Why I teach at BYU-Idaho

Much has been said of the influence a teacher has on students, but what is it that motivates the teacher? With well-qualified credentials listed on their resumes, what draws them to Rexburg? Is it the students? Perhaps the institution? Is there an inner awareness that somehow makes them rise to a higher level while they are helping others do the same? With seven distinctive colleges, is there a common factor in the reasoning that bonds the BYU–Idaho faculty no matter what their area of expertise? Discover the answers for yourself as you read how faculty from across campus view the opportunity to teach at BYU–Idaho.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Sid Palmer
»Department of Biology (1998)
Even though I am an Idaho native and lived only a couple of hours south of here, I had never stepped foot on this campus until the day I was interviewed as a faculty candidate. I felt the uniqueness of this place almost immediately. As I awaited my department interviews in the hallway of the Benson Building, I observed students and faculty passing in the halls. The students greeted the faculty, and the faculty responded, in most cases, by calling the students by name. They knew them. I felt like I was home. This was precisely the kind of educational environment I had wanted as a student and I had tried to foster as a teacher. Now that I have been here for nearly eight years, I still say that the best part of my job is the opportunity I have to be with students. I love them.
     We get some of the best youth of the Church at a critical period when they are making life-altering decisions. Everything up to this point has been preparation, and everything after will be work. During the years they are here, many of them will decide what they will do, who they will marry, and how they will live. They choose their educational path that will prepare them for future careers, and many find their spouses. They do these things, all of these things, on a campus that is overseen and cared for by prophets, seers, and revelators; and we as faculty get to watch and be a part of it. There are days when I am so profoundly grateful for some of the associations that I have had that I call the parents of students just to tell them thank you for sending their son or daughter here.

College of Business and Communication
Kerry Webb
»Department of Economics (2003)
Many times over the last two years, people have asked me how and why I came to teach at BYU–Idaho. Students seem puzzled that I would leave a highly-responsible job in corporate America and a beautiful home and surroundings in the Northwest. Some seem to question my sanity, while others wonder what I’m hiding. Many want to know if I was fired from my previous job.
     I must admit that living in Rexburg is a little slower than other places (i.e., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle) where I have lived. I’m still searching for the local equivalent of Dodger’s baseball, Ghirardelli Square, and the Space Needle. And I’ve noticed there is quite a difference between the sands of the California coast and those in St. Anthony.
     The real difference, however, between all those other places and Rexburg is that they don’t have BYU–Idaho. It’s not that often you find such a beacon of light and inspiration. In fact it is a rare situation when people, in their normal working environment, are able to tap into the Spirit to any degree at all, let alone feel the Spirit in the abundance that exists on this campus. The difference is real! A walk across campus, a lunch-time chat with students, or attending a devotional all say the same thing—the Spirit works among us to help us become better learners, better teachers, and better people. The Spirit is active here among our leaders, moving this university forward, as Elder Eyring phrased it, in “A Steady, Upward Course.”
     Let’s see—a growing organization, touching thousands of people who center their lives on Jesus Christ, all striving to be led by the Spirit. Oh, it’s good to have been in other places. But I’m glad to be at BYU–Idaho.  

College of Education
Joyce Anderson
» Department of Teacher Education (2001)
I remember that February evening when I first laid eyes on BYU–Idaho. With dusk upon us, my husband and I slowly walked the campus in an effort to map a route for the coming day’s interviews. The stillness of the winter air was occasionally interrupted by the sounds of students who knew where they were headed. We must have appeared lost, for several stopped to offer help. I was apprehensive.
     I wondered what had led me to this moment. Was it merely by coincidence that I had learned of a faculty position? Was it simply by chance that my training and experience seemed to match the required qualifications? Could I ever leave the warmth and security of my home and family? I was uncertain.
     I am now in my fourth year of teaching at BYU–Idaho. I am uplifted daily as I interact with students who are in quest of both spiritual and secular knowledge. I am privileged to experience personal growth under inspired leadership. I am grateful for guidance from the Spirit when seeking direction and counsel. I am truly blessed.
     It has become routine to traverse the campus pulling my “portable office” on wheels. I own a set of ice-grippers to slip over my boots as I navigate wintry terrains. Photographs of family and letters from grandchildren decorate my office. I’m finally remembering to take my scriptures to devotional! For now, I am home.

