Loving, supporting, and caring for others seems to come naturally to Pearl Hicks. She is a mother, grandmother, and former elementary school teacher who believes that teaching is her “calling for eternity.”
Pearl received her associate’s degree from Rick’s College and her bachelor’s degree from the College of Education at BYU in 1966. After graduation she married her love, Robert Hicks, and they started a family. They had four children, two boys and two girls. Currently, Pearl is blessed with 25 wonderful grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
At the beginning of her career, Hicks taught school for a few years, but then decided to stay home to raise her four children. In 1984, she went back to teaching school. She taught third and sixth grade for 24 years before finally retiring in 2008.
In her experience teaching, she quickly realized there were a lot of children who came from broken homes. She said that, “sometimes the only good they have is when they meet with teachers at school, so I did a lot to help those kids. And the ones you help the most are the ones you love the most.”
When people ask Hicks why she loves teaching so much, she says, “I guess it’s because I love the kids so much and it is such a joy to watch them progress.” When reflecting back on her teaching years, Hicks recalls two students whose journeys have stuck with her throughout the years.
The first student to make an impression on her was a boy whose parent was serving time in prison. At school, he had a difficult time concentrating, and his writing was on the brink of illegible. One afternoon, Hicks assigned a writing exercise for the students to reflect on their summer vacation. The young boy sat quietly at his desk and stared at the wall. Hicks came around to his desk and said firmly, “I’m sorry, but in my class, you have to earn an F.” He looked up at her sheepishly and said, “Do you mean I have to write something?” Hicks replied, “Yes. Yes you do.” Later, the boy said, “Nobody has ever cared about me before. So, I will do what you ask because you care.” After that experience, he began participating in Hicks’s classroom. Years later he visited Hicks before his high school graduation, gave her a hug, and exclaimed, “I just want to let you know I made it! If you hadn’t cared I never would have done it. After your class I realized that what I did was a reflection on myself.” Hicks still keeps in contact with him and says he has a great job now that provides for his beautiful wife and children.
Another boy that left an impression on Hicks came from a home with an unsupportive father. The father told him that he wasn’t worth anything and that he would never graduate high school. One day, the young fifth grader came up to Hicks and told her he wanted to learn to read well enough to read the Harry Potter book series. Hicks reminded him that the books had difficult vocabulary, and he replied, “Well, I know I can read them if you will help me.” He decided to stay every day after school to read with Hicks. She would read two pages and then he would take a turn reading one page. After a period of about two months they finally finished the first book. Hicks breathed a sigh of relief because the reading sessions were so intense. However, the next day he came in with the second book and they started the process again. She said, “This time it was faster and I could tell that his reading ability was increasing.” At the end of the second book his reading level had increased from a third-grade to a fifth-grade reading level. He decided to read book number three in the series all by himself. When he was finished, his reading ability increased one more grade level. Hicks told him, “When you decide what you want to do and focus on it, you can do anything in this world.” The boy took that lesson to heart and ended up graduating from high school and going on to trade school.
Hicks influenced her peers as well. One principal she worked with said, “If I could bottle up what you have, I could make a million dollars!” Hicks just replied, “You can’t bottle love!” She feels that this simple attribute has made the biggest difference in her teaching. “When you love each student whether they dress well, speak well, or smell good, you are doing your job. You will see the soul inside and know they are important.”
For Pearl Hicks, her greatest inspiration for teaching is Jesus Christ, who is an eternal teacher. She believes “We will all be teachers for eternity. Even when we meet neighbors, we are teachers by the way we act and the things we say.”
It is evident that Hicks followed the example of the Savior Jesus Christ as she taught elementary school. She says, “The one thing that helped me the most was praying about each of my students night and morning for what the Lord would want me to give to them.”
All in all, Hicks says, “Life takes work. But the Savior is always there for you; if you are willing to put forth the effort, he will take the rest.”
Writer: Ashley Young
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 494-7043