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Advice from Graduates to Alumni

Alumni to Alumni

Advice to Graduates from Alumni

Good, effective mentors are those who use their life experiences to benefit others. There are many great mentors associated with BYU. Some are professors, others include alumni who keep in touch with the university and are willing to share their knowledge and experiences in areas such as teaching or administration with those who are graduating in those areas. We thank the many alumni who have submitted their advice, suggestions, and experiences to the newest BYU David O. McKay School of Education alumni. We hope that we all will benefit and learn from each other.

Barbara Raymond, Class of 1977, Elementary Educationquote

Fifth-Grade Teacher, Idaho

Thanks for this opportunity to share thoughts on something I love dearly—TEACHING! On my desk sits my lesson plan book with the thought on the front, “The future of the world is in my classroom today,” by Ivan Welton Fitzwater. As teachers, we have the opportunity and blessing of unlocking the door of potential in each student we come in contact with, both in our classroom and in the school where we teach. Every day!!! Enjoy the journey of that process! To say teaching is rewarding is an understatement. It is life changing for the student and the teacher. There truly is something new to love and embrace each day in the classroom. Love what you do and who you do it for!!! 

quote 2Aubrey Rowan, Class of 2015, Communication Disorders

Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant, California

I feel that throughout my undergraduate career in this major, my only option after graduation was to receive a master’s degree in either speech-language pathology or audiology. So, when I applied to graduate school and did not get accepted, I was pretty discouraged and wondered what I was going to do with my degree. Little did I know that there is an entire world of schools, districts, and clinics looking for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders! I learned about a speech-language technician summer boot camp (contact USOE if you are in Utah) that helped to get my certification to be an assistant to a speech-language pathologist for the upcoming school year. I was hired full time as a speech-language technician by a school district, worked on a teacher’s contract (salary and benefits), and got to work under a speech-language pathologist providing speech therapy to students! It was great. I worked with students with severe disabilities and some who just needed help with articulation. The school districts were great in helping me stay certified in the state and gave me all the support and training I needed. My husband and I recently moved to Los Angeles and I was able to apply for a license as a speech-language pathologist assistant (same as a technician, just a different name for a different state) and am working full time here. They are always in need of SLPs/SLTs/SLPAs and the work is wonderful.

I just thought I would share this information in case anyone could use it who is about to become part of our alumni, or if someone is an alumnus and didn’t know about these opportunities!

Breanna Asbell Gibby, Class of 2015, Elementary Educationquote 3

Teacher, Virginia

When you go out and get a job, some may try to change you––the principal, teachers, parents, and even students. Be flexible and open to new ideas, but don’t give up everything you learned at BYU. You received one of the best educations that exists. Have confidence and don’t be afraid to try out your own ideas, even if others don’t agree with you. I wish I had been given this advice throughout my first year of teaching. 

quote 4Darren Hardy, Class of 1995, Psychology; 2000, School Counseling Psychology

District Psychologist, California

Plan with flexibility in mind. It is better to overplan and have activities ready a week in advance so that you can be flexible in your delivery, than it is to wing it day after day. 

quote 5Debbie Wahlin, Class of 1982, Secondary Education

Special Education, Utah

Learn from every student you teach and every teacher you meet. Learn what works and what you can leave behind. Learn that everyone has a story, including you. Learn theirs and share yours. Learn that in those difficult times, when you feel like you’re doing nothing right and everything wrong, there’s always a silver lining: find it. Learn that the first years are rough, but so are the last, because like a good book, it’s difficult to tuck away something that has been so wonderful. 

quote 6Doug Pusey, Class of 1980, Earth Science Teaching; 1996, Master’s in Educational Leadership

Science Educator, Utah

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Have fun teaching
  • Hang with positive thinkers
  • Engage student’s minds rather than “disciplining and managing” them

Elaine Lowder, Class of 1954, Elementary Educationquote 7

Teacher, California

Now that you have graduated, be proud of your degree. Make the most of every opportunity to mention BYU because it carries a name that is recognized throughout the country. Be happy and be proud that you have accomplished your goal. My goal was to teach and I had the opportunity to do that while my husband was in the service. It is a blessing to have a degree and it will always be recognized during your lifetime. 

quote 8Lori Steadman, Class of 1991, Elementary Education/Early Childhood Education

