Teaching & Learning

Teaching Award-Winning Teachers

When news came that half of the recipients of the Huntsman education award are affiliated with Utah State University, administrators in the teaching program were not surprised. Pleased, yes. Surprised? Not at all. After all, USU’s College of Education and Human Services has been ranked among the top programs in the nation for the past eight years. The fact that five of the recipients of the 2006 Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education in Utah went to USU affiliates is yet another feather in the college’s cap.

Francine Johnson, associate dean of teacher education, graduation and educator licensing, said the strengths of the college are a committed faculty, rigorous standards for students and a great relationship with public schools.
 
“We owe much of our success to the faculty,” said Johnson. “They teach students about what it takes to be an effective teacher while modeling what effective teaching really means.”
 
In addition to taking teaching seriously, the faculty also pays attention to its scholarship responsibilities. By participating in innovative research in their specific areas of expertise, the college is able to maintain its national ranking of 35th in U.S. News and World Report. In particular, this year’s No. 3 ranking in funded research dollars emphasizes its strength as a research university and shows that its students have exceptional opportunities to work with and learn from the leading researchers in the nation. Many members of the faculty also serve as editors or contributors for various publications or are national officers in professional organizations.
 
Even the greatest faculty cannot succeed without driven, focused students. Michael Freeman, associate dean of continuing education, said that students in the College of Education and Human Services are among the best at the university.
 
“The high admission standards speak for themselves,” he said. “There is limited enrollment in our teacher education programs, particularly elementary education and only the best students are admitted.”
 
According to Johnson, the reasons for choosing the teaching program focus around a desire to make a difference and give something back.
 
“I have to hand it to the students in these programs,” said Johnson. “To be willing devote energy, time and money to something that is more about making a difference than making a buck — that takes something special.”
 
Students are encouraged to utilize community and parental support and collaborate with other teachers to make their teaching more effective for each child. Students leave the college ready to face the challenges that teaching has to offer.
 
“We don’t give students all the answers — nobody can do that,” Johnson said. “We do give our students the ability to find the answers as new and different questions arise.”
 
A significant part of the education program is based on field experience in public schools. Other education programs across the country do not introduce their students into the classroom until student teaching just before graduation. At Utah State University, students are getting real-world classroom training as early as their first year.
 
“By graduation, our students are more comfortable in a classroom setting,” Johnson said. “This helps them stand out when it is time to apply for a job.”
 
“Close to 90 percent of our teaching positions are filled by graduates of USU’s teaching programs,” said Holly Peterson, human resource director for Cache County school district. “We are consistently pleased with the quality of graduates and grateful for the working relationship we have with USU.”
 
The influence of Utah State University’s College of Education and Human Services spreads across Utah and into Idaho, Wyoming and beyond.
 
“At any school in the state you will find somebody affiliated with USU working or doing research,” Freeman said.
 
The strong relationship with the public education system is evidenced by the five winners affiliated with Utah State University: David Turner, principal at North Layton Junior High School; Chris Brown, principal at Corrine Elementary School; Lester B. Lee, art teacher at Woods Cross High School; Margaret Pettis, ninth-grade teacher at South Cache 8/9 Center and Laine Hall, first-grade teacher at Rosamond Elementary School.
 
David Turner graduated from Utah State University in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and elementary education then received a master’s in communication disorders the following year. Turner worked closely with Jean Pugmire, department of education, and Tom Clark, department of communicative disorders, whom he credits with making all the difference in the early years of his education. He began teaching reading in 1972 at Mount Ogden Junior High. Turner has been presenting at national conferences around the country since 1973. He also has written and managed over 1.7 million dollars in state and federally funded grants that were used exclusively in Davis County. Turner became principal of North Layton Junior High in 2005. He has served as director of the Safe Home, School, Community Executive Committee since 1993. His past honors include Educator of the Year, Administrator of the Year and Salt Lake Tribune Person of the Week.
 
Chris Brown graduated Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1992. He taught at social studies at Bear River Elementary for 6 years, then went on to receive his master’s degree and become a principal. Brown devotes long hours to Corrine Elementary. When large class sizes became a problem, Brown created and taught an additional class. He encourages positive interaction with students by making regular visits to classrooms throughout the week. He is often seen in the playground kicking soccer balls during recess. Although this was the last year in operation for Corrine Elementary, Brown kept his focus on student success. Brown will continue to his career as principal at McKinley Elementary.
 
Lester B. Lee received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Utah State University in 1986. Though Lee could have succeeded in the artistic world, his first love has always been teaching. He has taught in Davis County schools for 22 years. Lee also shares his talents with the community. He was chairman of the Bountiful/Davis Art Center for five years and has served on the board of the Bountiful Summerfest Celebration for ten. He has designed and built sets for Rodger’s Memorial Theatre for 11 years. He has won numerous awards for his artwork and has sold hundreds of watercolor paintings and portrait prints locally, nationally and internationally. Lee also has illustrated for multiple publishers. His most noted illustrations are those on the cover and end sheets of the series The Work and The Glory by Gerald Lund. Other recognitions Lee has received include High School Art Teacher of the Year in 2000.
 
Margaret Pettis graduated from the University of California at Davis with a double bachelor’s degree in art and English in 1973. An avid horsewoman, she moved to Idaho to work as a wrangler on a dude ranch, then as a mule packer with the U.S. Forest Service in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area. She worked with a backpacking wilderness ranger from Utah who later became her husband and moved to Utah State University where she enrolled in the teaching program. Guided by Eldon Drake, a professor she greatly admired, Pettis did her student teaching in an open classroom in Roy and earned her secondary teaching certificate in 1974. She began teaching in the Murray district that fall and moved to the Cache district in 1986, where she has taught ninth grade English since. Pettis’ other awards include Utah English Teacher of the Year, Utah Poet of the Year and PTA/KUED Golden Apple Award.
 
Laine Hall attended Utah State University in 2001. He began his teaching career as a physical education teacher. Hall maintains an exciting classroom environment by constantly engaging students with riddles, field trips and guest speakers. Hall’s work in the community extends beyond the school. He spends at least 10 hours a week tutoring students at Riverton Public Library. Hall introduced the Riverton Community Heroes Award, where students and their parents nominate people who deserve recognition and award the winners. Hall is on the Riverton Art Museum Board and serves on the city council. Hall also organizes a weekly newsletter that lists community and school events and a calendar for off-track students to encourage consistent learning.
 
Contact: Francine Johnson, 435-797-2714, francine.johnson@usu.edu, Michael Freeman, 435-797-1474, michael.freeman@usu.edu        
Writer: Kristen Weller, 435-797-1350, http://kristen.weller@usu.edu
students in a seminar

Five of the recipients of the 2006 Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education in Utah went to USU.

David Turner

David Turner

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Lester B. Lee

Lester B. Lee

Margaret Pettis

Margaret Pettis

Laine Hall

Laine Hall


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