For Brent Thorne, serving a CES mission with his eternal companion was an accumulating experience to a long career in education.“Combining years of education experience and training with teaching gospel principles and concepts not only brought personal rewards, but also strengthened our marriage and testimonies. We highly recommend LDS teachers and administrators consider a mission or two during their retirement years,” Thorne said.
Thorne is a McKay School alumnus who received his MEd in educational leadership from BYU’s School of Education in 1979 and a PhD from the University of Connecticut in 1984. He retired in 2010 after 42 years in public education in Utah, serving the last 25 years as a school superintendent in the North Sanpete and Sevier School Districts.
Thorne’s most recent educational adventure was a CES mission in Tarawa, Kiribati, which is located in the South Pacific near the equator and the International Date Line. In Kiribati, Thorne and his wife, Janis, instructed teachers at Moroni High School as part of the International Teacher Education Program (ITEP). They served as adjunct faculty for BYU Hawaii and provided instruction to help teachers at the LDS school obtain their degree and license.
“The opportunity of living in a different culture and learning from the I-Kiribati people was a wonderful adventure, which we will always treasure,” Thorne said. “We loved being ITEP missionaries serving in the Pacific; it warmed not only our hearts but also our bodies. At the end of each principals’ meeting and ITEP course we taught, we ended by saying, ‘Go forth and do good things.’”
Below are some of Thorne’s thoughts on teaching in the different capacities in which he has been involved.
1. Thoughts on teaching as a principal.
“The principal should set a genuine example by improving his or her own learning and serving as an effective teacher.”
- Use formal and informal data to better understand the learning needs of students.
- Work to provide optimal conditions for learning.
- Be aware of opportunities for one-on-one teaching with students, staff, parents, and patrons.
- Be a self-directed learner by participating in learning opportunities.
2. Thoughts on teaching as a superintendent.
“Teaching is an essential role of a school superintendent. Always keep in mind that we as educators are in the learning business. Student learning must remain the top priority of the district.”
- Teach principals through one-on-one observations, during principals’ meetings, and in other professional development venues.
- Use formal and informal meetings with staff members to provide instructional episodes.
- Meet with patrons in community groups to effectively communicate messages.
- Help state and, occasionally, federal legislative representatives understand specific education needs at the state and local level by teaching or lobbying for necessary funding.
- Inform legislators about the impact proposed legislation may have on students and the community.
- Work with the board of education, parents, teachers, and other education groups to create a long-term district vision with specific steps to implement the vision.
- Work with the media, the business community, and individuals to further your goals.
3. Thoughts on teaching as an instructor to teachers in Tarawa.
“Providing instruction to the high school teachers at Moroni High School in Tarawa was a great experience. The entire faculty was I-Kiribati, and they all were at various levels of education and experience. However, they had one thing in common: They loved the students they taught and were eager to learn.”
- Realize that when teaching adults, numerous opportunities are available for the class participants to apply the learning immediately in their classrooms.
- Recognize that these teachers put in a full day’s work themselves prior to taking the education courses.
- Model good teaching.
- Provide a variety of instructional activities to maintain a high level of interest.
“Identifying the learning needs of those you work with and then helping facilitate learning is similar with whatever audience you assist, whether it is in public or church education settings. Regardless of the setting, you will have eager as well as reluctant learners. Meeting the needs of all learners continues to be challenging as well as rewarding. Attempting to teach as the Savior taught is a worthy goal, but it certainly stretches us as teachers.”