It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Gay Beck Edition

Another Thursday, another teacher to recognize for all her amazing work! Mrs. Gay Beck is a great teacher, in fact she is an incredible teacher. That’s why she was the Utah State Teacher of the Year in 2011.


Here are Gay’s answers to a few questions I sent to her:

Where did you do your teacher prep?  I graduated from BYU in early childhood education and elementary education.

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I have taught kindergarten in Washington County School district and also worked with the district as an early childhood specialist. I have taught 2nd grade and kindergarten in Alpine School District. I am currently a full time kindergarten teacher at Highland Elementary.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? I love teaching 5&6 year olds.They always amaze me. I have had several funny responses in kindergarten especially during show and tell! Recently during it a student told the other kids to give her a call during the summer and handed out her mother’s business cards for them to contact her! I loved her creativity!

What one piece of advice would you give to new teachers? I was recently talking to my husband about all the demanding aspects of my job and then I teared up and said “,but it’s only July and I am already excited to meet my new batch of kinders and bond with them and make a difference in each of their lives”. So, my advice is to always remember why you choose this profession and enjoy your students. Laugh with them, get to know them and be present in the moment! I love this saying- “When you question your decision to Go On Teaching, look into the eyes of a student who needs you, that’s where you’ll Find Your Passion Again” . It’s the relationships we build with them and the time we invest that makes the difference!

What is your favorite teacher resource? My favorite teacher resource is other teachers!! I always find I get the best advice from other educators. I learn the most from visiting their classrooms. Just this week I met with 4 Kindergarten teachers and we went through our new literacy program. We all shared resources and it was so helpful. Talk to colleagues and find out what they are reading, what classroom management they use etc. Follow educators on twitter! I also get ideas from teacher pay teacher. It saves valuable time.

Describe any experience you have had in education policy- I have had some great experiences in education policy this past year. I have learned we cannot just stay in our classrooms, we must let our teacher voices be heard where policy is being created.  Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the Senate Education Committee hearing on a Kindergarten bill. One Senator said it was the most compelling testimony he had heard in all his time on the hill. I realized I must speak for students who cannot speak for themselves. I also spoke along with 3 other educators to the House Education Committee on another bill concerning teacher evaluation. This bill ultimately passed and I realized we made a huge difference for all educators in our state. I was even invited to the signing of the bill with Governor Herbert! I believe teacher voice is needed to make the necessary changes in education. I love being a teacher leader and hope I can make a difference for the students of our state.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? I would love to see lower class sizes, more aide help for student interventions and more time for professional development!

Mrs. Beck, you are the best! Thank you for all you do for the students in Utah.



The USOE is Now the USBE

As all teachers know, there are many education acronyms. In order to talk to talk, it’s important to keep up with the professional lingo. The most recent change in terminology comes straight from the State. The Utah State Office of Education, also known as USOE, has officially changed its name to…drum-roll please…. the Utah State Board of Education or USBE.


So, as you’re casually talking with your friends about SAGE and IEPs, and how your PM is due by COB, make sure you don’t slip up and call the USBE the USOE, that’s just so passé.

It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Liz Eaton Edition

Teachers, in general, are not shown enough appreciation for the critical role they play in society. My tiny way of giving back is to publicly thank a Utah teacher each week on this blog. To start off this weekly tradition, I would like to feature Mrs. Liz Eaton.

Liz Eaton

Here are Liz’s answers to a few questions I sent her way:

Where did you do your teacher prep? I did my teacher prep at Brigham Young University.

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I have taught at Noah Webster Academy located in Orem, Utah since the fall of 2006.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? Over the years I have heard some hilarious thoughts and stories from students.  One that stands out came from a very upset student.  I was talking to the student about how everything he was learning was important and it would help him in his life.  He responded with “Math doesn’t matter.  Reading doesn’t matter.  Spelling doesn’t matter,  the only thing that matters is onion rings!”  He was very sincere and serious about this fact.  I still get a smile on my face just thinking about how passionate this student was about onion rings.

