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South Valley Journal

Jordan School District's outstanding teachers of the year

May 03, 2019 09:36AM ● By Jet Burnham

Carol Ramsay, a teacher at Silver Crest Elementary, was overwhelmed to be named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Education Fund)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Chosen from 2,500 Jordan School District teachers, 18 were awarded the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award for 2019. District officials and members of the Jordan Education Foundation (JEF) surprised teachers in their classrooms with the announcement, inviting them to a banquet at Little America to each receive an award and $1,000 cash.

Four of the teachers honored were from Herriman Schools and four were from Riverton Schools.


Silver Crest Elementary

Carol Ramsay, fifth grade teacher

One of her nominators said, “Carol Ramsay is the teacher that any parent or grandparent would want their child to have. She develops strong relationships with students and parents because it is apparent that she has tremendous skill and cares deeply for the success of every child. She makes sure that no student slips by without her best efforts.” 

Ramsey uses technological resources to individualize her instruction. 

“I am able to see immediately from their work on Google Classroom where I need to intervene right then to make sure my students are given the opportunity to be proficient in all standards of the curriculum,” she said. “I have seen my students grow in how they process and are able to respond on a higher level in their learning.” 

Ramsey advocates for technology in the classroom, holding professional development training twice a month to introduce and support her colleagues integrating technology into their classrooms.

“Each year I have made a goal to learn more and become familiar with what the district is wanting the schools to have technology-wise in the schools,” said Ramsay. “I hope it is benefiting the teachers who may be hesitant to try new things in the technology world by being there for them whenever they have questions or need assistance in introducing technology in their classrooms.”

Students also benefit. 

“I love seeing the excitement in my students when they get to learn new things on their computers such as how to code, create presentations, research and work on their instructional level,” she said. 

Ramsay said she appreciates the recognition from JEF. 

“Teachers work so hard each and every day to do what is best for our students without expecting any recognition so getting this award is touching and means so much,” she said.

Fort Herriman Middle School

Emma Cisneros, Utah and US History

“I love my job, I love what I do, I love the people that I work with,” said Emma Cisneros.

One of her history students said, “She makes learning so fun even though some people don't like history a lot, she makes it so fun for everyone.” 

One of her nominators said of Cisneros, “Compassion should be her middle name. I can see why so many students tell me that she is their favorite teacher or that she is the only reason why they come to school.”

Shannon Cisneros, who flew in from California to be at the surprise presentation, said her daughter cares about helping her students grow in the classroom and as individuals. 

“She takes a personal interest and wants them to shine and become the best they can be in all aspects of their lives—and I love that about her,” she said.

Cisneros was recognized in part for her impact on the culture at FHMS. She heads the school-wide Choose Kind program, providing ways for kids to connect with and be kind to each other. 

Foothills Elementary

Melissa Lowry, first grade teacher

Dot Gaddis, whose son with autism is in Lowry’s class, said she is a teacher who thinks creatively to meet the needs of all her students.

“She changed the entire behavior/reward chart based on him and it ended up working for everybody,” said Gaddis. “It’s made it very easy to integrate him into a classroom setting with typical children.”

A colleague noted that Lowry collaborates well with parents and colleagues and applies successful instructional and behavioral strategies in the classroom. 

“Mrs. Lowry always finds a way to reach all students,” said one of her nominators. “She is one of those teachers that when you cross her path you know you have encountered something special.”

Herriman Elementary

Bego Rodriguez, sixth Grade Spanish DLI

Bego Rodriquez loves teaching. 

“Just the faces of the kids when you walk in everyday and you tell them something new,” said Rodriguez. “They’re wowed and it’s just amazing. It tells you that you’re doing something good and you just continue and learn new things.”

Her students volunteered what they like about their teacher: her experiments, science projects, patience, activities, and attitude.

Her nominators praised her teaching skills and her efforts to mentor her colleagues.

“Bego has mad skills in teaching,” said a colleague. “Her classroom is a well-oiled machine. Herriman teachers have learned copious amounts from Bego’s leadership and wisdom. Her powerful presence is constantly sought after by teachers of all grades. She has earned this respect, because she is continually giving of her time on their behalf. Her impact is monumental beyond description.”


Rose Creek Elementary 

Michelle Poteki, third grade teacher

Students know they are safe with Michelle Poteki. 

“Mrs. Poteki talks to me and cares about what I have to say. She is very nice and really fun,” said a student.

One nominator stated that Poteki respects her students:

“Mrs. Poteki never talks down to her students and always addresses problems privately, so the students feel safe with her. [She] understands that school is a place where children should learn and grow. She exemplifies the practice ‘Know thy impact’ in her classroom. She has a deep understanding of what she is teaching and why she is teaching it. She knows what success looks like, and because of the way she communicates this, her students know what it looks like as well.”

Kauri Sue Hamilton School

Natalie Smith, teaches 3-5 grades

Natalie Smith teaches 11 students in third, fourth and fifth grade who have significant multiple disabilities. With the help of three assistants, her classroom is well organized, said her nominator.

“Her relationships are built on knowing her students well, establishing trust, and showing respect for the students and their families. Natalie's demeanor, honesty and knowledge of each student allows for open dialogue with all staff and family that are involved with her students. I have seen her work miracles with difficult behaviors,” said a nominator.

Southland Elementary

Mary Garcia, Special Ed K-6

A colleague stated, “Mary is very friendly and kind. When asked about Mary Garcia, I immediately think about the fact that every school needs a Mary. She is the glue that holds us together. Mary can be counted on to be available at all times and is willing to do whatever is needed in any given situation. I have never had a time when Mary was unable or unwilling to help me or my students.”

A parent of one of Garcia’s students expressed appreciation for her support.

“As we traveled into unknown territory with our sweet little guy, Mary was always professional and a very knowledgeable resource. She was always there to answer questions, give us advice and honest opinions, careful to never push our decisions one way or the other. As parents, we appreciated her support. She always had our backs, going to bat for us and doing everything she could to help us fight for what was best for our son.”

South Hills Middle School

Eric Noyes, Music teacher

Eric Noyes co-advises the Student Body Officers at South Hills Middle. Under his direction, the student body raised over $15,000 for their December charity fundraiser. 

His nomination explains, “Mr. Noyes is a champion for all of our students, not just the ones in his classes. It is difficult to quantify the impact Mr. Noyes has had in the lives of those around him.”

Riverton Elementary School

Candice Pedersen, sixth grade

Parents said Candice Pedersen makes their kids want to come to because she engages students in learning, frequently replacing outdated strategies with current research-based approaches. 

One colleague said Pedersen sets up every student for success. 

“Candice is extremely student-centered and strives for all students to have a positive and successful experience while at Riverton Elementary,” they wrote on her nomination application.

One parent said, “She puts her whole heart and soul into teaching. She has such a passion for making sure her kids not only learn, but enjoy learning. Her kids know that they come first and that she wants them to succeed.”

Pedersen’s relationship with her students strengthens their academic learning as well as their emotional development, said parents of students in her class. 

“This is a teacher I trust with my child's heart,” said a parent. 

The following teachers were recognized by JEF as 2018-19 Teachers of the Year:

Michelle Thorn, Butterfield Canyon Elementary

Ericka Gowans, Rosamond Elementary

Loreal Gaitan, Midas Creek Elementary

Ashley Moon, Bastian Elementary

Kelleen Leslie, Blackridge Elementary

Pamela Hansen, Bluffdale Elementary

Nicole Patty, Oquirrh Hills Middle

Julie Frix, Copper Mountain Middle

Alyssa Topham, Herriman HS

Brynn Perkins, Riverton HS

Krista Camp, JATC South