Kindergarten Teacher, Colorado

My best advice is to keep your education current. Especially in teaching, you never know when you may want to use your skills again. It takes a little effort to keep your teaching license current even when not teaching, but it is very difficult to renew a lapsed teaching license. Take classes every once in a while. Volunteer in your field of study or talk with other professionals regularly. One of my favorite recent classes was when I attended an English as a Second Language (ESL) conference at BYU the week my daughter was attending Especially for Youth (EFY). Since I teach in Colorado, it was fun and a great experience for me to see what was happening at BYU since I graduated. I got my master’s degree at University of Colorado Boulder, so it had been a long time since I had been back! 

quote 9Lynnette Risk, Class of 1989, Elementary Education

Fifth-Grade Teacher, Washington State

After teaching kindergarten for a few years, I spent about 18 years out of the career field while raising my four boys. I slowly worked my way back into teaching as my boys became more independent or left home. The best thing I did was start out as a substitute around my entire district. I learned more from the variety of teachers I worked for than anything I ever learned in a classroom alone. I encountered many different management styles, room setups, materials organization, approaches to the curriculum, time management, the use of small groups, etc. I had a notebook full of ideas, both good and ‘not my style’ items. I solidified my own management style and developed confidence and a realistic repertoire of skills. I think any new graduate would truly benefit from a year of substitute teaching. It was the best thing I ever did!

quote 10Matthew Winsor, Class of 1994, Mathematics Education 

Associate Professor, Illinois State University

To recent graduates going into the teaching profession:

In 2 Nephi 2:11 it says that there is opposition in all things. As you start to teach, you will find that opposition is your constant companion. Your lessons do not work as planned. Students are acting up. You forgot to make the copies. Your old car dies on the way to work. You stay up way too late grading student work. And so on. . . . You may be tempted to say, “Well, teaching must not be for me.” To those of you who say this, I say keep at it! Heavenly Father needs qualified, devoted teachers to help teach His children truth and prepare them for their missions in life. If you will rely on Heavenly Father, teaching will get easier. The second year is easier than the first year of teaching and the third year of teaching is much easier than the first or second year. As you grow in your profession, you will start to see Heavenly Father’s children progress in the grand plan of happiness, which will bring you joy. I know this! There is nothing better than seeing a student who thought they could not learn be able to succeed in a challenging task. Hang in there! You can do it!

quote 11

Paul K. Edmunds, Class of 1963, Spanish with a Minor in Business; 1965, Master’s in Counseling and Guidance; 1970, PhD (ASU) in Educational Administration


My mentoring advice to students is to remember the following:

Three key characteristics that most wealthy people possess:


quote 12and . . . 

Without economic freedom, we ultimately lose all other freedoms.

Pearl Hicks, Class of 1996, Elementary Education

Teacher, Idaho

I loved the 27 years that I was able to teach and serve our children. I love my profession and know that when our love is evident to our students, great things happen.

Rebecca Butters, Class of 1992, Special Education Teacherquote 13

Seventh-Grade Teacher, Massachusetts

The advice I would give to graduates is to find someone to talk to who is an experienced teacher/retired teacher and who can be your sounding board. There are days you’ll love your job and want to talk about the joys of teaching, and other days, the disappointment of not getting through to a student. You need to be able to talk to someone who has time to listen.

Also, be sure to have a life outside of school. It’s easy to get caught up in the many duties of a teacher and “live” there or take so many things home that you never relax. Breathe! Leave room for lunch and talk to adults! 

Not every lesson will be perfect and not every student will love you, sorry! “Steal” as many lessons and ideas from other people until you figure out your style and how you want to do things. 

And—it’s okay to say, “Oops, teacher mistake!”

quote 13Robert Devine, Class of 1980, French Teaching

School Administrator, Idaho

As a high school principal with 27 years of administrative experience, I meet too many graduates who don’t practice interviewing, who don’t make the most of substituting opportunities, who don’t find out about certain programs that their potential employer wants a background in, or who don’t strategically select references who are articulate in being able to paint a comprehensive picture of the candidate’s strengths and abilities.

David Squires, Class of 1958, History Education; 1974, Master of Education quote 14

Retired BYU Faculty, Utah

The following is advice to graduates in the field of education.

Most teachers emphasize the obvious. The obvious is a foundation but brainstorming will transform the obvious with unique suggestions.

Educators should design lesson plans based upon performance and production. This moves learning beyond the obvious.

Plan lessons that involve students at all times. Extended thinking is a model where students consult in small groups but any individual might be on stage in the classroom at any time. 

Students must be teachers as well as students. Information and skills should be recycled during learning sessions.

The Blank Journalhas a seven-page format. It emphasizes one topic but each page uses a diverse talent such as poetry, artistic features, conversations, etc.

Individualized units of instruction allow each student to explore, examine, and express personal insight.