It's becoming a recurring theme or nightmare, depending upon your perspective: Each year the Legislature reaches into its fiscal pocket for schools and comes up with the equivalent of what some would consider spare change and lint.

Couple that with broad state and federally mandated changes in the way schools educate children and track student progress at all levels of public education, and teachers have plenty to think about these days.

Amidst the ruckus, thousands of Utah teachers go about their daily work of educating and nurturing the state's children, shaping tomorrow's leaders.

Eighteen Utah school districts this year have recognized those efforts by naming one of their outstanding educators Teacher of the Year. From that list, five finalists go through interviews with state school officials, to be culminated by announcement of the Utah Teacher of the Year — a sort of an ambassador on education issues and nominee for National Teacher of the Year — at a banquet Friday.

Today, the Deseret News recognizes the 2003-04 honorees and spotlights the top teachers in populous Utah, Davis and Salt Lake counties' school districts.

The contest, which requires a lengthy essay and letter-of-recommendation process, is coordinated through the State Office of Education.

Alpine: Cathy J. Jolley,

Timberland Middle School

Beaver: Vern Alan Wood,

Minersville School

Cache: Yvonne D. Jessop,

South Cache 8-9 Center

Davis: Kathleen P. Ferrin,

Layton High

Granite: Joan Marie Johnson,

Fox Hills Elementary

Jordan: Scott Crump,

Bingham High

Logan: J. Michael Huie,

Logan High

Millard: Norma S. Wood,

Fillmore Elementary

Murray: Cynthia Spencer Hanson,

Murray High

Nebo: Jay E. Strange,

Spanish Fork High

North Sanpete: Lynda E. Freeman,

Moroni Elementary

Ogden: Sherrie T. Dame,

Polk Elementary

Salt Lake City: Sondra Snow,

Indian Hills Elementary

San Juan: C. Colleen Pehrson,

Monticello Elementary

Tooele: Jean Didericksen,

Northlake Elementary

Uintah: Lance Tee Hatch,

W. Russell Todd Elementary

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Wasatch: Gary Turner,

Wasatch High

Weber: Nancy K. Reed,

Weber High