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The Power of Teaching: Mary Anne Prater

In presenting her Power of Teaching lecture, “Passion for Teaching: From Primary to Professor,” Dean Mary Anne Prater of the McKay School of Education spoke about obstacles as blessings in disguise and the importance of relying on the Spirit in everything a teacher does.

She recalled her first venture into teaching as a young woman—a Primary class of three- and four-year-olds in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was a valuable learning, as well as teaching, experience. “They believed everything I said,” Prater said. “I had to be really careful.”

Prater graduated with a bachelor of music from the University of Utah, but found it difficult to find work teaching music in Utah. At the time, this seemed like a significant roadblock, but looking back she views it as a blessing. She returned to school and earned a master’s degree in special education, and later a PhD.

Power of Teaching-Dean Prater Feb 2015

As Prater began teaching as a professor, she realized that gospel principles could influence teachers at any level. “It wasn’t until I became a professor that I realized the importance of the Spirit in all things,” Prater said.

Teaching in the Church helped prepare Prater to adapt to any situation. She spoke of two valuable lessons she had learned. First, she learned to be prepared for whoever might show up in class. Serving as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in a high tourism area in Hawaii, she often had a class full of visitors she had never seen before. Not knowing what to expect from such a group, she prepared for any eventuality.

Second, she learned to rely on her testimony. She recalled an experience when a fellow instructor asked if she had a testimony. After overcoming the shock of the question, she answered that she absolutely did. The friend told her that if she followed her testimony, she wouldn’t need to rely as much as she did on teaching materials. Her confidence grew as she relied on the Spirit and her testimony. She knew that the Spirit would guide her to teach what was most important—what each class needed to hear.

As parting advice to the future teachers in the audience, she reminded them, “Educate with an eternal perspective. You can’t say that in schools, but you know [it’s true] and you can teach them that way.”