Park City teacher wins Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education | ParkRecord.com

Park City teacher wins Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education

Julie Hooker, left, a teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High, reacts as Karen Huntsman gives her a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. The award, given to just 10 educators each year, is one of the most prestigious honors in the state for public teachers. (Jake Shane/Park Record)

It was like any other Monday for Julie Hooker. But then people began unexpectedly streaming into her classroom at Treasure Mountain Junior High.

It was at that moment she knew something unusual was happening. She was being honored as one of 10 educators statewide to win a 2016 Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. The awards, put on by the Huntsman family, are given each year to the best educators in Utah and come with a $10,000 check for each winner.

Hooker, who teaches English and leadership classes at the junior high, said the surprise of it all left her speechless — something, she was quick to point out, that never happens.

"I was shocked. I was so shocked," she said of the ceremony, held April 25. "And part of the reason I was so shocked was that everyone here kept it a total secret. They all knew for a week, including one of my students. Even my mom and brother kept their mouth shut when they saw me the night before."

Hooker said she was humbled by the honor. She expressed gratitude toward the staff members at Treasure Mountain who had nominated her.

"I was thinking about it, and I couldn’t do it without the team here at Treasure," she said. "When I looked out at everybody who came into my class that morning, it was so humbling. You think about all of the amazing educators in this building, much less statewide. It’s just overwhelming."

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The magic of the honor, Hooker said, is that it makes her feel like the community understands how much of herself she puts into the classroom each day. Recognition is not what makes her passionate about her job, but she is pleased that others see the value in what teachers do.

She explained that her outlook on education has been shaped by her unique career path. Her first career was in advertising and public relations. She had never thought about teaching, in fact, until a friend suggested that she become an educator. So she did — and she found out quickly that she was meant for the profession.

"It’s like in the movie ‘A Chorus Line,’ when she says, ‘I’m a dancer. A dancer dances,’" she said. "Well, I’m a teacher and a teacher teaches. That’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m doing it. And if I feel like I can make this age even a little bit more bearable for even one student, then I’ve done a good job."

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