OREM — Axel Ramirez could work all day on the piles of administrative tasks he's assigned as Lakeridge Junior High School's assistant principal.
But he doesn't. He excuses himself from such duties for about an hour each school day to remind himself why he became a teacher.
In addition to his job as an administrator, Ramirez continues to teach an eighth-grade American history class.
The reason? It's purely selfish, he says.
"I wanted to teach my son," said Ramirez.
"My son is deaf, and I wanted to give him a chance to be in a class where the teacher (uses sign language)," he said. "He'll probably never have another teacher in a mainstream class who can."
As a result of his dedication, Lakeridge students are now learning about such pieces of U.S. history as the Monroe Doctrine and Emancipation Proclamation in American Sign Language and English.
His moxie and talent is praised by JoDee Sundberg, president of Alpine's Board of Education. Her children took classes from Ramirez.
"He took one of my sons under his wing and really molded him," Sundberg said at a recent board meeting. "What a great experience as a parent to work with someone who is excited to work with children."
Alpine's school board recently honored Ramirez for earning his national certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He joins about 16,000 educators nationwide to satisfy requirements for the honor.
Ramirez says he sought "master teacher" status to "prove something" to himself.
"This is something I wanted to do for me."
Ramirez, who hopes to someday work at a college teaching prospective educators how to lead classrooms and interact with students, didn't earn the certificate on the first try. He didn't mull too long on the results, however.
"I told myself I was doing it for myself," he said.
So he immediately started reworking his application.
The second attempt was the charm.
The field of education has changed a lot since he first led a classroom at the Orem junior high, where he's been since the first day of his career 11 years ago. Teens are very techno-savvy, he says.
"They are great. I'm amazed at what they do," he said. "The Internet — the know how to use the Internet and how to research on it. It's just expected they know, instead of us having to train them."