USD names teacher, classified staff of year

USD names teacher, classified staff of year
Posted on 04/19/2022
This is the image for the news article titled USD names teacher, classified staff of yearToday the Uintah School District is pleased to announce Uintah Middle School teacher Christine Whetton as its Teacher of the Year and Vernal Middle School secretary Vicky Rich as its Classified Employee of the Year for 2021-2022.

"Once again we had a remarkable group of nominees for these awards," Uintah Schools Superintendent Rick Woodford said. "Christine and Vicky rose to the top of this select group. They are both committed to helping our students reach their full individual potential and we’re proud of the work they do.”

Whetton teaches physical education at Uintah Middle School. She has worked in education for 26 years. She is the recipient of the 2017 Utah Department of Health Active Schools Award, was named the Utah State Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 2004 and 2016 and was recognized with the Uintah Schools Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014.

Whetton’s nomination for Teacher of the Year was supported by several people including Julia Green, whose son Axel has autism. Green said she and her husband had “nothing to lose, no expectations” when they enrolled their son at UMS this year after relocating from Arizona. “And then first period P.E. with Christine Whetton happened,” Green wrote in a letter of recommendation.

“The level of professionalism was like nothing I had ever experienced between a teacher and her students,” Green wrote. “There was structure in the class, which was calming for my son. … Christine Whetton has designed an environment of communication that promotes inclusivity by meeting the child where he or she ‘exists,’ rather than demanding students to conform to her.”

Green added that her son has missed some major milestones in his life, including learning to ride a bike. When Whetton brought an organization to UMS to teach students how to safely ride a bike, Green called it “the most incredible week of our life.”

“Axel struggled, as did a couple of other students, but Mrs. Whetton wouldn’t let them give up,” Green wrote. “By the end of the week, every kiddo in the class could ride a bike safely. It was a week of happy tears for my son and for every student who achieved this milestone.”

Whetton’s peers in the district also voiced their support for her nomination, highlighting her tireless promotion of an “upbeat culture” at school; her reliability as a "go to girl" whenever a fun event is being planned; and her commitment to finding “creative ways to get kids moving to increase their physical activity.”

“Chris has always been a positive advocate for kids and education,” UMS Principal Sharon Shipton wrote. “Her enthusiasm rubs off on those around her.”

Rich has been with the Uintah School District for 18 years. She has worked as the attendance secretary at VMS and Vernal Junior High School (now Uintah Middle School), and as a media aide/librarian at Discovery Elementary School, in addition to serving as a substitute teacher when she first joined the district.

“Vicky ALWAYS wears a smile,” district Human Resources Director Dr. Mistalyn Leis wrote in a letter of recommendation on Rich’s behalf. “She is pleasant, kind, courteous, and professional in her interactions with students, parents, and staff.”

VMS Principal Aaron Olsen described Rich as “a rock and an anchor” for the school community. “She makes every individual feel important,” Olsen wrote. “Taking good care of other people is the essence of professionalism and Vicky Rich is the personification of that professionalism.”

In a handwritten note submitted as part of Rich’s nomination packet, one student wrote: “I always appreciate when you give me wax for my braces or when you give me, or other people pencils when we need them. Vernal Middle School is lucky to have you.”

“I’ve been trying to get my grades up and it is very stressful,” another student wrote. “After school I had told you that I got most of my grades up and you said you were proud of me and that made me very happy … because I know that there (are) people who care and love me.”

Whetton and Rich will be honored at the district’s Employee Recognition Banquet on May 5 at the Uintah Conference Center. Whetton is the district's nominee for Utah Teacher of the Year.
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No district employee or student shall be subjected to discrimination in employment or any district program or activity on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. The district is committed to providing equal access and equal opportunity in its programs, services and employment including its policies, complaint processes, program accessibility, district facility use, accommodations and other Equal Employment Opportunity matters. The district also provides equal access to district facilities for all youth groups. The following persons have been designated as Title IX coordinators to handle inquires and complaints regarding unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation: Dr. Mistalyn Leis, Human Resources Director (435) 781-3100 and/or Dr. Dean Wilson, Student Services Director (435) 781-3100. You may also contact the Office for Civil Rights, Denver, CO, at (303) 844-5695.