Fountain Green Elementary teachers Darcie Stansfield (left) and Tori Larsen teach third and fourth grades collaboratively with Nicole Hansen (not pictured) through what is called “professional learning communities” (PLCs). They say the method enables them to “look at our students as a team” and to understand them not just academically, but behaviorally and socially as well.

Fountain Green Elementary finds success with Professional Learning Communities


By James Tilson




FOUNTAIN GREEN—“Professional learning communities” (PLCs), which enable teachers to work as a team, have put Fountain Green Elementary and other North Sanpete School District schools at the leading edge of teaching methods.

The idea is to get teachers, who may teach in different classrooms, to work as a team in identifying student needs and sharing ideas about how to help children progress.

At Fountain Green Elementary, the PLC’s are set up by grade level. Grades K-2, Grades 3-4 and Grades 5-6 are each taught by three teachers. Each specializes within the group and helps others in the team with their lessons. The teachers meet  once a week to do a data review, a performance review and a progress review on students. Once a year, the teachers do a behavior review as well.

According to principal (and sixth grade teacher) Robyn Cox, PLC’s help teachers to look at students in-depth, “not just academically, but behaviorally (and) socially, seeing what we can do to help them.”

Cox explains team teaching allows a teacher to specialize and become an expert within her specific field. It also requires team members to work together and compare notes on each student. Team members learn from one another, gaining new viewpoints and experiences.

Teams also observe other classrooms within the district to see what’s working for other teachers. “The only way to get real growth is if you’re part of a community, instead of isolated by yourself,” Cox says.

Fountain Green Elementary began using PLC’s after attending a training session four or five years ago in Las Vegas sponsored by Solution Tree, a company that creates educational materials and provides teacher training.

According to Cox, PLC’s have been used for years in the business world, but Solution Tree was the first to apply those methods to education. North Sanpete decided to use the method district-wide.

At the same time, Utah began an initiative called “Assessment to Achievement” or A2A. A2A also focuses on team-teaching methods, using both PLC’s and collaborative teaching. Today, the teams are found not only at different grade levels within the same school, but there are also school-wide teams and even district teams.

“We’re probably ahead of the game,” Cox says. “It’s empowering. Our teachers can look at their own data and approaches to say ‘Here’s where we need to change.’”

Darcie Stansfield, a third and fourth grade teacher, explains how her PLC uses collaboration to teach students “meta-cognitive lessons,” in other words, teaching students to think about how they think.

“The kids naturally just want the answers, but they won’t learn anything that way. We ask them big questions and make them use their own thoughts to get the answers.”

Stansfield says that not only do the students grow, but so do the teachers. “This has been a huge ‘ah-ha’ learning experience for us.” She says that by watching each other, all the teachers have grown. And at the same time, the students are recognizing their “meta-cognition.” Each piece is building on the others.

Tori Larsen, also a third and fourth grade teacher and one of Stansfield’s team members, specializes in math within her PLC. But “I don’t just worry about their math,” she says. “We [the team members] can see all of their progress, and compare notes and data. The teachers can look over each other’s work, make suggestions from different perspectives, and help each other.”

Nicole Hansen, the third team member with Stansfield and Larsen, emphasizes how the team aspect provides support. “I absolutely love it. In my nine years of teaching, this is the most support I’ve ever had.”

Hansen says that her team helps keep her away from negative feelings. “We build each other up through the week. Also, we help each other with new insights and bounce ideas off each other to come up with even better solutions.”

Stansfield says that getting students to think has proved to be more fun for the students. “The students feel there is more fun, and not as much pressure. They participate, and think, and connect their lessons to things they already know. It helps them with retention, too.”

Hansen points to the a theme her PLC is using this year. Stansfield, Larsen and Hansen always remind their students to keep a “Growth Mindset,” to continue learning even if they don’t know the answer right away. They tell their students “I don’t know the answer…yet!”

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Principal tells school board about STEM program


By Robert Stevens




In Corby Briggs’ (center) North Sanpete Middle School class, students use advanced technology such as the 3D printers (seen here) to build the school’s Green Power race car and learn drone flight concepts, among other high-tech skills. They also learn more traditional shop skills such as engine mechanics.

