Park City educators celebrated with Doilney Excellent Educator Awards
Eight honored last month in annual celebration
If Mark Etheridge had any doubts about how much his students love him, they were quieted last month.
Etheridge, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Trailside Elementary School, was one of eight educators in the Park City School District honored April 28 during the Park City Education Foundation’s annual Doilney Excellent Educator Awards. In celebration, Etheridge’s students, elated their teacher had won, mobbed him in a group hug that dragged him to the ground.
Afterward, he said he was grateful for the hug — and for being recognized as one of the best educators in the district. The awards are voted on by each school’s staff, so the honor was particularly meaningful for Etheridge, who has taught in Park City for 24 years.
“It was a great honor,” he said. “It meant a lot to me to be recognized by my peers and colleagues and the education foundation. I take my work really seriously and it’s important to me, and I do my best, so to have your peers recognize you is a great honor. I work with really good people within the district and within the school, so their recognition means a lot to me.”
The other educators honored this year were: Kelly Yeates, Park City High School; Niko Jensen, Treasure Mountain Junior High School; Dan Gallery, Ecker Hill Middle School; Patti Davis, Jeremy Ranch Elementary School; Rachel Taylor, Parley’s Park Elementary School; Kathleen Gibson, McPolin Elementary School. Debra Alcox, a math teacher at PCHS, was given the Sarah and Stephen Doilney Award, an honor voted on by the senior class for the teacher who most inspired them.
Jen Billow, associate director of communications and development for the education foundation, said the awards are special for everyone involved in putting on the ceremony, which involves an entourage — including the PCHS marching band — that travels to each school to announce the winner. The best part, she said, is that the awards are not just for the winner. Every educator who gets nominated receives the comments the staff members who voted for them wrote in the balloting.
“A ton of teachers get those comments,” Billow said. “It’s a great day because you open up your mail and, even if you didn’t win, you get to read all these great things your peers are saying about you. I think that’s just a great feeling for them.”
Given that, the awards celebrate the profession of teaching as a whole as much they honor any one individual, Billow said. It’s a wonderful reminder near the end of the school year that the Park City community values the contributions teachers make to the lives of children.
“We do live in a really special community,” she said. “We’re really lucky because the majority of people here believe in public education. And people come here from all over. They come here and there’s a whole community that supports public education and a good education for every student. There’s a feeling of, ‘It’s not just about my own student — we’re lifting up the whole community.’ The support for the teachers goes along with that.”
For Etheridge, it doesn’t matter much who wins the awards each year. He said the joy is the same whether he hears his name called or the name of another teacher at Trailside. What matters more is the validation of the hard work of every educator in the school district and the shared value of helping children become their best selves during their school years.
“You want to have every kid succeed,” he said. “I love the academic part of it, but the social and emotional stuff is more important to me because if they’re not happy at school and don’t feel like they can be successful, then there’s not much point in it. You want them to leave the grade feeling better about their abilities than when they came in. … Helping them reach their potential is really what it’s about.”
For Billow, it’s all the better when that validation comes in the form of students mobbing the winning teacher.
“We love seeing that and we love how excited the students get,” Billow said. “It is just so much fun when that name is read. And it isn’t just their own class that erupts into cheers — it’s the whole auditorium. To see the reaction and how much joy the kids have, and all the hugging and high-fiving, is a great feeling for us.”
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Park City School District’s Board of Directors is getting closer to a price tag for its district-wide plan to increase class space and improve wraparound services at its schools, but no decision has been made on how much of that $140 million will be part of a bond election.