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Sandy Journal

Canyons officials recognize, thank those who work with school children

Oct 01, 2018 02:55PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor presents Jordan High’s counseling team with the Canyons Board of Education’s APEX Award. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Sunrise Elementary Administrative Assistant Wendy Heath said the school community is “super proud, super excited and not surprised” about Margaret Swanicke being named one of two principals of the year.

“Margaret is accessible, level-headed and cares what is best for the kids,” she said. “She finds out what is best for everyone involved. She has given teachers more tools to be balanced and she supports and pushes teachers not to teach to the test, but teach so the kids can be successful and have fun. In fact, here the kids want to come to the office to say hi to Principal Swanicke as a reward in itself; they don’t realize it’s not the same everywhere. She has made it such a positive atmosphere that others have heard about Margaret and Sunrise.”

Edgemont’s Cathy Schino also has worked hard to make her community positive and welcoming.

“I’m really surprised and humbled when I learned that numerous teachers and people from the community nominated me,” she said. “It says something that they can feel the change in our community — we have more of a positive mindset and cooperative culture — and they’re supportive of it. I’m really excited and happy that we are giving this energy to our students.”

Schino said that introducing morning meetings, where students have the opportunity to transition to the school and connect with each other as well as learn their expectations in a greeting from their teacher, has helped students become excited for school.

“There is compassion and connectivity in the 20-minute meeting we have every morning. Every kid is greeted, can share something, review or highlight their day and have a message from their teacher. There is comfort and novelty as there are so many ways to welcome children and have them connect with the school, the teacher and one another. It has really helped to change our school culture and everyone who comes in, can feel the change. And that helps our kids feel comfortable, become advocates and transfer that into content areas,” she said.

Swanicke and Schino, who were named Canyons’ principals of the year, are two of the 11 outstanding individuals and community partners who were honored Sept. 11 at CSD's ninth annual Apex Awards Banquet. The Apex Award is the highest honor given by Canyons District's administration and the board of education. It is reserved for the makers, shakers and disrupters who have contributed to neighborhood schools in extraordinary ways, and who have made a lasting difference, said spokesman Jeff Haney.

They, and other winners, were selected after a public nomination process, which spanned over several months. 

Other honorees include Volunteer of the Year, Jay Neely, of Ridgecrest Elementary; District Administrator of the Year Amber Roderick-Landward, who is the department director of instructional supports; Student Support Services Professionals of the year to Jordan High counseling team; Education Support Professionals of the Year to Eric Taylor and Sharon Simmons, both of the district’s information technology department; Legacy Award winner Leon Wilcox, district business administrator; Elected Official of the Year Utah House of Representatives’ Bruce Cutler; and Business Partner of the Year, McNeil’s Auto Care, which partners with Entrada High School. The district’s Teacher of the Year, Corner Canyon High’s Amber Rogers, also was honored.

Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor thanked those and others who work, partner and teach within the district.

“We’ve all been touched by your commitment to the success of our schools,” he said. “This celebration tonight is our way of extending our heartfelt appreciation for that tireless dedication. So, from us to you: Thank you for giving so much of yourselves — as champions of public education, as community partners, as cherished friends.”

Jay Neeley, who taught in Granite School District for 30 years, said he was taken aback to learn he was the Volunteer of the Year.

“I was totally surprised,” he said. “I had no idea there was such an award.”

Having started volunteering at Ridgecrest Elementary seven years ago when his grandson was a student there, Neeley has stayed on, helping numerous teachers with their reading, writing and math lessons with students.

“I help wherever they need help,” he said. “Kids in elementary school can use a lot of one-on-one help. Some struggle with reading, writing and math and even behavioral skills. I have fun teaching and encouraging them, even joking with them so they aren’t more stressed. I like the school, administration and people. They are fantastic and friendly and accommodating with my schedule of coming three days each week. They’re just wonderful and for them to even consider me for the award is humbling.”

Utah House of Representative Bruce Cutler has visited almost every turnaround school in the state as a proponent for early childhood education. He has worked to extend STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outreach into all students’ hands, including those in the Navajo Nation. This last school year, Cutler, with the help of Canyons Foundation Board, established 529C savings plans for seven seventh-graders who met qualifications and put $500 in the accounts earmarked for post-secondary education. And now, he’s working on getting services for children and families coordinated, especially in the Murray and Midvale communities.

As an eight-year member of the Murray School Board and current Canyons Foundation Board member, Cutler said he has a passion for public education.

“Public education is the lifeblood of our society,” he said. “Some kindergarten teachers encounter students who don’t even know how to hold a book or turn pages. We must support our teachers so these students will become educated and well prepared members of our society. We will never be able to pay them enough to truly compensate them for their dedication.”