My name is Patti Harrington and I’m the Superintendent of Provo City School District in Provo, Utah.
Uh, a teacher is the most important asset in education, so you want to pay close attention to the kind of assets you bringing to the job, and for me a well-educated teacher has at least five or six characteristics. Number one, they have to be extremely well versed in their subject matter, at whatever grade they teach. Secondly, I want them to have a lot passion for that subject matter so that they teach with enthusiasm and energy about what they’re doing. Third, maybe this is most important, but it’s---it’s---uh, it’s as important, obviously, is a love for children and an understanding of children. And that’s especially true for LDS educators to, um---I get choked up because I love teachers, uh, understanding and loving kids is a critical element of a great teacher. Uh, fourth, I love to see curiosity, natural curiosity in a---in a---educator, who can in---ignite that inner, uh, that same curiosity in children. And fifth, I---I---I would characterize it by love enough for self and love enough for kids that they understand that kids need and want fences and expectations and understanding of how they can do well and please. And good teachers know how to help kids grow to that potential of---of good behavior and good performance. And finally, I---I love teachers that can provide meaning, um, connections to life with what’s going on in the classroom. To connect that meaning so that kids---get a broader understanding of life than just the ‘nickels and dimes’ of reading, writing and math, rather they get a full understanding of how what they’re learning connects to what they’re going to be doing tomorrow and the next day. And what it means in a family life and how it relates to what they do at the grocery stores, they can really---make connections and their meaning---or meaningful connections with learning, with kids.
University’s job, in my opinion, is to give, especially elementary teachers, but all teachers a great breadth of understanding of many things. A good educator is very good at many different kinds of things and so that breadth of knowledge usually come through the general education curriculum, uh, they need to be very good at---at many, uh, aspects of education. Thereafter, when they become specialists in an area or two, or specialists in the developmental ages of children, such as our elementary educators, uh, then I really hope that BYU and other universities put them through the rigors of understanding their subject matter. When public schools get involved on the professional development or in-service end, then it becomes, uh, an iterative process between the university and public schools, and the BYU partnership is second to none in terms of it’s cost and ongoing dialog about how to improve the incoming teachers and how to improve schools so that teachers become better as they go to schools, and that takes mutual dialog and mutual support, mutual work.
More today than ever before in---in the history, in my opinion, of the United States, uh, we live in a diverse society and---and more than ever before students that come to Provo schools are going to compete directly, not indirectly, but directly with kids that are in Kentucky and for that matter kids that are in Canada, Mexico and in Asia. That said, the---one of the best things we can do is prepare them for the diversity of the world, both in terms of how you develop teamwork, how you get along with others whose cultural differences are keen, um, how you bridge language barriers. Uh, where BYU, as any other university, can provide opportunities to expand that kind of knowledge and experience it is only to the good of the graduates of Brigham Young University.
Well if I had---if I have a, you’re going to get me in tears on this one so let me start over.
I have such a one, not a son or daughter so that’s why I’m teary-eyed, when---um---if they, let me get composure---
If I had a son or daughter interested in education I’d do nothing but encourage them. Uh---education is a wonderful service. Education is the future of ---America and the future of the world. It is---it is the thing that will separate a productive society from a non-productive, that, in my opinion, and the strength of families are critical to the---to the greatness of any nation. So would I love a son or daughter to be a part of that? You bet.
When a graduate comes to us from Brigham Young University or, uh, or any university they’re just really beginning their real learning about classroom experiences and about education. They have great pedagogy, I would hope, and they probably have great command of subject matter. But they haven’t yet helped---been helped to understand that it’s the learner they teach not the subject they teach and when you make that distinction that’s where schools can be at the greatest effort for induction and entry and to help them make that shift from ‘what I know about a subject’ to ‘what I know about a learner’ as it relates to that subject, and that’s where schools are the best teachers. And that’s where we need great mentors of experience, teachers who grab hold of these new people and, uh, give them a great first and second and third year experience so that they understand that tremendous responsibility and great opportunity.
