James Dunn was born in the mining town of Mammoth, Utah. After graduating from high school he served in the Army Air Corps in Europe during World War II. Since that time the center of his life has been education.
Soon after returning from the war Dunn was going through a yearbook and read a comment from a teacher saying that he had been one of her best students and that he should go to college. Her encouragement motivated him to enroll at the University of Utah, but he later transferred to BYU when he decided he wanted to teach social studies. He graduated in 1948.
During his first teaching assignment, in Burley, Idaho, Dunn found that the biggest stumbling block for students was their inability to read. So he returned to school to study elementary education. He next taught grades six, seven, and eight while serving as a principal in Millard School District.
“That time,” he said, “was a great experience. I learned that students can learn on their own, they can teach each other, and the teacher’s responsibility is to create and encourage a learning atmosphere.” Three years later Dunn moved to the Nebo School District, where he served in many positions.
In 1970 Dunn was asked to trade places with a BYU education professor, and what began as a one-year assignment turned into 28 years of teaching reading and language arts to teacher candidates. He also served in a number of administrative positions, including as chair of curriculum and instruction and chair of elementary education. Dunn considers that time as the “golden years.”
“There were great expectations,” he said, “but professors achieved the goals in their individual ways. The focus was on preparing effective teachers to go into the world and make a difference.”
Dunn believes that friendship between a teacher and a student is important. The teacher needs to create an environ- ment of freedom and learning in which students know what is expected of them.
He said, “It’s wrong to say there is one way to learn. In reading, some students are visual learners, some need multisensory experiences, and others need phonics, structure, and answers to why words are the way they are.”
Looking back, Dunn said, “All of the jobs and callings I have had have taught me something I needed to know.”
Today Dunn enjoys reading, gardening, and BYU sports. In addition to other Church callings, he has served in the bishops’ storehouse for 12 years. He and his wife, Carolee, are the parents of six children and the grandparents and great-grandparents of 90.