Utah Educators honored for excellence with Huntsman Awards for Excellence

Published: Friday, April 27 2012 6:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Jon and Karen Huntsman have announced the recipients of the 2012 Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education.

In recognition of the awards' 20th year, an 11th individual has been awarded the first Mark H. Huntsman Award for excellence in the field of special education. The 11 teachers, administrators and volunteers will be honored at an awards banquet May 11 and each will receive $10,000.

Julie Larsen

Principal

Oak Hills Elementary, Bountiful

Julie Larsen is known for asking, "What can we do better?" She is an innovator and motivator. Since coming to Oak Hills five years ago she has worked to create an atmosphere of individual and attainable goals and encouraged both staff and students to push themselves to greater achievements.

To Larsen, no goal is unattainable. She is forward-thinking, equipping classrooms with state-of-the-art technology for teaching children in the 21st century. She works one-on-one with students to promote literacy and achievement. Larsen has started programs like book groups that meet with her each week to discuss a novel over lunch and "Mrs. L's 200 Club," where two students from each class are recognized for reaching preset goals and invited to participate in fun activities. She has also created a "Take Home Reading Library," which contains more than 3,800 nonfiction texts and is run by volunteer parents.

Larsen devotes her time to improving education and helping children set goals and understand their responsibilities as students.

Judy Mahoskey

Sixth-grade teacher

Liberty Elementary, Murray

Judy Mahoskey's work as a teacher extends well before and after the school bells ring. During her 29 years of teaching, Mahoskey has gained a reputation as a lifelong learner and educator, volunteering her time to give extra assistance to her students and promoting education in the community.

Mahoskey has served as president of the Murray Education Association. She works with lawmakers at the Capitol and in the last two years has offered free English as a Second Language classes for parents on Saturday mornings. Through the Murray School District's Academy of Instruction, Mahoskey helps other teachers improve classroom and instructional skills. She recognizes the key role that the family plays in a child's education, regularly involving parents in the curriculum through special presentations, early morning breakfasts and parent reading nights.

Mahoskey has had an incredible impact on the education system in her community. She is an example of going above and beyond what is required in order to help individuals reach their potential.

Ann Jenson

Fourth-grade teacher

Upland Terrace Elementary School, Holladay

The teaching style of Ann Jenson represents the breadth and depth of education. With 32 years of teaching experience, Jenson combines math and language achievement with physical fitness, art and music to engage a child in learning.

At Upland Terrace, Jenson conducts a monthly scholars program that includes poem memorization, physical activity, acts of kindness and math and reading goals, culminating in a final awards banquet. She runs Mittens and Mugs, an annual school-wide service project that benefits students of a neighboring school. She also helps organize the school's reading program, talent shows and a Mountain Man Rendezvous to cultivate a love of Utah history in her students.

Jenson seeks to find the most effective ways to address the needs of her students. She expects hard work and through music, art, and creativity helps her students achieve more than they thought possible.

Taran K. Chun

Principal

Granite Park Junior High School, Salt Lake City

In three years at Granite Park, Taran Chun has built a school vision that inspires students to dream of college and beyond. Under his dynamic leadership, students have embraced that mission and are preparing themselves to be college-ready and leaders of tomorrow.

Chun is also a community builder, working to make a safe environment for the diverse student body from all around the world. He instituted a weekly greeting that validates the unique cultural heritage of each students and has overseen the implementation of Latinos In Action, a class that trains bilingual Latino students to mentor elementary children in math and reading.

Chun is candid but instills optimism in students about the hard work necessary to achieve their goals and dreams. Beyond inspiring students, he focuses on the gaps in student learning to make sure those dreams become a reality.

Amy Hall

Math teacher

Hillcrest Junior High School, Salt Lake City

Amy Hall is a teacher who is lauded for her ability to reach both advanced and struggling students. Her classroom is described as a safe, student-centered learning environment where children receive individual attention on complex concepts.

Hall has taken a proactive approach to the Common Core State Standards, spending countless hours of her own time to develop resources and curriculum to meet the demands of the new standards and help her students become college- and career-ready. She is also a teacher mentor, providing new teachers with expertise, guidance and support to help them meet the needs of their students.

Hall excels in her responsibilities as an educator and adds value to Hillcrest Junior High by supporting her colleagues and community.