College of Language and Letters
Lei Shen
» Department of Foreign Languages and
Literature (2004)

As a new faculty member on campus, I have been very much impressed by a sense of unity, tranquility and responsibility inspired by the “Spirit of Ricks” across the campus. Students are self-motivated, administrators are supportive, and colleagues are collaborative. It is stimulating to see people everywhere at BYU–Idaho who are in pursuit of “doing good and doing better.”
     In retrospect of the past five months, I feel strongly that it is a great blessing for me to have been granted this opportunity to teach the Mandarin Chinese language at BYU–Idaho. It is a great experience to hear students’ constant expression of appreciation xiexie ni (thank you), to see students show up before 8:00 on chilly Rexburg winter mornings to practice writing their Chinese characters on the whiteboard, and to share students’ unique perspectives about the target language’s culture from their missionary experiences.
     Our students are special and so are our colleagues and administrators. They are caring and cooperative, which creates a collegial environment in which I feel very comfortable to work. In addition, their commitment to prioritizing the needs of the students and to enhancing students’ academic and spiritual growth sets a good example for me. It urges me to make my personal contributions to the high quality of our students’ education and to BYU–Idaho, this Lord-blessed community. 

College of Performing and Visual Arts
Daniel Kerr
» Department of Music (2004)
It took less than half an hour from my first time setting foot on this campus for me to know that I wanted to teach here. The “Spirit of Ricks” is a palpable influence at this school. When then-President Bednar spoke of BYU–Idaho as a “sacred and set apart place,” he was confirming what the Spirit had already witnessed to me from my first interactions with this institution.
     Why do I teach here? First and foremost, the students. They are bright, eager to learn and serve; and they are wholesome. They live the gospel. Significantly, they are at the core of what this school is about. I am uplifted and inspired by them daily. In addition, I have never seen such collegiality among instructors both within and across disciplines as I experience here. The encouragement that is offered is exceptional and a treasured resource as I strive to improve as an educator. Finally, what a blessing it is to teach where both the relatively narrow focus of my discipline as well as the university program as a whole are fully supported by inspired leaders. Imagine—prophets and seers guiding a university! I have been blessed to see and feel the Lord’s guidance through them in what we do individually and collectively. What a privilege for me to be lifted by and to contribute to this sacred place.

College of Physical Sciences and Engineering
Dan Moore
» Department of Geology (2001)
It started with an e-mail. I was attending a professional meeting in December 2000 when I received an invitation to apply for a faculty opening in BYU–Idaho’s Department of Geology. The invitation did not interest me. That evening I was talking with my wife and mentioned the e-mail. As we discussed it, the Spirit filled our hearts. We knew the Lord wanted me to apply. Later, en route to my final interview, I was listening to a history of the Church. As the narrator described the period in BYU’s history in Provo when it narrowly escaped dissolution, a feeling of intense gratitude overwhelmed me. As I pondered why I had felt this, I had a strong sense that part of my life’s work had hinged on that event. BYU did survive; Ricks College became BYU–Idaho, and here I am.
     Building a strong bachelor’s degree program has been like raising my seven young children: an intense, challenging, worthwhile experience that I’m not sure I could or would choose to repeat. Our department is now at the end of the initial transition, and we have begun to see the sweet fruits of our labors: successful students.
     BYU–Idaho is a community of wonderful people! The Lord has called me to be an educator, leader, and research geologist. Recently he called me to BYU–Idaho. I cannot see the end from the beginning. I do not know all the reasons I am here, but I do know who called me, and I consider being here a blessing.

College of Religion and Social Sciences
Ron Anderson
» Department of Religious Education (1997)
Teaching at BYU–Idaho has been a dream come true for me. I grew up as a seminary/institute child. My father taught in the Church Educational System for 40 years. As long as I can remember, it has been my desire to teach religion. In fact I can’t remember wanting to do anything else. I knew at a young age that I must obtain a Ph.D. in something so I would be qualified to teach at a college level.
     BYU–Idaho is a perfect fit for me. I have never wanted to “publish or perish.” It has always been my desire to teach. With BYU–Idaho’s emphasis on teaching, I feel at home here.
     The “Spirit of Ricks” is a real thing to me. I believe it exists because the faculty here do not have a personal agenda. They are not trying to sell themselves or bring recognition, fame, or glory to themselves. I believe they are here for the same reason I am—to teach students. I believe we have some of the best teachers in the world here at BYU–Idaho.
                I feel honored to be here and hope I can contribute to the “Spirit of Ricks” established by those who have taught before. SM