ST. GEORGE — Kelli Bringhurst, a teacher at Hurricane Middle School, was named the Utah Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher of the Year award for the 2019-2020 school year.
This award was established in 1974 to honor and recognize exemplary teachers that are using cutting-edge techniques, methods and activities in the classroom.
Bringhurst, who is in her fifth year teaching at Hurricane Middle School, told St. George News she had several careers before becoming a teacher. But once she became a teacher, she knew that was exactly where she was supposed to be. In particular, teaching family consumer science classes allows her the opportunity to help students build confidence and independence through developing life skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
“I love helping students realize how independent these types of skills can help them be as they move toward their futures, as they plan their careers, as they figure out how to navigate their lives as adults,” she said.
For her, there isn’t one big moment in her teaching career that stands out; rather, it’s the daily wins.
“There are moments when you see a student succeed and that’s exactly what you needed because you hoped that’s what they needed. Or you’re a listening ear for someone who’s really having a rough day,” she said. “If you’re that caring adult in their life that can help them get through it, I just love that I have the opportunity to be a part of that.”
Shelli Barnum, president of the Utah Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, told St. George News that when the nominations came in for this recognition, she said she immediately thought of Bringhurst as “this recognition for Kelli was long past overdue.”
“She is absolutely and always incredible. She has a very fun and outgoing personality. She has this amazing sense of humor, and she is creative with how she transfers knowledge in the classroom to her students,” Barnum said. “Her teaching style is very innovative. She just makes learning fun.”
Banum said one of the greatest things about Bringhurst is her ability to think outside of the box and a willingness to share her hard work and creative ideas with others, not just with other family and consumer science teachers in Washington County but statewide.
“You don’t see that a lot with education.”
Use and implementation of technology – for both equipment and online programs – is also another area where Bringhurst shines, Barnum said. Not only has she taught herself and incorporated a variety of online learning platforms, such as Kahoot! She also stepped up this year to teach all online foods courses in the district for students who are choosing to learn from a distance, which has essentially “doubled her workload.”
Despite the challenges of distance learning when it comes to teaching online classes, Barnum said Bringhurst goes over and beyond to form a connection with students.
“When I pass my students when I’m outside of the school setting, I don’t know that it’s them because I haven’t seen their face. Kelli has made that jump with that online learning, where she doesn’t even meet them in-person, and she’s still making those connections.”
Bringhurst said having other careers before she became a teacher has informed her teaching style, in which she integrates technology, innovation, business and other skills students can use regardless of what career they might choose in the future. With this, she infuses real-life and hands-on experience.
“I don’t think we should just sit and talk about things. I think we should experience things. For example, I don’t think we should just talk about owning a business. I think kids should form a business and a business plan and then try to sell a product,” she said.
In response to what it feels like to receive a reward like this at a time when schools had shut down and teachers had mere days to transfer their lesson plans into a digital form, she said it’s flattering but that “every teacher deserves an award.”
“I don’t think anyone goes into teaching hoping for recognition, so when it comes it – it just really means a lot,” she said.
Due to the pandemic, there will not be a traditional awards ceremony, but Bringhurst will receive a plaque and have the opportunity to compete at the national level.
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