Her nominators describe her as intuitively aware of the needs of young adults, capable of reaching multiple types of learners and able to capture the imagination of everyone who comes into her classroom. But those who selected Ember Eskelson Storrs as the 2005 teacher of the year simply say she's "the best we have in Utah."
Storrs, a math teacher at Cyprus High School, is the ninth Granite District teacher since 1963 to receive the state's top teaching award. Storrs was honored at a Friday banquet that included state school brass and Gov. Olene Walker.
A state committee with representatives from the Utah State Board of Education, Utah State Office of Education, state PTA, elementary and secondary principals associations and the Utah Education Association selected Storrs from among 21 nominees from local Utah school districts.
Monument Valley High science teacher Jack Seltzer was named first runner-up; Fremont High English and video production teacher B. Lynette Atkinson was second runner-up. Each received a $200 check.
As 2005 Utah Teacher of the Year, Storrs was given a $1,000 check, a SMART interactive white board for her classroom, and trips to Dallas to meet other teachers of the year; Space Camp in Alabama next summer; and Washington, D.C., to compete in the national teacher of the year contest.
For Storrs, the best part of winning the award is having the chance to "send a message out to teachers to work together." According to Ray Timothy, associate state superintendent and a member of the selection committee, she already does that. He said Storrs gives back to the field by making presentations to teachers at a state and national level with professional development activities.
Storrs adds the accolade to a list of others, including the 2004 Salt Lake Community College Concurrent Enrollment Teacher of the Year; and a $10,000 governor's award; and a national $7,500 presidential award, both for math and science teaching excellence.
Storrs, a 1988 Cyprus graduate, received a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University and a master's degree from the University of Utah. She taught one year at Orem High before returning to her old Magna stomping grounds in 1992. She since has remained at Cyprus, where she has taught five of her siblings. With all the success, job offers may be on the horizon, but Storrs is comfortable where she is.
"I went there as a student. . . . I don't have plans to leave. The classroom is where I can do my best work," she said.
Cyprus principal Mark Manning has called Storrs energetic, thoughtful, approachable and engaging.
"She has an ability to really motivate students to enjoy math and to progress above and beyond what they need to graduate from high school and be prepared for college or (the work force)," Manning said in an interview after Storrs was named Granite District teacher of the year. "She's just very energetic. She goes."
Storrs, who teaches advanced placement statistics, honors pre-calculus and intermediate algebra, and geometry and elementary algebra, works to find real-life ties to her curriculum.
She also works with junior high teachers to make sure lessons and standards are aligned, so students can make a smooth transition to high school.
"I think the students enjoy the learning environment," Manning said. "She takes a great deal of pride and satisfaction (in seeing them) achieve and be successful, and I think they feel that."
Storrs urged her fellow nominees to "get outside of their classrooms," and shared three of her class goals with them. She tries to make students feel safe, ensures that each student has some type of success and that they learn mathematics.
"Every student can excel if they are given the right environment," she said.