How a true teacher hero advocates for student equity and belonging

Learn how this eSN K-12 Hero Awards Winner ensures that each and every student feels they have a place in school

The 2023 eSchool News K-12 Hero Awards honors educators for their exemplary use of innovative edtech to support student learning. Interviewed and profiled here is winner John Arthur, a 6th grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary School nominated by Follett. Stay tuned for two more winner profiles to come.

John Arthur, a sixth-grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary School in Salt Lake City, was the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for 2021 National Teacher of the Year.

Now in his 10th year of teaching, John’s students have gained national recognition as champions for children and immigrants like them through music videos and other digital content they create and share across platforms as @9thEvermore (on YouTube and Twitter/X). Moreover, he uses Kwame Alexander Bookfest book club from noted author Kwame and Follett to help his students see themselves in story, build literacy skills, and allow students to share their experiences and emotions through books.

He consistently encourages his students to take the lead, coaching them as they craft their content and discover the power of their own voices. The kids do everything from writing scripts to selecting music to editing videos to singing and narrating. Topics range from immigration to kids without fathers.

After college, John discovered his love for working with kids while substitute teaching in elementary classrooms. Inspired by those students, he earned a Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Education from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

A champion throughout Utah and across the country for his students and fellow educators, he has presented at conferences and spoken on panels for organizations including the National Association for Multicultural Education. He is widely acclaimed for the short videos he creates on social media, advocating for public education and educating the public on upcoming legislation that would adversely impact teachers and students.

A fierce believer that educational equity is not only attainable but a moral imperative, John serves on the Advisory Committee on Equity of Educational Services for Students for the Utah State Board of Education. He is co-director of the Utah Teacher Fellows, a non-partisan nonprofit that engages with state education leaders and policy makers to elevate educators and the teaching profession. Indefatigable and undaunted, he also serves on several WestEd and IncludEd United boards for the purpose of advancing educational equity and inclusion for all students, particularly LGBTQ+ students who don’t feel welcome or feel a sense of belonging in school.

“I have witnessed firsthand Mr. Arthur’s commitment to excellence, engaging parents as education partners, and focus on equitable opportunities for all,” Sydnee Dickson, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said after John earned the state’s Teacher of the Year honor. “I am proud he is considered among the best in the nation.”

The NBA’s Utah Jazz also know a “K-12 Hero” when they see one: In March 2023, they named John the “Most Valuable Educator” and honored him at a home game.

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Laura Ascione
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