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2017 UEA Excellence in Teaching Awards

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UEA and doTERRA Present Top Educator Awards

Awards presented at KeyBank Superstars in Education Banquet

Kathy Riddle, first-grade teacher at Circleville Elementary School in Piute County School District, makes her students eat dirt and worms. It’s only crushed Oreos and gummy worms, but her students remember “Daily Individualized Reading Time (DIRT),” a time when every student reads individually selected books aloud. Her classroom is energized as the students remember alphabet sounds while enjoying green eggs and ham, popcorn flying from the popper, bubble gum machines and other engaging activities. “The bottom line is she makes learning fun,” said a fellow teacher.

Helping students set goals and plan for their futures is only a small part of what Richard Kimball does. When a student was hospitalized for an attempted suicide, the counselor at Diamond Fork Junior High School in Nebo School District stepped in to help her and her mother move forward. He arranged for home-bound services so the student could still get her school work done and earn credit for graduation. He also helped her mother find community services

Five years ago, James Cavan taught a single music class at South Sevier Middle School with about 35 student musicians ranging from beginning to more experienced. This year there are 137 students between two classes, including about half of the entire sixth-grade class. His love of music is contagious and has impacted the entire school.

Riddle, Kimball and Cavan are three of the 10 educators who will be honored with 2017 UEA/doTERRA Excellence in Teaching awards during the KeyBank Superstars in Education banquet May 19. The event will be at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper.

Award recipients were selected based on their impact on individual students or groups of students. Each winner receives an award, a poster to display at their school and a check for $1,500, courtesy of award sponsor doTERRA.

UEA Excellence in Teaching award recipients for 2017 are (click on name for profile):

  • Melissa Brown, Math Teacher at Riverton High School, Jordan School District
  • James Cavan, Music Teacher at South Sevier Middle School and South Sevier High School, Sevier School District
  • Laura Eliason, Fifth-Grade Teacher at Taylor Elementary, Davis School District
  • Jennifer Ellsworth, Fourth-Grade Teacher at Rolling Meadows Elementary, Granite School District
  • Katie Frederiksen, English Teacher at Legacy Junior High School, Davis School District
  • Richard Kimball, Counselor at Diamond Fork Junior High School, Nebo School District
  • Kathy Riddle, First-Grade Teacher at Circleville Elementary School, Piute County School District
  • Kathy Sherman, English as a Second Language Teacher at Ellis Elementary School, Logan City School District
  • Mui Tran, Kindergarten Teacher at Holt Elementary School, Davis School District

The UEA has presented more than 150 Excellence in Teaching awards since 2000. KeyBank has sponsored the banquet since 2012. KUED produced a video profile on each of the 10 winning teachers shown at the awards ceremony. The video profiles are available online at kued.org/teachers.

“The UEA is honored to recognize these outstanding educators,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “They are a shining example of the great work happening in our public schools each day.”

“We are privileged to support the Utah Education Association as it honors our state’s educators,” said Terry Grant, President of KeyBank in Utah. “These exceptional teachers comprise a vital part of our communities by ensuring our children receive quality educations. Quality education helps our communities thrive and thriving communities benefit all of us.”

In addition to recognizing the state’s outstanding educators, the UEA presented three 2017 Honor Roll awards for outstanding service to Utah public education:

  • Marie Poulson, Utah state representative and former educator;
  • Ralph Sharp, volunteer at Foothills and Blackridge Elementary Schools, Jordan School District; and
  • Tommy Tanzer, retired educator, Park City School District.
A Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award was also presented to Mike Harman, homeless education liaison in Salt Lake City School District.


Award Winner Profiles


Melissa Brown

Math Teacher at Riverton High School, Jordan School District

Several years ago, Melissa Brown organized other calculus teachers in the district to brainstorm ways to help their students prepare for the AP exam. Ultimately they came up with the idea of the Jordan District Calculus Bowl. Ms. Brown hosted the first event at Riverton High School. Questions were taken from previous AP exams, allowing students to have fun while reviewing for the test. The Calculus Bowl grows and improves each year.

When a chemistry teacher quit mid-year, Ms. Brown agreed to take the class. Teaching this class meant she would have seven different courses to prepare. Having never taught chemistry, she spent hours studying her lessons and learning to perform the demonstrations and laboratory experiments. This allowed a group of students to continue their current schedules without interruption.

“Your generosity, your dedication to your students, your respect for all people and your fun-loving personality are all major inspirations for how I hope I can live when I'm out in the real world,” wrote a former student. “I am truly a better person because of your influence.”



