In previous years, the David O. McKay School of Education has held two graduations per year. This year, BYU has changed that policy to have one annual graduation. On April 25, 2019, 463 students graduated from the McKay school with 22 receiving doctoral degrees, 14 receiving educational specialist degrees, 75 receiving master’s degrees, and the remaining receiving baccalaureate degrees.
Before the diplomas were awarded, speakers addressed the audience. While two of the speakers were students selected to represent their class, the last speaker was an alumnus of the McKay School. Samantha Muñoz, an early childhood education graduate, spoke first.
To begin her speech, Muñoz told a story about a gift she received from a second-grade class as she finished her student teaching. The gift was a book modeled after The Important Book, a children’s picture book. In The Important Book, a variety of ordinary objects are introduced by stating one characteristic which is fundamental to that object. As Muñoz read through the book, she pondered what the fundamental characteristics of a teacher would be.
“The important thing about teachers is they love those they teach. They understand and teach content well, use developmentally appropriate practices to guide instructional decisions, regularly review assessment data, and strive daily to improve their teaching,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz referred to Christ as the perfect example of teaching because his pattern of teaching was ministering one by one.
“As Jesus Christ is the ultimate teacher, this is a pattern we should emulate. Teachers who love those they teach develop relationships with students, one by one. Teachers who love those they teach devote specific time, plan specific learning activities, and provide specific feedback to teach to the one. Just as the Savior knows and loves each of the Father’s children, teachers also must know and love each of their students one by one,” said Muñoz.
Muñoz was followed by graduate Cassy Lewis, who earned a master’s in educational leadership. Lewis’ speech emphasized the importance of assisting others and helping them improve.
“As future leaders and teachers, we need to not be quick to assume or judge others. We need to have empathy and listen to understand.” Lewis explained. “Basically, we need to assume goodwill in all those that we work with, and then start from a place of caring to help each other improve. As we start from a place of trust and build relationships, we can then show others that we are here to support them through any needed changes.”
Lewis talked about The Multiplier Effect, a book she read in one of her classes. The book’s focus was on finding and highlighting the talents of others. Lewis said it sounds familiar to us because this is how we lead in the gospel.
She stated, “It’s leading as Christ led. It’s being a servant leader—one who wants others to shine and improve—more than wanting the spotlight on themselves.”
Lewis invited the audience to seek opportunities to become a servant leader. “I hope and pray that we will look for opportunities to build and lift those around us, to encourage and support others on their journey. To both find ourselves, and lose ourselves, in encouraging and inspiring those around us.”
After Lewis’ remarks, the graduates and the audience were honored to hear from Rick Nielsen, superintendent of Nebo School District and McKay School alumnus.
Nielsen explained that the role of a teacher was evident in Jesus Christ’s ministry and that as followers of Christ we are also teachers. He remarked, “Whether you teach in your family, a school or church classroom, in community gatherings, or through your daily acts and example—going forward from today, you are a teacher!”
The focus of Nielsen’s speech was how to “teach diligently” in various teaching roles. He outlined five tools teachers could use each day in order to teach diligently: positive energy, professionalism, customer service, taking initiative, and perseverance.
Nielsen concluded his speech by sharing a story about why he chose to become a teacher and what motivates people to teach. “We choose to be teachers because we have the brilliance to know where our passions lie, the intelligence to recognize the influence of a teacher, and the genius to use our talents to make that difference.”
Writer: Cameron Hussein
Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922