“Teaching Development: Support for Teachers,” Ensign, Apr. 1995, 76–77
Although she’d served a mission and taught freshman English at Brigham Young University for a couple of years, Lori Raymond felt ill prepared when she was called to serve as the teacher development coordinator in the Timpview First Ward, Orem Utah Timpview Stake.
The position, which replaced all in-service teachers in the ward, was created when new instructions came from Church headquarters on teacher development in 1993.
“I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do,” Sister Raymond recalls. But following directions she found in a Church bulletin titled “Instructions for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Teacher Development” (January 1993) and using material from the Church publications Teaching—No Greater Call (33043) and Teaching Guidebook (34595), Lori jumped in.
Under the direction of her bishop, she holds a quarterly training meeting for teachers of all ward organizations and teaches the ward’s Teacher Development Basic Course. She also attends ward council meetings. Those responsibilities are outlined in the instructions for teacher development. In addition, Sister Raymond writes a monthly article for her ward newsletter, regularly visits classes in the ward to observe and assist the teachers, and continues to encourage attendance at the quarterly training meeting.
“I’m only now seeing the potential and responsibilities of this calling,” she says. “There is so much that can be done. It’s exciting as I study the scriptures, pray, read the manuals, and prepare to help teachers meet their challenges as well as I can.”
In January 1993 the Church asked bishops and branch presidents to call a ward teacher development coordinator and introduce quarterly training meetings (see Ensign, June 1993, p. 75). This coordinator would replace all auxiliary and priesthood in-service teachers and meetings. The purpose behind the new calling and the teacher development program was to—
“1. Help members teach the gospel effectively.
“2. Continually train and support priesthood and auxiliary teachers” (“Instructions for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Teacher Development,” p. 1).
Under the direction of ward or branch priesthood leadership, the teacher development program consists of the Teacher Development Basic Course, ongoing teacher training, and support for the teachers. Suggestions for meeting these responsibilities are provided in the instructions sent out to local Church leaders.
As a result, stake leaders in the Columbus Ohio North Stake are in the process of strengthening their program. “This is the ideal way to improve teaching,” observes Gerald Prince, the high councilor assigned to oversee teaching in the stake. “It’s a much more hands-on experience. We’re encouraging our ward teaching coordinators to meet with the presidencies of the organizations right now, to get a feel for what is needed. We’re also encouraging our coordinators to visit classes to give ideas and demonstrations for and perhaps with the teacher.”
One of the challenges some leaders face in some localities of the Church, Brother Prince says, is finding people to fill the position of teacher development coordinator. “This is an important calling,” he noted. “If we are able to call a strong person as the coordinator, he or she can train others. Teaching is really the core of successful learning. We need teachers who are constantly learning and growing so the students can be learning and growing too.”
In the West Jordan Utah Stake, President Greg Downs echoes those same sentiments. “It’s so important,” he says, “that our Church teachers allow students to get into the scriptures in the classroom, to feel of the Spirit, to experiment upon the word.”
Stake leaders in the West Jordan stake began by holding training meetings for the teacher development leaders. “We encouraged the teachers to use the scriptures and follow the Spirit rather than just lecturing and talking. We taught them how to involve the students more.” Teaching coordinators were also asked to read several addresses by General Authorities on teaching.
“Then we turned responsibility for the programs over to the bishops,” President Downs continues. “Our teaching coordinators attend ward council meeting, so teaching is a regular part of the monthly agenda.”
And it’s working. Several months ago Sherrie Martin, a teaching coordinator in the stake, began the Teaching Development Basic Course. “I was teaching a lesson on being self-reliant,” she explains. “At first I was tempted to just tell the teachers everything they needed to know. But then I remembered some of our earlier training.”
Sister Martin divided the class into groups. One group was assigned to read a scripture story and outline the gospel principles taught. Another group organized a Primary Sharing Time using scriptures and the Church magazines. A third group was given a list of scriptures and asked to draw upon personal experiences comparable to those found in the scriptures. The last group was assigned to find scriptures on journal keeping. “Of course, they discovered that there weren’t any scriptures on keeping journals,” Sister Martin says. “But they found lots of scriptures on record keeping.”
There are difficulties, of course. Attendance at ward training meetings seems to be a challenge in most wards and branches. Some teachers are more open to help and direction than others. Moves and changes in ward and stake organizations mean that there are always new teachers facing new students.
“But the key is to persevere,” notes Sister Raymond. “It’s taken almost a year, but I’m seeing a difference. Our teachers are starting to feel like I’m on their team, and they are sharing their challenges and insights with me. I look forward to the future and the potential that comes with this calling.”