Utah Council on Conflict Resolution

P.O. Box 25221
Salt Lake City, UT 84125-0221
Phone: 801.301.7943
Educator's Scholarship > Scholarship Recipients

  UCCR Educators Scholarship:  Peacebuilders of Tomorrow Award Recipients

Congratulations, and thank you for your contributions in promoting peace and leadership in youth!





Bryant Baird

Glendale Elementary School

Bryant Baird has worked as an educator for Salt Lake School Districtfor26 years.  He has taught elementary students, K-6, and middle school, 6-8. He has also taught several adult ESL classes. He currently teaches math labs, College and Career Awareness and CTE. Bryant loves working with the diverse population at Glendale Middle School, which is an intake school for refugees in Salt Lake City. Many of his students have experienced conflict that is beyond their ability to comprehend. Bryant strives to make his classroom a safe place where all are welcome and where all can tell their stories. Bryant will use the scholarship funds to purchase quilting frames and quilting supplies for his classroom. Students design quilting blocks that tell their individual stories, and they love seeing them come together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. They learn how to contribute their unique ideas and perspectives on a shared project. They learn to listen and appreciate others' stories and backgrounds. They make new friends, and they learn some basic sewing skills along the way. The quilts will be donated to local refugee agencies, the Homeless Youth Resource Center and Shriners Hospital. 





Dane Hess

Glendale Middle School


Dane Hess successfully completed the mediation and conflict resolution program through the University of Utah.  He is highly regarded and contributes greatly at Glendale.

When Mr. Hess came to Glendale M.S., he was a social worker, not a teacher.  Glendale had the lowest percentage student performance in the state.  He helped with community engagement and dialog and ADR between students and between parents and the school.  In the second year, Glendale was “out of risk” and achieved a B+ rating.  Mr. Hess went on to become a teacher.

He teaches two courses: Latinos in Action, which is leadership training and teaches Latino identity and community service, and Techniques for Tough Times.  He put in a tremendous amount of work, with the help of Leigh Vanden Akker, to establish the Techniques for Tough Times program at the middle school level (grades 6 to 8) .  The course focuses on how students engage with each other and the school.  One year he had all the 6th graders take the course for a quarter.  Over the three or four years he has taught the Techniques course, about 700 students have participated.

Mr. Hess lives in the area and is committed to the students and these programs.  He is described as a “big presence” in the school.  

Mr. Hess plans to use the scholarship funds to purchase team-building equipment, such as low ropes course equipment.  He uses the equipment for activities involving team-building and problem-solving. In these activities, conflicts and problems inevitably arise as the teams work together. Then he draws conversations out of the experience regarding the conflicts and the resolution of the conflicts.       






Javier Viana

North West Middle School

Salt Lake City School District


Javier Viana has worked as an educator for Salt Lake City School District for seven years. For the past two years, Viana has taught Techniques for Tough Times, a research-based, field-tested, hands-on curriculum designed to develop social and emotional learning, to students at Northwest Middle School. Viana received guidance from Leigh VandenAkker, who developed the curriculum at East High School.


Viana innovated within this curriculum by designing and implementing a student-led mediation program for schools. He trains students to resolve interpersonal conflicts using a graphic organizer and communication techniques. As a result of his guidance, students in this mediation program are able to focus on what the “real problem” is, as well as the other person’s point of view, which has led to understanding and developing empathy. By the end of each mediation session, students work collectively to figure out the “win-win” solution to their conflict. Students involved report a sense of ownership of their school and relationships, as well as increased confidence and self-worth.  Viana was honored to receive the Peacebuilder Scholarship Award funds, and plans to use them to pay student mediators for their hard work next year.



Tami Ewell

Copper Mountain Middle School

Jordan School District


Tami Ewell has been a teacher for 12 years. She currently teaches ninth grade English at Copper Mountain Middle School in Jordan School District.  Tami loves to read, travel, and go jeeping with her family all over Utah.  Last summer, Tami was able to travel with Global Education Allies to Rwanda where she worked with teachers, law students, and others at the Nyanza law school. They studied conflict resolution through the Arbinger Institute and then collaborated with the Rwandans on creating conflict resolution lessons and activities for students from elementary age to adults. They co-taught those lessons at different schools in Nyanza.  Tami was also able to teach those same lessons to her students this fall.  Tami recognizes the important role that schools play in educating students on peace building skills and she looks forward to using the scholarship to develop more collaborative projects with her students and students in other countries to further their understanding of conflict resolution and to assist them in developing a global perspective.  Tami would also like to use the scholarship to further explore is Online Dispute Resolution.  Students are very involved in social media and are in need of learning conflict resolution skills that apply to online situations.



Mrs. Leigh VandenAkker

East High School

"Techniques for Tough Times"

 Leigh M. VandenAkker is Utah’s 2012 Teacher of The Year and winner of Utah’s 2011 Golden Apple Award. She is a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Huntsman Award. As co-author of Techniques for Tough Times™, Leigh has trained teachers nationwide, providing insight and support by educating teachers in classroom management and how to teach SEL. She presented recently on “Whole Child vs. No Child” at SXSWEDU. With over 20 years experience in the educational setting, Leigh has developed strategies and techniques that really work in today’s classrooms. Designed to aid classroom teaching of communication and anger management skills, her curriculum supports the strategies for teaching metacognition. Students learn to self-advocate, have a voice and use higher order thinking skills to power through life’s obstacles. Leigh holds a M.Ed. degree as well as certifications in Special Education, Criminology and Corrections, ESL, and Conflict Resolution (communication, mediation, negotiation.) She is highly skilled in program development and coordination. Her particular expertise is with “at-risk” populations, grant proposal writing and program management. Leigh just returned from visiting the country of Brazil as a 2012 Pearson Global Scholar, where she had the unique opportunity to examine its education system. She is recognized as a consummate professional who cares deeply for students, she is a full-time public high school teacher. VandenAkker is presently teaching at East High School in Salt Lake City School District. She is currently serving on the Utah Education Association Teachers Excellence Task Force. You can find out more about her by viewing her recent TED talk.


Mrs. Heather Threlkeld

Legacy Preparatory Academy

"The Leader in Me" -Steven Covey

 Heather Threlkeld has a Bachelors Degree from Utah State University in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Masters of Art in Teaching Secondary Science with an emphasis on Biology.  She lives in Centerville, Utah and has worked for LPA since 2014.  hthrelkeld@legacyprep.org


To submit a nomination for a teacher deserving of the Educators Scholarship Award click here!