James Cavan

Music Teacher at South Sevier Middle School and South Sevier High School, Sevier School District

Five years ago, James Cavan taught a single class at South Sevier Middle School with about 35 student musicians ranging from beginning to more experienced. This year there are 137 students between two classes, including about half of the entire sixth-grade class. The auditorium is filled and the parking lot packed at each of the four annual student-led concerts. Standing ovations are not uncommon.

Because of his desire to help the program grow, Mr. Cavan developed a three-pronged approach to recruitment: 1) He conducts an instrument “petting zoo” for fifth-grade field day where students can touch and play different instruments, 2) He has the fifth-grade attend the high school band concert, and 3) He follows up with a letter to parents requesting students sign up.

“I believe it is safe to say that Mr. Cavan teaches more students each day than any other teacher in the entire district,” wrote a counselor at the middle school. “He calls each student by name. He knows…what their interests, strengths and weaknesses are. [He] not only teaches, he inspires. He makes students want to be better.”



Laura Eliason

Fifth-Grade Teacher at Taylor Elementary, Davis School District

Laura Eliason requested that Anne be assigned to her fifth-grade class. Anne had left school in second grade because of severe anxiety and what was later diagnosed as autism. Despite the efforts at two elementary schools, homeschool and an online school, Anne refused all attempts to learn for almost three years. Anne's grandmother tearfully expressed fear that Anne would never succeed. In Mrs. Eliason’s class, Anne found security. She succeeded as a reader (12th grade level!), writer and artist and placed second in the school geography bee. “I don't know what we would have done without Mrs. Eliason,” said Anne’s grandmother.

Another student with long hair combed down over his eyes threw objects if a teacher required anything of him. He mostly hid behind his hair and refused to talk. Mrs. Eliason adapted his testing by giving him just one problem. She whispered, “I just need to know if you can do this problem.” The student quickly wrote the answer. With Mrs. Eliason's help, he gradually came out from behind his hair and joined the class.



Jennifer Ellsworth

Fourth-Grade Teacher at Rolling Meadows Elementary, Granite School District

Jennifer Ellsworth believes teachers should continually be students themselves. She is always on the lookout for new ways to meet students' needs. Some innovations she has incorporated include sharing yoga balls among students when they need more focus, giving students a kinesthetic experience by providing actions to vocabulary instruction, having students create a slide for each science concept taught to be used in a slideshow, and teaching her students coding.

Mrs. Ellsworth works daily on creating a community within her classroom. She often uses a starter activity to focus students on acknowledging kind deeds performed by others both in and out of the classroom. She pushes students to understand the impact of those thoughtful deeds and challenges them to "pay it forward.”

A colleague wrote, “Knowing what [Mrs. Ellsworth] is doing with her class motivates me as well as other teachers around her. Jen makes me want to be a better instructor daily because of her excellence and dedication to this profession. Because of her passion for education Mrs. Ellsworth is a key ingredient to the success of our school.”



Katie Frederiksen

English Teacher at Legacy Junior High School, Davis School District

“Katie Frederiksen is an incredible teacher and powerful advocate for the overlooked and underserved,” wrote a fellow educator. “She fights for these students every single day. She believes in them and persuades them that education is their ticket to success.”

When a student in Mrs. Frederiksen’s creative writing class came out as transgender, the student struggled with reactions from peers and acceptance from parents. As a result, this child missed a lot of school. Her co-worker wrote, “…because Katie establishes such a safe and welcoming environment, the student opened up…, was able to feel accepted, was able to use writing as a tool to help in the process and was able to feel valued as a person.”

Perhaps Mrs. Frederiksen’s drive comes from personal experience – she dropped out of high school. It was only later that she earned her GED and went on to college to become a teacher. She learned the hard way that education is the key to financial security, personal achievement and controlling one's own destiny. This message comes through clearly to her students.



Richard Kimball

Counselor at Diamond Fork Junior High School, Nebo School District

Helping students set goals and plan for their futures is only a small part of what Richard Kimball does. He also helps those who are on the fringe of the student body feel needed and wanted. He works with those who may be suicidal, self-harming, have low grades, suffer from low self-esteem, experience anxiety and depression or face any number of academic and personal challenges.

Mr. Kimball coordinates a variety of activities to help students be aware of their peers who may be in crisis or may just need a friend. As director of the school’s ‘HOPE Squad’, he motivates students to reach out to their peers. He helps them understand they are the link to find and support students at risk.

When a student was hospitalized for an attempted suicide, Mr. Kimball stepped in to help her and her mother move forward. He arranged for home-bound services so the student could still get her school work done and earn credit for graduation. He also helped her mother find available community services.



