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Hillcrest High’s Richins named Canyons Virtual High School teacher of year

Jul 25, 2017 10:55AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Canyons Virtual High School’s teacher of the year Sam Richins, also teaches and coaches at Hillcrest High. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Gallery: Virtual High School teacher of the year. [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

Since the inception of Canyons Virtual High School in 2011, Hillcrest High School’s Sam Richins has taught students in geography, philosophy, sociology, psychology, U.S. history and American problems.

At 5 a.m., before the school day begins at Hillcrest, Richins is teaching at the virtual high school.

“For me, it’s a flexible teaching position where I can make a positive impact,” said the 17-year veteran teacher who coaches Hillcrest boys’ basketball team afterschool. “Students choose the virtual high school for various reasons — anxiety if they fall behind in their schoolwork, needing to catch up after an illness, flexibility for their schedules. Teachers communicate mostly through emails, or calls, to develop a personal relationship.”

Canyons School District Director of Education Technology Darren Draper said Richins’ commitment to communicating with students was one of the reasons he was selected as Canyons Virtual High School’s teacher of the year.

“He does a great job reaching out to students through email, text, calls,” Draper said. “He will do whatever it takes and constantly go above and beyond to communicate with his students to make sure they’re understanding and learning.”

As the teacher of the year, Richins was presented a gift basket and a banner during a faculty meeting at Hillcrest High. 

“He’s always done a great job, and he has a large load of students he teaches,” Draper said.

The number of students has increased through the years. Draper said that there were less than 100 students when Canyons Virtual High began. In 2015, there were 3,000. This past year, they had 34 teachers across the state teaching 4,000 students registered for classes, 300 of those students came to register from outside the district.

“It’s a second job for most of our teachers. We provide lesson plans to fit the curriculum. The teachers know the students’ strengths and weaknesses and find ways to support them,” he said.

Many students are enrolling in the six free credit hours Canyons offers its students. 

“They may be taking online driver’s education, required PE or financial lit, or some classes that are required for graduation, but don’t fit in their schedules,” Draper said.

Canyons Virtual High also meets the needs for credit recovery to accelerated learning, he said.

“We offer 50 courses students can take in high school and many take them concurrently with their high school experience whether it’s in astronomy and photography or French and honors math. When a student wants to boost a grade, they can enroll in our high school to retake the course while working with their high school counselor,” Draper said.

He said that many of the students are self-motivated and, with teachers’ support, they are having positive experiences.

Richins said he appreciated being recognized.

He also has been honored by the Fraternal Order of Eagles as teacher of the year and by Sandy City Youth Council, where student members honor teachers who have made an impact on their education.

“Teaching is my passion,” Richins said. “It’s an honorable way of making a living and making a positive impact in the world we live in.”

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