Excellence in Education
The Tribune asked this year's winners of the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education to answer the question, "What is one thing Utah is doing well when it comes to education, and what's one thing you'd like to see changed?"
Michael R. Thompson
Ninth-grade English teacher at Fairfield Junior High, Kaysville
"One thing Utah does well is involve communities and families in education, which is why we fare so well despite such large class sizes. One thing I'd like to see changed is a compensation system in which those who interact with students the least get paid the most."
Jerry D. Haslam
Principal at Taylorsville High School
"The teachers who work with our children are Utah's greatest educational asset. Their dedication, expertise and professionalism are without equal. We need to stabilize education funding in Utah. We have opportunities and innovative programs available, but just when we make some gains in the programs we offer, we lose funding and we have to start over."Larry Litizzette
Biology teacher at Mountain Crest High School, Hyrum
"Utah's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. We operate on the lowest budget per student of any state and we succeed because of our teachers, administrators, staff, families and benefactors. This trend, however, cannot continue. Our brightest students and our at-risk students will not be served as class size increases. We will also lose the next generation of exceptional teachers with lower pay and fewer benefits. It's high time we realize this and start to pay for our children."Ronald G. Wicks
Teacher at American Fork Junior High
"Utah schools provide so many varied opportunities for students to find success both academically and in extracurricular activities that most students are well served by the experience. Smaller class sizes would enable teachers to build a better bond with their students, and with understanding comes tolerance and caring."
Extended Learning Program teacher at Ensign and Wasatch elementaries, Salt Lake City
"Utah loves children. We value them, support them and we appreciate their impressive potential. I see teachers determined to help each child succeed, though one child's needs may differ significantly from another's. Teachers, too, need increased support and encouragement to use their creativity, stretching beyond testing and textbooks, molding lives of promise."
Lars E. Johnson
Chemistry/Physics teacher at Gunnison Valley High School
"Utah's teachers as a whole are committed to the success of the students they serve. With the challenges that face education, such as budgets and teacher-to-student ratios, Utah's teachers strive hard to help each student succeed. Utah needs to place more emphasis on teaching rather than testing."
Volunteer at Riverside Elementary School, West Jordan
"Since my experience as a volunteer is mostly with the sixth grade, I will restrict my answer to that area. Some students, if they do well, have the opportunity to get in more advanced classes when they go to junior high. But what about the students who put forth the effort to do well and don't quite make the grade? They are not given enough opportunities to achieve their full potential."Sheldon J. Case
Principal at Timpanogos Intermediate School, Heber City
"The focus of the state is to have a highly educated populace and having excellent teacher candidates to select from gives each child the best chance for success. Funding will always be an issue along with class size. We need to find a school funding stream that will be consistent."
First-grade teacher at Rose Springs Elementary, Stansbury Park
Dale did not respond to the question, but here is an excerpt from one of her nominating letters: "At back to school night at the beginning of the year, I got teary-eyed three times as I listened to her present to us her teaching methods, philosophies on discipline and the plans she had for the school year ... She makes each one of her students feel like they are her favorite," parent Natalie Knudsen wrote. Maria Nielsen
Principal at Millville Elementary
Nielsen did not respond to the question, but here is an excerpt from one of her nominating letters: "Staff, students and parents know that Maria is never too busy to sincerely listen and that instead of sitting across the desk, she always sits next to them. She is anonjudgmental, nonthreatening, constructive problem solver whose goal is a win-win outcome," parent and school community council chairwoman Julianne Duffin wrote.