MORONI—North Sanpete Middle School (NSMS) is helping students prepare for a future career in technology or engineering.

During the North Sanpete School Board (NSSD) meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, NSMS Principal O’Dee Hansen reported to the board and to Dr. Sam Ray, district superintendent, on the school’s strong emphasis on STEM education.

“As a former middle school technology education teacher, I am excited with the career and technical education provided by NSMS,” Ray told the Messenger.  “We have fine career and technical educators at NSMS who provide amazing opportunities for their students to stimulate future career preparation. We are clearly preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Hansen’s report served to reinforce Ray’s statement.

As a One-to-One school, NSMS issues an iPad to every student, and the devices are used to complement education in most subjects. But other exciting technology is being implemented there as well.

Corby Briggs has been teaching at the school for 16 years. Although he is still teaching traditional skills, a visit to his class reveals a myriad of technology and engineering opportunities for students.

Alongside 15 different specialized STEM learning stations, Briggs has multiple 3D printers and CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines for use in conjunction with computer-aided drafting.

Students design their own creations (cell phone cases are popular) and generate them via 3D printing.

North Sanpete Middle School students in Carey Ivory’s class tinker with robotics and learn to code in her after-school program dedicated to the tech skills.

Hansen says many students have proudly taken home their creations, and the levels of intricacy in some of them have been impressive.

Briggs’ two-level classroom is also home to the school’s electric race car. Students designed and built the car; they have raced it on the school’s track and have competed in races against schools all over the state. The car took sixth place in its most recent race.

Briggs also teaches about flight technology, including drones and drone safety. The unmanned aircraft continue to increase in popularity for recreational and commercial use. As with other STEM equipment, the school gives kids a taste of the concepts to wet their appetite for more as they move on to high school and college.

“Middle school is an exploratory period in education,” Hansen says. “By the time they get here, they’ve gotten a strong basis of fundamentals from elementary school, and we want to provide them with a taste of what is to come in the future.”

He adds, “We are creating an environment to prepare our students for the 21st Century workplace.”

Elsewhere in the school, other STEM concepts are being taught.

Carey Ivory runs an after-school program that teaches coding and robotics. Students choose to participate outside school hours and during school flex time.

“They love to come in here and tinker,” Ivory says. “I’ve been to some workshops, but a lot of it has been providing the opportunity and telling them, ‘Let’s learn this together.’”

Hansen says some of the kids who have tried their hand at coding immediately displayed interest in the highly marketable skill.

Other tech-related education is in the works at NSMS. With a grant from Rocky Mountain Power, the school is the site of one of the largest Blue Sky solar energy projects in the company’s catchment area. Solar panels outside the building meet nearly 80 percent of the school’s energy needs.

Hansen says he wants to use the school’s solar system to educate students about renewable energy and allow them to collect and analyze solar energy data.

The school is also planning to install a real-time, digital stock market ticker for use in a business class, where students will be given “play money” and required to invest it as they see fit and see how their investments create returns or losses.

Hansen says the funding for some of these programs and classes has come from Gear Up (a federal program created to help prepare students for future education and careers) and from the State and Institutional Lands Trust Fund. Gear Up gave the school a $90,000 grant, while the school received approximately $60,000 from trust lands.

He hopes the school can continue to offer more STEM opportunities to students hungry to learn.

Manti High financial literacy students: Melissa Seely, Miranda Slusser, Peyton Tapp, Jentry Young, Cari Carmody, Avie Eichelberger, Vivianne Leers, Russell Christianson, Gavin Patterson, Dakota Peterson, Adian Larsen, Carlos Marroquin, Connor Bushnell.

Financial literacy students celebrate 10th anniversary of program at Zions

By Lauren Evans

Staff writer



MANTI—This year is the 10th anniversary of the state requirement that students take a financial literacy course in order to graduate from high school, and state data suggest the course has had a positive impact.

Manti High School students in Devin Shakespear’s financial literacy class marked the occasion on Tuesday, Nov. 20 with birthday cake and a serving of financial wisdom delivered by David Warren, branch manager of the Zions Bank Manti Branch and a member of the South Sanpete School Board.

