Inspiring science teacher retiring after 30 yearsMay 18, 2021 08:04PM ● By Jet Burnham
Todd Monson receives the 2018 Teacher Innovation Award, one of his many teaching awards. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Monson.)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Science teacher Todd Monson, who has spent 30 years inspiring and molding students at Oquirrh Hills Middle School, is retiring.
“He is the kind of teacher that everybody wants in their building and the kind of teacher that people want their kids to have,” OHMS Principal Donna Hunter said. “He is energetic, cheerful, supportive, professional, and he loves the kids.”
Monson is the kind of teacher that spends the night on the roof of Peterson’s Fresh Market, every year, for 28 years, to draw attention to Oquirrhfest, OHMS’s annual fundraising drive. Brandon Peterson, store manager at Peterson’s, is a former student of Monson’s. He said Monson is still the enthusiastic and positive teacher he remembers from his youth.
“It doesn't matter how bad the weather is, his attitude is always super positive and he's excited to do that and get the students excited and motivated about what they're doing,” Peterson said. “He's a great example of the best that the education system has in the way that he relates to students and is an example to students of doing hard things or doing things that might be seen as uncomfortable.”
Uncomfortable, like sleeping on a roof, braving cold, snow, wind, sleet, hail and tent damage to support his students.
Peterson said because Monson has taught three generations of students at one school and in one community, he’s been able to have an impact on the Riverton community.
“He’s made himself a partner, not just inside the four walls of the school, but a known individual and a partner in the community,” he said.
Monson has received several awards and recognitions for teaching, his support of STEM learning, and his community involvement.
At OHMS, Monson taught science in the ALPS gifted and talented program. He started the Science Olympiad program and the first—and only—middle school FIRST Tech Challenge robotics program in Jordan District.
“My goal has been to inspire students to develop an interest in science with enjoyable creative experiments and demonstrations that have been an opportunity for students to develop a common interest, curiosity, fascination and amazement in eighth grade science,” Monson said. “The students that have come through my classroom have inspired me to be a better teacher each year. The students are the people that I work for.”
This past year, Monson served as a mentor teacher, a role he’s had informally for 30 years. As Monson’s colleague of 11 years, Cindy Van Pelt has been inspired by how invested he is in his students and colleagues.
“Everyone in our faculty knows Todd is the heart of the culture that our colleagues are our family and will be there to support us and help us through whatever may come our way,” she said. “Todd Monson is irreplaceable and he will be sorely missed when he retires. It’s not possible to calculate or put into the words the difference he has made in the lives of his students, his colleagues, and the community he has served.”
Hunter said Monson is “the friendliest person in the world” who loves to talk with people and make connections wherever he goes. Monson loves to teach and said the key is that when you enjoy what you are teaching, your students will enjoy learning.
His curiosity and his passion for science and his interests—such as coin-collecting and metal-detecting—have provided enriching learning activities for his students. Even the COVID restrictions this school year didn’t disrupt his engaging style of instruction.
“I just wanted to go out with the same enthusiasm as I came in, and I feel like I am,” Monson said. “I still have the energy. I still have the enthusiasm. I still love the kids. I still love the people I teach with. I'll always have that passion and that support for the students and the staff—that's what I love to do—and that's going to be a hard thing to not be actively involved in that as much.”
His wife, Dawn, said her husband’s focus has always been his students.
“Just having that relationship with them and watching them grow and discover—that piece is going to be the hardest part for him to walk away from,” she said.
When he retires, Monson will focus on his other passions—his wife, his two sons and his 5 3/4 grandkids, being outdoors and fishing and camping, looking for treasures exposed by historic home renovations, and exploring ghost towns.
“My 30 years have been a thrill and a joy and it's bittersweet to be leaving, but I know that I’m going out at the top of my game as opposed to the bottom of my game,” Monson said. “The 30 years have been filled with memories that will last the rest of my life. It has been an honor and privilege to teach science here at OHMS.”
A retirement party will be held for Todd Monson at OHMS on May 20, 4-6 pm.