Skip to main content

Sugar House Journal

Beacon Heights CBTU teacher receives educator award

Jan 20, 2017 13h13 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Kris Lancaster-Grant has been teaching for more than 30 years at Beacon Heights with CBTU students. (Amber Callister/Beacon Heights)

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

Many teachers would agree that their job isn’t easy but it is fulfilling to see students learn and grow. One of these teachers is Kris Lancaster-Grant who teaches in the Children’s Behavior Therapy Unit (CBTU) at Beacon Heights Elementary for the Salt Lake City School District. Last September, she received the 2016 H. Kenton Special Educator award for her work with these students.

“It was just weird to have it,” Lancaster-Grant said. “It felt weird having all this attention, but I’m honored to be recognized.”

Lancaster-Grant works so much that her boss had to find a way to coax her out of the office so she could receive the award. The special education director made sure they had a substitute teacher so they could get Lancaster-Grant out for a day.

The CBTU program isn’t an easy program to work in, the 40 different students involved in this program have different emotional behavioral disorders ranging from ADHD to PTSD.

“I think that’s one part that I like about it, every day is different,” she said. “Some of them we have them for a few hours a day, and this year I have more homeless students than I ever had.”

The CBTU program reaches kids from around the Salt Lake City School District who need help with their behavioral and mental needs. At Beacon Heights, the classrooms have therapists and teachers that specialize in special needs. Lancaster-Grant teaches students between second grade and fourth, with kids coming from families of all income levels.

“They are cute kids and all are special kids and have their school goals and mental health goals,” she said. “They work with a therapist and they come over to the school district, so if they don’t make it in a behavioral classroom they’ll refer them here.”

Lancaster-Grant said the biggest struggle with working with the kids is getting them motivated to do the homework. Many of the students have parents who could care less about their education so they really need a lot of self-motivation. Another struggle is having parents who aren’t involved so the teachers provide school supplies for their students.

“We don’t have mothers to help us,” she said. “We do everything on our own. It puts more and more on the teachers.”

When the program was set up at Beacon Heights after the school was rebuilt, the community came together and did a book drive for the CBTU program. That drive brought in 1,000 books that the students now have access too. Lancaster-Grant said that they do have to earn the right to take the books home, but students like being able to take home the books that they can read.

“Our goal is for them to mainstream back out and learn skills,” she said. “But they need this support through their elementary years. We try to have three adults to 12 students in each classroom.”

She said that her staff is phenomenal and they all work well together. She likes hearing about success stories. She said that a former student, who is now a junior in high school, sent her an email letting her know how well he’s doing and that he got his driver’s license.

“He said that he hopes the kids are treating me well,” she said. “It’s good to hear. Sometimes you see obituaries or police records of past students, so it was nice to hear from him.”

With the range of different things Lancaster-Grant deals with every day, she said that she went into the CBTU program and just forgot to leave. She hopes for the best for her students, and even if she only sees them for six and a half hours a day, she’s glad they get some support and structure from the school.