Kevin Poff

Social Studies, Music and Student Government teacher

Mueller Park Junior High, Bountiful

Kevin Poff is a beloved teacher both inside and outside the classroom. He is equally known for his interesting lectures that encourage tolerance for diversity and awareness of others' perspectives as he is for his myriad extra-curricular activities, from student government adviser to director, producer and casting agent for the annual school musical.

In his classroom, participation is not optional and by using different teaching methods and his unique ability to engage students, Poff makes learning interesting and fun. Directing the school musical, Poff works diligently to find the best part for each student and is sensitive to their feelings and emotions, helping everyone to make new friends and feel like part of a group.

Poff understands the needs of each of his students and creates the means for them to use their abilities and strengthen their weaknesses.

Jill Porter

Principal

North Sevier High School, Salina

As the administrator of a smaller school, Jill Porter is involved in almost every issue facing North Sevier High School. At all times, Porter is known for striking a balance between offering a caring, listening ear and, when necessary, handing out tough love.

A lifelong member of the community, Porter knows every student and is sensitive to their needs and concerns. She celebrates with them in their successes and works with them through their challenges. She leads her staff by example, never complaining and going right to work on what needs to be accomplished. Among her students she promotes literacy through the school's Get Caught Reading program and instilled a sense of service through her exhaustive community outreach efforts during the school's Share Week, which helps needy families during Christmas. 

Porter is a person whom others like to be around. To her staff she is sister, confidante and friend and to students she is supporter, motivator and leader.

Jay Hales

Automotive Technology teacher

Riverton High School, Riverton

Jay Hales is dedicated to the education and success of his students. Last year, Riverton High School took first place in all three competitions available to Utah high school automotive teams, the first time a single school has swept the competitions.

He is a lifelong learner, attending monthly seminars to stay ahead of the latest technologies. In addition to his duties at Riverton, Hales teaches concurrent enrollment courses for Salt Lake Community College, where he is an adjunct professor.

Hales always expects his students to do their best, stressing dependability, accountability, work ethic, integrity and honesty. He is an inspiration and benchmark of what teaching should be.

David Morrill

Physics teacher

Jordan High School, Sandy

If you step into David Morrill's classroom, you will not find students quietly reading books or asking questions. Instead, you will see students actively engaged in running simulations and experiments to learn and understand physics.

Morrill takes a personal interest in the success of every students and is passionate about his profession. A master of making do with limited resources, he finds ways to put donated items to good use and developed his own computer lab in the classroom on a limited budget while working on his Master's degree. He is creative in developing experiments and demonstrations and always has time to help a student, often arriving early or staying late in the day.

Morrill is the kind of teacher that makes students look forward to class. He makes a difficult subject fun and interesting and helps each student succeed.

Phyllis J. Savage

Volunteer

Ogden City School District, Ogden

After retiring from full-time teaching in 1999, Phyllis Savage has spent the last 13 years volunteering with kindergarten and first-grade classes in Ogden, as well as teaching music in four elementary schools during the summer months. In that time, the Ogden School District estimates that Savage has spent 8,000 hours volunteering in schools, not including the time she spends with pre-kindergarten students in the Children's Treehouse Museum. 

She is described as a maestro of music and a maestro of life. Savage uses music to promote literacy and social skills. She enhances the learning opportunities for children, especially those with challenging backgrounds. 

As a teacher and now, as a volunteer, she remains an educational cornerstone in her commitment to the learning of every student entering Ogden schools.

Mark H. Huntsman Award

Sam Clemmons

Learning Center teacher

Fremont Elementary, Sunset

Teaching children with extreme behaviors that affect learning ability can be stressful, but Sam Clemmons maintains a classroom of quiet calm in which children exceed behavioral and academic expectations.

Clemmons makes everyone feel important. During recess, he joins his students on the playground and makes sure to include students who are not in his classroom, helping to build friendships. His positive attitude and friendly manner promote a culture of high expectations for both students and his fellow teachers. He is highly regarded and has a wonderful rapport with parents.

Clemmons' lessons are described as masterful. He helps his students to be engaged in the material, understanding their challenges and working with them to overcome their weaknesses. He doesn't see the disability, but instead sees a child with potential and finds a way to turn that potential into success.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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