Utah’s 2016 teacher of the year announced

Valerie S. Gates. Photo: Utah State Board of Education

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 10, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah education officials have announced the 2017 teacher of the year.

West High School’s Valerie S. Gates has earned the top honor according to an announcement by Rich K. Nye, Deputy State Superintendent of Public Education.

Gates teaches English language development and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) at West High, in the Salt Lake School District.

Gates, of Salt Lake City, has been presented with a check for $10,000 and will compete with her fellow teachers of the year in a national competition. Gates will also receive a laptop computer from PC Laptops and a $250 check from McDonald’s.

In addition, Gates will meet with fellow teachers of the year at a national conference, meet with the President in Washington, D.C., and attend space camp in Alabama next summer.

Jody Tolley. Photo: Utah State Board of Education
Jody Tolley. Photo: Utah State Board of Education

Jody Tolley, who teaches American Sign Language at Skyline High, in the Granite School District, was named first runner up. Tolley received a check for $5,000.

Gretchen Murray, who teaches gifted and talented classes at Sandy’s Peruvian Park Elementary in the Canyons School District, was named second runner up. She received a check for $3,000.

Gretchen Murray. Photo: Utah State Board of Education
Gretchen Murray. Photo: Utah State Board of Education

A committee with representatives from the Utah State Board of Education, school principals, school teachers and 2016 Utah Teacher of the Year Melody Apezteguia selected Gates from among local teachers of the year for the honor.

All 20 local teachers of the year recently were honored at a banquet at the Double Tree Suites Hotel in Salt Lake City and presented with a gift from O.C. Tanner Company as well as a gift basket from Great Harvest Bread Company, a water filter backpack from All Filters, and a gift certificate from McDonald’s. The University of Phoenix made a donation to help to offset the cost of the banquet.

“Valerie is always ready to help students become problem solvers, make thoughtful decisions, and become independent” wrote Eileen Hallet Stone of the Utah Section of the National Council of Jewish Women.

“She speaks to students as if they are all partners in learning. And since she respects their ability to take on high expectations and extend their own ability to learn, they seem more willing to achieve.”

Gates shared her teaching philosophy:

“My teaching is driven by a powerful belief in human dignity and a basic mutual respect between teacher, student and family,” she said. “This is an essential part of who I am and affects everything I do inside and outside of school.”

Gates succeeds Apezteguia, who is a calculus teacher at American Fork High School in the Alpine School District.

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