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South Jordan Journal

Jordan School District salutes exceptional educators

Jun 05, 2024 10:17AM ● By Julie Slama

Vocational teacher Travis Lucero receives a congratulatory handshake from South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey on being named Bingham High’s and one of Jordan School District’s Outstanding Educators of the Year. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Aspen Elementary fifth-grade teacher Mikayla Miller was going with a colleague to fill her water bottle. Jordan Ridge Elementary fifth-grade teacher Corrine Fiso was told to pick up her students in the gym after recess. Elk Meadows second-grade teacher Katie Snow looked up from teaching a phonics lesson.

Vocational teacher Travis Lucero remembered it as a chaotic day at Bingham High. An alert was posted on social media about an impending attack, and while the alert was well intended, the scare was for a different Bingham High.

Even so, Lucero and other staff members were on high alert. Then, he was told there was some damage done and he would need to identify some students when he ambled upon the contingent of people there to present him the award.

“I was definitely shocked,” he said. “We had a bit of a scare, so I was in a bit of a different mindset because I was told there was an emergency.”

When Lucero arrived, Haynes told the crowd about the award, but Lucero said he was still processing it.

“They said they wanted me to identify some students and I saw a bunch sitting there and I thought, ‘that’s a lot of kids,’” he said.

Lucero, much like the others, was surprised to see the superintendent, Jordan Board of Education members, Jordan Education Foundation members and other school and district personnel.

“Then, I saw my wife, my parents, my in-laws, my sister, some friends and it took a bit to piece it together that apparently it was just a story about the kids being in trouble,” he said.

All four were honored as part of Jordan School District’s top 18 educators of the 3,600 in the district. They were recognized on the court at a Salt Lake Stars’ basketball game and treated to an awards banquet sponsored by area business partners. They each received a crystal award, a yard sign and $1,000.

Besides these 18, Jordan Education Foundation honored a teacher from each of the 67 schools in the district with $500. At the other South Jordan schools, the recipients were Teri Kummer, Daybreak Elementary; Emily Evans, Eastlake Elementary; Amber Fairbanks, Golden Fields Elementary; Michael Olsen, Monte Vista Elementary; Anne Harrison, South Jordan Elementary; Rachel Eldeen, Welby Elementary; AJ Steele, Elk Ridge Middle; Kayla Rowberry, Mountain Creek Middle; Kristin Stolle, South Jordan Middle; Rachel Kime, Valley High; and Ashlyn McBride, River’s Edge School.

“In Jordan School District, we have great teachers as far as the eye can see,” Jordan School District Superintendent Anthony Godfrey said. “It’s fun to highlight a few each year for their constant outstanding effort that they put in to help not only every student in their class, but their colleagues as well. What strikes me is just how many of these teachers who are being honored are not only extremely successful in the classroom, but they provide great support to the teachers they work with as well.”

Aspen’s Mikayla Miller

“It was the biggest surprise ever; I didn’t know I was nominated,” she said. “I saw all these faces — even my family from Michigan — then Mike (Haynes, JEF executive director) starts talking. It was like a blackout moment on what’s going on until it registered.”

The fourth-year teacher had envisioned teaching younger grades, but she did her practicum in fifth grade.

“I honestly fell in love with it. I love the curriculum. I love the kids. It’s just a great age to teach great content to; the kids love you as a teacher and they love that you can joke with them and bring up funny memes, but they also still love to learn and want to do engaging lessons,” Miller said.

She offers her students a variety of learning games that are engaging. 

“We play Math Trashketball, where they’re answering questions and the team that answers it correctly gets to shoot into a little basketball hoop. We play Comma Cafe where we turned our classrooms into little cafes. They do a lesson where they have to figure out commas in a list of groceries they need for the cafe, or in the locations of cafes. In science, we play Producer Tag to teach them about the sun’s energy giving to the plants to grow as producers and then the consumers eat the producers,” she said.  

She modeled her career after her second-grade teacher who was not only engaging in the classroom, but “supporting outside the classroom in any way possible. I hope I have that same aspect with the relationship I build with students. I hope they know I can play with them at recess, or they know I’m a safe adult to talk to if something is going on in their lives.”

As the student council adviser, she supports students in community service and other projects as well as leads by example by organizing the Aspen Community Night the past three years that provides supplies and resources to families.

Jordan Ridge’s Corrine Fiso

“This is my 11th year; I was an intern my first year and then I got hired on and I’ve just been here at Jordan Ridge,” she said. “I love it.”

