her students know she cares and one example comes in a thank you note from one of her students at the end of the year saying, “Thank you for caring about me and each of your students individually.” Along with caring, she makes it a point to have great communication with her students and high expectations for their learning.

Her beliefs about teaching are infused in all that she does. She sums it up with this, “I love my students; just being around them makes me happy. I am excited to share the fun and joy I find in mathematics with them. I am happy, energetic, and encouraging in my teaching. My door is always open to anyone with a question. I love my profession! I found a career I not only enjoy but love, I am able to contribute to society, and I absolutely make a difference in the lives of my students.

2016 District Teachers of the Year

2016 Teacher of the Year Banquet

2016 Teacher of the Year Sponsors

2015 Utah Teacher of the Year

Mohsen Ghaffari

2015 Teacher of the Year - Mohsen GhaffariMr. Ghaffari has been in education for over 18 years, 15 of those years at North Star. He has a great presence not only with his students but with the entire staff and community. He says as an educator, he is responsible to his students as well as their parents and his colleagues. All of his work is based on brain research and psychology of learning. He shares his findings and information with his colleagues through collaboration meetings, school-wide bulletin boards and lesson plans. He believes if they are all educated educators, their students will benefit the most.

Mohsen was born and raised in Iran to a set of parents with a combined five years of schooling. In his home country he did not have the freedom to choose his career. When he took the entrance exam in order to be able to continue his education, his test scores and the educational system in Iran were determining his career to become an agricultural engineer. He had other dreams, so he left Iran and never looked back. He wanted to be an educator and that is just what he did.

Mohsen became Nationally Board Certified in 2010. In 2014, he won the Exemplary Teacher Award and the Highly Qualified Teacher Award in Math. In 2013 he won the Highly Qualified Teacher Award in Math, Language Arts, and Science.

2015 District Teachers of the Year

2015 Teacher of the Year Banquet

2015 Teacher of the Year Sponsors

2014 Utah Teacher of the Year

Allison Riddle

2014 Teacher of Year - Allison RiddleAllison Riddle teaches 5th grade at Foxboro Elementary School in Davis School District. She has been in education for 25 years with four of those at Foxboro. Allison was inspired to be a teacher when she attended Bountiful High School by now Davis District Superintendent Bryan Bowles who was a teacher at the time. Allison says, “he instilled in me confidence and a real love for presenting to groups.” While still at Bountiful High, she met another favorite teacher, Kim Burningham, now a State Board Member, when she took his speech and debate class. She tells of how they encouraged her to investigate a career where she could help others with her talents in presentations, and that eventually guided her toward teaching. Allison says, “I love what I do each day! Watching my students progressing and sharing their successes and challenges with their parents is deeply rewarding.” In addition to teaching her 5th grade students, Allison is also a mentor to provisional teachers as well as a consultant for a small math company.

2014 District Teachers of the Year

2014 Teacher of the Year Banquet

2014 Teacher of the Year Sponsors

2014 Pictures of Events

Additional Awards

North Salt Lake Educator to Receive National Recognition with the 2015 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence
The NEA Foundation

Allison with President Obama
Allison with President Obama

2013 Utah Teacher of the Year

Sara Hacken

2013 Teacher of the Year - Sara HackenSara Hacken teaches US History and Language Arts at Lakeridge Jr. High in Alpine School District. She has been in education for 27 years and 14 of those at Lakeridge Jr. High. She has a belief that ALL children are entitled to an appropriate public education, including the right to a year’s academic growth in school. This applies not just to her children or students, but ALL children. She believes that learning should be interesting, active, and relevant. She structures each unit she writes so that at some point each student will be engaged where they have strengths. A parent who had five of her children in Mrs. Hacken’s class in a span of 13 years writes, “Mrs. Sara Hacken is the teacher our children will remember. She is the one we all talk about. My husband, also an educator, said recently that Mrs. Hacken understands that her role is so much more than merely disseminating information—it is treating students with respect; recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses; engaging her students in life; holding them to high standards of honesty, creativity, preparation, and loyalty; and love.”

2013 District Teachers of the Year

2013 Teacher of the Year Banquet

2013 Teacher of the Year Sponsors

2013 National Teacher of the Year Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona

2012 Utah Teacher of the Year

Leigh VandenAkker

2012 Teacher of the Year - Leigh VandenAkkerLeigh VandenAkker teaches Techniques for Tough Times at East High School in the Salt Lake City School District. She has been in education for 20 Years, 3 of those years have been at East High School. Her sister provided her with the motto in which she teachers her students, “You have the strength to face and accomplish hard things.” Her greatest accomplishments in teaching, she says, come when a student with no prospect for the future realizes his abilities and finds the courage and strength to overcome his challenges. To see the value of education become a priority in the life of a student is a dream come true for a teacher. In her application she describes her philosophy of teaching, “Our role as educators must reflect that we truly value each individual student for their uniqueness and sincerely believe they can be successful. Every student who walks through my door deserves to be respected and treated as my most valuable customer. It is an honor to be their teacher. As an educator, I firmly believe it is my job to motivate the desires of my students into a productive course of action that will successfully guide them into the future. I must provide an environment where my students feel safe to make a mistake, feel comfortable to question and debate, and have the desire to find success. I want my students to feel valued and find the courage to achieve not only as a student, but more important, as a conscientious member of their community.”

