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.
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.
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.
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.