Utah Teacher of Year credits parents, who valued education
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mohsen Ghaffari, a fifth-grade teacher at North Star Elementary School, has been named the 2015 Utah Teacher of the Year. Friday, September 5, 2014
Iranian native who teaches at North Star Elementary is chosen among 21 candidates from school districts and charter schools.
By Lisa Schencker
| The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Sep 05 2014 09:01 pm • Last Updated Sep 06 2014 04:45 pm
The two people who most inspired Mohsen Ghaffari to teach had very little education themselves.
Ghaffari’s mother was taken out of school in second grade to work in a rug factory in Iran. His father didn’t make it past fourth grade. Yet education was important to them.
"They were highly intelligent people who did not have an opportunity to become educated," Ghaffari said. "I think they were incredibly smart, and they wanted a better life, so their emphasis was on education."
That emphasis motivated Ghaffari to move to the United States more than 35 years ago to teach. On Friday, the North Star Elementary school educator found out that he’s been named Utah’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.
Ghaffari, 55, said he never expected to be recognized for his work teaching fifth grade, though he acknowledged he takes it very seriously. At school, he’s known for always wearing a tie to work (in addition to kicking butt during the school’s annual students versus teachers soccer match).
But those who work with and know Ghaffari say the honor is no surprise.
"He deserves it because he’s not afraid to do things that he knows are good for students," said Ashlee Ekins, a second-grade teacher at North Star who helped nominate Ghaffari for the award. "He just really knows what his students need and he stands up for them."
She said he does a lot of hands-on activities with his students to help them learn material, such as asking them to create models of the earth showing its composition, or to write books which they then present at a publishing party.
And North Star Principal Lew Gardiner said Ghaffari is a natural-born educator, in addition to being a hard worker.
"His class is very well ordered," Gardiner said. "There isn’t any wasted time. The kids know what’s expected and they recognize that he cares about them."