I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. When I was a teenager I overheard someone who had recently moved from the west mention that the skies are always gray in Cleveland. I never even noticed. I loved to open my window and hear the sound of the rain hitting the roof. As a kid, we would throw our rain boots on and jump in the puddles. Winter time meant snow days, sledding, making cookies, and running inside for hot chocolate when our fingers froze. Now, I believe in owning a cute rain coat or umbrella. Gratitude (even for the beautiful gray skies and rainy days) can help us become more optimistic and find the good, despite the sometimes less than ideal circumstances we are faced with.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy! So if we trust Him, He will help us to notice the good, bright, hopeful things of life. And sure enough, the world will become brighter.” Gratitude is a skill that can help us as we pursue an education and eventually become educators. We can always find something to complain about, but as we recognize the good and say thank you, we will cultivate an attitude of gratitude, which we can pass on to our students.


Susan Huff’s journey through education

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Susan Huff, far right, stands with her roommates in front of Carroll Hall during their freshman year at BYU.

When I entered BYU as a freshman, tuition was $240 per semester, girls could not wear jeans on campus, and Ernest L. Wilkinson was President of BYU. I got a job as a part-time secretary in the Graduate Dean’s Office in the Administration Building because I could take shorthand at 120 words per minute and type at 100 words per minute on an electric typewriter (with no correction device or spell check); I earned $1.75 per hour—about $70 twice monthly. One paycheck covered tithing, my $35 monthly rent at Heritage Halls and my orthodontist payment of $25 per month. After tithing, the other $70 check covered my living expenses. Right now you are probably saying, “Wow, how times have changed!” Some things have definitely changed at BYU. Heritage Halls have been torn down. Although minimum wage has more than quadrupled since I was a freshman, tuition is 10 times greater now. Working full-time over the summer covered my tuition; working 20 hours per week during school covered my living expenses. It would be extremely challenging nowadays for a student to earn enough at a minimum wage job to cover both tuition and living expenses.


Although many things have changed, there are some things that have remained the same. BYU is still a fabulous place to earn a degree in a gospel-centered environment. The Star Spangled Banner is still played at 7:50 a.m. each morning across campus; I hope everyone still stops and stands at attention. The McKay School of Education still turns out a great, marketable product in their graduates, who positively impact the field of education. I received a great pre-service education at BYU, but I have continued to learn and grow through my association with the McKay School of Education over many years. Let me explain.


I married Richard Huff during my junior year and graduated from BYU 10 days over-due with our first child. My plan was to be a stay-at-home mom, but all that changed when my husband, a high-school business teacher, had an opportunity to enter a business partnership in our home town of Spanish Fork, Utah.   He was working nights at 7-11 to provide for our family that now included three children. Then during the day he was running the business. I suggested that perhaps I should teach for a year or so until the business could support our family.


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Susan Huff, left, stands with her department chair Dr. Ellen Williams when she received her doctorate degree.

Before I knew it, “a year or so” turned into 34 years. I taught first grade, fourth grade, and gifted pullout for 18 years. I worked two years at BYU as a Clinical Faculty Associate working with pre-service elementary education students while I was completing a master’s degree in educational administration. I earned a doctoral degree from BYU in educational administration and worked 14 years as an elementary school principal in three different schools within Nebo School District.
In addition to my formal education at BYU, some of my richest learning experiences resulted from my work with the BYU/Public School Partnership. In 1985 I was teaching fourth grade at Larsen Elementary in Spanish Fork when the school became one of the first partnership schools. I collaborated with Dr. R. Carl Harris followed by Dr. Jess Walker from BYU, who were great mentors and teachers with the partnership. I had opportunities to teach pre-service teachers, present at conferences, and participate in educational research.



Susan Huff received the Distinguished Alumni Award, was named Utah’s National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and works as an educational consultant.

Later as a principal, I participated in the first CITES (Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling) Principals’ Academy, and then had many opportunities to present at subsequent academies. Through Principals’ Academy, I was introduced to the Professional Learning Communities Model of school improvement. Applying principles from this model helped turn our school from the lowest performing school in Nebo School District to a school where students performed well. In 2006, I was named Utah’s National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals because of the great work our school staff had done to improve learning for our students. That led to my part-time work as an educational consultant with Solution Tree, a publishing company that publishes school improvement books, and conducts workshops and institutes across the country.


