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Draper Journal

Canyons District teachers, staff nominated for national award

Feb 01, 2018 09:36AM ● By Julie Slama

Draper Elementary's administrative assistant Marian Broderick and second-grade teacher Madison Ellingson were nominated for the national LifeChanger of the Year award. (Draper Elementary)

Two elementary teachers and two administrative assistants in Canyons School District schools recently were nominated for the national LifeChanger of the Year award.

Draper Elementary’s second-grade teacher Madison Ellingson and administrative assistant Marian Broderick were both nominated by colleague and teacher, Katie Madsen. Madsen was nominated previously.

“It is exciting for me to see what people are doing who exemplify excellence,” said Ellingson, who was one of eight nominees across Utah. “It feels good to be recognized.”

At Bell View Elementary, Principal Chanci Loran nominated fourth-grade teacher Madaline Chilcutt, and at Altara Elementary, Principal Nicolee Svee-Magann nominated administrative assistant Wendi Christensen.

National Life Group’s LifeChanger of the Year is an annual program recognizing K-12 educators and school employees who are making a significant difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership. Students, parents, colleagues and administrators nominate these LifeChangers. 

When nominated, each LifeChanger receives a congratulatory poster and certificate and an opportunity to be a LifeChanger of the Year winner, which awards one winner $10,000 each spring, to be shared with the winning school. Four grand prize finalists receive $5,000, to be shared with the winning schools.

Ellingson, who is the co-director of Draper Elementary’s choir, believes in engaging with students, whether it’s playing at recess — even if she’s not on duty — or having the choir perform throughout the community.

“You will often find her eating lunch with students in her classroom or engaging in recess games with students outside,” Madsen wrote on the nomination. “You will never find her at her desk during the school day. She is too busy interacting and engaging with her students through whole-class, small-group, and one-on-one instruction. She truly believes that each of her students can learn and achieve at high levels.”

She also is known for incorporating technology into her class lessons.

“Instead of my students just listening and watching with technology, they are able to explore more as they are learning. We are able to share their responses quickly with Nearpod, test their knowledge with Kahoot, research topics, learn to type and even go on virtual field trips,” she said, adding that she and Madsen received a $10,000 Innovation Grant from the Canyons Education Foundation so that all students are able to have iPads to use individually.

Willow Canyon second-grade teacher Jeannette Workman inspired Ellingson to go into the profession.

“She was amazing. I had lots of other teachers who really made a difference and inspired me,” Ellingson said.

Ellingon also appreciates the support from administrative assistant, Marian Broderick.

“Marian makes the school so much better for the kids and for us teachers. She’s always willing to laminate or cut out lessons for us. She’s the heart of our school,” she said.

Broderick said she was surprised when she learned she was to be recognized.

“I come in and do my job; I love my job,” she said. “I work with kids, with adults, the staff I love. Anytime we can help the teachers, we jump in.”

Broderick also said she gets to know the 740 students at the school and has for the past 23 years she has worked at Draper Elementary.

“I get asked a lot of times, ‘do you remember me?’ It’s a fun part about working at an elementary, getting to know everyone,” she said.

Altara’s Christensen also gets to know many of her students as the administrative assistant and was surprised to learn first on Facebook that she was nominated for the award.

“I was surprised to see my picture tagged so I went to see what was posted. So many parents have written nice comments,” she said.

Her principal describes her as “an essential member of the school community.” 

“Last year, my husband passed away,” Svee-Magann wrote in the nomination. “Not only did she support me emotionally, but she organized the staff with their desire to contribute meals and flowers. She ran the school as I was in and out sporadically for a few weeks, and I never doubted that the school was in excellent hands. She is often the go-to person when I am out of the building.”

Principal Loran’s nomination states that Chilcutt is “an amazing teacher who inspires her colleagues to be better. She is a highly effective educator who brings high expectations to her classroom and works to create a positive learning environment.”

Chilcutt said that with the focus in improving student engagement and providing immediate feedback for student learning, she uses practices that are supported throughout the district. 

It was in college, her first education course, when she knew “teaching was my calling.”

“I love seeing the students learn and make progress from not understanding to mastering a concept,” Chilcutt said.

Now in her 24th year of teaching at Bell View, she often teaches students who had aunts and uncles who were in her classroom.

“It’s the cards and notes from parents and former students and the comments of praise from my colleagues that are the best recognition,” Chilcutt said.