by Emily Buckley, editor-in-chief
It is no exaggeration, to say that a dedicated teacher can change a student’s life. There are an endless amount of stories that attest the benefits of a strong relationship between an educator and student, and the truth of them goes far beyond the cliché, albeit true, bumper sticker of, “If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher.” After all, for dedicated educators, teaching goes beyond the classroom, beyond instruction and beyond the love of words.
On the daily, teachers lend students lunch money, give students rides home, lend students books, provide school supplies, sacrifice their lunch hours to tutor or counsel students and on and on.
Most adults can reflect on their educational experiences and recall a specific teacher that truly made a difference in their life. That may have been a teacher who supported learning at a challenging time, a teacher who inspired, or maybe a teacher who instilled a hope of a possibility not considered.
Cache Valley has no shortage of dedicated teachers.
“I truly believe teachers are the heart of education,” said Steven C. Norton, superintendent of Cache County Schools. “It has been my experience, that high achievement is closely linked to effective teachers. There is no other intervention, program, supplemental service or piece of technology that can take the place of an effective classroom teacher. These teachers, at any moment, may be called upon to serve as counselors, mentors, nurses, referees and coaches. And yet, in spite of all these roles, the best teachers know they have to maintain a laser focus on student achievement. I tip my hat to these consummate professionals.
“Why do I tip my hat? Because they have the skill and capacity to engage students in learning important content. And in pursuit of this learning, effective teachers create, with the students and the community, a climate of respect and challenge. You see, motivating students is no easy task in today’s world. However, an expert teacher is able to do this so effectively that any casual observer in their classroom would want to stay and learn right along with the students. I honor these teachers and acknowledge their remarkable contributions to the needs of individual students and society at large. I am grateful for the opportunity to be associated with dedicated and effective teachers. They are some of the best people I know.”
Though there is not space enough here to share the stories of every devoted teacher in our community, we will highlight one.
Jann Humpherys, a 22-year veteran educator, is a prime example of a teacher whose love for her students goes beyond the words in books and numbers on a page.
Jann teaches in the Discovery Program at Mount Logan Middle School. It’s a field-based program designed to enhance sixth-grade students’ reading and writing skills and understanding of science and math concepts through real-world experiences.
Seventy-two students are accepted into the program each year. These students are selected based on their potential to benefit from incorporating relevance, physical experience and background knowledge into their learning experiences.
The nature and benefits of the program draws both struggling students and the most advanced, but the goal of the program is the same across the board: “to help them become leaders and role models,” Jann said.
The program is based on years of successful learning programs and educational research. Bryce Passey, Eric Newell and Dave Anderson, who Jann calls “master educators” and “kid magnets,” founded the program after effectively piloting the idea for six summers with smaller groups of students.
The program uses Cache Valley as a classroom, and the teachers take the students on field trips that complement the coursework they are studying. From the airport to Hardware Ranch and from the radio station to the coyote research station (and lots of places in between), students in the program have the opportunity to see how the things they are studying are applicable in real-life situations.
Jann’s days of teaching don’t start and end with the school bell. She says motherhood has been her greatest teaching experience, and while her father J. Allen Lowe, who served as the superintendent of Logan City Schools for six years, is her hero, she says her mother Joanne, who passed away last year, was her best teacher.
Jann and her husband Mark, have four biological children: Marianne, Kristen, Mitch and Kellen, and about six years ago they met and opened their home to two more sons who have become a part of their family, Yahir and Johan Herrera. All except Johan are now married, and Jann is the proud grandmother of 12.
Jann met Johan after he had recently moved with his mother and brother to Cache Valley from Mexico. Like many immigrants, he came with no English language skills. Jann mentored and tutored him in English and Mark offered him a summer job. Before long, both Johan and his brother, Yahir, became a part of the Humpherys family and they set new life goals. In 2014, Johan became Logan High School’s first minority student body president. Yahir is currently studying to be a teacher at USU.
“Johan and Yahir’s mom shared her boys with us,” Jann said. “It was a positive experience for all of us. I’ve not only gained two bonus sons, but also a beautiful, selfless sister, their mother, Esther Garfias of Clarkston.”
The entire Humpherys family values education. The four Humpherys children graduated from Mountain Crest High School, and, within the immediate family, there are 10 Utah State University degrees with four more in progress. If Jann and Mark have anything to do with it, there will be many little Aggies in the future. Jann is also continuing her education, working on her school administration certificate with plans to graduate in 2016.
“Jann is one of our great examples of teachers who not only are skilled with content instruction, but she is also extremely capable of building relationships with students and helping students develop connections between themselves, the school and their teachers,” said Frank Schofield, superintendent of Logan City Schools. “Jann’s energy and the relationships she builds with students allow her to teach in such a way that students are able to see the relevance of what they are doing in class and the application of those concepts in the world around them. She inspires and excites students. We are fortunate to have her in our district.”
Jann says the two most important things she has learned about being an effective teacher are, “First, teaching is all about building caring relationships, and second, being a good teacher means being prepared to be a motivational speaker every day. My goal is to teach kids to be ready for life and want to do and be their best.”