Joan S. Heap is at the top of her class.
The North Ogden Junior High language arts teacher was named the 2006 Utah Teacher of the Year at a Friday night banquet honoring 21 educators deemed the best in their field by their local school districts.
The honor comes with $1,000, a computer and other prizes including a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. Heap also will represent the Beehive State in the National Teacher of the Year competition in Washington, D.C., where she will meet President Bush.
Heap accepted the award with humor, shock and humility.
"I feel absolutely overwhelmed," she said. "There isn't really a teacher of the year. We are all a combination of all the great teachers we have worked with."
She said her next official act will be going back to school Monday morning.
Runners-up for the honor are: Glen Duane Westbroek, who teaches science at Orem Junior High; and Shelly Condie, a fifth-grade teacher at Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City.
They each received a cash prize as well as gifts including a Waterford crystal vase and educational software which all local teachers of the year also received.
Heap has taught 13 years, six of them at North Ogden. She also has taught at Rocky Mountain Junior High in West Haven and Wahlquist Junior High in Ogden.
The Weber State University alumna is noted for innovative teaching. She is said to not only challenge students to learn, but help them every step of the way.
"She has truly changed the course of students' lives because of her caring attitude," North Ogden counselors Teri Spiers and Kristy Haws wrote of Heap.
"We know of one young man who entered her class last year reading at a fourth-grade level. He refused to be in the special education classes and so we put him with Joan, knowing that she would take good care of him. Several months later, we learned that this student was meeting with Joan several nights a week after school for some one-on-one tutoring and that his reading improved by several levels."
District and school bosses praise Heap's unwavering, high expectations for students.
"Every time I sat in on Mrs. Heap's class, there was something new, innovative and challenging to help kids learn," wrote Reid Newey, Weber District career and technical education director. "All of her students understand that when they enter the doorway of Mrs. Heap's classroom, they have no choice but to learn; and they enjoy doing it."
But Mrs. Heap said she doesn't see herself as being an extraordinary teacher.
"Just to put things in perspective, on the way over here I was telling my husband that a mother today requested her daughter be moved out of my class," she said.The Utah Teacher of the Year contest is coordinated through the State Office of Education. It requires a lengthy essay and letter-of-recommendation process, as well as interviews for finalists.
Past Utah Teachers of the Year
Utah Teachers of the Year, from the premiere recipient, Salt Lake's Naomi Ione Sorenson in 1963, to Cyprus High's Ember Storrs honored last year, have been an impressive lot.
One, 1979 winner Kate K. Dennis of Box Elder, dazzled her way into National Teacher of the Year finalist ranks. Another, 1989 honoree Lily Eskelsen of Granite District, mounted a bid for the U.S. Congress.
Here is an historic glance at Utah's top teachers:
2005: Ember Eskelson Storrs, Granite
2004: Scott Crump, Jordan
2003: Macie Wolfe, Ogden
2002: Tim Bailey, Salt Lake
2001: Louise Durham, Provo
2000: Jo Lynn Sherwood Miller, Granite
1999: Diane Crim, Salt Lake
1998: Sharon Holmstrom, Weber
1997: Karen P. Swenson, Weber
1996: John H. Funk, Granite
1995: Richard K. Bojak, Jordan
1994: Scott J. Hendrickson, Alpine
1993: Vern Bangerter, Provo
1992: Colleen T. Densley, Provo
1991: Waldo Warnick, Jr., Millard
1990: Marilyn M. Grondel, Weber
1989: Lily Eskelsen, Granite
1988: Larry J. Peterson, Weber
1987: Aleene B. Nielson, Grand
1986: Larry Leathem, Ogden
1985: LeRoy Ross Goodey, Cache
1984: Clay Petersen, Granite
1983: Doris Kenison, Nebo
1982: John Heppler, Washington
1981: Kenneth Rex Curtis, Granite
1980: Roberta M. Suttlemyre, San Juan
1979: Kate K. Dennis*, Box Elder
1978: Robert A. Nielson, Millard
1977: Eloise Robins, Alpine
1976: Howard Edward Neslen, Granite
1975: Genevive Morrison, Ogden
1974: Lawrence P. Bailey, San Juan
1973: Jerry Hancock, Weber
1972: Hazel Blood Ellison, Salt Lake
1971: Jack Leifson, Nebo
1970: Eleanor Roberts, Millard
1969: Alta Gassman Moffitt, Granite
1968: Mavis Steadman, Granite
1967: Maurine Jones, Salt Lake
1966: Portia H. Douglas, Ogden
1965: No teacher named
1964: Joseph E. Beard, Salt Lake
1963: Naomi Ione Sorenson, Salt Lake
*National Teacher of the Year finalistSource: Utah State Office of Education
District Teachers of the Year
Twenty-one school districts nominated educators for Utah Teacher of the Year:
Alpine: Glen Duane Westbroek, Orem Junior High
Cache: Leslie K. Austin, Cedar Ridge Middle
Carbon: Lynn Larsen Hunt, Castle Heights Elementary
Davis: Kay Merrell, Layton High
Grand: Sarah Henderson, Red Rock Elementary
Granite: Toni Cook, William Penn Elementary
Jordan: Patricia Drake, Hayden Peak Elementary
Logan: Jane Adams, Mount Logan Middle
Millard: McKay S. Shields, Millard High
Murray: Kay Erwin, Liberty Elementary
Nebo: Bryan D. Tobler, Springville High
North Sanpete: Nanette Allsen, North Sanpete High
Ogden: Marsha Prantil, CARES after-school program specialist
Provo: Michelle Birkinshaw, Grandview Elementary
Salt Lake City: Shelly Condie, Emerson Elementary
Tooele: Kenna Aagard, Grantsville Elementary
Uintah: Fawn Holmes, Naples Elementary
Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind: Nancy M. Kelley, Mountain View High
Wasatch: Marie Hansen Patterson, J.R. Smith Elementary
Washington: Robert Verle Judd, Panorama ElementaryComment on this story
Weber: Joan S. Heap, North Ogden Junior HighSource: Utah State Office of Education