McKay School Grads: The Unexpected Teaching Experience

From students to teachers overnight

When Elizabeth Olsen and Kalie Peck chose to study elementary education, they knew that one day they would have classrooms of their own. What they didn’t know was that day would arrive sooner than they had ever anticipated. Overnight, these two girls went from being students to teachers when their practicum mentor suddenly became ill.

Getting to BYU

Elizabeth Olsen

For Peck, the decision to attend BYU was an easy one. From a young age she knew that she wanted to attend Brigham Young University, and that decision was reconfirmed when she realized she would be able to attend the university at the same time as her older brother.

Olsen, on the other hand, never imagined that she would attend BYU—in fact, it was the last school on her list. But after a year of attending BYU–Hawaii, she made the decision to transfer schools. Olsen has never regretted her decision to attend BYU, and is happy that she ultimately ended up in Provo.

Picking Elementary Education

Both Peck and Olsen looked into pursuing other career options before choosing elementary education. Olsen said that she always knew that she wanted to work with children, but that she also needed a job that was anything but monotonous. Luckily, she believes that she found the perfect fit with elementary education.

“Everyday you have the same kids and the same class, but it’s still a whole new day, everyday—definitely a variety; [you] never know what will happen,” said Olsen.

Kalie Peck

Peck made the decision to be a teacher before her college career began. She spent time exploring the career fields of nursing and elementary education while in high school. Ultimately, she decided that she was passionate about teaching, and because her mentors at BYU have helped reinforce her decision, she has never looked back.

Becoming Teachers

As part of the elementary education program at BYU, Olsen and Peck were able to participate in a practicum, which allowed them to spend four weeks in a classroom, gradually taking on more responsibility. A week into their practicum experience, they received a call from the teacher they had been working with. Due to an unexpected illness, she would be absent from the classroom for the next two weeks. Peck and Olsen suddenly became the lead teachers for a class of 37 sixth-grade students, responsible for teaching some of the most difficult units of the year.

Initially, when faced with this new responsibility, the BYU students were intimidated.

These students had never had a classroom of their own.

Luckily, they were not left alone during this experience. The McKay School’s elementary education program is set up so that practicum students have clinical faculty advisors that work directly with the students and the teachers. The elementary school provided a substitute teacher that was present in the classroom each day and a facilitator who was in contact on an almost daily basis. They also received support from their professors on campus, who were aware of their situation and believed that they were prepared to handle the classroom.

“The preparation that the students have through their management and their other supportive classes here on campus prepares them so that when they have an opportunity to be with students, they already have some skills,” said their professor, Lilly Taylor.

After the shock wore off, Olsen and Peck realized the uniqueness of the opportunity they’d been given. It was time for all of their prior classwork to come into play as they experienced what the rest of their teaching careers would be like.

“It was an exciting opportunity to just teach and to see if I could [teach],” said Peck.

For the next two weeks, the two students prepared lessons, gave instruction, and provided leadership for their new sixth-grade class. They were proud to say they took the class on a field trip to the planetarium without losing a single student!

Olsen and Peck successfully managed their time as teachers and provided excellent instruction to the students. Both future teachers learned valuable lessons and developed new skills from their unexpected hands-on learning experience.

“I learned [to not] be afraid to try new things [I’m] uncomfortable with. I wasn’t super comfortable just taking over that class, but because of it, [I’m] more confident in my teaching,” Olsen said.

Looking Forward

Following graduation this April, both Olsen and Peck will start full-time teaching positions. Olsen will be teaching fifth grade at Suncrest Elementary in Orem, Utah. Peck has received an offer at Reese Elementary in Spanish Fork, Utah, and will be teaching third grade. Both are excited to have their own classrooms and can’t wait for school to start.

Writer: Camilla Nielsen

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922