“I love helping students grow and develop, whether in classes, as an advisor, or behind the scenes developing curriculum or running a program,” said McKay School alumnus Brent Wilson (’76, ’82).
Since graduating from BYU with his bachelor’s degree in 1976 and then returning to complete a doctorate in 1982, Wilson has been doing just that. He has been working in the field of instructional design and has been teaching at the University of Colorado Denver for over 20 years.
“Working as a professor, it’s enormously satisfying collaborating with students doing research on a needed problem. It’s a kind of apprenticeship working closely with students on applied research,” explains Wilson.
Throughout his adult life, Wilson has been focused on supporting those trying to create outstanding instruction. In addition, he focuses on supporting teachers, designers, and students who are trying to make good use of educational tools and resources.
One of the biggest emphases in educational instruction today is how to best incorporate technology to aid in learning. Wilson is currently working with a team that is exploring an experience-based approach to technology and education.
However, the increased use of technology in the classroom isn’t the only thing changing. Wilson shared that although heart and soul have always been important in teaching there is a need for greater emphasis on individual student’s learning.
“Teachers today must address the increasing inequities of our society. It’s not enough to just teach your subject matter. We think more about who’s learning and who’s not, and reach out to those struggling or challenged in some way,” he shared. “So, in some ways, everyone is a special-needs teacher, reaching out and discerning needs and helping students overcome challenges.”
Wilson advised that if you are interested in a career in teaching or education, treat it like a serious decision and engage in “due diligence.”
“Research it like crazy—talk to people, read up, search the web. Spend time in the closest school around you, see what goes on and talk to people there,” he counseled.
He continued by saying that, if it all possible, students should get direct practice because that will tell you a lot about teaching that you can’t get anywhere else. He recommended volunteering in a classroom, helping on a field trip, or getting a substitute teaching license.
About his time at BYU, Wilson said he wishes he could spend a sabbatical returning as a student to go to lectures and exhibits, and soak it all in again. However, he wanted to remind students that BYU is just the beginning.
“Time at BYU is formative, but our whole lives are a continuing adventure,” Wilson said.
Wilson returned to the McKay School during Homecoming week as the alumni achievement lecturer. He shared a message about riding the edge of the herd.
He explained that you should ride the edge of the herd because if you ride in the middle you’re lost among the masses. If you ride behind the herd you’re just trailing at the back not able to direct where the herd is going. However, from the edge of the herd, you can influence the direction the herd is moving.
Wilson compared this to being on the edge of your field. While on the edge you can avoid being consumed by groupthink and can look for ways to make changes for the better.
He closed his lecture by suggesting that you find a home in the area of your interests. But within that home, you should never stop exploring new ideas that can better help students learn and grow.
Writer: Morgan Berry
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562