Educators were edified and uplifted in this year’s Latter-day Saints Educators Association Conference held in the BYU Hinckley Center. The conference was for all Latter-day Saint educators, including seminary and institute teachers as well as teachers in church auxiliaries, primary and secondary school teachers, and those teaching at the university level. Each keynote and breakout session was focused on the theme, “Feed the Shepherds, Lead the Sheep.”
The conference began with Brad Wilcox, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU and former member of the Sunday School general board. He talked about the unique attributes of Latter-day Saint educators and said, “We see education differently because we see it through an eternal perspective. Education is not just a hoop to jump through to get a job. It is meant to enrich lives.”
He went on to explain that although teachers are not permitted to teach gospel principles in most classrooms, they still have the understanding that the Spirit is the true teacher. Latter-day Saint educators understand that “while some may say the light has ‘gone on’ when a student understands a concept, it is really the light [of the Spirit] entering in.”
The conference also had breakout sessions where conference attendees learned from successful educators. Breakout sessions included different messages on how to magnify the potential of students and educators.
For example, one particularly inspiring breakout session was taught by Dr. Barbara Hong who emigrated from Singapore in her late teens. She came from a home with an alcoholic dad and an uneducated mother. Before she was born, her mother tried to abort her multiple times because she didn’t want Hong to come into the broken world. Despite the abortion attempts, Hong was born healthy and strong. However, her entire childhood she was told that because of the failed abortions, she had a weakened brain that would explode if she thought too hard.
Hong miraculously found the Church at a young age and started attending because she felt bad that her Sunday School teachers had no one to teach. In high school, she started Seminary and her teacher showed her she was capable of succeeding. Because of her experience in Seminary, Hong fell in love with learning and eventually received a PhD from Columbia University in Special Education. She is now an associate professor at BYU–Hawaii. She spoke about her experiences failing over and over again, but through all of those, she learned that, “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” She encouraged educators to learn from their failures and continue to press forward just as she did.
In the afternoon, Ardeth Kapp, former general president of Young Women, gave an inspiring message about the impact that education has on generations. She asked the audience to think about mothers and how much maternal figures care about the success of their children. Then, Kapp invited the audience to expand their perspective and think about the generations of people before and after them who are counting on them to succeed. She teased, “Peer pressure is nothing compared to ancestor pressure!” She went on to remind the audience to not be “a weak link in an eternal chain.”
Clark B. Gilbert, former president of BYU–Idaho and the first president of BYU–Pathway Worldwide, closed the conference by giving a presentation about the BYU–Pathway Worldwide program. This program is an online curriculum that is designed to provide an education that is useful for members of the Church all around the world. The program is active in 517 locations worldwide. Gilbert explained that more than 60 percent of members in the United States alone do not have bachelor’s degrees. One of the biggest constraints preventing these people from receiving an education is fear. Gilbert said, “The goal of Pathway is to unlock hope and confidence for education by building spiritual and academic skills.”
Throughout the conference, there was a unified strength and bond as Latter-day Saint educators were enlightened together. Mark your calendars for next year’s conference on June 28, 2019.
Writer: Ashley Young
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562