Although the last year has been challenging for many students in the David O. McKay School of Education, their effort and grit were celebrated at graduation on April 22, 2021. Students of the McKay School earned 314 bachelor’s degrees and 119 master’s or doctoral degrees. An additional 170 secondary education degrees are being awarded in partner programs across campus.
Mary Anne Prater, dean of the McKay School, expressed her congratulations to the graduates and applauded their demonstration of “flexibility, determination, and resiliency” as they completed their degrees in a virtual setting.
Prater quoted President Russell M. Nelson’s message from his most recent general conference talk that cites the opportunities for unity and growth that the pandemic has provided. President Nelson implored members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reach out to one another: “You do not need to have a reason or a message or business to transact . . . [because] each precious child of God needs to know that he or she is not alone!” Prater added that, although the convocation is virtual this year, graduates are not alone in celebrating their achievements.
Following the dean, two students addressed their fellow graduates.
Miriam Flinders Parker, a physical education teaching and coaching major and school health education minor, spoke first.
Parker shared her love of teachers in her life and what their nurture and care has done for her. She also expressed her excitement and joy at becoming a teacher. She spoke about how exciting it is to have “the opportunity to directly influence the rising generation.”
While reflecting on her time at BYU, Parker shared her love of the motto “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” The experiences she has had in her classes, study abroad, and jobs—such as teaching ESL—have helped her to understand her capacity to serve. She has learned that “the world needs our light, it needs our service, [and] it needs our talents that only we uniquely have to offer.”
After graduation, Parker plans to move to Boston with her husband and is ready to find new opportunities for service and for adventure.
Following Parker, Shelby Slocum, who received her master’s degree in speech language pathology, began her address by speaking directly to her fellow communication disorders students.
She noted the rigorous STEM program that communication disorders graduates have completed and the fact that, although they are part of the McKay School, she did not always feel a strong connection there.
Pondering her place in the McKay School, Slocum thought back on a devotional given by President Ballard to young women in 2019. She recalled the emphasis placed on the role of teachers and how much they are needed. Paraphrasing his talk, she said, “President Ballard warned us that there is no greater role that we can have in life than to be a good teacher.”
Slocum reflected on what being a teacher means to her and identified an attitude of teaching that she wants to carry throughout her life and practice. This helped her make the connection between speech-language pathology and the education of others through her work.
However, beyond the professional scope of education, Slocum cited the importance of teaching in a way that helps others become more Christlike. Her remarks echoed the mission statement of the McKay School: “We strive to model the attributes of Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, as we prepare professionals who educate with an eternal perspective.”
Slocum expressed her joy at learning how to teach in an institution influenced by this mission. After graduation, Slocum and her husband plan to move to San Antonio, Texas. He will begin medical school and she will complete her clinical fellowship as a specialist in pediatric feeding, thus continuing toward her goal of
becoming a speech-language pathologist in neonatal intensive care units.
Concluding her remarks, Slocum looked to the future: “Whether we go forth to teach students in classrooms, or patients in therapy rooms or hospital rooms, or even our family members within our own homes, let us remember the principles we’ve learned here at BYU about what it means to be a good teacher—following in our Savior’s footsteps.”
Writer: Camille Ladd
Contact: Cynthia Glad