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Message from the Dean

Fall 2016
Read Time: 3.5 minutes

An image of Mary Anne PraterIn July of 2016 I spent a week in Philadelphia with 20 other professionals from public schools and BYU. We learned about the Founding Fathers and the civic virtues that motivated them. In this event, sponsored by the BYU Wheatley Institution, we learned from scholars, on-site experiences, original sources, and rich conversations. Both school personnel and BYU faculty came away with greater commitment to teach about civic virtue.

I reflected on this experience as I read the first article in this issue of McKay Today Magazine. Written by Scott Ferrin, it is an insightful treatise on the intersection of education and religious liberty. As they established and defended religious freedoms, our forefathers also highly valued the role of education, which we may view as interrelated concerns. As an attorney and professor of educational leadership, Scott Ferrin answers vital questions such as Can teachers talk about religion? and Can teachers share their religious beliefs?

Another compelling educational matter treated in this issue is that of early literacy. Children who develop literacy while they are young will more likely be successful in the future. I make this statement having recently read a summary of research supporting the relationship of literacy skills to future difficulties. The researchers indicated that students who enter school with literacy deficits will be more likely to fail academically, to exhibit either disruptive or withdrawn behavior, to be rejected by their classmates, and to become victims of bullying.

In response to the critical need for early literacy development, Barbara Culatta and Kendra Hall-Kenyon created the SEEL (Systematic and Engaging Early Literacy) program to assist teachers and parents in developing literacy in young children through playful practice. The second article in this issue addresses this creative curriculum, which has been researched and found to be highly effective. SEEL is but one example of the role many McKay faculty members assume in improving the education of our children.

The third featured article addresses roles and benefits of the arts in our lives as well as school curriculum. As an educator who first trained to be a choral teacher, I have a personal fondness and deep appreciation for the value of the arts in pre-K–12 education. The BYU ARTS Partnership, under the leadership of Cally Flox, has made invaluable contributions to the education of our school children and their teachers. Shauna Valentine’s piece on the effects of the arts on all of us urges all readers to involve themselves, their students, and their families in the arts, providing suggestions that are easy to implement in the home or classroom.

We hope you find this issue to be timely, thought provoking, and useful with ideas to apply in your homes and schools.