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The Power of Teaching Lecture Series and How It Began

Educational leaders share their belief of how powerful teaching can be.

Sister Dalton speaking with students after her lecture showing great enthusiasm and support for her fans.

The Power of Teaching Lecture Series is the brainchild of McKay School professor Brad Wilcox and was created to provide a synergistic learning experience for the hearer and speaker alike.

Wilcox wanted to start a lecture series to help students realize their potential as teachers and help draw more students in, using the lecture series as a recruitment tool.

“Education majors rarely have contact with the college of Education until their junior or senior years,” Wilcox said. “We were losing a lot of kids who were declaring education when they arrived but would switch to other majors because we were not reaching out to them at all. This lecture series became one way of reaching out to freshmen and sophomores (who are always invited by emails and by mentors) to attend and make them feel part of the program early on—to remind them why they chose this field in the first place.”

Wilcox described how he wants students to feel validated in a profession that receives very little praise. Although teaching is an important calling, it’s sometimes hard for students to see the impact they can make.

“Sometimes students get in the program and they realize it is hard,” Wilcox said. “They feel like saying, ‘Hey, why am I going through all this work and trouble for a job that pays so little and has so little respect?’ Power of Teaching became a way of reminding them that their efforts are worth it.”

Another powerful purpose in creating a lecture series was to bring a spiritual focus to learning and teaching. Some classes focused on the spiritual side of learning and teaching, but they got phased out. He wanted to give students a bigger reason to teach.

“I started looking at our program and saying, ‘Okay, they get a lot of whats and hows, but where do they ever get the whys?’” Wilcox said. “I wanted a place for them to be able to step back and see the bigger picture, including the spiritual side of what we are about.”

Brad Wilcox Another reason Wilcox started Power of Teaching was that he wanted to give students role models—heroes they could look up to and see at close range.

“I wanted students to connect with teachers who are full of passion and motivated and understand their purpose,” Wilcox said. “Sadly, students don’t always have those types of teachers as they [are] growing up and even as they march through their programs. I wanted them to have the chance to hear from truly great teachers about why they went into teaching and why they stayed. I wanted them to be with teachers who made a difference.”

Since its inception in 2008, the Power of Teaching Lecture Series has had presentations by powerful educational leaders. The lecturers represent administrators, authors, education professionals, Church leaders, and influential teachers from departments across BYU campus. Students have enjoyed hearing from leaders like Russell Osguthorpe, Elaine Dalton, and national school board member Mossi White. These presentations have been held in the McKay Building, which offers a more intimate setting than a large campus devotional.

The current 2014–2015 season included powerful educators who delivered inspiring lectures on how education can transform communities, individual lives, and ultimately the world. The speakers this year have been David McConkie, former first counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency; Elaine Dalton, former General Young Women’s President; and Mary Anne Prater, Dean of the McKay School of Education. To finish off the series in February, Michael Tunnell, American children’s writer, educator, and chair of the Department of Teacher Education, will address students and faculty.

Writer: Eric Sackett

Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922