This year, local K-12 teachers and staff have juggled a series of logistical challenges to make school happen. Many worked extra hours as they taught classes both online and in-person, made sure each classroom was sanitized at the end of the day and prepared curbside lunches when students learned remotely.
Multiple educators and support staff were recognized statewide and nationally for how well they filled their role and helped students make it through a year which for many was challenging, at best.
Angela Stewart, Centennial Junior High School
Stewart is a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. She was one of two secondary teachers nominated by the Utah State Board of Education for the science award, joining three nominated for the math award.
According to a press release from the USBE, the award is “the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching.”
Her application will be reviewed by a selection committee which will announce the results sometime in the late summer or early fall. If she is selected from the five finalists to be one of two Utah PAEMST awardees, Stewart will receive a certificate signed by President Joe Biden, a paid trip for two to Washington to attend a series of recognition events and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
Adrienne Scott-Ellis, Doxey Elementary School
The Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, presented Scott-Ellis with the Robert “Archie” Archuleta UEA Human and Civil Rights Award for 2021. The award recognizes teachers who not only have a significant impact on civil rights in education but also in the larger community.
Scott-Ellis is a fourth grade teacher certified in Respecting Ethnic and Cultural Heritage, or REACH, and started the nonprofit Sewing Seeds of Change, which established a community garden and donated the harvest to local residents in need. The UEA has nominated Scott-Ellis for the National Education Association’s Human and Civil Rights Award.
Alexandra Castellanos Smith, Sand Ridge Junior High School
In partnership with doTERRA, the UEA named Smith one of 10 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients throughout the state. Smith teaches both Spanish and English as a second language at Sand Ridge and is the advisor for Latinos in Action at the school.
According to a description of Smith published by PBS Utah along with a video profile of her, she is a former ESL student herself and the only teacher of color in the school, making her a role model for Latino students. Through Latinos in Action, she has organized service projects at homeless shelters, elementary schools and cultural events.
Kamie Boren, Silver Ridge Elementary School
The School Nutrition Association awarded Boren, a child nutrition manager, Manager of the Year for its West region. The West region includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
According to a press release, Boren has fed students for more than a decade. Each year, she makes an effort to learn every student’s name, decorate the school’s cafeteria to make it more welcoming and offers new menu options while collecting feedback from students.
Kerry Talbot, Roosevelt Elementary SchoolTalbot is one of 12 national finalists for the Custodians are Key award, run by Tennant Company, which produces and develops cleaning products and solutions. The winner will be announced this month. According to a press release, they and their school will receive a $15,000 prize package.
Children at the school affectionately call him “Mr. Tablet.” Describing him, the release said he frequently has a crowd of students around him and, during lunchtime, they call on him and his pair of scissors to open packaged food.
Mary Warren, Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind
Also in the running for the Custodians are Key award, head custodian Warren not only keeps her school clean, safe and sanitized, she celebrates each child’s birthday with the gift of a book, according to a press release. Warren taught herself how to communicate with students at the school and holds a weekly trivia contest to help children learn researching skills.
“She loves the students here and they love her right back!” said Library Technician Kristin Walker, who nominated Warren.