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Retiree Continues to Teach Thanks to McKay School

This semester the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations put together its 20th cohort of the Leadership Preparation Program. LPP is a one-year program granting students a Master of Education degree and eligibility for Utah Administrative Licensure. The LPP is a cooperative effort between BYU and participating Utah school districts, allowing participants to study educational leadership. "They're training to be administrators," said Denis Poulsen, an adjunct faculty member at the EDLF department as well as an intern mentor.

Working 17 years for the Provo School District and 15 years with the Nebo School District, Poulsen has done everything from teaching junior high and high school students to being an assistant principal at the junior high and high school level. He's also been a high school principal and a superintendent. "I've seen the gamut," he said.

Poulsen has been sharing his 32 years worth of experience in education by being a field supervisor to LPP interns since 1999 -- the year he retired from his career in public education. "I enjoy being out in the schools and still having a feel for what's going on in the schools," he said. "I don't think a person can retire and fish and golf all the time. I still have fun [working in education]."

Each LPP intern spends 12 weeks at an elementary school, 12 weeks at a junior high, and another 12 weeks at a high school. They work in at least two school districts during that time. Interns work with the principals at their respective schools Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays they're on BYU campus from 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

"They're basically assistant principals," Poulsen said. "They assume whatever roles their principals want them to. All of these interns have been teachers in the classroom." Poulsen added that the interns' individual experience as teachers ranges from four to 20 years.

Poulsen's weekly Wednesday seminars give the students a chance to discuss topics they've encountered in their schools. "We talk about what's going on, their experiences, and how well things are going," Poulsen said. He also visits each intern at their schools. "I check with their mentors to see if things are going okay, or if there are things we need to be doing on our end," he explained.

While Poulsen admits the intensity of the LPP -- as well as the financial cost -- makes it tough to handle at times, he says the strength of the program is in the internship. "They're out in the field going through the day-to-day operations and being given the responsibilities of an assistant principal," Poulsen said. "They have to meet parents and give workshops. They have to deal with the police on occasion. They've seen lawsuits and gang busts. They've dealt with suicides. There isn't anything they haven't seen or had to deal with."

All of these experiences, Poulsen believes, are experiences a textbook can't provide. "That's why the internship is so valuable," he says. "A few hours going through those things teaches you so much more than reading about it out of a chapter."

LPP has received state and national recognition, and over 90% of its graduates currently hold administrative positions. To find out more visit the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations homepage.