Andrew Lund

Vice Principal at South Cache Middle School, Cache County School District

Andy Lund often works with students who struggle with behavior challenges and, in some cases, are in trouble with law enforcement. He approaches each student interaction as a learning opportunity. He works with resource officers, parents and other administrators to help these students grow and improve through these experiences.

As Mr. Lund worked this past summer to transition South Cache Middle to a seventh and eighth grade school with changing student boundaries and several new staff members, he worked closely with juvenile and adult community members who needed to serve probation hours. He helped these individuals experience service opportunities at the school to meet the needs of their probation by working right alongside them under the direction of their supervising deputies.

“Andy Lund is a wonderful example of a service leader,” wrote a co-worker. “From the first time that I met him I have looked up to him because Andy's focus is about helping others. Mr. Lund does not go through the day without contemplating new ways that he can serve kids and staff members at South Cache.”



Kathy Riddle

First-Grade Teacher at Circleville Elementary School Piute County School District

Kathy Riddle makes her students eat dirt and worms. It’s only crushed Oreos and gummy worms, but her students remember “Daily Individualized Reading Time (DIRT),” a time when every student reads individually selected books aloud. Her classroom is energized as the students remember alphabet sounds while enjoying green eggs and ham, popcorn flying from the popper, bubble gum machines and other engaging activities. Whenever possible, math manipulatives are everyday objects rather than just paper or plastic. She uses song and dance to teach new concepts and her students continue singing even when out of the classroom. “The bottom line is she makes learning fun,” said a fellow teacher.

In Mrs. Riddle’s classroom is a rocking chair used not only for story time, but also to mend broken hearts. She used it extensively when one of her students lost her father unexpectedly in an accident during the school year. When the day was too rough, Mrs. Riddle rocked the student while reading a book and the other students took turns rubbing her hand.



Kathy Sherman

English as a Second Language Teacher at Ellis Elementary School, Logan City School District

Kathy Sherman developed a “Newcomer's Summer School” program to help kids whose families had recently moved to the area. The program ran four days a week for eight weeks. Two aides and 54 volunteers amassed 219 volunteer hours. Nineteen students, primarily from Ethiopia and Mexico, received one-on-one time with an adult instructor who had been well-trained by Ms. Sherman. Participating students learned letter names and sounds, learned to say and write numbers to 100, improved reading comprehension and increased basic language skills.

During the school year when not all students and parents show up for parent conferences, Ms. Sherman calls to offer rides to those without transportation. Often she takes families who have no transportation to the grocery store or to their doctor appointments and then translates for them. She helps parents understand their utility bills and legal documents, find housing and arrange for dental care.

“Kathy understands that when a student is in physical pain or when one's home life is rough, it is difficult to learn,” wrote a colleague. “I have never known anyone who works so tirelessly to see children succeed.”



Mui Tran

Kindergarten Teacher at Holt Elementary School, Davis School District

Seeing a need to strengthen transitions from preschool to kindergarten, Mui Tran worked with the Davis Community Learning Center to implement the "Ready Freddy” program. This summer program exposes students to the rigors of school learning and activities. In the summer of 2016 she brought the program to Holt and saw three times the number of students enroll.

“Mui remembers parent names and details of students and families years after having a student in her class,” wrote a co-worker. “She builds relationships with everyone and she often educates not just the child, but parents and families. She is personable, down-to-earth, and makes everyone around her feel like a rock star even on days when they don't feel it themselves. Her energy and 'You Can Do It!' attitude make her a sought-after teacher and colleague.

A parent of a former student said, "When I was a single dad she really helped me. She taught me the best way to help my child. She wasn't just my child's teacher, she was a great support to me as a parent.”


Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award


Mike Harman

Homeless Education Liaison, Salt Lake City School District

For more than 30 years, Mike Harman has been engaged in service that has directly benefitted education and our community. For the past 20 of those years, he has served the most vulnerable students in the Salt Lake City School District, first as an elementary school counselor and currently as the homeless liaison. In this role, he addresses the special circumstances that make it difficult for homeless children to be educated and helps remove barriers for their families.

A colleague wrote that, “Mike is absolutely tireless in his commitment to the underprivileged and underserved. His work has given our students hope and has helped develop compassion and action throughout our community.” 

Mike was instrumental in developing the Summer Outdoor Activities & Recreation, or SOAR, program, a leadership course for youth between the ages of 13-15. Many participants have included Mike’s homeless students. Each day participating SOAR students typically engage in some type of learning activity, a community service project, and a recreational activity. There are also excursions, which have included a trips to Southern Utah National Parks, Bear Lake for boating, and to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area.

