When Shauna Maughan, a teacher at McMillan Elementary in the Murray School District, began her career in education more than 20 years ago, she was overwhelmed by the amount, and variety, of material that teachers had to master.
Maughan, who teaches a combined first- and second-grade class for gifted students, said she decided to specialize.
It has paid off. Her dedication has earned her several awards, including the recent Utah Association for Gifted Children (UAGC) Calvin Taylor "Teacher of the Year" award.
Maughan said when she began, she found that while students who had physical or mental disabilities were being provided for, there were very few programs that targeted gifted children.
"It was two opposite ends of the spectrum. I knew the gifted students could benefit from programs designed for them," said Maughan.
So she went to work for Murray School District 17 years ago, because, she said, they were one of the few districts that had a program for gifted students.
Maughan, who was nominated for the UAGC award by a parent, said she has loved every minute she has spent with her students.
"There's a learning energy that happens. You see the kids become engaged when they 'get' a concept," said Maughan.
Maughan said she uses an individual approach to each student, which she believes helps them excel in the classroom.
"Each student is taught at their level, including their very own spelling lists," said Maughan, who also encourages parental involvement and volunteerism.
Jane Fitzgerald, a McMillan teacher who has worked alongside Maughan in creating curriculum and teaching gifted students, said her colleague is deserving of the award.
"She teaches in a fun way that students remember," said Fitzgerald. "She's a great team member, has great ideas and is always helpful with her advice."
Even though Maughan has specialized in teaching gifted children, she said she believes all children are smart and will excel in their own ways.
"The children are going to find their own dominance, and they will always grow and excel," she said.
While Maughan's dedication may inspire others, she said she was inspired by one of her own teachers, Scott Hunsaker, an assistant professor at Utah State University.
"He helped me realize how important it is to understand how people think," she said.
Maughan grew up in Murray and received her bachelor's from the University of Utah and her master's from Utah State University.
In addition to being awarded Teacher of the Year by the UAGC, she was also one of five district teachers to be awarded the 2007 Pinnacle Award, as well as a National Association for Gifted Children curriculum award.
While Maughan appreciates the recognition, she said it's seeing the students learn and grow that motivates her.
"That's what keeps me in love with what I do," said Maughan.