Attributions: 
Lauren Bush

For this year’s Homecoming at Payson High School, the class of 1998 wanted to do more than just a fun assembly. The Class of 1998 chose to give back to the teachers who had been a longstanding influence at the school with the opportunity to take a free trip to Hawaii. 

Twelve teachers who had worked there for 20 years or more were awarded with a 5-day stay at a vacation home in Hawaii. Justin Haskell presented the award at the assembly and said the alumni wanted to do something to honor the teachers for all that they had done. 

“We remember these teachers,” Haskell said. “We had classes with them and we wanted to thank them for the 20 or more years of service to the high school.” 

Haskell said that it is a small way to show the teachers how much their time and sacrifice is appreciated.  

“I have had the chance to travel around the world since high school,” Haskell continued. “I have realized since then how much of a difference my education has made in my life. It’s only now that I am starting to glimpse how much teachers actually do for us. It just feels so good to be able to thank them.” 

At the assembly, the 12 teachers were presented with gifts to open containing Hawaiian leis. Tona Graff, Dean of Students at Payson High, was one of the teachers awarded. 

“We were all initially shocked and couldn’t believe that they were being so generous,” Graff said. “We kept waiting for a punch line. When we realized it was for real, I felt mostly humbled by the generosity being shown.” 

Principal RaShel Shepherd said that it was a neat experience and a fun surprise for their assembly for both the teachers and the students. She said the event has brought added enthusiasm to the students for the upcoming school year. 

“The students were so excited for their teachers,” Principal Shepherd said. “They all gave standing ovations for the teachers awarded and it has brought a lot of excitement to the school.” 

In addition to sending the teachers on a trip, the alumni wanted to honor their legacy permanently. Together with the nonprofit organization, Pencils of Promise, they are doing a fundraiser with the Payson community and Payson schools to help build a school in Guatemala. 

“We are going to have a placard that will honor the teachers and administrators from Payson High School there,” Haskell said. “[The Class of ‘98] are going to match dollar for dollar every donation that is made to make this a reality.” 

You can find more information about the fundraiser here.

We are so happy for the teachers at Payson High and for their hard work over these past 20 years!

The teachers who were awarded:
Chad Beck
Brenda Burdick
Tona Graff
Sherry Heaps
Kyle Hill
John Holden
Marilyn Miller
Ross Nelson
Stan Peck
Nyle Russell
Reed Thomson
Linda Walter