An October 2018 report from the Utah State Auditor showed high school graduates took a financial literacy course have better financial knowledge and make smarter financial choices than graduates who never took such a course, generally people who graduated before the course was required

Utahns who graduated high school after 2008, when financial education became a requirement, also fared better on the personal finance survey than peers in neighboring states.

“As a nation, we often talk about the state of Americans’ finances in terms of negative news and the many ways people are falling short,” Warren said. “It’s a pleasure to recognize these students and the progress we are making in Utah by celebrating this 10-year milestone in financial literacy.”

Each year, more than 40,000 Utah students take the class and learn skills they will use as adults. The half-credit financial literacy course, designed for junior and seniors, covers topics such as saving, spending, budgeting and investment strategies.

In general, Americans struggle to save. Fifty-five percent of Utahns and 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account, according to a 2017 GOBankingRates survey.

But U.S. teens exhibit some promising financial behaviors. A 2017 TD Ameritrade report found that more than half of teens (56 percent) have started saving money and more than 40 percent of teens (43 percent) follow a budget.

According to Zions Bank, parents can reinforce money lessons at home by taking these simple steps:

First, look over your child’s paystub and help them understand taxes, withholding and gross pay verses take-home pay. If your teen isn’t currently employed, find ways for them to take part in family budgeting and financial decisions.

Second, encourage your teen to open a bank account and set aside savings each month.

Finally, parents should model healthy financial behavior. Studies show that kids tend to mimic their parents’ spending and savings habits, for better or for worse.

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North Sanpete School District sponsors event to discuss dangers of pornography


By D. Yvonne Folkerson

Staff writer


MT. PLEASANT— The North Sanpete School District will stage a community night featuring speakers from the anti-pornography group, “Fight the New Drug” (FTND) on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

A dinner will be served at 6 p.m. at North Sanpete High School followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. The theme for the night is “Find a person that’s your type. Don’t type for a person.”

Founded in 2009 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FTND stresses that pornography destroys individuals and society. The group seeks to support individuals who desire to stop using pornography.

With a billboard campaign, “Porn kills love,” FTND, which describes itself as non-denominational, uses personal accounts, summaries of scientific research and social commentary to inform youth, particularly millennials, about the addictive nature of pornography.

The group does not seek to make pornography illegal, but through education and awareness, to influence youth to cease the consumption of pornography.

The group promotes peer-reviewed scientific studies that show how the brain of an individual who views pornographic material is altered, similar to the brains of drug and alcohol abusers.

On Aug. 19, 2016, FTND released an interview with Elizabeth Smart, who described for the first time about the role played by pornography in her abduction.

“It just led to him raping me more, more than he already did—which was a lot… I can’t say that he would not have gone out and kidnapped me had he not looked at pornography. All I know is that pornography made my living hell worse,” Smart said.

For more information go to Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, the evening is recommended for ages 12 or older.


A.J. Ferguson, vice president for safety at the Utah Farm Bureau, throws a straw dummy into the power takeoff of a tractor to demonstrate the importance of safety when getting into and out of the machine to Sanpete County third graders.


Children learn about animals and safety on Ag Field Day


By D Yvonne Folkerson

Staff writer



Third graders in Wendy Christofferson’s class at Ephraim Elementary School spent last Wednesday, Sept. 5 at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds learning about agriculture, safety and saving money. Cache Valley Bank donated piggy banks so students could learn the importance of saving money.

MANTI— The Sanpete County Farm Bureau staged its 21st annual Ag Field Day at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds last week for more than 400 third graders.

Students learned about agriculture, the importance of education and safety from members of the Manti, Gunnison and North Sanpete high school Future Farmers of America (FFA), local Farm Bureau leaders, USU Extension representatives and community members.

“It’s a great partnership. It’s a great program and not just for Sanpete County,” said Matt Palmer, director of USU Extension in Sanpete County.

“These youth will be making policies and decisions into the future. It’s important to work together to teach youth who will become our leaders.”

The Ag Day program was initiated by Cindy Yardley more than two decades ago to show third graders how agriculture affects their daily lives.