What one piece of advice would you give to new teachers? My one piece of advice I would give to new teachers is find a way to love and care about all of your students.  Some students will make this hard but if they know you love and care about them they will respect you and you can accomplish a lot!

What is your favorite teacher resource? My favorite teacher resource is other teachers.  We all have great ideas and it’s so easy to go talk to another teacher for 5-10 min and peel back the layers of knowledge that they have!

Describe any experience you have had in education policy? Education policy is very important and it’s one reason I choose to continue to work at a charter school.  My voice is heard on the local level and I get to teach and help my students learn instead of be bogged down by outside influences.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education?  The biggest change I would love to see in education is to see more parent involvement with education.  For parents to really know what their child is learning and how they can help their child internalize the content. skills, and knowledge they are learning about.

Here’s to you Mrs. Eaton! Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to students in the state of Utah. You are an incredible person.



There is so Much More to Teaching: Why Passing a Content Test isn’t Enough

Welp, I guess in Utah anyone can teach now. I am shaking my head in dismay that Utah legislators, the state school board, and society at large, undervalue the skills and expertise of educators. The State Board recently passed a new policy that will allow anyone with a bachelors degree who can pass a content exam and an ethics test to be a teacher. There is SO MUCH MORE to teaching than understanding the content. Understanding the subject area is the easy part. The challenge comes in presenting the content in an age appropriate learning manner, in using the effective teaching cycle, in having strong classroom management, while fostering a environment of safety and well-being.

I am not opposed to alternative routes to licensure, I myself decided after I finished my bachelors degree, that I wanted to be a teacher. However, I then completed a 2 year teacher prep program with a year long internship before I was issued a Level 1 teaching license. I took courses on pedagogy and behaviors and working with diverse students. Even with a strong teacher prep program, it still took years of working with an amazing mentor, attending outside professional development, and lots of trial and error before I truly became an expert in my craft.

I understand that Utah is in MAJOR teacher shortage. However, I do not think this is the long term solution to the problem. Here are the concerns I see:

1- I have been on many hiring committees. If I was given a resume of a potential teacher who had not completed a teacher prep program and had ZERO teaching experience, I probably wouldn’t even call that candidate in for an interview.

2- If a content test “teacher” was hired, I would be very concerned for the mentor/master teacher they were assigned to. Most mentor teachers I know are still teaching full time in their own classrooms. Having to mentor a teacher from scratch would be a significant amount of extra work for the master teacher. I worry that this will lead  to burn out from assigned mentor teachers, and burn out from co-workers who have to pick up the slack.

3-This new policy is adding insult to injury. Teachers across the nation are already feeling undervalued and in the state of Utah, teachers also feel underpaid. If lawmakers are now saying, “Teaching is so easy, anyone can do it!” what message is this sending to seasoned, effective teachers, who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a teacher prep program. I predict many teachers who were already feeling overworked and underpaid,  will leave the profession.

4- What about the students? Is school turning into a glorified babysitting program? As a parent with children in the Utah public school system, I would be very upset if my child was placed in a classroom with a teacher who had zero training or experience. Are schools only looking for warm bodies to fill the open spots?

5- This is not a long term fix. I believe that many of these content test teachers will feel overwhelmed and unsuccessful in their first year(s) of teaching and will leave. Their school and district will have undoubtedly invested time and money into this teachers professional development and training. That money will have been wasted.

We much take a different approach to teacher retention and recruitment. As petty as this may sound, the truth of the matter is that teachers HAVE to be paid more. It is hard to recruit college students into the teaching profession when there are Utah school districts with starting wages under $30,000. That is not enough money to support a family. When I was sitting in a required seminar before I took out my student loan, the presenter said something along the lines of, “If you are going into a low paying career such as TEACHING, taking out a student loan may not be a wise investment.” Utah also needs a plan for retaining quality teachers, such as offering various leadership roles–with corresponding pay increases. School districts and stakeholders can also do more to raise the profession by asking teachers to present at conferences, be invited to discuss education policy, and publicly recognizing teachers for a job well done.

There is a lot of chatter on this topic on twitter and other local media and news outlets. I would encourage teachers to voice their opinion on this topic.