2021 Apex Award winners announced, honored by Canyons School District

Twelve educators, administrators, community supporters, leaders, and public education advocates who helped Canyons School District run — and drive — smoothly during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond received the prestigious 2021 Canyons Apex Awards on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.

Winners of the 12th annual Apex Awards, the highest honors given by the Canyons District, were selected by Board of Education members and the Superintendent after peers and the public participated in a nomination process.

The Canyons’ 2021 Apex Award winners are:

  • Teacher of the Year— Alta High’s Traci Raymond, who has brought the art of dance to life for so many students.
  • School Administrator of the Year — Brighton High Principal Tom Sherwood, who oversaw a school year in a pandemic while a school was being built around him.
  • District Administrator of the Year— Human Resources Director Steve Dimond, who spearheaded the District’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics with surgical precision.
  • Education Support Professionals of the Year— Transportation Department’s Lorraine MilesJeff Wren, and Rick Hoggard, who are the driving force behind Canyons District’s driving force.
  • Student Support Services Professional of the Year— Diamond Ridge High Principal Amy Boettger, whose tough love inspires even the toughest-to-reach students.
  • Volunteer of the Year— Alta View Elementary volunteer  Allyn Kau, who hasn’t met a task that she won’t meet with a smile while helping young students.
  • Elected Official of the Year—  Andrew Stoddard, R-Sandy, who represents CSD with integrity and fidelity on Capitol Hill.
  • Business Partner of the Year — SCHEELS, a sporting goods store that seems more like a friend from its generous donations and volunteer hours.
  • Legacy Award— Former Assistant Superintendent  Kathryn McCarrie and first-ever Student Advocacy and Access Director Karen Sterling, two founding administrators of Canyons District who were among the chief architects of an academic plan that has led thousands of students to reach for their dreams through education.

“Albert Einstein once said that there are only two ways to live your life: ‘One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle,’” CSD Board of Education President Nancy Tingey said. “My friends, all of you are the miracles that inspire us, lift us up, and make us better just for having known you. Thank you for all you do, every day, for our students.”

A ceremony and by-invitation-only banquet were held in honor of the Apex Award winners Tuesday night at Midvalley Elementary, one of the 17 new schools Canyons has opened in the past 12 years thanks to the Board of Education’s vision and support of the community through two voter-approved school-improvement bonds in 2010 and ‘17.

Along with deserved recognition, Apex Awards recipients receive engraved crystal awards, an 8×10 framed copy of the posters created to be displayed in the Board of Education room in their honor, and a plate of Betty Shaw’s famous fudge.

“The chance to interact with the fine people of our District is one of the best parts of serving on the Board of Education,” Tingey said. “We don’t make it a secret that we believe the very best educators, support staff, and community supporters are found in this District.  For proof of this, I look no further than the people being honored tonight. I’m proud to be on the same team as the winners of our Apex Awards.”

This celebration for this deserving group of the community’s crème de la crème, which was attended by friends, family, District officials, mayors, state legislators, and other dignitaries, marked the first-ever at an elementary school and was the first in-person Apex event since 2019. The 2020 Apex winners, who were invited to attend this year’s fête, were recognized in a virtual ceremony broadcast last year because of the pandemic.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins, attending his first in-person Apex Awards ceremony since starting his role in July 2020, also announced the first recipients of the new Superintendent Special Recognition Award: Board of Education President Nancy Tingey, Dr. Brandon Webb and Tonya Rhodes.

Tingey, the event’s master of ceremonies, was surprised with a special recognition for her steadfast leadership and selfless devotion while fearlessly guiding the District through the pandemic, ensuring that students continued to learn in a healthy environment and progress toward being — and graduate — college- and career-ready.

Dr. Webb, a Canyons District parent who works with Intermountain Healthcare’s Division of Infectious Disease and Clinical Epidemiology, has spent countless hours advising the District on how to proceed in a public-health crisis. Rhodes devoted an innumerable amount of time supporting the well-being and success of the children and families in Canyons as the Region 17 PTA Director before recently stepping down.

