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SPRING SUMMIT 2003 - Rethinking Education: It Begins With a Teacher
Rethinking Education
it begins with a teacher
By LaNae H. Poulter '71
sther has not moved far from her place of birth in 1909. She has witnessed the population of her hometown, Menan, Idaho, nearly double—to 707. She still lives in the house she and her husband built not long after their marriage in 1933. And yet her influence is like the rippling effect of waves reaching out to distant shores, for Esther Jensen is a teacher.
    Not only did Esther teach in the local public school system for 29 years, but she also sustained her husband Kenneth as he did the same for 38 years. Both began their teaching careers with teaching certificates earned at Ricks College, hers in 1928 and his in 1930. Both continued to pursue additional education and exemplified lifelong learning. Their home was filled with books and the quest for knowledge.
    Married women were prohibited by law from teaching in the schools during the early 1930s, so Esther unselfishly dedicated time to her three most prized students, her own children: LaRie, Gordon and Don. A master reading teacher, Esther helped LaRie discover the world of words at age three. Don remembers a home filled with books and being familiar with the term “credit hour” long before he knew how to read hours on a clock.
    The three Jensen children followed in the footsteps of goodly parents; they graduated from Ricks College and became educators. LaRie ’55 taught in the Utah public school system for 30 years. Gordon ’58 is currently teaching at BYU in Provo. Don ’62 is a member of the faculty at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Esther’s two daughters-in-law are also teachers, and now third-generation family members are either teaching or preparing to become the educators of tomorrow. Literally thousands of lives have been impacted by the radiating influence of Esther—the teacher.
    As Brigham Young University-Idaho rethinks education, it remains focused on the responsibility to prepare students to become like Esther—contributors to their society. In the announcement of the transition, the First Presidency and Board of Trustees stated, “BYU–Idaho will continue to be teaching oriented. Effective teaching and advising will be the primary responsibilities of its faculty, who are committed to academic excellence.”1
    Quality education is not only imperative to the success of BYU–Idaho, but it also extends to the home, church, and nation. In his State of the Union address given January 29, 2002, President George W. Bush declared, “There’s more to do. We need to prepare our children to read and succeed in school with improved Head Start and early childhood development programs. We must upgrade our teacher colleges and teacher training and launch a major recruiting drive with a great goal for America: a quality teacher in every classroom.”2
    Nowhere is the commitment to academic excellence more obvious than within BYU–Idaho’s newly aligned College of Education whose business is educating the educators. In the classrooms, knowledge will be expounded, understanding will be grasped, and wisdom will go forth to influence yet another generation of students. As Henry Brooks Adams proclaimed, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”3
    The College of Education is one of seven entities that replaced the former nine academic divisions at the university. Within the College of Education are five areas which reflect the variety of settings wherein training takes place. Included are the Departments of Child and Family Studies, Home and Family Education, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, and Physical Education—perhaps a reminder of the continuous need to exercise both body and mind.
    &quot“We are teaching our students to inspire their students to be good citizens,” explains Gary Marshall, dean of the College of Education. “In the teaching of history, for instance, you can get overwhelmed with the negatives. If that is all you teach, you are going to educate a generation of cynics. We should not be about that business. We should help students see how they can teach truth in all areas but find ways to support the principles of a free society whether it is history, math, economics, or business. We have to teach students to accept responsibilities for their behavior and to play the part of a good citizen in a modern democracy. Good teaching teaches the delights of liberty.”
    The transition to university status has greatly impacted the demands within the College of Education. For example, nearly twice the anticipated number of upper-level students enrolled in the beginning stages of the secondary education program. These students must not only focus on their content area but also complete a core in education to meet very specific state standards. “For some people teaching is a natural talent. Like some people can sing and others can play basketball, some people have more natural abilities that make them great teachers,” explains Marshall. “But in the public schools, there are still skills teachers must know and be taught such as issues of assessment, dealing with exceptional children, basic classroom management, setting objectives and goals, and assessing students based on those objectives and goals.”
    For the college, the process of gaining accreditation and finding student teaching placements has been an immediate task. After months of coordinating plans and proposals, the college was granted “conditional approval” for accreditation from the Idaho State Board of Education on December 14, 2002. This significant step makes it possible for student teachers from BYU–Idaho to be placed in school districts. Local placements extend from Ashton in the north to as far south as Blackfoot. “There has been a lot of excitement and interest in BYU–Idaho student teachers,” reports Marshall as he works to establish protocols and relationships with public school administrators. “School districts are very eager to have our student teachers in their schools.”
    Because there are 2,200 education majors, getting all the teaching candidates into schools is a challenge. Multiple options are being developed. While supervision makes it impossible to have individual student teachers placed in their own diverse hometowns, the college has established two locations outside of Idaho for student placements. Beginning in the winter term of 2003, the college is sending 40-50 elementary and secondary education students to a satellite student teaching program in Las Vegas, Nev. This location is in addition to the previously established student teaching and pre-program practicum on Vashon Island in Washington.
    The College of Education anticipates a significant number of graduates in April 2003. As many as 200-250 students will graduate in elementary and secondary programs. They must carefully cross the bridge from students influenced by teachers to teachers influencing students.
    “The teacher not only shapes the expectations and ambitions of her pupils, but she also influences their attitudes toward their future and themselves,” President Thomas S. Monson has counseled. “In the present turmoil of events, with crisis following crisis, it is especially important that master teachers look ahead and exercise their important functions as builders of the future.” 4
    Just as the urgency of quality education stretches forward, it also extends back to the foundations of the restored gospel. Personal development is essential. In a revelation given through Joseph Smith, it was gently explained to the members that there would be a season of learning “that they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands” (D&C 105:10).
    Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “The education of the youth of the Church was a matter which received constant attention, nor was there anything that was considered of greater importance. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ‘the glory of God is intelligence,’ and from the organization of the Church, schools have been conducted for the members who were instructed to obtain ‘out of the best books words of wisdom’ by study and by faith.” 3
    The teachers trained at BYU–Idaho, like those trained in years past at Ricks College, bring unique perspectives into the classroom. “They see a lot of things differently; they see people differently,” Marshall says. “They see a potential in people that others may not see. They have a concept of morality that is different. By example and by precept, our students can encourage honesty and courage and justice and fairness and kindness. These are universal principles, but in a way they can be the staff on which the nation can lean.”
    The early apostles testified of the nobleness of teaching as they recorded Christ’s ministries. Even his earliest efforts of being about his Father’s business encompass the spirit of both learning and teaching for “they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47). Christ was and is the Master Teacher.
    There is no nobler vocation, no greater calling, than that of preparing a future generation by being a teacher. There is no end, and perhaps no beginning, to teaching.


References:
  1. Hinckley, Gordon B. (2000, June). “Official Announcement” www.byui.edu/pr/byu-i/official_announcement.htm.
  2. Bush, George W. (2002, January). “The President's State of the Union Address.” www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html.
  3. Adams, Henry B. www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_education.html.
  4. Monson, Thomas S. (1990, January). First Presidency Message, “Only a Teacher,” Ensign, p. 3.
  5. Smith, Joseph Fielding. (1922). Essentials in Church History, Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City. p. 571.


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