2012 District Teachers of the Year

National Teacher of the Year 2012 Conference Images, Dallas, Texas

2012 Teacher of the Year Banquet

2012 National and Utah Teacher of the Year Sponsors

Our very own Leigh VandenAkker being awarded the 2011 Utah PTA Golden Apple Awards along with other recipients.

Leigh VandenAkker speaking at TEDxBYU, Education for an Empowered Life

Leigh VandenAkker, 2015 Huntsman Education Award Winner

East High Teacher Leigh VandenAkker a Crucial Assistant for Leopard Football Team

2011 Utah Teacher of the Year

Gay Beck

2011 Teacher of the Year - Gay BeckGay Beck is a Kindergarten teacher at Highland Elementary School in the Alpine School District. She has taught for 16 years and 9 of those years were spent at Highland. Gay loves to see the faces of her students light up when they come into her room, this is what she has to say about her students: “I love it when I see a student read a sentence for the first time and they smile up at me saying, “ I can read!” It is rewarding to see a small group of students working with blocks and the intricate patterns they create. It is also fun to run into a student in the community. The reward of seeing their enthusiasm as they recognize me outside of school is precious to me. When they realize that I do not live at Highland Elementary, it surprises and delights them! There is great joy in watching the progress of a five-year-old mind-from learning the abc’s to reading, from counting to five, to adding and subtracting by the end of the year. I find it rewarding going to my classroom, each day, to meet the challenges of eager and diverse learners. It is gratifying that I can make the school environment enriching and one of the best parts of a student’s day. It is such a reward to see children improve their behavior and to learn to self- manage. Seeing children learn to improve their work habits and take pride in a quality finished product is satisfying. I love seeing learners who find a niche they become passionate about. It is also wonderful to see students learn to appreciate each other and work together. Watching the development of young children learning appropriate social skills is truly amazing. I also feel very fortunate to have developed many meaningful relationships with students and their families. However, the biggest reward is the intrinsic value of knowing I made a difference in a child’s life.”

Rhonda Bromley, an administrator at the Alpine School District, and who has also had two of her 6 children in Gay’s class writes, “Gay is one of the most positive and loving teachers that I have ever met. As an administrator as well as a mother, I have worked with my share of teachers. Gay is genuinely concerned about every one of her students, current as well as former. I remember an experience with my daughter when she wasn’t feeling well one night. We talked about the fact that she might not be able to go to school the next morning if she wasn’t feeling better. My daughter was so sad at the thoughts of missing school, but she was very worried about Mrs. Beck. When I asked her why she was worried for her teacher, she told me that if she misses school the next day, Mrs. Beck would be so sad not to have her there. As a mother, I loved hearing the confidence that my five year old had in knowing that her teacher cared for her so much.

Please feel free to view the:

Teacher of the Year 2011 Banquet Images

Teacher of the Year 2011 Images, Washington, D.C.

National Teacher of the Year 2011 Conference Images, Dallas, Texas

Why I Teach

2011 Utah Teacher of the Year Accomplishments

Our very own 2011 Utah Teacher of the Year, Gay Beck, was featured in the March/April issue of Utah Valley Magazine, in the Fab 50 Section. She can be found on page 58.

2010 Utah Teacher of the Year

Mary Jane Morris

President Obama and Mary Jane Morris

2010 Teacher of the Year - Mary Jane Morris with President ObamaMs. Morris is a 7th and 8th grade reading teacher and the AVID site coordinator at Northwest Middle School in the Salt Lake City School District. She has been a teacher for 33 years, the last 14 at Northwest Middle, a school whose population is two-thirds Hispanic and 95 percent free and reduced-price lunch eligible.

For those of you not familiar with AVID, it is the acronym for Advancement via Individual Determination. It is a college-readiness program aimed at increasing the number of students who are college-ready upon graduation.

"Few people can measure up to Mary Jane," wrote her former principal, Rosemary Baron. "As a principal who had the fortune of working with her, I would only hope that all teachers in our public education profession had her love for teaching and learning, determination to help students succeed and desire to learn new ways of helping students in their achievement."

