THS teacher recognized as ‘Most Valuable Educator’ by the Utah Jazz and InstructureFeb 06, 2023 02:01PM ● By Peri Kinder
Rio Polidori (to the right of the Jazz Bear) was named a “Most Valuable Educator” by Instructure and the Utah Jazz for her work with business students at Taylorsville High School. (Photo courtesy of Polidori)
It’s only her second year of teaching but Rio Polidori, a CTE teacher at Taylorsville High School, is already making a big impact. After nine students submitted nominations, Polidori was recently named a “Most Valuable Educator” by the Utah Jazz and Instructure.
She was honored at a Jazz game in January at Vivint Arena and received a $1,000 classroom grant from Instructure, parent company of Canvas, and a personalized jersey at the game.
“I was shocked because I’m a brand new teacher, so I feel like there are much more deserving teachers than me, especially those who’ve been teaching longer than myself,” she said.
A graduate of Granger High and the University of Utah, Polidori spent six years in the military before becoming a senior financial analyst. When she was laid off during COVID, she decided it was a good time to change careers. She always wanted to teach in the Granite School District and found the perfect fit teaching business classes at THS.
Her classes teach students tangible skills. Accounting, entrepreneurship, sports marketing and real estate are just a few of the courses she teaches each day. Polidori also runs an after-school program and a concurrent enrollment business class through Salt Lake Community College. She wants to make the classroom fun and teach beyond the textbook.
“Growing up, teachers were the ones to guide me to make the best decisions for myself. When I see students struggling or wanting to talk about their day or asking me what I think about things, it goes back to relationships,” she said. “[Teaching] was something I always wanted to do and getting laid off opened that door for me to pursue that.”
Polidori goes out of her way to make her classes inclusive, safe spaces for her students. She tries not to judge or have preconceived ideas about a student’s ability. When a student was late to class, Polidori didn’t shame him in front of the class. Instead, her welcoming and encouraging approach gave him the confidence to take more business classes, where he’s received high grades.
“If a teacher would have welcomed him differently, his direction would have been different,” she said. “He wouldn’t have taken business classes and developed that interest. That’s what I get excited about. To see those changes the students make.”
One of the nominations came from a student who took her real estate class last year. He has since graduated, earned his real estate license and just sold his fifth house.
“Rio has been an outstanding addition to our business department,” said THS Principal Emily Liddell. “She works hard to motivate her students and provide them with real life examples of how they can start and run their own business and see what it takes to be a true entrepreneur. She also has done a great job running our Esports team. We are excited to have her as part of our Taylorsville High School family.”
Polidori plans to use the $1,000 grant to create fun rewards for students, whether that’s treats, activities or class parties. She says that’s the model for business; people set a goal and get compensated.
“Students feel they can have a relationship with me as far as approaching me with questions about school or getting guidance for life,” Polidori said. “I’m always willing to help them out, whatever it is, whatever type of guidance.”