As a student, Hal Adams never had it easy. He was labeled the "black sheep" of his family because of a speech impediment.
And it made him angry.
But an English teacher's need of his passionate views changed all that by asking Adams to be a member of the school's debate team. It moved him.
Friday night Adams, an educator for the past 17 years — the last seven spent at Grand County High School — was awarded the state of Utah's Teacher of the Year Award at the Red Lion Hotel in Salt Lake City.
But to Adams, it was his destiny to become a great teacher. After all, he had a legacy to follow.
His father, Clemont — a "passionate" educator for 37 years, as described by Adams — was a huge part of what influenced him to become an educator.
"This night is probably the night I've felt my whole life," Adams said. "It's living up to the heritage I have as a teacher."
Choking up a bit, he looked up at his father in the audience and said the greatest compliment he'd ever received was that, "He's like his dad."
As a teacher, Adams works to make learning subjects like history and debate interactive and real for his students. He brings famous historic personalities to life in his classroom and takes students on trips to national historic sites in places like Washington, D.C.
In his application for the honor, Adams stressed the importance of students gaining real-life experiences in order to encourage them to achieve their dreams.
He recounted in his application an experience when he took a group of students to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to meet Bruce Babbitt, who was in charge of the department — but Babbitt wasn't in.
One of his students, a young Navajo girl, asked to go into Babbitt's office and sit in his chair. Upon the secretary's approval, Adams's class moved into the office as she sat in the chair. The class grew quiet, and when she was ready, the girl got up and said, "Let's go — I've seen it and felt it, now I know what I'm after."
Adams isn't a stranger to receiving awards for his teaching; he's won nine in the past. But he doesn't let it get to his head — recalling the words of an elder in a Native American community he once taught in after winning an award, "This is just a moment in passing," the elder told him. "Go home and be a good teacher."
Selected from a pool of 23 other countywide nominated teachers as the overall winner, Adams will receive $10,000 from the Utah State Office of Education. In addition to the monetary prize, he will represent the state of Utah at the National Teacher of the Year competition.
He will also receive an interactive white board and a wireless microphone system for his classroom in Moab, in addition to a new computer.
"I am so grateful to be a teacher," Adams declared to the crowd. "It is the most noble of all callings."
Adams will be going to Dallas for the National Teacher of the Year Conference and to Washington, D.C., to meet President Bush.
Rocky Maughan, a fifth-grade teacher in the Cache County School District, and Linda Walter, a chemistry and physics teacher in the Nebo County School District, were awarded first and second runner-up prizes, respectively, at the awards ceremony. They both received cash awards for their contributions to the field of teaching.
For more information about the Utah Teacher of the Year award visit: www.schools.utah.gov.