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Murray Journal

Pinnacle Award winners surprised with recognition, honored at dinner

May 30, 2022 04:38PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Riverview Junior High social studies teacher Gina Dansie stepped away from her classroom when Principal Earl Kauffman asked her to “help” another teacher.

“I came back and there’s my husband, my mom who came up from southern Utah and I just kind of stopped and Earl had to push me into the room to keep going,” she said, adding that Murray School District Superintendent Jen Covington, Murray Board of Education and Murray Education Foundation members also had joined her students.

Dansie then was given a bouquet of flowers. She was one of seven Murray teachers, along with a staff member and volunteer, who were surprised to learn they were Murray District’s 19th annual Pinnacle Award winners.

Joining Dansie, who has taught for 15 years; were Grant first-grade teacher Jennifer Frampton, who has taught for 19 years; early childhood education center special education teacher Shelley Kiefer, who has taught 23 years; Murray High math teacher Ashley McSwain, who has taught 22 years; Horizon sixth-grade teacher Jen McNatt, who has taught for 25 years; intervention specialist Maria Stump, who has worked at Hillcrest Junior High for four years; and Horizon volunteer Janel Williams.

At a special recognition dinner, students introduced and thanked them. Then, each honoree received a gift basket and $500. A statue will be presented to them at a later date.   

“I had a student from last year introduce me and she was very sweet. She said, along the lines of the class was good, it was the personal connection with me that made students felt important,” Dansie said.

Those connections with teachers was partly what inspired Dansie to teach.

“I had some really good high school teachers growing up and I had that connection,” she said about her teachers in Cedar City. “I wanted to be able to continue building those kinds of relationships with my students. I love the middle school-junior high age. They are funny. In junior high, they’re still excited about learning.”

With a particularly hard few years for all educators during the COVID-19 pandemic and what she said has been “rough with a lot of what I feel are unnecessary critiques on public education,” Dansie said the award came at the right time.

“This was just a very nice kind of pick-me-up that meant maybe I do make a difference,” she said, saying that she likely will use the monetary gift to help with travel plans. “I just want to thank MEF for all the work they put into this along with the community members with the awesome gift basket that went above and beyond.”

All Pinnacle recipients were nominated by a Murray community, family or school district member. Once nominations are submitted, a committee of community members selects the winners based on the nomination. All nominations and nominators are kept confidential.

In recent years, the Pinnacle Awards’ celebrations were delayed because of the pandemic. This year, they were held March 17.