By Brock Marchant, The Park Record Newspaper
March 26, 2024

There’s still time to nominate Wasatch County School District teachers to become one of the Wasatch County Education Foundation’s Distinguished Educators of the Year, an annual recognition that will be given to 13 of the district’s teachers.

On top of the recognition — which signifies a teacher has been nominated by a student, peer, parent or other community member — the 13 winners will all receive $11,500.

Winners must be at least third-year educators at the School District, and they can’t have won the award within the past four years.

According to the nomination webpage, Wasatch County Education Foundation is searching for teachers who are good at communicating, well-versed in their subject, dedicated to teaching and helping their students and are continually working to become better.

“The nominations will be carefully reviewed by select donors and the Wasatch Education Foundation Board to help make the final decisions on recipients,” the webpage states. “The intent of this program is to thank, award, and inspire greatness among our teachers in the Wasatch County School District, and the hope is it will be supported and cheered on by community members, fellow teachers, and staff members for many years to come.”

Park City High School Teacher and Athletic Director Brad Foster remembered when he was given the award two years ago.

“It was a total surprise,” he said. “A lot of things don’t end up being a surprise for me, but that was a total surprise.”

Years before being named a distinguished educator, Foster remembered receiving an ACE Award from the district. That acknowledgment came with $1,000. When he received the Distinguished Educator Award, he wasn’t expecting more than that.

“But then they presented me with a check for like $10,000, and that blew me out of the water. I got emotional,” Foster recalled. “It’s always a big deal to be recognized in front of your peers, your admin, even your students, which is what they did. They award it in front of your classroom. So that’s always a great thing, but then, in addition to that, the extra money definitely helps.” 

At the time, he explained he and his family were building a house at an expensive time to do so. The awarded funds provided a decent pad and allowed his family to have some fun together.

“Probably every educator feels like they work hard and bust their butt to make sure that their classes are taken care of, that their kids are watched out for, that their lessons are carefully prepared, that things are going to go well in the classroom on any given day,” he said. “I’m no different.”

The money and recognition isn’t necessary, he clarified, but it is appreciated.

“I think there are teachers here that go years and years without that kind of recognition, and they are still great educators,” he said. “They are still amazing people in the classroom.”

Wasatch High School Teacher Kasie Payne is another past recipient of the recognition.

She said she received it in 2021, the first year of the program.

“It was different back then because they wanted it to be anonymous, and so they called us in privately into a room,” she said. “We had no idea what to expect and were just completely floored by the generosity and the kindness. I mean, total tears in my eyes.”

Teaching, she said, isn’t a thankless job. She sees grateful teens every day and said she gets a lot of thanks every day.

“But it does feel invisible and lonely sometimes,” she said. “This definitely made me feel seen and appreciated as a professional with value behind me, not just as a volunteer.”

She used the money to start a savings account that eventually funded a trip for her family to spend last summer in France.

“This super-generous gift kind of opened up our eyes to some options and some opportunities that neither of us had growing up that we never thought we’d be able to give our kids,” she said.

Community members can nominate teachers until March 31 at