On November 15, fifth grade students at Park Elementary in Spanish Fork got a surprise visit from the Utah Jazz Bear. And while the infamous mascot may very well have enjoyed time with the students, the visit was for their teacher, Charla Andersen, who was presented with the Most Valuable Educator (MVE) award.
The MVE award was presented by the Utah Jazz and Instructure, which is the company that makes the course management system Canvas. According to the Instructure website, teachers were nominated by their local community, and Andersen was this year’s honored recipient of the award that included $1,000 to be used in her classroom.
Andersen, who has been teaching for 20 years, said that she only recently began working at Park Elementary. It was the move to Park that presented a unique challenge for her, but something she said helped her to grow as a teacher.
“This is my second year at Park,” she said. “I spent 15 years at East Meadows, and before that I was at Mt. Loafer in Salem. One of my interns I trained is the principal at Park Elementary, and I moved there when the school was having some struggles.”
Anderson explained that when she began teaching at Park, the school was in Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) status, which means that it was in the bottom 5 percentile of Title 1 Schools. She explained that when a school is in CSI status, that teachers are given special training to help bring student test scores up during a three year period.
“Park wasn’t growing, and their kids weren’t passing the (year end) test,” Andersen explained. “They had someone from the state come in and work with the teachers. I was there for the last year of the three year program. I was able to come in and create lessons and learning targets and help our kids pass the year-end test so that we could get out of the CSI status.
“Last year we had to prove that the kids had grown, and now we are no longer in the CSI status; we are in the top 40 percent of the schools in Utah. We went from bottom five percent to being in the 60th percentile which is awesome!”
Andersen was first presented with the award in front of her students and entire student body by way of a school-wide parade. A few days later, she was recognized on the court at the Utah Jazz game when they played against the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 18. Andersen said it was an unforgettable experience all brought on by doing something she loves.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year is taking kids who were not performing at their level to take them to where they are,” she said. “I love giving kids a challenge and expecting them to reach it and giving them the scaffolding to reach it. … It’s rewarding to see kids build confidence in themselves to reach something more.
“Getting to hang out with 10-year-olds every day is pretty awesome,” she added. “It’s not always the same thing. Each year there is a different kid with a different challenge that you have never seen, and you have to figure out what you need to do to best help them, so it keeps you on your feet. I dream about them. I think about them. They’ve become a part of my life. I spend more time with my students than I do with my own kids during the week. I’m with these kids a solid six hours a day, and so they really do become a part of your life, and it’s amazing to see them grow.”
As for how she is going to spend the $1,000, Andersen said that she is entertaining the idea of taking her students on a really fun field trip.