After devoting himself to years of study at Brigham Young University, serving his country in the Air Force, and dedicating much of his life to teaching, David A. Squires continues to “teach beyond the obvious” by using creativity in his teaching approaches.
Squires graduated from BYU’s College of Education as a history education major in 1958. He continued his education and received his MEd from BYU. He was also part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at BYU, completing his Air Force service in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Glasgow, Montana, in August of 1961.
Almost immediately after finishing his Air Force service, Squires came back to Utah seeking a teaching position. He found one at Lincoln Junior High School in Orem, Utah, and it was there that he began to “develop numerous strategies in teaching beyond the obvious,” including methods to improve grammar and writing and interactive experiences in the classroom.
Squires engineered two methods that helped his students with their language arts skills. The first approach, Shadow Writing, is a tactic used to improve punctuation skills. Students copy a sentence from a novel, but, while keeping the same punctuation, change the wording. This way, the students see correct punctuation in their own writing and gain expertise. Another strategy, called Phonetic Spelling, is used to deepen students’ understanding of spelling. Rather than simply dictating words from the front of the classroom for a weekly spelling test, his tests focused on phonetics while also testing spelling and definitions.
He engaged his students by incorporating competitions between classrooms. Friendly competition encouraged the students to spend extra time memorizing the concepts that would appear on tests. As a result of the strategies used in his classroom, “the average grade for all students in English and history exceeded 90%,” stated Squires.
Another way Squires was able to engage his students in the classroom was by providing them with hands-on experiences. During his final years teaching at Lincoln Junior High School, he was assigned to teach a unit on Utah Government. Rather than opening up a textbook and reading to the class, he yet again “taught beyond the obvious” and took a different approach. His class strung the landline phones from the secretary’s office all the way up to the second floor. Squires had a committee of students compose a list of questions that they had for government officials. Then, during class, the students on that committee called the state capital, juvenile court, and Washington D.C., one by one, while the rest of the class listened and took notes.
Squires’ success in improving his students’ learning through the help of these strategies and experiences led him to many other teaching opportunities. In 1974, the BYU College of Education asked him to join the secondary education faculty as the social science specialist. The department chairman assigned him to teach a class centered on creativity in the classroom.
“Creativity was not a lecture class. It was an experience in exploring one’s own potential and thinking style,” says Squires.
In 2007 the department chair stated that it would be the last year the creativity class would be offered. Immediately, 25 students that had already completed the course stood to protest, petitioning the dean’s office in effort for the university to keep the course. One student told Squires, “I am not even an education major, but this is the most important class I have taken at BYU.” Despite the protests of the students, the creativity class came to an end.
Squires retired after a full 30 years of teaching English and history at the junior high school level, and teaching a variety of education classes at BYU. Even though he’s retired, his influence did not. One of his former student teachers at BYU sent him a message, saying, “Thank you for being a teacher to the several thousand students I have taught over the years.” Squires’ teaching strategies live within those he taught and continue to influence them and their students.
Today, Squires spends his time with his family—his wife, Lois, his seven children, and his 34 (and counting) grandchildren. He is a member of the Orem senior citizen council and visits senior citizens three to four times a week. He always makes time to exercise his creative mind through writing poetry, and recording his teaching processes in hope that other teachers will “teach beyond the obvious,” too.
Writer: Hannah Antillon
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562