Kindergarten teacher wins ‘Mighty Heart’ awardFeb 11, 2021 11:32AM ● By Becky Ginos
LAYTON—RaeAnn Shelly has been giving of herself for 17 years as a kindergarten teacher at Sand Springs Elementary. On Friday, Shelly was honored for her efforts during a surprise assembly with the Heidi Martin, Mighty Heart Educator of Excellence Award.
“It was overwhelming,” Shelly said. “I was completely surprised. They told us we were having a special meeting and to dress nice. I didn’t know what it was until they put my picture up. I thought, ‘whoa wait.’ I’m more of a person who likes to be on the sidelines not the one who wants to be in front.”
The award comes with $10,000 to be used at Shelly’s discretion to benefit the school. Shelly also received a gift basket for herself and a crystal award.
An anonymous donor established the award in honor of Heidi Martin, a Utah resident who was born with only two chambers in her heart. Martin had her first open heart surgery at three days old and underwent a rare heart and liver transplant at 24. Martin passed away in 2017.
The award recognizes a teacher who has gone above and beyond to teach and inspire students.
“I like to do a lot of hands-on activities that are educational to help them move forward,” said Shelly. “This money could work wonders in bringing about some big changes with equipment that could benefit students for many years to come.”
Shelly enjoys going beyond the regular routines of learning letters and reading. “We invested in a big project about the Mayflower,” she said. “The kids created pilgrim boats to carry as many people as they could to new lands.”
When Nora the polar bear at Hogle Zoo broke her arm the kids were really concerned, said Shelly. “We made a cast and wrote letters to Hogle Zoo. My passion is to make education more authentic and meaningful to students.”
Before coming to Sand Springs, Shelly taught in Honduras. “I’ve been working with the refugee community and I have two Honduran foster daughters,” she said. “I want more equal opportunity for all students and kids. We don’t have programs in place to help them succeed. That’s my newest passion is to make education more equitable and to get more resources to all students all throughout the district and the state.”
Shelly has taught kindergarten the whole time she’s been at Sand Springs and also teaches Spanish kindergarten immersion classes. “The littles are really a fun age group,” she said. “They are so easy to engage in so many things and so excited to learn. It’s definitely demanding and exhausting teaching these little ones but I try to keep up.”