Meet West Jordan’s ‘Outstanding Educators’
Jun 14, 2016 10:00AM
By Tori La Rue
Ronald Squire’s second-grade students give him a congratulatory hug for receiving an award from the Jordan Education Foundation. – Jordan School District
By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
Each year the Jordan Education Foundation honors certain teachers within the Jordan School District as their “Outstanding Educators” and awards them with a cash prize of $1,000, and this year four teachers from West Jordan made the cut.
The foundation chose Ronald Squire, from Jordan Hills Elementary; Carolee Tautkus, from Mountain Shadows Elementary; Melinda Mansouri, from the Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers North Campus and Kristie Clawson, from West Jordan High School because of their students’ academic growth, teaching practices and positive effect on students’ lives, according to foundation director Steve Hall. While these teachers are making a difference, few people outside of their school and classroom may know their contributions to society, Hall said.
Ronald Squire teaches second grade, which he said is “perfection.”
“[The students] are still little and cute and excited, but they are but big enough that they can do some stuff on their own so I’m not tying shoes and wiping butts all day,” Squire said. “They come to second grade ready to go, and they are doing pretty well in reading. Instead of learning to read, we can read to learn.”
Squire dabbled in other pursuits after finishing high school, but said he decided he wanted to be a teacher after he and his best friend Jayme Nielson spent time helping her mother run her first grade classroom. After going to college together, Squire and Nielson both teach second grade at Jordan Hills Elementary School.
“It’s amazing being able to work with my best friend,” Squire said.
For Squire, the best part about teaching is seeing students grasp new concepts, he said. One girl in his class was working on addition facts that all of the other students in the class had passed off, but in May she finally understood the process that she’d been studying all year. The other students cheered for her and her confidence shot up, Squire said.
When Squire received the Outstanding Educator award, he didn’t know how to respond.
“I was surprised, only that’s not the right word because I was more surprised than ‘surprised,’” he said. “I guess you could say I was confused and flattered, and I felt like, ‘Why me?’ because everyone around me works so hard. I wish my award could have been for everybody – my whole team.”
Carollee Tautkus teaches Special Education at Mountain Shadows Elementary where she is loved by the faculty, staff, students and parents, according to Principal Annette Huff.
Tautkus’s students have specific procedures to follow when they enter her classroom. They pick up their folders, sit down at one of three tables and begin their schoolwork. You’d never know they were students with disabilities who are struggling to learn because of the way they follow her directions, Huff said.
“It is not a wonder that parents and students sit in meetings and cry, as their child is released from resource because they no longer qualify,” Huff said. “What should be a time of celebrating great accomplishment is also a sad day because they know that they will no longer be able to enjoy learning in a small group setting with such a kind, loving teacher.”
Huff puts on a musical for the school each year, receives visits from former students who she stays in contact with and present professional development strategies to staff at meetings, according to the letter written by several of her colleagues at the school that was submitted with her nomination.
“Nothing is impossible to Mrs. Tautkus,” the letter states. “She finds a way to make a difference in her classroom and in our school.”
Melinda Mansouri has been teaching in Jordan School District for 21 years, but she’s been teaching the Web/Mobile App Development curriculum that she created at the Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers North for four years.
“I have built a program at the JATC with countless hours of unpaid time,” Mansouri said. “This award was an amazing way to recognize the time and dedication spent to help Jordan District students. We have so many amazing, dedicated teachers who are rarely recognized.”
Mansouri said she knows firsthand that the inspiration a teacher gives can change the course of a student’s life, and said that’s what keeps her going. While she was attending Parowan high school, her English teacher, Gayle Burns, had an influence on her that led her to want to teach dance and literature. Later on, she switched to teaching technology because she had a talent for it and wanted to try something new, she said.
“I love that I am in a position to really make a difference in students’ lives,” she said. “I love having the opportunity to teach new skills and watch my students become amazing web designers who are ready to start working in their chosen career field during my class.”
Kristie Clawson, the business department chair at West Jordan High School, graduated from West Jordan High School and has two daughters who currently attend the school and play on the softball team.
She may put in so much time with the credit deficient students at the school and not let them fail because she herself is so “Jagmatized,” Principal Michael Kochevar said.
“You will never see Kristie sitting behind her desk – she is out helping students,” Kochevar said. “She cares about each individual student. She wants them to be successful and will hound them if they don’t finish their assignment she’s truly there for students.”
Students often hear her saying, “Be good, make good choices, remember who you are and what you stand for and make your parents proud,” according to Kochevar.
“She’s a wonderful teacher and a great person,” Kochevar said. “She’s made a difference in students’ lives.”