When I think of the experiences I’ve had at BYU in the Elementary Education program, I always smile and think of my best professors who made the major so worthwhile and interesting. It was because of these professors that I made the goal to become a kind, engaging, loving teacher. The three professors I am going to mention all had qualities that the master teacher possesses: love for their students, love of their subject matter, and a personal relationship with each student.
While I was in New Zealand, studying and teaching abroad, I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. James Jacobs for my assessment and planning class. He was the reason why I held onto the three qualities of a master teacher that I mentioned above. In fact, he was the one to teach them to me. Though I cannot remember all the details about assessment (purposeful data taken about students to inform teaching practices), what I remember most from his class was that he cared about me. I knew this by the assignments he gave. One of the first assignments he gave his students was to read a talk by a former BYU professor, Gregory Clark, entitled, “Some Lessons on Faith and Fear.” This article showed me that life is not meant to be lived in fear, since fear works against faith–faith in the future, in changing for the better, and making the daily decision to live with faith and to be excited about the life ahead. This article was the theme of our whole trip in New Zealand, and it worked in all facets of my life there, whether I was jumping off a 43 meter (about 140 feet!) bridge, facing 23 sweet smiling faces as they were ready to learn from me, or conquering my fear of living in a new culture. Even today his lesson on choosing faith over fear stays with me and inspires me to live a fuller, more faith-filled life. Dr. Jacobs taught us about assessment, it is true, but he loved each of his students, loved teaching itself, and got to know me as a person. Today when I see him on campus, we both grin ear to ear, and we want to know how each other are. That to me is a fabulous master teacher.
Another influential ELED teacher in my life I have already mentioned in one of my posts titled Running Records Literacy Class, is worth mentioning again. Similar to Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Jenni Wimmer loved her subject matter (teaching literacy in grades K-3), she loved her students, and she had a personal relationship with each of them. Everyday I was excited to attend her class because I knew that I would learn something more about teaching correct reading and writing practices that would encourage my students.
I also loved hearing about Dr. Wimmer’s life and telling her about mine. I knew that deep down she was interested in what I wanted to teach, how my application for New Zealand was going (I took her class the semester before I left for New Zealand), and what I was going to do on the weekend. My favorite memories of her are on Wednesdays, the last time we saw each other for the week, when she flashed her beautiful smile and told us to enjoy the weekend and make it fabulous. I loved when she said that word, “fabulous,” especially about children when succeeded. Her optimism and love for me inspired me to show the same love and care for my students and to also love my subject matter. I never met another teacher so excited about literacy, and it made me so excited to teach it as well. Enthusiasm is contagious. Though it has been a year since I took her class, I can still email her and ask her advice about teaching literacy and she replies and wants to know how teaching is going and what I am doing now. I’ll always be glad I took ELED 333: Literacy in the Primary Grades, from her and came to know her love for students and her subject.
Finally, I will never forget my professor for Health 361: Health in the Elementary Classroom, Dr. Emily MacIntyre. Dr. Emily MacIntyre was similar to Dr. Wimmer and Dr. Jacobs–evidenced by demonstrating the three qualities of a master teacher. On the first day of class she told us her goal was to know all of 85 of our names before the end of the short 7-weeks we would spend together; and to my amazement, she met it. Instead of just standing up front and lecturing and never getting to know any of us, Dr. MacIntyre went above and beyond to learn about who each of us were as people. It didn’t matter if our ideas were simple or in contrast to hers, she still listened attentively and used our ideas in her curriculum. I’ll never forget her personal relationship with me. One day she overheard me sharing some exciting news with a close friend and she told me how happy she was for me. This teacher showed me that even with limited amount of time, lives can still be touched, and love can be shown.
I am sure that the message you are getting from this blog post is that the best teachers–the master teachers–from the ELED program are those who exhibit three important qualities: they loved their students, they loved their subject matter, and they had a personal relationship with their students. Their examples are a guide for me now that I am teaching. Forever, they will be my favorite ELED professors.
Now I’d like to ask you, my audience, who are some of your favorite major professors? How have they inspired you?