Mormons are full supporters of education, both secular and religious. They encourage people to get all the education they can, not just in childhood, but throughout the lives. Whether the education is formal or informal, the teacher has
a valued role in Church society. Following are some of President Thomas S. Monson’s thoughts on teacher, and memories of some teachers he’s known.
The Church has always had a vital interest in public education and encourages its members to participate in parent-teacher activities and other events designed to improve the education of our youth.
There is no more important aspect of public education than the teacher who has the opportunity to love, to teach, and to inspire eager boys and girls and young men and young women. President David O. McKay said, “Teaching is the noblest profession in the world. Upon the proper education of youth depend the permanency and purity of home, the safety and perpetuity of the nation. The parent gives the child an opportunity to live; the teacher enables the child to live well.” (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953, p. 436.) I trust we shall recognize their importance and their vital mission by providing adequate facilities, the finest of books, and salaries which show our gratitude and our trust.
Each of us remembers with affection the teachers of our youth. I think it amusing that my elementary school music teacher was a Miss Sharp. She had the capacity to infuse within her pupils a love for music and taught us to identify musical instruments and their sounds. I well recall the influence of a Miss Ruth Crow who taught the subject of health. Though these were depression times, she ensured that each sixth-grade student had a dental health chart. She personally checked each pupil for dental health and made certain that through public or private resources, no child went without proper dental care. As Miss Burkhaus, who taught geography, rolled down the maps of the world and, with her pointer, marked the capital cities of nations and the distinctive features of each country, language, and culture, little did I anticipate or dream that one day I would visit these lands and peoples.
Oh, the importance in the lives of our children of teachers who lift their spirits, sharpen their intellects, and motivate their very lives!
–Thomas S. Monson, “Precious Children-A Gift from God,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 67
The teacher not only shapes the expectations and ambitions of pupils; the teacher also influences their attitudes toward their future and themselves. If the teacher loves the students and has high expectations of them, their self-confidence will grow, their capabilities will develop, and their future will be assured. A citation to such a teacher could well read: “She created in her room an atmosphere where warmth and acceptance weave their magic spell; where growth and learning, the soaring of the imagination, and the spirit of the young are assured.”
Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, May 1992, 54
It was my experience as a small boy to come under the influence of a most effective and inspired teacher who listened to us and who loved us. Her name was Lucy Gertsch. In our Sunday School class, she taught us concerning the Creation of the world, the Fall of Adam, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. She brought to her classroom as honored guests Moses, Joshua, Peter, Thomas, Paul, and, of course, Christ. Though we did not see them, we learned to love, honor, and emulate them.
Never was her teaching so dynamic nor its impact more everlasting as one Sunday morning when she sadly announced to us the passing of a classmate’s mother. We had missed Billy that morning but did not know the reason for his absence.
The lesson featured the theme “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Midway through the lesson, our teacher closed the manual and opened our eyes and our ears and our hearts to the glory of God. She asked, “How much money do we have in our class party fund?”
Depression days prompted a proud answer: “Four dollars and seventy-five cents.”
Then ever so gently she suggested, “Billy’s family is hard pressed and grief stricken. What would you think of the possibility of visiting the family members this morning and giving to them your fund?”
Ever shall I remember the tiny band walking those three city blocks, entering Billy’s home, greeting him, his brother, sisters, and father. Noticeably absent was his mother. Always I shall treasure the tears which glistened in the eyes of all as the white envelope containing our precious party fund passed from the delicate hand of our teacher to the needy hand of a grief-stricken father.
We fairly skipped our way back to the chapel. Our hearts were lighter than they had ever been, our joy more full, our understanding more profound. A God-inspired teacher had taught her boys and girls an eternal lesson of divine truth: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Well could we have paraphrased the words of the disciples on the way to Emmaus: “Did not our heart burn within us … while [she] opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
Lucy Gertsch knew each of her students. She unfailingly called on those who missed a Sunday or who just didn’t come. We knew she cared about us. None of us has ever forgotten her or the lessons she taught.
Many, many years later, when Lucy was nearing the end of her life, I visited with her. We reminisced concerning those days so long before when she had been our teacher. We spoke of each member of our class and discussed what each one was now doing. Her love and caring spanned a lifetime.
Thomas S. Monson, “Examples of Great Teachers,” Ensign, Jun 2007, 106-12
Frequently the profound influence one life has on the lives of others is never spoken and occasionally little known. Such was the experience of a teacher of girls, even 12-year-olds in the Beehive class of Mutual. She had no children of her own, though she and her husband dearly longed for children. Her love was expressed through the devotion to her special girls as she taught them eternal truths and lessons of life. Then came illness, followed by death. She was but 27.
Each year on Memorial Day, her girls made a pilgrimage of prayer to the graveside of their teacher. First there were seven, then four, then two, and eventually just one, who continued the annual visit, always placing on the grave a bouquet of irises-a symbol of heartfelt gratitude. That last girl later became a teacher of girls. Little wonder she is so successful. She mirrors the reflection of the teacher from whom came her inspiration. The life that teacher lived, the lessons that teacher taught, are not buried beneath the headstone which marks her grave but live on in the personalities she helped to shape and the lives she so selflessly enriched. One is reminded of another master teacher, even the Lord. Once, with His finger, He wrote in the sand a message. 3 The winds of time erased forever the words He wrote but not the life He lived.
“All that we can know about those we have loved and lost,” wrote Thornton Wilder, “is that they would wish us to remember them with a more intensified realization of their reality. … The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”
Thomas S. Monson, “He Is Risen,” Ensign, Apr 2003, 2-7