Although I retired from the principalship in 2013, I continue to work as a consultant, helping schools learn and apply school improvement principles. I have loved my career as an educator! I feel deep gratitude for the formal education I received at BYU, along with a multitude of learning experiences I received through the BYU/Public School Partnership. Teachers change lives!   It is a great honor to be a teacher and a graduate of the McKay School of Education.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

It was 1981, Scott was a typical high school jock. He loved watching and playing sports, especially football. One team, stood 5834out to him, BYU. Their teamwork and passing skills impressed him. Jim McMahon was the quarterback. They were scoring, sometimes, 60 points in one game! The team peaked his interest. He scribbled down “Brigham Young University” on a scrap of paper and took it with him to school on Monday. He went to the school library and found out that BYU was affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He did some research (as much research as he could without “Google” and “Wikipedia”). He borrowed a Book of Mormon from the library, conducted his junior year research paper on the Mormon church, and met with the missionaries.

chapel-769706-galleryScott believed in God, regularly attended another church, and actively participated in the youth group program there. He was, however, quite fascinated with the Mormon church. He asked his youth group leaders if a few of the youth could tag along with him to the Mormon church on Sunday. He soon found out that the stake center was only a mile from his home. They complied. He had a wonderful experience.

Due to his family situation and the great distance between Ohio and Utah, Scott did not have the opportunity to attend Brigham Young University. He was, however, the first person in his family to ever attend college. A few years after college graduation, he and his high school sweetheart joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and left a legacy of learning and of the gospel of Jesus Christ to me, their daughter.

I will be forever grateful for my parents, who have taught me the importance of getting an education and of living the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully. I hope to pass on that legacy of love to my own posterity. In what ways will you leave a lasting legacy?

Of Pipes and Primary

It’s tradition at the BYU Jerusalem Center to sign one’s name on the pipes in the crawlspace under the lower auditorium. My signature has been there for three years now, but the mark I left on the Holy Land was more than my initials on a piece of subterranean plumbing.


Early in its history, before it had a single building, let alone the beautiful center in Jerusalem, the Brigham Young Academy was in dire financial straits. The structure intended for its use was in disrepair and would require several hundred dollars to renovate. “President [Abraham O.] Smoot quietly donated the necessary funds.”

Everyone at BYU has heard of Karl G. Maeser, the pioneering German educator with a strict moral compass, famous for his chalk circle of honor quote prominently featured at the testing center. Less well known is the fact that President Smoot recommended Maeser as the new principal for Brigham Young Academy. Smoot first saved the academy fiscally, before rescuing it academically through his wise leadership.

Boosting the academy over its initial hurdles galvanized President Smoot’s commitment to it. His interest in the school was later sanctioned, or rather mandated, by the prophet. In a final admonition to President Smoot, Brigham Young said, “I desire you, Brother Smoot to turn your influence and your energies to the building up of that academy.” A.O. wholeheartedly gave everything to fulfill this charge.

In the decades since, many others have given much to sustain the university and its students. 

imgresAs I ponder the impact BYU has on the world, the iconic image of the Y lit up on the mountain is literally a light on a hill. The light of learning at BYU has influenced millions with the education and experiences to make their own marks on the world. Because Abraham Smoot, Brigham Young, Karl Maeser, and others like them caught the vision of building up an academy for the Saints, I’ve been able to study my craft in the light of the gospel. I’ve been able to learn holistically, meaning “by study and also by faith.” As I’ve entered and learned, I’ve been well prepared to go forth to serve. Such is BYU’s motto and a foundational premise deeply cherished by its earliest founders.

Of the marks we leave in others’ lives, President Harold B. Lee said, “The only true record that will ever be made of our service…will be the records that we have written in the hearts and lives of those with whom we have served and labored…”

I served as a Primary teacher in the Jerusalem branch that summer I spent in the Holy Land. Those valiant seven-year-olds definitely taught me more than I taught them, and I trust that my love for the Savior and His Church made an impression in their young hearts. While my initials on the pipe will fade, the mark of a committed Primary teacher will guide them to walk in the light and seek the blessings of eternity.

Beyond the funds consecrated 165 years ago, far beyond the administration building that bears his name; the mark President Smoot made extends into the lives of all who have crossed paths with BYU. In my studies and experiences at BYU, both before and after my mission, I’ve discovered a passion for teaching and learning that will provide direction for the rest of my life—I’ve decided to make my mark as a teacher. I will influence the lives of hundreds of students who will in turn impact thousands of other lives.800px-Abraham_Owen_Smoot

Toward the end of his life, President Smoot explained to his wife, “I haven’t a piece of property that is not mortgaged. I have had to do it to raise money to keep the Brigham Young Academy going. That was given to me as a mission and I would sooner lose all than fail in fulfilling this responsibility. I love that school and I can see what it means to our youth to have spiritual as well as book learning. It must live.”

I too love that school. And it does live.