McKay School Alumna Receives Granite School District's 2021 Excel Award

Profile picture of a woman with curly brown hair and a black time. She is positioned in front of a blue backdrop.
Photographs courtesy of Cynthia Pearson

Cynthia Pearson, ’84, Named as One of the Recipients of the Excel Award

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After years of teaching, McKay School alumna Cynthia Stewart Pearson (’84) recently received the Granite Education Foundation Excel Award. Chosen from more than 5,000 teachers and administrators in the district, Pearson received the award, which honors excellence in teaching, alongside nine other recipients. The Excel Award is a testament to the exemplary service that Pearson has provided her students and the district throughout her career.

Pearson graduated from the McKay School in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Pearson has worked for 36 years in Granite School District in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has spent a decade each at three different schools. Though she has spent the majority of her time in the classroom, she also worked as a reading specialist for five years. In addition to earning a master’s of education from Southern Utah University, Pearson has endorsements in reading, math, technology, gifted and talented programs, and English as a second language.

When she was a student at BYU, one of Pearson’s favorite classes focused on children’s literature, and she was required to read thirty minutes a day for the class. She loved that she was exposed to so many genres and that it gave her the opportunity to find books that students would enjoy. When Pearson reads aloud to her current first graders, she still imagines the voice of her professor at BYU and tries to make it sound like his so that her students stay engaged.

For Pearson, teaching is a “wonderful adventure.” She crafts her teaching to reflect her personality and nurture the personalities of her students. In addition to seeing her students grow, she wants them to have fun. Pearson fosters learning and interest by creating assignments and activities that help students understand concepts in memorable ways.

While teaching a sixth-grade unit on the French Revolution, Pearson transformed her classroom into eighteenth-century France for a day. Students role-played as French peasants, clergymen, and nobility, while Pearson took the role of Marie Antoinette. She used chocolate candies for currency as she taught them about the events that led to the revolution. Pearson used to tell her sixth graders that she “dreamed of being a princess, but being a classroom teacher was almost as good because it made [her] a queen!”

When Pearson began teaching, students did not have the access to technology that they do today. Her teaching has shifted from helping students memorize facts and navigate encyclopedias to teaching them “how to discern between fact and opinion, how to analyze sources for credibility, and how to safely surf the internet.” Teaching concepts and discernment has become much more critical throughout Pearson’s career as children’s access to possible misinformation has expanded. These changes in education have made an already challenging career even more so.

But, Pearson said, “there is so much satisfaction in touching the lives of countless students." Pearson loves it when former students approach her to talk about how much they enjoyed her class. It’s not an easy career: Pearson dedicates the majority of her free time to planning lessons, correcting homework, and worrying about her students. “If you want a job you can forget when you walk out the door, don’t be a teacher,” she said.

A woman (left) and man (right) on two horses in a foggy rainforest
Cynthia and her husband, Bob, riding horses in Hawai'i

After 36 years of dedicated service, Pearson has learned that she needs a good work/life balance. She cherishes spending holidays and summers with her family. In addition to hiking with her children, she enjoys the time she has to read and exercise. This award-winning educator shares her most important advice for new teachers: “Live a balanced life and give time to your family, your career, and yourself.”

 

Written by Emily Pearson

Contact: Cynthia Glad