Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Joan S. Heap, a language arts teacher at North Ogden Junior High School, is named the 2006 Utah Teacher of the Year on Friday. The honor comes with $1,000.

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 finalist

Source: 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 Elementary

Weber: Joan S. Heap, North Ogden Junior High

Source: Utah State Office of Education

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