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Midvale Journal

Sandy City Youth Council honors outstanding Hillcrest High teachers

Jun 28, 2018 10:42AM ● By Julie Slama

Area teachers were honored by Sandy City Youth Council students for making an impact on their lives. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Arnett)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

Hillcrest High School band director Austin Hilla is in his rookie year teaching for the Huskies, after attending Vanderbilt University then teaching in Houston, Texas. 

That didn’t stop Sandy City Youth Council member and Hillcrest junior Alex Cheng from honoring him as one of the Council’s outstanding teachers. Neither did the fact that Hilla, who was directing Hillcrest’s concert band and wind symphony at the regional competition, wasn’t able to attend the recognition. 

“Mr. Hilla really cares about every student’s success, and he is able to connect with his students very well,” said Cheng, who is enrolled in his advanced placement music therapy class. “I have seen him countless times help students one on one, identifying each student’s weakness so he can gear homework and activities for each individual." 

Hilla was one of three Hillcrest High School teachers who were recognized at the Council’s 24th annual teacher appreciation dinner. Hilla, as well as language arts teacher Katie Bullock and math teacher Kenneth Herlin, each received a plaque. 

The event was coordinated by volunteer youth council teacher appreciation dinner coordinator Marsha Millet. 

“It’s a special night where teachers are being honored by their students,” she said. “For many of these teachers, they have never been honored in years of teaching, and if they have, few have ever been selected by their students who have been directly impacted by their teaching.” 

The evening’s events included remarks by Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, who recalled how teachers impacted him, she said. 

“He spoke about the importance of honest and good characters and how that is also learned from teachers,” Millet said. 

The event, which honored 11 teachers and coaches, was supported by four city council members: Steve Fairbanks; Linda Martinez-Saville, Chris McCandless and Zach Robinson. 

Youth council co-mayor Megan Okumura welcomed teachers, while members Cheng, on piano, and Abby Murri, on violin with her mother accompanying her, provided entertainment. 

Students paid tribute to their teachers, including Okumura, who nominated Bullock.

“It is obvious that she wants her students to succeed because she is always willing to give up her time to answer our questions or talk one on one about how we can improve in her class,” she said. “Her motto is ‘I leave no child behind.’” 

Other area teachers who were recognized included Jordan High’s Brandon Cressall, David Morrill, Carrie Earl and Rachel Hardy; Alta High’s Chad VanOrden; Park Lane Elementary’s Susan Homer; American Preparatory Academy’s Amanda Larsen; and Brighton High’s assistant swim coach Jordan Fletcher. 

Okumura said it’s important to honor teachers. 

“As a future educator myself, I find teachers to be very under-appreciated yet very needed,” she said. “I can thank every teacher I’ve ever had for shaping a part of who I am today because they have such an impact on our lives. It’s important that teachers are recognized not just by their students, but by the city as well to show that all the hard work they’re going does not go unrecognized or unappreciated. Without teachers, our world would be a lot darker place.”