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South Salt Lake Journal

Lincoln Elementary teacher, Excel winner Prema Chruthoti cultivates love of learning

Jun 06, 2024 08:51AM ● By Sarah Brown

Prema Chruthoti stands in her classroom on an early Tuesday morning, energized to take on a new day of teaching. (Sarah Brown/City Journals)

Lincoln Elementary third-grade teacher Prema Chruthoti has a passion for education. It flows from her and forms the foundation of her classroom culture. 

Her mother taught her, “whatever you’re doing, give 100%, no matter what it is.” These words shaped her and have fostered a lifetime love of learning. 

“Prema has an ability to bring the very best out of kids,” said Milton Collins, Lincoln Elementary School principal. He wasn’t surprised she was nominated for the Granite School District annual Excel award, which he called “the highest honor.” 

Chruthoti said, “I’m not a teacher, I’m a coach, and sometimes I have to be a mom.” 

She works hard to make learning fun. She plays a lot of games and sings songs with her students. “I have a song for everything,” she said. 

To advance her multilingual class, she uses language as a thread to connect concepts for her students. She consults a reliable companion, an old language book that served her in her own learning journey studying for the GRE, to teach students root words in Greek and Latin to build their vocabulary. 

She’ll count in those languages as students line up. Later in math or science lesson, she’ll recall “tetra,” “quad” or “kilo.” When the kids see quadrilateral or kilogram, they get it.

In her classroom, individual and team goals are always in focus. They are written everywhere — in her notebook, on the white board, and even in student pencil boxes. She engages her students in the goal-setting process, frequently discussing them and collaborating on how to achieve them. 

“It instills responsibility,” she said. “Students start taking on the challenges themselves. They really care about their goals, and they encourage each other.”

Chruthoti said that receiving the award gave her a boost of energy, likening it to a trampoline effect, particularly needed in the last stretch of the school year. 

She said, “I’m really, really thankful,” and then humbly emphasized, what she really wants is for her students “to be at benchmark at the end of the year.”

She was one of 2,200 names submitted (by parents, teachers, administrators and students) as part of this year’s nomination process, which begins in fall and culminates in late spring when winners are recognized. Nine teachers and one administrator are selected for the award following a rigorous evaluation process. Winners receive a $1,000 check, gifts from community sponsors and a celebratory dinner.

The recognition can be very meaningful for teachers, rejuvenating them and encouraging them forward in their professional development.

Jadee Talbot, executive director of Granite Education Foundation and director of Family and Community Engagement for Granite School District, oversees the Excel awards. He said, “as a former teacher, awards like this—anything you can do to uplift teachers—are needed. We don’t do that enough…show off the good that’s going on around us.”

Talbot said some Excel winning teachers go on to leadership roles, becoming administrators or academic coaches. 

Chruthoti will follow this path. Next year, she will serve as an intern assistant principal to Collins, who is thrilled to retain her as part of his staff.

This is the second year in a row Lincoln Elementary School has had an Excel winner. Last year, fifth-grade teacher McKinzey Jackson won the award.

Discussing the back-to-back winners, Collins said, “it has everything to do with culture. You should be in a place where you love, laugh and educate.”

Chruthoti applies 100% of herself to developing her students, ensuring her classroom is a laboratory of questions, discovery, mistakes and laughter. She wants students to remember not just the concepts, but the learning experience, carrying it with them into the future.

As she transitions to a leadership role, she said she will miss the direct classroom instruction, but she is “looking forward to taking the culture to all the classrooms.” λ