One of her former students, Jose Hernandez, took the time to write to Ms. Morris when he graduated from West High School in 2007. Who wouldn’t want to receive a note like this? "Words could not express my gratitude," he wrote. "You have given me the strength and determination to keep on going in my education. … You gave me the key to open the door of knowledge; you gave me the spark that started the flame of education. Thank you for articulating my think, never giving up on me and, most importantly, always believing in me."

Links

National and Utah Teacher of the Year Sponsors

National Teacher of the Year Banquet

National Teacher of the Year President Recognition, Washington D.C., April 2010

Utah District Teachers of the Year

2009 Utah Teacher of the Year

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, (middle) with Superintendent Patti Harrington and State Board Chair Richard Sadler.

2009 Teacher of the Year - Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh"Sharon is not only a remarkable teacher ", said the Salt Lake City District Superintendent, McKell Withers, "she is a leader, mentor, and advocate for others. She is a dedicated and thoughtful public school educator that will work hard to assist all students and to advocate for public schools in all
settings. "

Sharon's desire to become a teacher has been nurtured and influenced by the teachings of many extraordinary people along the way and the dreams and goals she had as a child. These lessons came from her parents and teachers who always expected the best from her, her colleagues whose continual collaboration and example make her want to be a better teacher and her students who bring their unbridled enthusiasm for learning, a keen sense of community and family, a true example of what it means to love one another, and boundless energy to her classroom.

During a holiday break, a student mentioned to his mother, "Mom, do you remember when we went on a long trip last year and I missed our house?", "Yes", the mother said, "you said I was homesick. Well, I am wondering, is it possible to be schoolsick?" Initially, the mother was dismayed that her young son, who two nights previous slept fitfully in anticipation of Christmas morning, was already bored with his new toys and ready to return to school, but as the conversation continued, the young boy shared, "I'm happy because of the holidays but I really miss my classroom and I really miss Mrs. Gallagher."

Sharon speaks about an inspiring student diagnosed with a learning disability, and who struggled with reading, he came running up to her on the last day of school, and said, "Thank you for making me feel smart!" Sharon says it is the culmination of thousands of small moments, which have positively impacted a child's life that are her greatest contributions and accomplishments.

During a holiday break, a student mentioned to his mother, "Mom, do you remember when we went on a long trip last year and I missed our house?", "Yes", the mother said, "you said I was homesick. Well, I am wondering, is it possible to be schoolsick?" Initially, the mother was dismayed that her young son, who two nights previous slept fitfully in anticipation of Christmas morning, was already bored with his new toys and ready to return to school, but as the conversation continued, the young boy shared, "I'm happy because of the holidays but I really miss my classroom and I really miss Mrs. Gallagher."

Sharon speaks about an inspiring student diagnosed with a learning disability, and who struggled with reading, he came running up to her on the last day of school, and said, "Thank you for making me feel smart!" Sharon says it is the culmination of thousands of small moments, which have positively impacted a child's life that are her greatest contributions and accomplishments.

All the 2009 State Teachers of the Year with President and First Lady Obama at the Rose Garden where each teacher was honored individually by the President. Sharon is on the first row, 3rd from the left!

All of the 2009 State Teachers of the Year with President Obama and First Lady at the Rose GardenSharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh
2009 Utah Teacher of the Year
Second Grade Teacher
Dilworth Elementary
Salt Lake School District
Phone: (801) 481-4806 | sharon.gallagher-fishbaugh [at] slc [dot] k12 [dot] ut [dot] us(E-mail)

Links

National and Utah Teacher of the Year Sponsors

Utah District Teachers of the Year, Pictures of Banquet

2009 National Teacher of the Year, Conference in Dallas

2008 Milken Family Foundation Winner

Melissa Bott

2008 Milken Family Foundation Winner Melissa BottMcPolin Elementary Teacher Wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

Park City, Utah—Milken Family Foundation Executive Vice-President for Milken Educator Awards, Richard Sandler, today presented McPolin Elementary School Reading Specialist Melissa Bott with a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, a prize that comes with a $25,000 check. Bott was one of only 80 teachers across the country to win the award and the only Utah teacher to win this year.

The Milken Family Foundation Educator Awards have been presented annually since 1987. Bott is the 26th Utah teacher to win the award since the state joined the program in 1997. Bott, 34, of Park City, will join the other 2008 award winners next spring where she will be given her check, which can be used for anything, by foundation representatives.

Teachers are chosen for exceptional educational talent, outstanding accomplishments and long-range potential and for an engaging and inspiring presence that motivates students.

Melissa Bott
Reading Specialist
McPolin Elementary
Park City School District
Phone: (435) 645-5600 | mbott [at] pcschools [dot] us(E-mail)

Links

Milken Family Foundation

Milken Conference, California, April 2009

2008 State Board Presentation Photos

2008 Photos of Surprise Notification at an All School Assembly

UTOY Team

Robert Austin
Specialist
Phone: (801) 538-7575 | E-mail