For the third year in a row, Instructure is collaborating with the Utah Jazz to honor Utah school teachers who have been nominated by the community in recognition of the positive impact they have had on the lives of their students, their schools, and communities.

Honorees receive a $1,000 classroom grant, a high-energy classroom visit from the Jazz Bear, a personalized Jazz jersey, on court recognition at a Jazz game, tickets to a Jazz game in the Instructure Suite, and an invitation to attend, with a guest, the end of season Most Valuable Educator banquet where all MVE awardees will be honored.

This year the Salt Lake City-based edtech giant has recognized 17 Utah Jazz Most Valuable Educators.

TechBuzz sat down with one of them, Lacey McDonald, a first grade teacher at Bonneville Elementary in the Alpine School District.

"It was the best day of our lives," exclaimed McDonald, describing the day the Jazz Bear came to her classroom with a confetti cannon, a check, and tons of enthusiasm. "The kids loved it! And they were so sweet. And the kids collected all the confetti and took it home to show their parents. I didn't have to pick up a single bit, which was nice."

She continued:

"The most hilarious part was when they announced they were giving me a thousand dollars. A student in the back of the room shouted out, 'That's so much money, you can quit your job!' Later on, while he and I were talking privately, he realized if I took the money and quit my job, I wouldn't be his teacher anymore. So he changed his mind about my quitting my job."

McDonald described she had wanted to become a teacher since she was a school girl.

"I loved going to school. It was a place where I felt successful," said McDonald.

At BYU, McDonald took a child development class that covered how children learn to read. It made a big impact on her and set her on a trajectory towards teaching youngsters how to read.

"In that class, we learned how the brain works, how children learn, and especially how they learn to read. That was fascinating to me," McDonald shared.

"I realized then that I wanted to work with that age group—children learning how to read. Just the idea that I would have a chance to make a difference every day in the lives of children, to witness their growth and be there to guide them on their journey as they learn new things, as they learn how to read, to see their eyes light up, and feel the excitement when they learn new things—that's the best thing ever! It is what keeps me coming back."

MVEs are honored whether or not they use Instructure products. "Before I even knew what Instructure was, as a teacher I had been using a lot of their different applications: Canvas in my university courses at BYU, and later for trainings and professional development to help further my knowledge as a teacher," said McDonald. "And we have used Elevate to help our students as well. It's really neat to see Instructure as a company reaching out and helping teachers on such a personal level."

She went on to share her love of teaching kids how to read:

"I'm very excited to see these kids continue to grow and to become readers. One of the reasons I love teaching first grade is that the kids change so much during the year. They come in knowing only letter sounds and they leave as readers. That's very motivating."

With her focus on reading, McDonald plans to use the $1,000 grant to help her first graders feel comfortable and confident in their journey of learning how to read. She and her team are considering using the grant to acquire comfortable seating, such as wobble chairs and maybe bean bag chairs, for their reading corner.

"We're always trying to help the kids have a positive reading experience. They need to get their energy out, but then calm down and read. We think wobble chairs and bean bags will help with that."

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