Fiso has taught both third and fifth grades.

“One of my favorite things is helping kids understand something that’ll help them later. Math is probably my favorite to teach. I like explaining the foundation of it and it’s straightforward and logical,” she said.

Fiso uses different strategies to find the ways that work best for her students.

“I teach them all the different ways we can and then I let them choose a favorite,” she said. “At the end of the year, we do a project involving technology and a little bit of coding on Excel.” 

She ties in math to their reading of “The Phantom Tollbooth.”

“At one point in the story, when Milo is approaching Digitopolis, there’s a sign that says how far it is and it has a bunch of different measurements. So, we do a project where they choose a place that they want to travel to and make a sign where they decided to go. They write out the measurements in those same ways and do those calculations to figure out that they do all equal the same thing,” Fiso said.

Fiso comes from a family of teachers — her aunt and her grandparents.

“My grandpa was a band teacher and my grandma taught there and they taught both in Samoa and here in the states,” she said, adding that she, too, has that love of music.

She shares that with Jordan Ridge’s students as she’s involved with 100 choir members.

“We do two concerts a year and I still perform some in the community,” she said. 

Fiso also coaches the Girls on the Run program at Jordan Ridge. This year, the program has grown to have 60 students and it includes not only running, but also helping the girls to build their confidence and learn good decision-making skills. At the end of the year, they celebrate by running a 5K together. 

Elk Meadows’ Katie Snow

“When I saw my husband, my parents and my in-laws there with all the district people, I couldn’t imagine why this combination of people were here,” Snow said. “It was a little overwhelming before it clicked in my brain what was going on.” 

This is her 10th year teaching, her seventh year back after her children were old enough to return to school. In fact, Snow taught art, music and computers before the principal asked, ‘do you want to get back to teaching?’

“I was going to say, ‘I’m OK where I’m at,’ but another teacher came in and said, ‘Would you please come and teach second grade?’” she said. “I always loved school. I would always play school when I was young. I especially loved my second-grade teacher, and I would go back and help her quite often. I always wanted to teach second grade because I loved that teacher, so I agreed to teach second grade, and I’ve been here ever since.”

In fact, it was under Snow’s second-grade teacher Cynthia Bergantz at Vista Elementary who she observed and did her practicum under. 

“She taught me about the joy of teaching and learning,” Snow said. “I love teaching. I love seeing the kids be excited about learning and interacting with them. There is this spark of joy in them.”

Snow teaches choir to second- through sixth-grade students and incorporates art into her classroom. 

“Once a month we learn about an artist and do an art project in the style,” she said. “I love teaching math and getting the kids to think of things in new ways. I love pulling out manipulatives and incorporating those into lessons. For example, around Halloween we were talking about grouping 10s and I gave the students this project to help Willy Wonka sort and organize caramels. So the kids use these blocks to represent groups of 10 and learned it’s easier to count. I love seeing their excitement as they’re figuring things out.”

Bingham’s Travis Lucero

Lucero has taught welding and auto shop at Bingham High School for 18 years. 

“When they hired me, they couldn’t find anyone who could do both areas. My in-laws are retired teachers, and they knew the old technology teacher who was there at the time, and between the three of them, they encouraged me to go to the interview. They said if I didn’t take the job, they were going to close the program — and that was it. I was hooked and I’ve been there ever since,” he said. “This has been the right fit for me.”

Lucero learned welding from his father, who “was always really into old cars.” He, however, decided to go to school to learn collision repair.

“All my dad’s cars were really great cars, and they ran awesome, but they looked awful because my dad didn’t understand anything about painting or fixing dents or anything like that on a car. I wanted to learn how to make a car pretty,” he said.

He attended Utah Valley Community College, which “had just opened a hot rod program. I wanted to build hot rods and custom cars. I wasn’t really interested in being a traditional collision repair technician.”

Now, in addition to teaching 200 students the ins and outs of auto collision repair and welding, Lucero runs the school’s annual car show in conjunction with Bingham High’s Skills USA and FCCLA clubs.

“The kids from SkillsUSA help run it and then FCCLA does all the food for it. We have about 50 to 75 cars a year which completely fills up the whole back compound with vehicles — 90% of them are all student brought-in vehicles,” he said. “We always get a good turn out.”

Lucero is content as a teacher.

“I like doing what I do, getting in there and working with the kids and seeing how they succeed,” he said. “I hope that my teaching affects them in a positive way.” λ