An overwhelming start in her education career almost made her quit teaching, but McKay School alumna Jacqueline Kirkman White now feels that education is an amazing career to be in and sees the value teachers bring to society.
“The older I get, [the more] I know how valuable teachers are to society and I really appreciate their efforts,” White said. “Most teachers truly give their all to their students, sacrificing much in order to do so.”
White graduated from the McKay School of Education in elementary education in 1980. Right after graduation, she worked in a private preschool/kindergarten, but felt that she wasn’t meant to be a teacher.
White then felt inspired to serve a mission and was assigned to serve in the Venezuela Caracas Mission from 1982 to 1984. She fell in love with the Latino people and culture, and they both heavily influenced her life upon returning home to the United States.
When she returned, White originally planned to teach for only one more year in order to please her mother, but she never left the classroom. White has worked throughout the southern California area in places such as Palmdale and inner-city Los Angeles. She taught transitional kindergarten through second grade.
“I love seeing children when they love learning and when they love coming to school,” White said. “During my first year of teaching, I often heard the students say, ‘You are the best teacher.’ I took it personally. Now I know that whenever I hear that from students, it means that they love what they learned that day.”
White’s knowledge of and fluency in the Spanish language has also proven beneficial in her career and blessed the lives of those she’s associated with. She’s taught in dual immersion programs and believes it is important to be bilingual in this era. White earned her master’s degree in bilingual education from California State University Dominguez Hills.
“I still remember my very first day at Parmelee Elementary School. A mother came up to me and said, ‘You speaka Español?’ When I said, ‘Si,’ she had a huge grin on her face!”
White currently teaches at the transitional kindergarten level, which is a relatively new program in California and focuses on social-emotional learning as well as letters, sounds, and numbers prior to children entering kindergarten the following year. White and her husband, Robert, also serve as missionaries for the BYU–Idaho Pathway program, which helps adults start or return to college. White’s husband is a retired math teacher and they both teach students from ages 18 to 30.
While the path of education has been full of hard work, persistence, and patience, White truly loves her career as a teacher and believes in choosing a career that you love.
“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t trade it,” White said. “I love what I do and would do it all over again, knowing what I know. It is worth the hard work knowing that I have made a huge difference in so many lives, knowing that I have helped so many prepare for life and to perhaps enjoy learning, [and] knowing that school can be amazing!”
White’s advice to future educators is simple: to be successful, you need to be a workhorse. The work, effort, and love devoted to the students will carry the educators through the hard days and will be full of wonderful moments.
White continues to teach and lives in Lancaster, California, with her husband.
May 5, 2016
Written by: Megan Bahr
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562