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Huntsman Awards recognize excellence in education

By Marjorie Cortez, | Posted - May 11th, 2017 @ 5:17pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Nine teachers, three administrators and one school volunteer are among 13 Utahns honored with 2017 Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education.

Each award, to be presented at a ceremony Friday, includes a $10,000 check from philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr.

The awards program, started in 1993, recognizes outstanding educators and volunteers who work in publicly funded Utah schools. The winners were selected among nominees in four categories: teacher, administrator, volunteer and special education teacher.

This year's winners are all veteran educators, as is the honored school volunteer, Michael McFarland, who has spent a total of 20 years volunteering at two elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District, now at Uintah Elementary.

Joani Richardson, who teaches first grade at Altara Elementary School in Sandy, is the longest-tenured educator among this year's award recipients.

Richardson has been an educator for 42 years. Her current student teacher was a student in her first-grade classroom in 2003.

The former student wrote that Richardson "continues to teach me wonderful lessons. She helped build the foundation of my education that allowed me to grow into the person I am today. Now seeing her from a future teacher’s perspective, I can see how much work she puts into her students’ education. She cares so much for her students and wants them all to be successful in the future."

Many nominators also acknowledged the educators' efforts outside the classroom.

Principal Ryan Brown of J.R. Smith Elementary School in Heber City, an educator for 16 years, instituted a weekend meal program for students to ensure they have enough food when they aren’t at school. Brown also created a means to provide winter coats for children in need.

James "Jim" Haws, technology and engineering teacher at Mueller Park Junior High in Bountiful, makes wands for children who attend the University of Utah Burn Camp. He dresses as Rubeus Hagrid from the Harry Potter books and movies when he delivers the wands. Haws has been an educator for 25 years.

Other awardees include:


Nicole Meibos — Principal at Rocky Mountain Junior High School in West Haven. She has worked in education for 20 years.

George C. Henrie — Principal at Manti High School. He has worked in education for 26 years.


Shawn Hafey-Francke — Fifth-grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden. He has been an educator for 17 years.

Kelly DeHaan — Choir director/musical theater teacher at West Jordan High School. He has worked in education 20 years.

Monica Giffing — Agriculture and biology teacher at Springville High School. She has been an educator for 13 years.

J. Merrill Hallam — Science, math and biology teacher at Spanish Fork High School. He has been an educator for 35 years.

Ryan Houston — English, Spanish and debate teacher at Panguitch High School. He has worked in education for 25 years.

Susan Sommerkorn — Mathematics teacher at Clearfield High School. She has worked as an educator for 25 years.

Special educator

Barbara Hegland — Special education teacher at Hartvigsen School in Taylorsville. She has worked in education for 29 years.


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