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Apple for the Teacher winner: Travis Mumford of Box Elder High School

Saturday , May 19, 2018 - 5:00 AM

Math is hard, and Travis Mumford knows it.

That is why he pushes himself to teach math in different ways. For example, he launches a rocket when teaching about algebra parabolas. In another one of his classes, he has students create enlarged posters using scale factors. Sometimes he wears a costume to encourage students to attend school.

There is at least one thing Mumford doesn’t like: being in the spotlight. And the thought of being in the newspaper after being the teacher with the most votes in the Standard-Examiner’s 2018 Apple for the Teacher award makes him feel uneasy.

“It is cool,” Mumford said. “(I’m) not sure if I’m the most deserving, but it is what it is.”

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Mumford, 36, has been teaching at Box Elder High School for eight years. He is also the assistant coach of the high school’s baseball and football teams.

“You wake up every day and you think, ‘What kind of adventure am I going to have today?’” Mumford said. “The challenge is helping kids learn (and) I love that challenge.”

He grew up in Clifton, Idaho, a small town about 50 minutes north of Logan. Commuting from Idaho, he got degrees in education, history and math from Utah State University.

He recognizes that math can be challenging for many students, and finding ways to make it understandable is one of his inspirations to be a better teacher.

“The approach that I’ve taken is to try to look at each student, look at their ability, and try to build on that knowledge they have,” Mumford said.

See the top 19 teachers in the Apple for the Teacher contest by clicking on the gallery below.

Before being an educator, Mumford said he wanted to be a veterinarian. He then switched to teaching because he felt he could have a bigger impact on peoples’ lives.

“I thought that teaching was a better route to make a positive influence with kids,” Mumford said.

His influence has been noted by his colleagues. Gregg Cefalo, who nominated Mumford and is the physics, astronomy and driver’s education teacher at Box Elder, said Mumford has students “as his priority.”

In his nomination letter, Cefalo said Mumford “has a very strong rapport with students. It doesn’t matter who you are as a student, you are important to Mr. Mumford.”

Cefalo taught math alongside Mumford and said working with him was inspiring and fun.

“I was two doors down from his and kids were always energetic to go to his class,” Cefalo said. “They love him as a teacher because he does fun things. He does clever things that let them know he is a human.”

He said he wanted to nominate Mumford because he didn’t want his work to go unnoticed.

“He’s one of these guys who puts his nose to the grindstone and gets things done, but he doesn’t like to be recognized,” Cefalo said. “He is just a humble guy that loves kids and wants to help them.”

Cefalo also noted in his nomination letter that Mumford is a dedicated coach. He said his colleague is “constantly looking for ways to improve” professionally.

Mumford said he coaches because, besides his love for sports, coaching has helped him connect with students who are struggling. He said it has helped him build relationships and set an example outside of the classroom.

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His wife, Becki, said she has witnessed how he has evolved as a teacher, coach and father. The couple has been married for 15 years and has four kids.

“He wants our kids to learn hard work,” she said. “I always tell him that my life won’t be boring because he is around.”

And Mumford is not stopping anytime soon. He recently went back to Utah State to get his certificate to be able to teach a concurrent enrollment statistic class at Box Elder next year.

“Teaching is really awesome and rewarding,” Mumford said. “It’s worth it.”

Contact education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán at smartinezbeltran@standard.net or 801-625-4274. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/STANDARDEXSergio.

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