Future educators are encouraged to take the COVID-19 pandemic as a learning experience.

2020: The year of a highly anticipated presidential election, Meghan and Harry leaving Buckingham Palace, the start of a new decade, . . . and a worldwide pandemic. It is an unforgettable year, especially for graduates, and that was certainly represented at the BYU McKay School’s virtual graduation ceremony that took place on April 23, 2020.

The names of 443 graduates (130 graduate students and 212 undergraduate students) from fifteen different programs were announced via videos from each of the departments on a specially created convocation web page.

In another video, Dean Mary Anne Prater congratulated graduates, highlighting the unique circumstances that encouraged the online convocation. Applauding the students’ efforts, she said, “I hope you don’t view this as a disappointing semester, but as a satisfying semester, because you made it through to the end.”

Prater compared this past semester to the roller coaster of life, stating, “Just as in life, we never know what stumbling blocks will be placed in our paths. You should feel proud to have made it to the end.”

Blaine Edman, who graduated with a doctorate of education in educational leadership, spoke about what teaching means to him. Edman recognized that this

ceremony came at a much different time in his career than the majority of graduates, as he has worked as a teacher and administrator for over 25 years.

Man in suit
Blaine Edman, Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership

Drawing from his wealth of experience, Edman said, “Teaching and learning are inseparably connected. . . . As educators, I think you can get off track when you see our job entirely through the teaching lens and not through the learning lens.”

He said that, when he was a principal, an eighth grader was called into his office for breaking some rules. Edman leaned over his desk and gave the student his best “you can be better” speech.

“Once I finished my speech, I leaned back in my chair, letting my wisdom fill the room. Unfortunately, the legs on my desk chair chose that exact moment to give way, probably under the combined weight of my lecture and my lunch, and I fell flat on my back, like a beach turtle with my arms and legs waving about my body while I tried to flip over off my back. Once I finally got to my feet, and we both regained our composure, there was a moment where we both realized that neither of us would ever remember anything I said, but that he would have the best principal story ever to tell his friends.”

After that experience, Edman realized he was much better off seeking to learn than seeking to teach. As soon as he focused on listening to and understanding his students, he was actually able to make a difference in their lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic provided another opportunity for Edman to learn. He saw the switch to online education as “one of our great collective moments in education, because so many educators realized they did not have all the answers and were open to learn and try new methods and ideas.

“Hopefully when this crisis passes, we’ll all remember that our willingness to learn opens the doorway to be able to teach. This is the lesson we learned from Jesus, the Master Teacher. He is our Master Teacher because He was also the Master Learner. The Atonement was a paramount of learning, because it allowed Him to learn and experience the pain each of us would feel for our mortal mistakes.”

The speaker representing undergraduate students was Katelyn Caine, who earned a bachelor of science in elementary education. She shared how a professor for whom she worked invites her classes to become “diamond strong,” to reach their potential through effort and sacrifice, just like when carbon becomes a diamond with heat and pressure.

Girl in white dress
Katelyn Caine, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

“Great learners and teachers see beyond. As teachers we cherish the ability to unlock the insight of potential, the type of approach exemplified by masterful thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci, who studied dragonflies not just as insects, but as potential machines of flight with wings of aerodynamic perfection. We search for diamond-making experiences.”

Caine found one such experience during her student teacher placement, when she encouraged a struggling student to push through a difficult math problem. Upon solving the problem, and celebrating with a victory dance, the student said, “I did it because you believed in me, Mrs. Caine. I know I can do it again.”

“May we serve those we teach with compassion and love,” said Caine. “May we see past every deficiency until we recognize the potential of each student as a child of God.”

Writer: Jenny Mehner
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922