Fourth grade teacher in Blanding is named Teacher of the Year

Kristina Begay, a fourth-grade teacher at Blanding Elementary School, is the 2021 Teacher of the Year for the San Juan School District. Begay was honored for her work at a May 3 banquet.

Blanding Elementary School Principal Jay Porter said, “Kristina is a wonderful teacher who cares for her students and is seeking to implement best teaching practices always.  

“Watching her teach her kids, you can feel the passion she has for learning. She seeks feedback about her teaching and is always willing to try new things. Mrs. Begay has a great positive attitude and is kind to all.”

A San Juan County native, Begay has taught in each of the communities where she attended school, including Mexican Hat, Montezuma Creek, and Blanding.

She is the daughter of Rosie and Clayton Long and has earned degrees from the College of Eastern Utah and Brigham Young Univeristy. Begay now moves on to the competition for Utah Teacher of the Year.

The 2020 Teacher of the Year was Shari Griffin of Monticello High School.

A host of hardworking teachers and employees were honored by the school district for their efforts at the banquet.

Teachers and staff from the Blanding schools who were honored include Kristina Begay and Kay Lynn Black at Blanding Elementary, Amber Hoopes and Cambria Palmer at Albert R Lyman Middle, and Camille Gappmeyer and Marci Black at San Juan High.

Teachers and staff from the Montezuma Creek schools who were honored include Charlene Poyer and Tiffany Blackgoat at Montezuma Creek Elementary and Georgiana Simpson and Marie Benally at Whitehorse High.

Teachers and staff from the Monument Valley schools who were honored include Somchai “Chai” Sanders and Cheryl Armenta at Tse’bii’nidzisgai Elementary and Don Gandy and Melissa Cody at Monument Valley High.

Teachers and staff from the Monticello schools who were honored include Laurie Randall and Gloria Sallee at Monticello Elementary and Krieg Adair and Vanessa Young at Monticello High.

Honored for their work at Bluff Elementary are Charoty Begay and Barbara Atcitty, while the La Sal Elementary honoree is Wendy Bradshaw. Heather Anderson is honored for her work at Navajo Mountain High. 

District Office employees Chris Monson and Anna Fredericks were also honored. 

With comments from their supervisors

Classified: Kay Lynn Black
Kay Lynn Black has done a phenomenal job and has made our computer lab time a very effective time of the day for BES students. We appreciate her attitude and willingness to do everything asked of her and more. Mrs. Black is loved by the kids and she has engaged them in technology learning. Congrats Mrs. Kay Lynn Black.

Certified: Kristina Begay
Kristina is a wonderful teacher who cares for her students and is seeking to implement best teaching practices always. Watching her teach her kids you can feel the passion she has for learning. She seeks feedback about her teaching and is always willing to try new things. Mrs. Begay has a great positive attitude and is kind to all.

Classified: Barbara Atcitty
Barbara goes out of her way to help our students especially with this year being virtual learning. She is very welcoming and helpful to new staff who come to our school. She works diligently every day to help students succeed and make success in her small groups. She is amazing and we are fortunate to have her be part of our Bluff team.

Certified: Charity Begay
Charity really goes out of her way to meet the needs of all her students. She goes above and beyond in preparing lessons to make them fun and entertaining. She is a very kind person and works very hard in helping her students succeed. She goes above and beyond with everything she does for our school and her students. She's well organized and a team player, she's helpful and gets along well with all the staff and her students' parents.

Classified: Wendy Bradshaw
Each year Ms. Wendy takes over in our kitchen as the manager when our regular manager leaves for the winter. She assumes all the responsibilities of the position and attends all training to keep up with current food service guidelines. While she is here, she greets staff and students with a huge smile and lets each of us know how much she cares about us and our school. Ms. Wendy is a positive and wonderful part of our school.

Classified: Gloria Sallee
Gloria Sallee is seen helping all employees at MES be successful. She is a staple figure in every classroom. She is the type of interventionist that sees something that needs to be done and takes care of it without being asked. Gloria is the epitome of what a paraprofessional should be, and we are so lucky to have her at our school.

Certified: Laurie Randall
Laurie is a teacher that always goes above and beyond. She is diligent with her students setting goals and helping them reach their goals. Laurie is a teacher that will work tirelessly to make Monticello Elementary a success. Thank you Laurie and we will miss you so much.

Classified: Tiffany Blackgoat
Tiffany is always looking for resources to help meet the needs of the families. She had several large projects just before Christmas that she conquered with efficiency. During this difficult year, her laughter could be heard down the hallways reminding the staff that there are still good things in the world when at times this has been difficult to remember. She thinks of one good thing that has happened each day so that she goes home to her kids in a good mood.

Certified: Charlene Poyer
Char is a team player who is passionate about the students in our school. She works tirelessly toward helping both students and teachers reach their highest potential. During this year packed full of difficult challenges and a number of changes, she was essential in helping the leadership team overcome the obstacles we have faced as a school this year.