The universities role in preparing a well-educated s---teacher is---is multi-faceted because teachers are multi-faceted. When you are a teacher with the daily rigors of a classroom, or for that matter administrator, you don’t---you don’t have minutes to think about how you might be your best person, you either are your best person or you’re not and that requires a great deal of training in every area. You’re---you’re social and emotional, uh, state has got to be solid, you have got to have a field of command of various subject matter. Each one is important and each one has its bearing on any one lesson. Math isn’t taught in isolation, science principles are involved and occasionally other things as well. So a well-rounded teacher, a well-educated teacher, has had a variety of experiences, and a great bevy of them so that that person too is well rounded. And so religious instruction is very important, social, emotional, physical and of course the mental, which is, um, is---is of---of great note, so that they are well prepared in many aspects to this meaning of---this connection of meaning is---it’s done because someone has the well roundedness to understand that there are connections. And you only---you only understand that if you yourself can bring connections of information to different fields of thought.
Every teacher on campus is a teacher of great teachers whether we grow up to be public educators or whether we are in a church system of teaching. Whether we are parents or whether we’re adults that others look to for advice, you are a teacher as you walk and talk. So every class has its impact on the ability for one to be a great teacher of others. That’s especially true for public school teachers, public school educators. I suspect that most general educator---uh---general education instructors don’t know who in their class, of the dozens, are going to become public school teachers. But I can assure you that a large number coming from Brigham Young University general education courses are public education, uh, teachers whether or not they know it even at the time they’re taking the classes. And so they have a great impact to build that breadth of knowledge that we speak of and ignite their particular interests, per---perhaps in one or two subject fields as they are taking those classes. That was my own experience. I did not go into Brigham Young University as an education major, I went in as a journalism major. But I took some classes that ignited my interests in special education, decided to make that a field of major and that’s---where I began my teaching career. So one never knows what’s one’s influence whether it’s on the education side or on the---example side.
Public educators are the soldiers of democracy. They are the ones who teach the foundations of what we stand for as a country. They give children a common experience in our schools, which, uh, not according to current rhetoric, but nonetheless true, is a quality, wonderful experience. They teach the---they---they teach the standards of fair play, integrity, taking your turn, being kind to others, that is a daily kind of a lesson in---in---in classrooms across America. And so they become kingpins of democracy, indeed the soldiers, uh, to help kids understand their role in democracy and the way we respect one another and the way we should have tr---uh, interplay one to another.
Nothing that---nothing that would be a good sound bite, you kn---you know how strongly I feel about it, Wynn, but, um---, teachers---uh, public school teachers are---are really, in my opinion, um----okay, let me start over because I get choked up.
I can think of---think of only one thing more important than teaching reading to kids. And that one thing---I better start over, let me get the tears out of my way, I’m sorry---.
Teaching reading, for example, to children by quality teachers is, in my opinion, the mo---second most important thing we can teach to anyone. The first most important thing for me is teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Second to that is teaching reading and those two, in my mind, are so much higher than any other teaching we might do. Because when you teach a child to read you give them a life. And---and so are teachers important? Oh, my goodness, they’re critically important. They give children an opportunity. They give children a life. They give children experience and they give children an out of whatever poverty or---or concerns that, uh, beset their lives. Public school teachers are heroes in every respect.
I believe that perhaps that some teachers that come new to the profession and some that perhaps are in their first two years of college, um, quote, unquote, ‘wading their way through general education courses’ do not yet understand the value of those great courses. That they become a base for their springboard of particular interests thereafter. And perhaps as well they become a base for their broader understanding of, uh, the great variety that kids will come to them with in terms of their interests and development. And while American Heritage, uh, may not have been a course that I thought was integral to my wealth and understanding at the time I nonetheless lean on it heavily, uh, as---as I now teach about democracy in our schools and teach kids the value of citizenship and---and the value of being good citizens. All of that is rooted in our American Heritage so whether we call it TV history or not, uh, it has had a---a---it has had its effect on my own career and I suspect it’ll have an effect on the career of all teachers that go into public education.