Power of Teaching: Pedagogy of the Heart

Kate Johnson from the math education department gave the first Power of Teaching lecture of fall semester

BYU education students gathered in the auditorium of the McKay Building for the first Power of Teaching lecture of the 2016–2017 school year. Kate Johnson, from the Mathematics Education Department, was the speaker.

The lecture began with Johnson sharing a story about when she taught at a high school in Virginia for deaf and blind students. Some of the students came in and asked questions about what it’s like to hear certain sounds, specifically if she could hear everyone’s heartbeat. She later pondered and expounded on that experience.

“Can I physically hear the hearts beating in my classroom? Certainly not,” Johnson said. “Do I teach by seeing the hearts beating in my classroom? Always.”

The lecture focused on how teachers can understand their own heart, see their students’ hearts, and connect to the hearts of the Father and the Savior. To explain learning about one’s own heart, Johnson shared her experience of what she has learned over the years about her own: education is a powerful tool for social change, everyone is a child of God, mathematics is not a neutral content area, and understanding others and resilience. Johnson heeded students to find out what they could about their own hearts.

“I encourage you to develop a deeper understanding of those parts of who you are, and who you will become as teachers,” Johnson said.

Johnson then went on to explain how important it is for each teacher to see the hearts of their students. When a teacher puts themselves in the shoes of the students in the classroom, they can truly understand their students’ hearts.

“Pedagogy of the heart means truly seeing your students’ hearts,” Johnson said.

The final point of her lecture was connecting to the hearts of the Heavenly Father and the Savior. Johnson shared the details of her spiritual journey over the years from atheism to Mormonism through the years. Her story was touching, and the full version can be found in the video on the McKay School Vimeo page.

“Your abilities as a teacher are magnified when you remain connected to the hearts of the Father and the Savior,” said Johnson

Concluding her remarks, Johnson reminded the students about the three things that she emphasized at the beginning of her speech.

“Understand your heart, see your students’ hearts, and connect to the hearts of the Father and of the Savior,” Johnson said.

Johnson is an assistant professor in the Math Education Department at BYU. She joined the faculty in 2013. Before coming to BYU, she taught algebra, geometry, personal finance, and computer science at a high school in Virginia for deaf and blind students. Johnson signs and has expertise in differentiated instruction for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who also have other developmental disabilities. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Miami University, a master’s in education at the University of Pittsburgh, and a PhD in teacher education at Michigan State University. Professor Johnson conducts research on privilege, identity, and social justice using discourse analysis methods in high school math classrooms. She also researches school leadership and professional development of teachers.

Writer: Jordan Comstock
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922