Classified: Cheryl Armenta
Cheryl has stepped up to the challenges this year in a huge way!
She is “Very well organized and her kids are her top priority. She creates excellent activities to keep things fun. She has done a wonderful job balancing ALL her jobs this year. She has gone above and beyond this year. She is amazing! We are VERY blessed to have Cheryl Armenta at TES!

Certified: Somchai “Chai” Sanders
Chai is an outstanding professional who loves to take on new challenges, learn the ropes, then help others succeed. He works hard for all students, not just his own. He is helpful and builds great relationships with students and faculty. He is always helping with technology and brings ease to teaching in a pandemic.” “He is the ultimate Teammate!” We are so fortunate and grateful to him at TES!

Classified: Cambria Palmer
Cami’s cheerful and outgoing personality has made the school a better place. Every person that comes into the school is met with kindness and a smile. One of the most impressive things about Cami is that she knows the name of every single student in the school. When they step into the office or walk past her in the halls, she greets them by name, asks about what is happening in their lives, and goes out of her way to help them feel important.

Certified: Amber Hoopes
Mrs. Hoopes is one of the most devoted educators you will ever meet. She dedicates countless hours to her students outside of the classroom. She works with students daily after school and offers tutoring to help students get on track in her class. Her classes are engaging, lively, and challenging. She has high expectations for her students and will give her all to help every student meet those expectations. Every student leaves her class knowing Mrs. Hoopes cares for their wellbeing.

Classified: Vanessa Young
Vanessa Young has been a “Rockstar” during one of the most difficult years of education. She is new this year, but you would never know it. She has been an extremely valuable asset to our school with her cheerfulness, enthusiasm and love for all the students and staff. MHS is lucky to have Vanessa on staff.

Certified: Krieg Adair
Mr. Adair has gone above and beyond this year as a teacher, a coach, and as the Athletic Director managing the incredible load of creating opportunities for MHS students to participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities. His classroom always displays high engagement as his students learn the curriculum. He has managed all of this while remaining an influential force for positivity in our school.

Classified: Melissa Cody
In spite of obstacles, Melissa has excelled in her job. She is always calm in her demeanor and determined in her practice. She has had to adjust on numerous accounts in order to meet the demands of our student body, staff, and community. She is always willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Her example of perseverance through trying times is uncanny and we are so grateful she is a part of our MVHS staff.

Certified: Don Gandy
Don is always willing to help and seeks opportunities to extend the experiences to our students. He has spearheaded several programs to help get in touch with our students. He goes the extra mile, making sure his students understand the material. Thank you, Don, for being the amazing teacher you are. We are truly honored to have you on our staff.

Certified: Heather Anderson
Mrs. Anderson has adapted well to the extreme challenges for educators brought about by the Covid pandemic. She has adopted instructional tools and practices that engage her students in distance learning using Canvas, Zoom, NearPod, Kahoot and a plethora of other dynamic technologies to engage and support students in Navajo Mountain. Thank you, Heather!

Classified: Marci Black
As a Para, Marci is outstanding at helping her students become successful in the classroom. Kids love being around her. She is always willing to help where help is needed. San Juan High School is lucky to have Marci a part of their team. Thank you, Marci!

Certified: Camille Gappmeyer
Dynamic, is a perfect word to describe Camille as a teacher. If you ask students what their favorite class is, oftentimes you will hear Mrs. Gappmeyer's math class. Camille has the ability to reach all student learning needs. Her ability to differentiate lessons makes her stand out as an Educator. She is always willing to help all students and is always positive, hardworking, and professional.

Classified: Marie Benally
Marie Benally has been our Head Kitchen Staff for a number of years, but her true leadership shone through during her work to deliver meals during the pandemic. Marie has kept a positive attitude through it all and continues to greet everyone with a smile and a friendly, “hello!” Marie is a hard worker and an essential part of our food service team. We are lucky to have her. Thank you, Marie.

Certified: Georgiana Simpson
Georgiana works diligently to meet the needs of all scholars, support scholar families as best she can, and assist colleagues. Georgiana definitely goes the extra mile and then some. She bridges art making into a wide variety of subjects in order to increase scholar engagement, joy in learning, and creativity.

Certified: Chris Monson
Chris Monson is a great SJSD team member. As a member of the tech team, he works to keep our system up and running. In the past year, Chris has spent much time building a new infrastructure that will support student learning for years to come. Approximately 500 homes in our River Region will now have accessible internet to support student learning. This project is monumental in size and scope. This project will be a game changer for so many students and we recognize Chris for a job well done. Thank you, Chris, for making a difference.

Certified: Anna Fredericks
Anna oversees the Federal Lunch program in the district. Under her leadership, nearly 2,500 to 3,000 meals are served a day and for the most part, things go incredibly smoothly. In the past year, COVID has brought some overwhelming challenges. Last fall, when shelves in our local grocery stores were empty, the district saw our food orders being only 50 percent or worse filled. This meant that overnight, Anna had to find more food or kids wouldn't eat. No kids went without a meal. Anna and her staff got creative and resourceful. Thank you, Anna, for being so awesome and dedicated in serving our students.

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