CEDAR CITY — Teachers are one of the most influential groups in our society, and their importance can’t be overstated. However, there has been a decline in students majoring in education fields over the past few years, which is why Southern Utah University has been working with the #BeATeacher movement to spread awareness and recruit students into the education profession.
“Recently, we’ve seen similar declining trends of enrollment in traditional teacher education programs,” said Shawn Christiansen, SUU’s dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
One of the goals of the campaign is to change the narrative about teaching as a profession.
“Some people like to think that anyone can teach, and while anyone can go into a classroom, not everyone can teach,” Christiansen said. “Anyone who has ever taught realizes the challenge of being a master teacher. It takes time, energy and is a skill that is acquired like any other profession.”
Caitlin Jones earned her bachelor’s of science in elementary education with an emphasis in English as a second language from SUU in 2014. She soon started working at an elementary school in Salt Lake County and said she knows firsthand the challenges and rewards of being a teacher.
“For 7 hours a day, I get to be the support system for roughly 20 students,” Jones said. “I get to be their mentor, teacher, and cheerleader. The relationships I get to build and the growth I see throughout the year is what makes me feel accomplished.
“I do my best to protect, love, and teach my students. I can’t say for sure that I make a difference in all of my students’ lives, but they all make a significant difference in my life. That is why I teach, and that is why I love my job!”
At SUU, incoming education students are encouraged to share their memories of impactful teachers using the hashtag #BeATeacher. This helps foster a sense of community and reminds people of those who have influenced them along the way.
“Education Professor Peggy Wittwer was probably the most outstanding professor I had,” Jones said. “She breathed compassion and experience into hard Title One schools. She was kind and approachable, and she made learning fun. Her’s was a class you wanted to go to, where I knew I would learn a ton, and have so many resources and knowledge that I could confidently go out and find a job.”
As for the big question of why someone should want to be a teacher, Christiansen said prospective students need to ask themselves two questions: “Do I want to do something meaningful and do I want to do something that makes a difference?”
“Teachers impact students on an individual level and have the potential to change their lives for the better,” Christiansen said. “And when you look at all those individuals together, you can see how you’re impacting society as a whole.”
Created by Weber State University, the #BeATeacher campaign is an incentive supported by the Utah Council of Education Deans, which serves as an advisory and action committee for teacher education statewide. The council consists of college education deans from across the state with a “purpose to positively impact the development and ongoing effectiveness of teacher education programs to meet Utah’s need for high quality, licensed teachers today and in the future.”
The College of Education and Human Development prepares caring, competent and knowledgeable professionals empowered to be productive citizens, socially responsible leaders, high achievers and lifelong learners. The mission of the Department of Teacher Education and Family Development is to prepare new teachers who possess the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to positively impact learning for all students in diverse classroom environments.