EDEN -- Anticipation was high Friday night at Valley View Elementary as sixth-grade students and their families watched to see if their teacher, Michelle Evans, would win the national Great American Teacher Award.
Evans was nominated for the award by the parent of a student and a member of the Utah Education Association.
Hundreds of teachers were nominated, and the field was narrowed to five.
Evans traveled Wednesday to Atlanta to complete the competition and attend a learning academy sponsored by a prestigious charter school, the Ron Clark Academy.
Students watched the live awards ceremony through live Internet feed Friday night.
Each of the five teachers were previewed with a short video presentation and a brief speech by each teacher. Representatives from the Ron Clark Academy visited Valley View earlier this month to talk to students and get information about Evans.
"Before this year, I would wake up and think, 'Oh no, school,' and now I wake up and can't wait to get there," student Micah Coomes said on the video.
Almost the whole class of 31 students attended the awards party and were so excited words flew as they talked about their teacher.
"We just want to support her because we love her," said Kamryn Crompton.
Every time Evans appeared on camera, students screamed and clapped. They were especially excited when she said how much she loves her students, the school and other teachers.
Students waited patiently for the announcement of the winner, which ended up not being Evans. The room went quiet when her name wasn't announced, but then erupted with applause for the winning teacher, Genein Letford.
The entire school has been celebrating Evans' accomplishments all week. As Evans left Wednesday, the student body stood outside cheering and waving signs wishing her luck. As she was driven over Trappers Loop, the sixth-graders met her there with more signs and applause.
"It was just so fun to do that," Micah said of seeing her off.
Weber School Board member Cheryl Ferrin said even if Evans didn't win, it was a high honor for her to be in the final five. "She is an amazing teacher."
Evans taught Ferrin's children at Valley View, and her daughter, Rebecca Warns, currently team teaches with Evans. Evans has been teaching at the school for 27 years and has a remarkable reputation, Ferrin said.
One of her trademark practices is her EconoME program, where students manage their own economy starting at the beginning of the year.
Everyone has a job and a way to earn money throughout the year.
Students are taught how to budget and buy insurance. Toward the end of the year, students get "engaged and married" and learn how to manage a budget from a relationship standpoint.
Ferrin said the information the students learn from the EconoME program is life-changing.
Warns agrees and also thinks Evans' positive attitude and energy with the children is hard to ignore.
Warns loved Evans as her sixth-grade teacher and can't believe she actually gets to teach with her idol.
"I felt like I have reached the Taj Mahal of my career. She is an amazing, amazing woman," Warns said.
Evans has received more than 25 awards, with trophies adorning the tops of her cupboards in her classroom ranging from Utah State Teacher of the Year to Apple for the Teacher awards.
"I don't even know what some of these are, but I know she deserves them," Warns said as she motioned toward the awards.
"I love children and it is my passion," Evans said on the recorded video Friday night.
"I want my students to learn more than what is in the book."
Evans didn't walk away empty-handed. She and a guest get an all-expenses-paid round-trip to Atlanta to attend the Ron Clark Academy's National Educators' Conference this weekend; special recognition at the awards gala Friday night; classroom resources and supplies; a class set of Promethean ActivExpressions, which is an enhanced video system for classroom use valued at $1,000; and other media opportunities.
For more information on the award, visit www.ronclarkacademy.com.