Treasure Mountain teacher receives special honor |

Treasure Mountain teacher receives special honor

Alexandria Gonzalez , The Park Record

Park City School District superintendent Ember Conley, left, awards Angie Erickson, center, with a certificate for being named Teacher of the Month. She was chosen by Treasure Mountain Junior High School principal David McNaughtan. Photo courtesy of Lori Pearce.

When Treasure Mountain Junior High School principal David McNaughtan was told to pick a teacher to honor with the title of Teacher of the Month for January, he and assistant principal Kevin McIntosh decided to recognize someone McNaughtan said had a difficult past two years and met the challenges well: Angie Erickson, a special education teacher.

"A special education teacher doesn’t get to prep and doesn’t get the nice, regular schedule that other teachers do," McNaughtan said. "She has done her job with great professionalism, she cares about the kids and she goes above and beyond."

Erickson studied fine arts at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. and was a self-employed jewelry artist for a while, she said. It wasn’t until she returned to school at Westminster College to become an art teacher that she realized her passion for special education.

While studying for her Master’s in Education, she began to substitute at Treasure Mountain as well as other schools in the district. Erickson said she was drafted into substitution for the special education classrooms at the school, and once the teachers caught on to Erickson’s knack for it, she was often chosen for that assignment and really enjoyed it.

"The most rewarding thing for me is that, when I was an artist, I felt like I was making a small difference in people’s lives by making things they enjoyed," Erickson said. "Now I am making a big difference in students’ lives and hopefully their futures. It’s more meaningful to me."

She said she also enjoys seeing the progress her students have made since she has had almost the same group of kids for two years now. Being able to "quantifiably show progress" is exciting for Erickson.

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McNaughtan recognized Erickson at last week’s Park City School District Board of Education meeting and was so passionate about his choice that he became emotional. "She probably has the most challenging job in the district, and I see her dedication each day working for these children," he said.

McNaughtan said Erickson must teach the most diverse group of students a teacher can have, because her students range from profoundly physically handicapped to having severe autism and everything in between.

"I kind of think about it like that fake commercial they show called ‘herding cats,’ meaning it is just a very scattered, crazy job where everybody is going in different directions," Erickson said. "The hardest thing is trying to focus in on giving each kid what they need at that exact moment, because they are all different."

Erickson said she enters every year with the goal in mind to make the year better than the one before. Whether it’s better teaching, more organization or trying something new, Erickson tries to "step it up a notch" and improve what she is doing.

While Erickson said she appreciates that her hard work does not go unnoticed, it would not be possible without her support team: her fellow special education teachers, aides and paraprofessionals.

"We really couldn’t do our job without our paraprofessionals," Erickson said. "As much as I am getting recognized right now, they are part of my team and do everything that I do."