“A lot of times, people think if they don’t live on a farm, they have no connection to agriculture,” she said. “But everything from the food they eat, to the clothing they wear, to the timber for their house comes from some form of agriculture.”

Each year the program follows a similar setup. Students arrive, put on aprons and pick up baskets. They visit stations set up in fairground buildings where they learn about the five “F”s of agriculture: farming, forestry, food, flowers and fabric.

“The kids rotate through a series of classes, activities and presentations,” explained  Amie Olsen, chairwoman of this year’s event.

Presentations cover sheep, beef, turkeys, dairy, seeds and the importance of agriculture and farm safety.

“The kids especially love the sheep presentation where they get to see sheep sheared,” Yardley said.

There was also a station this year where students planted a seed, harvested plastic fruit or vegetables, then turned in their crops for pretend money.

At the end of the activity, the students were allowed to purchase something from the Ag Store or learned to save through representatives of Cache Valley Bank.

“In the afternoon we had two ladies from Cache Valley Bank come in and teach the kids about saving money,” said Wendy Christofferson, a teacher at Ephraim Elementary School. “They did a math activity with the kids and gave each child a piggy bank so they could start saving.”

Darrel and Corrine Olsen of Ephraim took children through their Fun-on-the-Farm exhibit. Children visited mock setups where they pulled wool, roped dummy steers and learned about raising meat and eggs.

A.J. Ferguson, a vice president of the Utah Farm Bureau, presented a safety demonstration on how to get safely into and out of tractors.

Ferguson demonstrated the dangers of ‘playing’ on tractors by throwing a straw dummy onto the power take off (PTO) of a tractor.

“It makes quite the impression as straw is thrown for a dozen yards each side,” Darrel Olsen said.

Organizer Cindy Yardley estimates that more than 9,000 students have attended Ag Day at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds in the past two decades.

Homecoming underway at Manti, Gunnison high schools


By D. Yvonne Folkerson

Staff writer




Both Manti and Gunnison Valley High Schools are observing their homecomings this week with events stretching into the weekend.

Manti High students painted store windows in Manti and Ephraim on Monday.

On Wednesday, boys participated in a “volleybuff” tournament while girls played powder puff football.

Wednesday was also “meme day,” where students dressed up in clothing that is trending on the Internet.

On Thursday, students will white wash the “M” on the mountain. A dinner for football team members and their families will be held at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria.

On Friday, students, alumni and community members are encouraged to wear Templar insignia shirts or clothing showing Manti school colors.

A homecoming parade will travel down Main Street in Manti at 12:30 p.m., and the Templars will take on Summit Academy in football at 7 p.m.

The homecoming dance will be on Saturday from 8-11:30 p.m.

At Gunnison, a powder puff football game for girls and a pep rally were held Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at the football field.

A homecoming assembly will be held Friday in the school auditorium from 10:30-11:30 a.m. The homecoming parade down Gunnison’s Main Street starts at 3 p.m.

The homecoming football game between the Bulldogs and North Summit Braves starts at 7 p.m. Friday night.

On Saturday, the homecoming dance will be held from 9-11 p.m.

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Sanpete gets $75,000 grant to hire

social worker who will focus on preschool



SALT LAKE CITY—Sanpete County has been awarded $75,000 to hire a social worker to focus on preschool enrollment for children experiencing intergenerational poverty, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Intergenerational poverty is a phenomenon where two or more successive generations of a family rely on public assistance at least one year.

In 2012, the Utah State Legislature passed the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act to help children break out of the public assistance pattern.

Utah takes a two-generation approach with families by focusing on the needs of parents and their children simultaneously.

“So it’s really taking an individualized approach—looking at all the services that are available,” Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said.  “Not just government services, but nonprofits, volunteers, our faith-based communities. We bring all of these groups together in a room to focus on individuals and specifically to focus on children.”

“Many people in local communities understand the long-term effects of intergenerational poverty on children and families and are actively engaged in developing solutions,” Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan said. “These grants will assist ongoing efforts of communities in our state to mobilize local resources to address intergenerational poverty on a local level.”

In all, about $900,000 was awarded for efforts in Carbon, Iron, Kane, San Juan, Sanpete, Utah, Washington and Weber counties.


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