Utah Teacher of the Year Blog
A few weeks ago, our own Kellie May was named the 2019 Utah Teacher of the Year. We've asked Kellie to occasionally write about her work and her passion as a way to introduce herself to you and to explain why she is so committed to teaching.
Shortly after I was named the 2019 Utah State Teacher of the Year, I was interviewed by a reporter. She asked me how I felt when my name was announced. I responded, “Both overwhelmed and excited.” She then asked me to tell her about the path that led to this award and got me to this point in my career. My short answer: learning from and with other educators who are energized by the work they do for students.
My longer answer begins by saying that it does not happen by working in isolation. I am enjoying the honor of being named the 2019 Utah Teacher of the Year because I have had the good fortune of collaborating with amazing educators throughout my career. These superhero educators have a few things in common: they act in the best interest of students, they collaborate regularly with colleagues, and they are reflective practitioners who understand there is a continuous cycle of learning and improving.
I have been fortunate to learn from and with teachers who consistently focus on doing what is best for students. Two of these SLCSD teachers have also been recognized as Utah State Teachers of the Year, Mary Jane Morris in 2010 and Valerie Gates in 2017. I credit Mary Jane with introducing me to the link to district's AVID page (Achievement Via Individual Determination). My involvement with students in this program has been overwhelmingly rewarding. The AVID connection also led me to working directly with Valerie, an educator dedicated to supporting English Language Learners and refugee students. To become a better teacher, it’s important to find, collaborate with, and learn from solution-oriented educators who provide the access and support their students need to exhibit growth and academic success. I’ve been fortunate to work with many such educators throughout my career.
I’ve also been lucky to work with preservice teachers and student teachers during the span of my career. The contemporary perspective and idealism they have injected into my classroom has kept me on my toes and held me to my best teaching practices. I have also enjoyed teaching and attempting to convince undergraduate students to become teachers. I have the opportunity to help with the introductory teaching course for future educators at the University of Utah, which allows me to explain the realities, the rewards, and the challenges of teaching to a new generation of teachers. Whenever I can, I encourage them to find opportunities to collaborate regularly, whether through a PLC or school committee, and to be open to opportunities to participate in work with other organizations.
I feel very lucky to be part of a profession that promotes life-long learning and allows me to work among life-long learners every day. The work of improving education outcomes for students is such stimulating and satisfying work. I enjoy digging into data and research-based practices, having meaningful conversations with colleagues and students, and making action plans in order to meet the dynamic needs of our children. As teachers, we have the opportunity to reflect on our actions, return to the data, and tweak our practices again and again in order to touch the future through the students we serve. This work is not done in isolation; it is done with other reflective educators. Let’s find them, learn from them, and be them!