Alumni Happenings

Magazine Issue
Fall 2019


Education Is an Eternal Field of Study 

Heather Beatie, Class of 1980 

When Heather Smith Beatie's college counselor asked her if she had consid­ered teaching in special education, Beatie wasn't interested. "God probably had a good chuckle right then," said Beatie. "I have spent the last 26 years teaching my autistic daughter." 

Heather Smith Beatie received her bachelor's degree in elementary edu­cation from the McKay School in 1980. After graduation, Beatie had teaching opportunities around the world: as a teacher in a bilingual classroom in California, as a missionary in Uruguay, and as an English and math teacher at a boarding school in Switzerland. During that time she also received her master's degree in library science from BYU. 

In 1990, Beatie had her first child and chose to stay at home to raise her children. At the age of two, her daughter Melissa was diagnosed with autism. "My whole approach to my daughter's diagnosis is the result of my educational background," said Beatie. 

Determined to learn everything she could about autism, Beatie attended numerous meetings and kept up on any literature she could find. She care­fully noted Melissa's achievements and setbacks, logging all documents about her health and education. Her research now fills six notebooks, which she shares with those who ask her about autism. 

Melissa now lives at home, although she lived in a group home for seven years, receiving academic training and self-help skills development. 

"Education is the one field of study that is truly eternal," Beatie said. "People will learn throughout the eter­nities, so there will always be a need for teachers." 

"My whole approach to my daughter's diagnosis is the result of my educational background." -Heather Beatie

Pioneering Coding Education at the Elementary Level 

McKay Perkins, Class of 2011, 2018 

Educational technology has always been McKay Perkins's passion, and he has found a way to bring it into the classroom. 

Perkins graduated from BYU in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. After teaching for five years, he returned to BYU to pursue a master's degree in instructional psychology and technology. He worked as a research assistant for Peter Rich, a professor of instructional psychology and technol­ogy. Under Rich's direction, Perkins taught elementary teachers and stu­dents how to code in their classrooms. 

"I think people are starting to realize that coding is becoming a basic literacy." -McKay Perkins

While assisting Rich, Perkins was introduced to the nonprofit organiza­tion BootUp. He now works for BootUp, training teachers and students to code at an elementary level. Perkins uses a program that teaches children to code using a color-coded block system devel­oped by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Perkins said that having a primary understanding of coding is a key part of almost every job and is a useful skill that should be taught from a young age. "I think people are starting to realize that coding is becoming a basic literacy, even though every kid isn't going to grow up to be a coder," he said. "Every job you can have is affected by technology and programming, and every job needs somebody to code for them." 

For future educators, Perkins's advice is to think more about how to help students learn effectively. Perkins remarked, "We are too afraid to take creative risks in education and step into the unknown. Remember that we are in the art of teaching young, excited, and creative minds." 

Active Learning 

Hannah Wold, Class of 2015, 2019 

Children's reading fluency scores are sig­nificantly improved with physical activ­ity. This finding comes from a study by Hannah Wold, a 2019 graduate of BYU's teacher education master's program and a current second-grade teacher. 

Through her research, Wold has concluded that the children she worked with who read after doing acute bouts of physical activity had considerably higher reading scores in the areas of words-per-minute reading, accuracy, and the ability to remember and retell the story they had just read. 

"It was interesting," said Wold, "because the students would be sit­ting out of breath but were still able to read. Their retention and accuracy were both substantially improved. It was fascinating to see and to find evidence that physical activity does make a difference." 

Wold researched exclusively with Title I schools, in which 50 percent or more of the students are on free or reduced lunch. She found this note­worthy because the students who are get­ting the most impact out of her research are the students with the greatest risk of not graduating from high school. 

Wold hopes to publish her research. She also hopes that her findings will add to the body of knowledge on the con­nection between physical activity and reading effectiveness. Her chair, David Barney, an associate professor of teacher education, said, "Hannah's research is truly groundbreaking. No one has ever been able to create a study that truly links physical activity to reading fluency." 

Wold wants to continue helping stu­dents improve their skills in the class­room-and not just for the better scores. "It is really about how they can love learning and be lifelong learners," she said. "And within that realm, the whole goal of BYU is 'Enter to learn; go forth to serve.' I feel that in my classroom, I can serve my students." 

"It was fascinating to see and to find evidence that physical activity does make a difference." -Hannah Wold