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Murray Journal

Murray School District honors outstanding teacher, employee

Aug 31, 2017 01:05PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Murray High School math teacher Haley Binggeli, center, was surprised during class with the announcement that she was named Murray School District’s outstanding teacher of the year. (Murray School District)

By Julie Slama  |  [email protected]

Murray High School math teacher Haley Binggeli was trying to teach students using an old overhead projector when her current projector wasn’t working. Then, she was interrupted when visitors came through her door.

Instead of being frustrated, she was stunned.

“I was just shocked when he said, ‘I have good news. You were selected as Murray School District’s teacher of the year,’” Binggeli said.

After a quick congratulations by Superintendent Steve Hirase and Assistant Superintendent Scott Bushnell, and cheers from the students, she refocused on teaching.

“The students were excited, but after the announcement, we just continued on,” Binggeli said, adding that soon after, a new LCD overhead projector and marker came. “I don’t know if it had anything to do with their timing, but it’s great to have.”

She, along with Murray School District’s outstanding employee Steve Curtis, received a clock with a plaque and $500.

“It’s really nice to be recognized when so many teachers are excellent. It’s great to just get that pat on the back,” Binggeli said.

But it’s more than teaching students, said former Murray High Principal John Goldhardt. In his recommendation letter, Goldhardt said that Binggeli is able to teach and impact “difficult” students by developing trusting relationships so they feel emotionally and physically safe. She also has multiple approaches and explanations, which helps students understand difficult math concepts.

“Students soon learn that mistakes are opportunities to learn, so they put in the needed effort to be successful,” he wrote. “I have had more than one student tell me, ‘I was afraid of math until I had Mrs. Binggeli. She has a way of explaining things that helped me get it.’”

Goldhardt also said that Binggeli is a team player, contributing both to the success of her colleagues and to the school as a whole through being the leader of her Professional Learning Community, a member of the citizenship policy review committee and support to colleagues and students alike.

Bushnell, who was Murray High’s principal before Goldhardt, echoes the sentiments.

“She encourages her students to work hard through the process of productive struggle,” he wrote in his recommendation letter. “She engages students through cooperative learning, hands-on manipulatives and the use of technology in her classroom. Throughout the learning process, Haley is a mentor and an advocate, setting high expectations for all of her students and accepting nothing less than high academic and personal success for each.”

Bushnell also said that Binggeli, who has taught at Murray High since 2008, is a role model demonstrating professionalism and a desire to learn through having a level 2 teaching license, a master’s in instructional technology, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics teacher with a history teaching minor and an ESL endorsement. She also was named Salt Lake Community College’s outstanding concurrent enrollment educator in 2013.

“Haley models life-long learning for students. She has a very positive outlook on life, is open-minded and seeks to understand issues by examining various points of view,” he wrote in his recommendation.

Bushnell said that most days, Binggeli is working with students before and after school.

“Haley is a dedicated, passionate, extremely hard-working teacher who deeply cares about every single one of her students,” he said. “In her unassuming way, she has an amazing ability to help all students learn math, especially those who never thought they could. She instills in her students the mindset that ‘I can’ and that ‘I will.’ Haley’s door is always open and students know they are welcome in her classroom.”

Binggeli and Curtis were honored recently at the Murray Board of Education meeting. 

Hillcrest Junior High Principal Jennifer Covington said that Curtis, who has worked with the school district for nine years, is more than a hall monitor.

“We could definitely add the following titles: mentor, tutor, motivator, friend, confidant, teacher, coach and creative genius,” she said in her nomination letter. “One of the best qualities about Steve is he is willing to help whenever and wherever and does anything asked of him with an amazing attitude and a smile.”

Covington said that in addition to his regular duties of walking the halls during class breaks to monitor student behavior, Curtis also has covered class periods for teachers attending meetings; been a substitute when there isn’t one available; teaches a math lab class; runs the afterschool chess club and supports students at the state chess tournament annually; participates in the student book club; runs the word of the week contest; assists students with homework; creates higher-order thinking for students to solve; helps in the library, office and gym when needed; and several other duties.

“Steve is amazing with our students. He is a trusted adult who students naturally gravitate toward. All I have to do is mention ‘Steve’ and students are more than eager to tell me how much they love having him at our school. He is a rock star to our students,” she said.

They were selected amongst several teacher and employee of the year nominees, who were all recognized at a luncheon hosted by Brio Tuscan Grille, and joined by Hirase, other administrators and board of education members. 

Other nominees for teacher of the year included Reenie Stewart, Grant Elementary; Whitney Anderson, Horizon Elementary; Kat Nelson, Liberty Elementary; Jill Horne, Longview Elementary; Keira Van Beekum, McMillan Elementary; Macy McFatter, Parkside Elementary; McKenzie Hillman, Viewmont Elementary; Nicole Shannon, Hillcrest Junior High; and Kathy Dale, Riverview Junior High.

Other employee of the year nominees included Lindsay Preece, Grant Elementary; Deleen Fowlks, Liberty Elementary; Sherrie VanRoosendaal, Longview Elementary; Corey Peterson, McMillan Elementary; Roxie Weston, Parkside Elementary; Sunshine Szedeli, Viewmont Elementary; Christine Mitchell, Riverview Junior High; Barbara Stewart, Riverview Junior High; Colleen Paswaters, Early Childhood Education Center; Steve Ure, maintenance; and Loren Oyler, bus garage.