Students love their ‘awesome’ Canyons District principals — and for good reason

It’s been said that the influence of a great principal can never be erased.

 But don’t just take our word for it. To kick off National Principals Month, we asked students around the District to share what principals mean to them and their schools. Answers ranged from cute to sincere.

 Jason Mun, a student body officer at Hillcrest High, described principals as being organizers and intermediaries between teachers and students. “My favorite thing about our principal is that he’s hilarious,” Mun said. “Mr. (Greg) Leavitt is awesome, and he’s constantly thinking of us.”

 Bonus: Mr. Leavitt occasionally buys pizza for students at football games, and has been known to make three-plus-hour drives to watch sporting events.

 A young student at Bell View Elementary shared two reasons why she likes Tamra Baker and other principals. “I would say because they keep children safe, and they help people.” Victoria, a fifth-grader, respects principals for being leaders, helpful and friendly.

 “Miss Baker’s always really nice,” Victoria said. “She’s always trying to do something new at our school.”

 Sunrise’s lead administrator, Dr. Angela Wilkinson, received high marks for being “very nice” and for allowing students to buy fun stuff through a points system. In addition, one student noted, “She helps us out when we’re sad.”

 Brighton High student Johnny McFarland credited all of CSD’s principals for caring a lot about different groups of people: students, staff, teachers, and community members.

 “They have to pay attention to so many different factors,” he said. “Principals do it all.”

 That, McFarland added, includes being aware of everything that goes on, making sure everyone is cared for and happy, listening, and working hard. Those are among reasons why Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood earned a 2021 Canyons Apex Award for being the School Administrator of the Year, and why Alta High Principal Brian McGill was named Utah’s High School Principal of the Year.

 “I think principals are really great for schools and the community,” McFarland said. “We really appreciate them.”

 Other words students used to describe CSD principals: aware, caring, super strong, resilient, awesome, supportive, engaging, and helpful. The list could go on, too.

 “If I could say anything to my principal, it would just be, ‘Thank you,’” Hillcrest student Luke Bangerter said. “He’s such a loving guy. He’s always looking out for us, and he makes it feel like Hillcrest is a big, giant family. … (Principals) help the teachers teach and help the students get to where they need to be — in class and getting your (work) done. They’re amazing.”



Let’s show appreciation to custodians so their vital work isn’t a thankless job

It’s good timing for National Custodian Day — celebrated every October 2nd — to fall on a Saturday this year. If anybody deserves a day off on their special day, it’s the 150 full-time custodians and 500 part-timers who five days a week clean 6.1 million square feet around Canyons School District.

 As CSD custodial lead trainer Todd Muir wrote in a recent email to his massive crew, “The calendar says it’s our day, but, in fact, every day is our day.”

 Isn’t that the truth. Imagine for a second what lunchrooms, classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, and every other nook and cranny in the District’s buildings would look like without the consistent, attentive care of our custodians.

 On second thought, don’t imagine that. It wouldn’t be pretty.

 Instead, you could — and should — thank custodians for the work they do to make the District sparkly clean and sanitized. It needn’t be a thankless job, that’s for sure. That’s especially the case now, seeing as daily duties of the CSD custodians have increased in both workload and importance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. To lower the risk of novel coronavirus spread, custodians are tasked with cleaning schools thoroughly throughout the day and into the evening hours. Cleaning crews also regularly disinfect classrooms, hallways, and commons areas with hospital-grade cleaning detergents.

“Please just understand what I said last year at this time is even more true now,” Muir told CSD custodians. He put the next line in bold. “A well-trained custodian will prevent more illness than any doctor will ever cure!”

 To that point, think of the preventive care and cleaning that’s been done over the years by the 16 CSD custodians who’ve put in over 25 years of service. That group includes one custodian with 30-plus years of experience, two devoted employees who’ve been on the job for more than 35 years, and the Custodial Ironman of the District: James Sheely, who’s toiled away at Midvalley Elementary for an incredible 42 years.

 Canyons’ custodians were aptly called “unsung heroes” when the Canyons Board of Education and Superintendent awarded the 2020 Canyons Apex Award to Custodial and Grounds Coordinator Kevin Kelson.

 An anonymous writer described a school’s invaluable custodian like this: “The first to arrive each day. The first called to help. The last to leave. The one that befriends everyone. The one that takes complete ownership and is always ready to help no matter how difficult. The quiet hero of every school facility. The school custodian!”

 Enjoy your day off, custodians. You’ve more than earned it.

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.”

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