Mike is always quick to share his knowledge with other educators about the considerations that must be made for homeless children. For example, Angelique Morrill, the teacher who nominated Mr. Harman for this award, wrote: “I will not forget the day that Mike shared with me about the need for students living in shelters to be able to bring a beloved toy to school. The kids knew that if their toy was left behind at the shelter, it would not be seen again. As a result of his teachings, I became much more tolerant and accepting of what students brought to school and the situations that affected them.”


UEA Honor Roll Awards


Representative Marie Poulson

(Remarks by UEA President Heidi Matthews)

It is an honor to present this award to Representative Marie Poulson. No other Utah Legislator made more of an impact on me in my first session as the UEA President than she did. A former teacher, she values what we do and she brings invaluable insights into the world of Utah politics. She listens. She advocates. She enacts change.

This legislative session, Representative Poulson worked diligently to eliminate the ineffective and oppressive practice of grading schools. She stood up for us as educators and she eloquently presented the incongruity and ineffectiveness of assigning single letters grades, based on standardized tests, to assess the richness of a school. In the a Salt Lake Tribune article dated February 15, Representative Poulson is quoted as saying, “"School grading has become the public shaming of hardworking schools and educators…Basically, it's a zip code system."

It takes an inordinate amount of courage to directly challenge legislation championed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, but Representative Poulson didn’t flinch. While ultimately only modified to be a one year hiatus of assigning school grades in 2017-18, Marie Poulson’s efforts opened the door for important conversations in the upcoming year. In fact, as a result of her persuasive testimony, many otherwise staunch party-line voters sided with her in this regard. Next stop, turnaround status.

Representative Marie Poulson is a champion for education. Her advocacy for effective and efficient policies and legislation never ceases.


Ralph Sharp

Ralph Sharp serves as a school volunteer at Foothills and Blackridge Elementary Schools. Here are what a few teachers had to say about him:

“I have had the privilege of working with Ralph Sharp at Foothills Elementary for five years. He volunteered in my class and worked very diligently to help my students understand math concepts through innovative games and activities he produced! He was a role model for my students and very well respected. The children were motivated to learn math skills and grew to LOVE math!”

Another teacher wrote, “On Tuesdays and Wednesdays for three hours, I count on Ralph coming in to my classroom. He is consistent in his service and does it with a happy smile. The kids who he works with are excited to be with him and he remembers them by name. He researches lessons to add to the concepts that I teach, and he goes above and beyond to challenge their thinking and help them to become better students.”

And, from another teacher, “When Mr. Sharp worked with my students, he would ask me what math skills I wanted him to work on. He would also ask for a list of student names. He would then go home and write up a series of story problems with my students' names in them. He was very patient and kind, and the kids loved working with him.”

Finally, the principal at Foothills Elementary wrote, “Mr. Sharp would quietly come into the office, sign in as a visitor, and quietly head down the hall to second grade. No fanfare, no recognition needed. Matter of fact he didn't like being noticed. He worked with small groups out in the hallway doing creative math games, or so the students thought. Mr. Sharp created all of his own lesson plans, or games. The kids loved it and really learned the math skills being taught in their classroom. He provided an invaluable service to this school, to it's students and staff…I really cannot stress what an integral part he played at Foothills."


Tommy Tanzer

The following letter was written by Park City teacher Anna Williams in nominating Tommy Tanzer for this award:

“As a former licensed educator, Tommy Tanzer was a force with which to be reckoned. Now, as a retired educator, Tommy is still “fighting the good fight” for our public schools and the students who attend them. Tommy Tanzer has been instrumental in ensuring that both students and teachers have what they need in order to be successful academically. For years, Tommy has been a key player behind our district’s Latinos in Action program, as well as the founder of "Back to Our Roots," a scholarship program designed to support first-generation college students. His scholarship foundation has provided thousands of dollars to first-generation college students in Park City. Through his tireless efforts, our Latino families have the access they need in order to thrive. He is truly a Civil Rights leader within our community and within our schools.

“He is a fierce advocate for teachers and stands ready to negotiate on our behalf (to protect the integrity of our profession). He is a pillar of strength for many educators and students in our community, and his energetic approach to all things makes everyone who knows him want to join the cause for which he fights. He is compassionate, generous, kind, and relentless with regard to his convictions - all of which are philanthropic in nature and place students at the center. To know Tommy is to love him - and we do: teachers, students and families alike. Thank you, Tommy, for reminding us how good it feels to serve and how important it is to be allies who advocate for equity in our schools.

“Tommy Tanzer has given us the wings to fly. We cannot imagine anyone more worthy (of this award).

Sincerely, Anna Martinez Williams

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