Teacher receives excellence award | ParkRecord.com

Teacher receives excellence award

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

Whatever adjective you choose from veteran to courageous to instrumental that is the kind of teacher Sandy Hayes is. For 29 years, Hayes has worked in the South Summit School District. For the first 27 years, she was a second-grade teacher, and now she is South Summit Elementary School’s English Language Learners (ELL) coordinator.

Monday, in recognition for her commitment to helping ELL students and their families, Hayes was presented with a 2007 "Excellence in Teaching" award, sponsored by William and Pat Child and the Utah Education Association (UEA).

Hayes was selected from 80 to 90 nominated teachers, receiving one of only 10 "Excellence in Teaching" awards given out in the state, and the only award given to a teacher in Summit County, according to UEA Vice President Ellen Thompson. Hayes received a $1,500 check, along with a crystal award and a poster with her picture and bio, which was on display at the UEA convention this past October.

The nine other award-winners were recognized during a dinner during the UEA convention at Gateway Discovery in Salt Lake City, but Hayes and her husband already had plans to visit the Grand Canyon’s glass bridge and could not attend the dinner.

So instead, Thompson, South Summit Superintendent Barry Walker and his wife, South Summit Elementary School principal, Louise Willoughby, along with several of Hayes’ coworkers, including her husband, gathered together to present Hayes with her award. "It was such an honor," Hayes said, "especially to have had all my peers here."

The elementary school’s transitional first-grade teacher, Wendy Radke, nominated Hayes. "After looking at the award’s description, I just really felt she deserved it because she has really made a difference in our ELL students’ and families’ lives."

Radke wrote the bio about Hayes that was displayed on her UEA poster; it reiterated her skilled teaching and communication abilities. "With Hayes’ encouragement," the bio states, "ELL families now attend parent-teacher conferences. If translations are needed, Hayes makes the arrangements. ELL families participate in PTO-sponsored family nights and some parents have even run for a position on the school Site Council."

Family nights are held three times a year. This year’s second event took place on Thursday, Nov. 15, and was a big success according to Hayes and Willoughby. Hayes said that of the 68 ELL students at school, about 50 percent of the parents, both mothers and fathers, attended.

Topics discussed included a give and take between what the school is doing to help students, what parents can do to help, and what parents would like to see improve at the school.

"Our ELL population has grown a lot," Willoughby said. According to a study conducted by University of Utah professors, Andrea Rorrer and Enrique Aleman, South Summit School District’s ELL population grew by 2000 percent from 2000 to 2007, equating to 12-percent ELL students at each grade level.

In a speech Hayes gave after receiving her award, she talked about the time when she was the only ELL-certified teacher and how far the school had come. "It works so much better when we’re all on the same page. I’m just so proud of all of you," she said to her colleagues.

Now there are 14 ELL-certified teachers at the elementary school. Hayes works alongside them to "enrich what they teach in the classroom," she said. Hayes teaches students of all grade levels for a half an hour, each day, four days a week.

"We do a lot of fun things in the classroom," she said. "We play games, put on plays, work with crafts and pictures, anything that will help them learn English."

Hayes techniques are definitely working. The school’s ELL population test scores improved dramatically in the first year this ELL pullout program, as it is known, was in operation.

The 2006 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report showed that the Hispanic population scored 36 percent in language arts and 29 percent in math. In the 2007 AYP report, scores for the Hispanic population had shot up to 70 percent in both language arts and math.

At 70 percent, Willoughby said, students are making a proficiency level of 3 or 4, which means that students are at grade-level. "She’s really closing the achievement gap for our English Language Learners," Willoughby said.

Challenges for ELL students seem innumerable. "Even if these ELL kids enter the school in kindergarten, they’re still five years behind because they don’t speak English at home," Hayes said.

She discussed the difficulties of helping transfer students catch up to the curriculum and of helping students with their homework when mom and dad can’t.

Many times when teachers have writing projects planned, students are meant to take it home to work on with their parents, Hayes said, but this is not possible for parents that don’t speak English, and so she takes on the task of helping them instead.

"For ELL students," Radke said, " speaking comes quickly, but for writing and reading, they need more direct instruction in order to catch up to their peers."

President of South Summit Education Association and third-grade teacher, Karen Tuttle, said that not only has Hayes had a tremendous impact with ELL students, she also aids the school with ELL training for teachers, "to help us understand how to better teach our students," she said.

Hayes’ seems to have had a tremendous impact on a lot of people, from students to teachers to parents, a legacy that South Summit administrators hope to continue after she retires this year. "We are just grateful to her and her courage," Willoughby said.

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