Utah educators win inaugural Sorenson Legacy Awards for arts education
Education • Nineteen educators, administrators and volunteers were chosen based on their work providing arts education in Utah public schools.
Published: May 31, 2013 09:14AM
Updated: May 31, 2013 12:23PM

Utah educators from around the state have been selected for the inaugural Sorenson Legacy Awards for Excellence in Arts Education.

The awards were funded by a grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, founded by the late James LeVoy Sorenson and Beverley Taylor Sorenson, who died Monday at age 89.

The new awards honor those who have demonstrated a commitment to providing arts education in Utah public schools. The 19 educators, administrators and volunteers were honored by the Utah State Office of Education at a ceremony earlier this month.

Each individual winner received $2,500, and an additional $2,500 was awarded to each winner’s school.

Beverley Taylor Sorenson was recognized in Utah and nationally for the efforts she championed, which include the creation of an innovative integrated arts teaching model. The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program first received state funding in 2008 and it will reach tens of thousands of students at approximately 130 Utah elementary schools in the 2013-14 school year.

The inaugural winners of the Sorenson Legacy Awards, as described at the awards ceremony, are as follows.

Alpine School District

Don Harvie, music instruction, Northridge Elementary

Harvie’s Northridge Elementary School Choir was the only elementary choir invited to perform at the 2006 National Music Conference, where members shared the stage with a group from the University of Utah. His choir sang a song in four-part a cappella, and performed “The Star Spangled Banner” and a piece accompanied by a string quartet. The choir performs each December and each spring.

Cathy Jolley, music instruction, Timberline Middle School

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director Mac Wilberg, impressed with Jolley’s choral program, agreed to arrange the number “Down to the River to Pray” for students. It debuted in March 2009 at Timberline and the Tabernacle Choir has since recorded it and performs it regularly.

Davis School District

Martha Avant, music, Knowlton Elementary School

Avant plans an annual music program with each grade’s performance inspired by that year’s curriculum, such as 3rd graders who learned to sing in Chinese.

Linda Gold, drama instruction, Creekside and Whitesides Elementaries

Gold helps students write and record engaging school announcements and serves as master puppeteer in a Literacy Night show. She is central to school carnivals, an annual musical, Peace Builder activities and an after-school story telling club. She conducts the annual Storytelling Festival, which helps students gain confidence in their public speaking and presentation skills.

Duchesne County School District

Michele Catten, arts volunteer

Catten expanded a volunteer effort in her child’s class into an arts curriculum for 40 classrooms in the Duchesne County School District. She created a volunteer team of mothers to help teach art in East Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School. To guide volunteers and teachers, she has written dozens of lesson plans that integrate art with academic objectives in the Utah Core Standards for math, science, social studies and reading.

Christine Dye, visual arts instruction, Roosevelt Jr. High School

When a tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Dye saw an opportunity to help her students learn about a different culture and experience the value of giving. Her class began folding cranes, each drawing a $1 donation from the community and a piece of clothing from Osh Kosh BGosh. The project spread to the whole school and more than 2,500 cranes were folded. Proceeds were sent to Kitakami Middle School, attended by many students who were orphaned during the tsunami.

Granite School District

Cindy McCandless, elementary arts integration, Morningside Elementary

McCandless integrates arts into her teaching in a variety of ways: she leads daily yoga exercises, uses dance in connection with her curriculum and has students demonstrate their learning through art. She culminates each year with an opera performance by her first-graders, who select the topic and write the music and lyrics.

Jana Shumway, dance instruction, William Penn Elementary

Shumway reinforces curriculum through dance, encouraging reluctant students and providing a safe haven for learning through movement.

Paul Watson, music instruction, Wasatch Jr. High

Watson creates an atmosphere where students want to learn. He tells great stories, he is motivational, and he creates curriculum that inspires students.

Iron County School District

Pamela Robinson, administrator of arts education

Robinson, principal of Escalante Valley Elementary, is dedicated to making sure that the children in her school have the opportunity to experience art of all kinds, are proud of their work, and have their work properly displayed for all to see. As a 3rd grader, Robinson was struggling with academics when she was inspired by an art teacher who displayed her watercolor of seahorses clinging to seaweed. “Whatever it is that makes a student feel the way I felt at that moment, we need to provide it,” she says.

Ogden School District

Bruce Burningham, visual arts instruction, Ogden High School

Burningham places art as the center of student work, which helps to remove social and language barriers that might isolate some students. At Ogden High School, more than 25 percent of students are non-native English speakers and over 65 percent are from low-income households.

Salt Lake City School District

Hilary Carrier, dance instruction, West High School

Carrier helps her peers develop their professional skills, often hosting festivals and symposia, and organized a district dance teachers’ collaborative study group.

Patrick Eddington, visual arts instruction, Highland High School

In December, Eddington writes a holiday letter to each of his students, describing their specific strengths and encouraging them to continue developing their talents. He urges students to think about their futures, in college or in an occupation, and helps students apply for schools and scholarships.

Budge Porritt, Jr., music instruction

Porritt Jr. first joined the school band at age 11, using a clarinet his father had rescued from a neighbor’s attic. He mastered the clarinet and went on to learn trumpet, trombone, violin, cello, flute, saxophone, French horn, guitar and drums.

Nebo School District

Samuel Tsugawa, Springville Jr. High

Tsugawa hosts annually an “intergenerational” concert, where Springville students perform with members of Brigham Young University’s New Horizons Orchestra, comprised of senior citizens. And every BYU secondary music education major takes part in the instruction of his seventh grade string class.

Provo School District

Edgemont Elementary School, Exemplary Arts Program

Through the program, art specialists give students a variety of art experiences and teachers use innovative classroom methods. When recent budget cuts threatened to reduce the specialist to a part-time teacher, the community helped raise funds through a car wash and sales of popcorn, baked goods and art by 5th grade students.

James Rees, visual arts instruction, Provo High School

Each year for the past 15 years, Rees has organized lectures by guest artists to expose students to different approaches and help them find their own style. The lectures are open to the public.

Washington County School District

Ferron Holt, district arts coordinator, Lifetime Achievement Award

Max Rose, the district’s superintendent, calls Holt energetic and innovative. “There is no end to his artistic curiosity and his pure heart of being a leader in our arts community,” Rose said. “... He values the members of society who live in the margins and has a great appreciation of ethnic diversity. He has a strong sense that his mission is to lift and inspire people. Ferron knows how to greet each day as an opportunity to be a positive force in the communities in which he resides.”

Summit Academy charter school, Draper

Molly Neves, visual arts instruction

Neves brings children and families together at an annual Art Gallery Stroll. Classes perform musical numbers, each grade displays student artwork, and other works from the University of Utah Art Museum or other galleries are included.