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Murray Journal

Cottonwood theater teacher applauded for education excellence

May 07, 2024 12:37PM ● By Julie Slama

Cottonwood High’s theater director Adam Wilkins was selected as one of Granite Education Foundation’s Excel recipients. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

During spring break, Cottonwood High theatre director Adam Wilkins was gearing up not only for his drama team’s ensemble piece, “Triangle,” but also for every individual event and duo and trio scene that qualified at region for the state competition in April. 

He also was looking ahead to the 7 p.m., April 30, May 1, 3 and 4 performances for the school production, “Urinetown,” which were performed in the school’s black box with a three-piece student band under the direction of student music director Tate Curtis. 

Wilkins had little time to revel in the team’s region win—the school’s first since 2020—but he did get a surprise celebration as a Granite Education Foundation’s Excel Educator awardee when he reached the auditorium. He was unaware of what he would face, but rushed at the urging of his wife and drama coach, Madison Howell.

“When you see the look in her face, you don’t question it,” he said, admitting her acting skills got him that time.

Wilkins is one of nine classroom teachers and one school administrator who are honored with the distinction. He and the others were honored at a May 2 dinner that will show videos of their accomplishments and will receive a $1,500 check, a trophy and gifts from community sponsors including tickets to the last home Utah Jazz game.

According to the Granite Education Foundation’s website, the application process begins in the fall, with nominations by community members, students, parents and administrators submitting names of applicants who are making a difference every day. 

Throughout the winter, applicants follow a rigorous application, evaluation and observation process by a 30-member selection committee comprised of community members, retired educators, administrators, and business partners to determine the 10 Excel Educator Award winners. 

Wilkins and the other winning Excel teachers this and previous years can apply for the Granite School District teacher of the year award; that award winner will then represent Granite School District as the applicant for the Utah teacher of the year award.

“This is awesome; it’s something I was hoping to achieve,” said the 17-year teaching veteran. “When I reached the room, people were there with my students—admin(instration), counselors, superintendent, the Jazz bear and Jazz dancers—and they were cheering for me. The bear just lifted me up, and I’m a good improviser so I just went for it and had fun celebrating.”

In amongst those applauding was his mother, Denise Wilkins.

“My mom is a huge supporter. She has seen everything I’ve performed, everything I’ve ever directed. She still comes to all our shows. It was a special to see her and my uncle there,” he said. 

He gives his mother credit for introducing him to theater. 

“She teaches special ed(ucation) at Murray High, but that wasn’t the case when I was growing up. She went back to school to get her degree and that really inspired me. She’s one of my heroes. When she was in school, she needed an art credit so she took a theater appreciation class and she took me to see ‘Annie.’ I absolutely just fell in love with the show,” he said, adding that while “Into the Woods” is now his favorite musical, he has directed “Annie” twice at Cotton-
wood High.

His mother supported her son’s passion, taking him to audition for “The King and I” in fifth grade.

“I fell in love with theater. I kept pursuing it. My mom was great to find me different opportunities to audition and perform,” he said.

Wilkins continued to perform while in high school and college. 

In addition to directing at Cottonwood High, he still performs and directs in the community. 

This summer, he will be directing “Peter and the Starcatcher” at Murray amphitheater as well as overseeing Granite School District’s theater camp, aimed for sixth graders through high school seniors. Registration for the theater summer camp can be found on the school website.

“We’ll provide opportunities for all the students to not just be a part of the shows, but truly shine,” he said.

It was one of his students, sophomore Rory Shover, who nominated Wilkins for
the award.

“That was really an honor that she recognized the hard work I put in with my team; I was proud for my department and for the school,” he said. “This is an award I’ve wanted for years, but when I saw the sign with my name on it, I was really taken back.”

Wilkins said that it’s a credit to all theater and arts teachers.

“We put in a lot of time into our craft and it’s such a passion,” he said. “I hope the recognition might encourage other students to take a theater class or a student coming in from a junior high will try it out. I’m certainly not going to change anything we’re doing right now because clearly, it’s working.” λ