Two Elk Meadows Teachers Win UEA Award
Aug 22, 2016 01:33PM ● Published by Julie Slama
UEA Excellence in Teaching award winners Cathy Douglass, Jennifer Boehme and James Maughan were joined with Jordan School District Superintendent Patrice Johnson at the awards ceremony. — Jennifer Boehme
Two Elk Meadows teachers were amongst the 10 educators recently honored with the 2016 Utah Education Association’s Excellence in Teaching Awards.
Twenty-three-year educator Jennifer Boehme and 30-year teacher Cathy Douglass received the awards. Also honored at the ceremony, which was held at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper, was French teacher James Maughan of West Hills Middle School in West Jordan.
The award recipients were selected based on their impact on individual students or groups of students. Each winner received a crystal apple award, a poster to display at their school and a check for $1,500, courtesy of award sponsors EMI Health, Jordan Credit Union, the Utah Education Association Children At Risk Foundation and the Utah Education Association.
“I found out I won when Jennifer (Boehme) called me since I was off-track,” Douglass said. “I was surprised, and especially since I'm retiring, this is really nice.”
Douglass, who teaches third grade, said she knew from the time she was in third grade she wanted to teach.
“I always played school and I always wanted to be the teacher. I knew just wanted to do and finished my degree in three-and-one-half years so I could get out there to teach. I’ve always taught in Jordan School District, second and third grades,” she said.
Douglass often incorporates the arts into all subjects, such as teaching circle perimeters with a song so students can recall the information easier.
“I think kids learn better if you can connect those academic subjects with the arts,” she said. “If they can draw a picture of what they learned or if they do a dance with what they learned or if you can teach them a song that teaches those things—I do that with a lot of what I teach so they can remember it all for a long time, not just for a test.”
Her mentoree, Elizabeth Taylor, agrees and said through the music and art, students have fun learning. Taylor, who was a former second-grade team member with Douglass, nominated her with support from her third-grade team and fourth-grade teacher Rachel VanOrden.
On the video that was shown at the awards ceremony, Taylor said, “She loves the kids and she loves being able to know that she makes a difference in their lives. That is what teaching is about.”
Taylor explains about one student in particular that Douglass helped beyond academics.
“She had a little girl in her class that was very funny and just had personality like crazy, but this student really struggled academically,” Taylor said. “Cathy took the time to figure it out and notice that the child had hearing problems. But it was not a stop there for Cathy because she found the family had no funds to do anything about it. So she made the effort to go through the processes to find funding to help this student find some sort of hearing aids that would help her be able to function in the classroom.”
Douglass said she works individually with students succeed.
“Some children just need to be loved,” she said. “Some children need to feel safe in the classroom before they learn. I’m going to miss the kids and watch them grow. I’m going to miss the people I work with are my friends. We work together, do everything together, share things.”
Douglass, whose two sisters and grandfather taught school, said with the award money, she planned a family reunion in Cedar City this summer.
As Jordan Education Association president, sixth-grade teacher Jennifer Boehme learned that she was selected for the award when she was checking to see if any of the 125 teachers nominated were in Jordan School District.
“I was surprised I got it because I’ve been in a leadership role and didn’t know how that played in the process,” Boehme said. “I feel so honored to have been selected as an Excellence of Teaching award winner. I know the value that the Association provides to teachers throughout this state. To have this recognition is incredible.”
All of her years of teaching have been in the sixth grade.
“I love the sixth grade,” said Boehme, who will teach at Heartland Elementary in West Jordan in the fall. “They’re smart, funny, quirky, inquisitive, great to establish relationships with, to joke with and they want to be at school to learn, to be challenged, to accept responsibilities.”.
Boehme, who grew up in the Jordan School District, credits her third-grade teacher Suzie Erickson Buer, who retired from Silver Mesa Elementary in Sandy, with her desire to teach.
“She was just awesome and loved teaching,” Boehme said. “She made me feel cared for and connected. It was an overcrowded classroom, so I sat at the teacher’s desk and just that made me feel special.”
Having that unwavering belief that each student can learn while making them feel special and engaged in learning is now what Boehme does in the classroom, according to her nominator fifth-grade teacher Sandy King.
“Jennifer empowers students because first of all she makes it a priority to get to know them,” King said in the awards video. “[They know] being in her class is going to be a challenge. But at the same time, they trust her enough to know that they’re going to grasp any concept because she’ll do whatever it takes. Kids love Jennifer and it’s because she relates so well to the kids and their interests. She loves technology, and they’re really into that. They love ‘Harry Potter,’ they love music, they like sports. She just relates to kids on so many levels and tells jokes, so they just love being around her.”
The story of one student, in particular, was recounted. He was an older student with Hunter’s syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects mental development and physical abilities, but still wanted to learn and experience school in a social setting. He was put into Boehme’s class. At the end of the year, he was given a choice to go to a middle school class or repeat sixth grade, she said.
“He was a sweetheart and always said, ‘Ms. B, can I help you?’ We just didn’t think he would do well in middle school and thought he could skip it and just enter high school, but we lost a petition to put him in high school because he wasn’t old enough,” she said. “His parents asked him what he wanted to do, and he said he’d repeat sixth grade as long as he could have me as his teacher and not repeat the same lessons.”
After repeating the year with new material, the student went into high school. He died in December of that year.
“He knew he mattered and knew he could learn,” Boehme said. “He had empathy from the students. You build those personal relationships with the kids and watch them grow.”
King said Boehme cares about all students.
“Every kid that comes into her class is her child,” King said. “And it’s not only the kids in her class but the kids in every class—not only for the kids in Utah, but for kids everywhere. She is a champion for kids, and every kid deserves to have a champion.”
Since 2000, the UEA has presented more than 140 Excellence in Teaching awards. Twelve of those UEA Teaching in Excellence winners have been from Jordan School District, Boehme said.