“It’s not an understatement to say that the work in our schools since March of 2020 has been a heavy lift,” Dr. Robins said. “Frankly, it’s been back-breaking. The days were long. The issues were complex. Emotions ran high. But tough times make for tough people, and our community has found that we are the toughest — and the strongest — when we stand together.”

Flickering candles were placed among fall-centric decorations in the Midvalley gymnasium to recognize Suicide Awareness Month and efforts the District is making to reach out to students who are struggling with difficult emotions.

“To us, this light represents the spirit we see in the eyes of our students,” Tingey said. “We care so much about the social and emotional wellness of the children in our schools, and we will continue working hard to make sure the light in our children’s eyes continue to shine bright.”

You’re busy, and want to get involved in your child’s school. Where should you start?

Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Sunrise Elementary Principal.
Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Sunrise Elementary Principal.

It’s been said that parents are their child’s first, and most important, teacher — a truism reinforced by research showing how important a strong school-to-home connection is to student success.

But what does it mean to be involved in your child’s education? Parents are busy and can’t do it all: check the backpack, monitor all of their children’s daily assignments, help with homework, attend school events, and volunteer in the classroom. So, where should they start? What questions should they be asking? How can they make the most of parent-teacher conferences? What barriers, fears, or misunderstandings get in the way of parents and teachers working together to help kids thrive?

Last year, Connect Canyons interviewed some PTA representatives to discuss the many ways families can connect with their neighborhood school.  This year, we decided to get the perspective of a school principal: Sunrise Elementary Principal Dr. Angela Wilkinson.

Speaking from her perspective as a career educator, Dr. Wilkinson shared some of the ways Canyons District schools are building bridges with families. During the pandemic, for example, schools found ways to host parent-teacher conferences remotely, which actually helped boost participation. It’s a time-saving innovation that schools are still putting to use this year.

Dr. Wilkinson also offered great insight into how parents can focus their efforts, even touching on questions parents should be asking to understand how their children’s learning is progressing so they can better support learning at home.

After all, it’s one thing to help with homework. It’s another to know that your child is missing foundational concepts — such as memorizing “math facts” (addition, subtraction and times tables) — so you can spend your time on what matters most.

“We appreciate parent involvement in the schools. We couldn’t do it without our parent volunteers,” Dr. Wilkinson said. “Last year with our not being to have volunteers in the buildings [due to state COVID19-related health protocols], it’s made you appreciate it even more.”

CSD Makes Plans to Create Own Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum

Canyons Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins at the Tuesday, Sept. 21 meeting of the Canyons Board of Education announced an administrative action to suspend the use of the current social-emotional curriculum being used in Canyons District elementary and middle schools.

While reiterating his support of social-emotional learning, Dr. Robins stressed that the plan isn’t to abandon the teaching of crucial life skills and character traits, but to improve upon the curriculum being used in Canyons’ schools.

The current curriculum, called “Second Step” will be on hold until Tuesday, Oct. 5, when Board members and the Administration can fully discuss the issue after it has been appropriately noticed on a public-meeting agenda.

At that Board meeting, the Administration intends to propose a timeline for the creation of Canyons’ own curriculum by in-house instructional experts.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, with the Board’s and Administration’s steadfast commitment to in-person learning, Canyons District has prioritized not only the physical safety of students but also their social and emotional needs,” Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins says. “This past year has brought new challenges with the spread of new COVID-19 variants and shifting health guidance. But our goal of supporting students’ overall wellness has been consistent throughout, and something I continue to wholeheartedly support.”

The philosophy behind social-emotional learning, which is required by Utah State Board of Education rule, is to engender trust, respect, and unity. But the District is finding that the Second Step curriculum, although supported by many, has links to information that may not meet the community’s expectations and needs.

Pending Board approval, Robins hopes to have an in-house social-emotional curriculum completed by the end of winter break or early January.

More information about CSD’s next steps will be made available after decisions are made about the SEL curriculum that will be provided in CSD schools.

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