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Gurr shares her insights on putting excitement into education—both for her students and her children

Having a father who was a chaplain in the Air Force, Jana Gurr spent her childhood in several different areas of the world—from the Philippines to England and several states in between. Her father was a BYU alum who influenced her decision to attend BYU for college. Having grown up around the world where she was in the minority as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gurr appreciated the spiritually uplifting atmosphere of being around so many students and faculty who shared her standards.

Gurr graduated with her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2000. After graduation she enjoyed teaching for five years (second, third, and fourth grades) before marrying and becoming a full-time mother. The education she received at BYU made a deep and lasting impact on her personal teaching style and approach to teaching. Gurr recalls that when she taught in a private school, she made a conscious effort to incorporate educating the “whole” person in much the same way that she was educated at BYU. Her time at BYU showed her how effective a holistic and spiritual style of teaching can be. She believes that the infusion of academics and spiritually brings greater depth to learning, understanding, and love of the entire educational process for both teachers and students. In this way, her professors at BYU had a lasting impression on her.

Reflecting on her time as a teacher, Gurr finds the small, simple moments to be the most fulfilling and memorable. She remembers students’ faces lighting up when they finally grasped a concept, and the enthusiasm of a group of students who asked if they could take their books outside to continue reading at recess. Another highlight was when a group of girls made up a dance to the “Rock Cycle” song when she was teaching geology. She knew she was making an impact when parents told her their children were so excited to come to school that they were dressed, ready to go, and sitting by the door before it was time to leave for school in the morning. She was gratified when she drove by the high school years after she had finished teaching and saw a former student’s name on the marquee as “Student of the Week.” She also recalls the support of her fellow teachers, who built her up throughout her career. She believes that teachers can have a profound and lasting impact when they are united with a common goal of improving educational experiences for children.

Gurr has three children and is expecting her fourth. She has found great fulfillment in serving as a wife and mother, and also through serving in her community and the Church. Her background in elementary education has helped her in these various roles. “It’s been so enjoyable, now that my children are a little older, being able to pull out my old teaching materials to have our own fun preschool learning and discovery time.”

In her spare time she enjoys working, playing, and running races and marathons. She hopes to one day serve a mission for the Church with her husband.

January 21, 2010