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Holladay Journal

Three Holladay area teachers win Excel Awards

Apr 13, 2021 01:39PM ● By Heather Lawrence

“Felicidades” (Spanish for congratulations) to Mike Kraniski (blue shirt) who teaches five different Spanish courses at Olympus and was selected as an Excel Award winner. (Photo Granite School District)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Granite Education Foundation surprised nine educators and one administrator with Excel Awards on St. Patrick’s Day. Three of the winners were teachers from Skyline, Olympus and Driggs Elementary. And luck had nothing to do with it—the awards were well-deserved based on the teachers’ hard work and dedication. 

“I’m a former student from Skyline, and I credit this community with the success I’ve had since I graduated. It is a great honor to give back to the community that gave me so much,” said Skyline social studies teacher and Excel winner Tayler Khater.

Khater’s students include this year’s social science Sterling Scholar winner, Aarushi Verma. Verma took AP European history from Khater her junior year.   

“Not only is [Mr. Khater] a phenomenal teacher, but he’s incredibly understanding. It was a tough year for me in terms of my school class load, and he was flexible with due dates and extensions,” Verma said. 

“That characteristic stuck with me because I think it’s rare to find teachers who can be completely supportive and flexible with workloads,” Verma said. 

Khater decided to be a teacher because he was inspired by his own Skyline AP European history teacher, Dierdri Farr. “She was an educator who went above and beyond in caring about me as a student,” Khater said. 

Olympus High Spanish teacher Mike Kraniski was another winner. Kraniski’s colleague, Spanish teacher Molly Dingley (who won an Excel Award herself in 2019) said Kraniski is very deserving. 

“Mike is thoughtful, organized, and the epitome of a team player. He is the type of teacher that not only helps and offers suggestions, but who also truly listens, and tries to implement new resources into his own practice," Dingley said. 

Kraniski said he was honored by the recognition, and loved that his family was in on the surprise. 

“I just lost it with joy and unbelief as I hugged my wife Jami, daughters Madison and Ashlynn and son Gabe. I do not have adequate words to express how special the whole experience was for me,” Kraniski said. 

Kraniski said his love of teaching began when he taught some English classes in Italy. “Building those relationships and seeing [the students] progress was a pure joy that I wanted to continue.”

He believes that learning languages also teaches awareness and diversity of other cultures, which in turn breaks down barriers. 

Driggs Elementary’s winner Carolyn Pearson has taught nearly every grade and is loved by students and parents. Stephanie Gloeckner’s daughter was in Pearson’s class in first grade, and Gloeckner has been a fan of hers ever since. 

“She is an amazing teacher!” Gloeckner said. “Every year my daughter asked if she could just take Mrs. Pearson with her to the next grade level.”

“[Pearson] is a true educator, always looking for ways to inspire, motivate and encourage her students to learn. We are so lucky to have her as part of the Driggs community,” Gloeckner said. 

Parent Liz Shellum serves on the PTA board with Pearson. “She has 35-plus years of teaching experience. She’s seen it all and knows exactly how to handle any situation. She is always smiling—even under her mask. Children in her class know that she loves them,” Shellum said. 

Pearson’s class was in on the secret because principal Ben Peters told them the day before and had them write Pearson notes. “My family kept the secret and my students kept the secret. When everyone came into my room to surprise me it was so exciting,” Pearson said. 

Pearson has several teaching endorsements. She has wanted to be a teacher since she was in second grade, where she shared a love of reading and writing with her inspiring teacher Beverly Lloyd. “She challenged me to excel and was my inspiration to become a teacher,” Pearson said. 

The Excel Awards are sponsored by the Granite Education Foundation. “Winners each receive $1,000 and additional prizes honoring the difficult and vital work they do,” the Foundation stated.