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Taylorsville Journal

Hartvigsen School instructor named Granite School District Teacher of the Year

May 06, 2024 02:55PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Granite School District Teacher of the Year Seyyed Sharifi with his daughter, Amara, and partner, Diana Elterman, at the award ceremony. (Photo courtesy Granite School District)

Seyyed Sharifi’s parents were teachers in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1979 when their lives were uprooted after the Soviet invasion of that country. His father was imprisoned for seven months but eventually escaped and he and his wife moved to Utah where he had family. Though his parents had to give up their professions as teachers once they fled Afghanistan, their love for teaching was passed on to their son.

He was honored on April 17 with the Granite School District Teacher of the Year award for his work at Hartvigsen School in Taylorsville. With his parents, his partner, Diana, and their daughter Amara in attendance, Sharifi received the annual award from district superintendent Dr. Rich Nye. Sharifi was chosen from more than 2,200 nominations for the Granite Education Foundation’s Excel Awards. He’s been a full-time teacher at Hartvigsen for three years, working with the school’s students with severe disabilities. He was a paraprofessional for four years before moving to the Salt Lake and Canyons School Districts. But he never forgot his first impression at Hartvigsen

“The first thing that happened to me when I came to the school was when a girl walked up and gave me a hug,” he said. “For some reason, I knew that this was the place I wanted to be. Even when I worked outside the district, I always knew this was the place I was going to retire from. And I love the severe population–it’s my niche.”

During a tribute to him before the award was presented, Lynne Arada, Teaching Onboarding and Instructional Coaching for GSD, said Sharifi feels teaching “is a sacred act that traces to his roots and a tumultuous family history. He said, ‘as I navigated my own pathway in life, the knowledge that both of my parents were teachers planted a seed deep in my mind. It felt in a peculiar way that teaching was in my blood. Driven by the desire to mend the scars of war on my family, I pursued a career in education. By embracing the magical nature of education, we transcend the boundaries of a mire job and contribute to the collective healing of our own histories.’”

Sharifi called his daughter Amara “the biggest blessing I’ve ever had aside from my partner. She is the light of our lives. I never knew how much joy a person would be able to give me, and she just makes me laugh and smile pretty much all day long.” 

Diana found out about three weeks earlier that Sharifi had been chosen as the winner, but she had to keep it secret. “When he asked if I’d heard anything, I had to lie,” she said with a laugh. “I helped him when he started picking out suits to wear, but I acted like I knew nothing.”

She said this is a huge time in his life, adding “he is just stretched. His days are full–he’s in school for his Master’s, we had our daughter, and he’s up from 4:30 in the morning until late at night taking care of his family. So you can be sure that as stretched as he is, his default—his baseline is just a well of love and generosity and compassion for his students and for everyone.”

Sharifi grew up in Utah and graduated from Kearns High School.

“I find beauty in remembering the sacred,” he said. “Teaching becomes a poignant reminder to our students and to ourselves to find our sacred and work from that place.” λ

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