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These soon-to-be grads (and Idaho’s next generation of K-12 teachers) complete the sentence, ‘I wouldn’t be here today if…’

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Boise State University
Soon to graduate from Boise State University are Delaney Case (upper left), Hailey Dodson (middle left) and Leah Christner (lower left). Sherry Dismuke (lower right) is assistant dean of Teacher of Education at Boise State's College of Education.

In this unique moment, where public education is in the eye of a hurricane of fraught political debate, Idaho’s next generation of educators looks to the future with focus, optimism and deep gratitude for their families and mentors.

“These kids are kids, and they need to be cared for, no matter what’s going on,” said Leah Christner, one of thousand of Boise State grads-to-be poised to receive her diploma on Saturday, May 7.

Christner joined other soon-to-be grads Delaney Case, Hailey Dodson and Sherry Dismuke, assistant dean of Teacher Education at Boise State’s College of Education to visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about their professional milestones and their personal commitment to shaping future generations.

“And they have not only the mind for it, but they have the heart for it.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I’m George Prentice. It is a big week in the lives of our next guests. Simply put, this is one of those moments where for them, there will be everything before this moment and everything since.  They are graduating, yes. But I'm guessing this is much, much more than a ceremony and a degree. And here they are, Leah Christner, Delaney Case, Hailey Dodson. And joining them this morning is Sherry Dismuke, assistant dean of Teacher Education at the College of Education at Boise State. Good morning to you all.

SHERRY DISMUKE: Good morning.

LEAH CHRISTNER: Good morning.

HAILEY DODSON: Good morning.

DELANEY CASE: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Sherry … up top …. Can you talk a little bit about the responsibility and the privilege put before you each day with these extraordinary young women and men?

DISMUKE: Well, I would have to say, George, it is a great privilege to be able t,o in some ways influence and prepare these young people to go out into the fields of teaching where they, in turn, are going to impact the lives of many K-12 learners and their families. So, I take the responsibility very seriously. When I come each day, I have a picture up in my office of my grandchildren. And I think and I focus if these were going to be my grandchildren's teachers, what kind of attributes would I like them to have? And so, it personalizes my work for me, and it reminds me how important teacher preparation is each day.

PRENTICE: So, let's bring in some of these people who are tasked with helping to make dreams come true. Haley Dodson, let me start with you. Why a teacher? Where does this come from for you?

DODSON: So, when I was younger, I had a fantastic fourth and fifth grade teacher who was so phenomenal; and she genuinely cared for every single one of us. And that really stood out to me. And I remember thinking, as a fourth grader,” I want to do that someday.” I thought that was super cool. And so going through high school and then getting to Boise State University, I just felt that nudge, that teaching was for me. And so, taking a couple of classes, going into different schools and teaching kids, I just loved it. And I love the idea of shaping the future, and supporting students and helping them get to their goals, just as teachers have helped me get to mine. So that's why I want to be a teacher. That's why I pursued this amazing career.

PRENTICE: Okay, Leah Christner, tell me about you/

CHRISTNER: So, for me growing up, I had so many really positive adult role models in my life and that was something that I was really fortunate to have. But I know that that's not a reality for some kids, and that was something that I considered a lot going into teaching… and I've experienced a lot in my placements. I get to be a really positive adult role model for kids, and that makes such a difference in just their emotional well-being and also their academic well-being. And so, I think that just gives a really unique opportunity to teachers - to be able to be influential, in that way, to kids. And it makes my work really purposeful. So that's really why I chose teaching.

PRENTICE: Wow, I'm loving this already. Delaney Case. How about you? Why a teacher?

CASE: I have wanted to be a teacher… kind of with a combination of what Hailey and Leah said… I had a really influential third grade teacher, and she really took me under her wing and gave me some classroom responsibilities. And that was just the superficial side of things. But as I grew up, I realized that I have a tremendous trait of caring about other people. And like what Leah said, making that positive impact on students’ lives every single day… because they might not have a positive experience at home or outside of school. So just being that positive, warm and welcoming person in their daily lives is really why I want.

PRENTICE: Leah. I am certain that I'm not the first to tell you that you are treading where a lot of people lately are afraid to go… which is to say, the world of education. And I'm sure that you see what we see in the headlines and in some communities across this country… and the debates over education. And there's a lot of noise out there.

CHRISTNER: Well. It is kind of overwhelming to see everything like that, especially going into teaching… being a new teacher, just the stress that already comes with that… and then just having everything that revolves around education being in your face too is scary. And I think it's just really important that no matter what is going on in the news, that we really focus on our students… and focus on kids first. And obviously there's a lot of academics that go into that; but these kids are kids, and they need to be cared for, no matter what's going on. And so that really helps me to just stay focused on why I'm teaching and what's really important. And those other things will just fall into place after that. The kids are our priority.

DODSON: This is Hailey. It is scary going into education with everything going on in the news and especially, as  was saying, being a brand new teacher and our already having to navigate through that and figure out how to do this as a brand new teacher on your own. Because we've been with a mentor teacher this past year, so that is a little bit nerve wracking. But at the same time, every time that I go into my school and I look at my kids and I teach my kids, I'm reminded that this is why I'm here and I'm doing it for them. I'm not doing it for anybody else, and I'm doing it to help them succeed. And so, as Leah was saying, to have that focus has been important for me, and has allowed me to just know that I'm here to help them. And they know the same - that I'm here to help them.

CASE: And this is Delaney. I think the biggest point of everything is that the students are the “why”- why I am here, and why I choose to do what I do every single day. And so if we put that into the front of our heads and focus on them being the reason, which they really are… they truly are the reason why each of us are here today. Each of us continue to do what we love to do, even on hard days. But the students are the “why.” And I think you can forget about the things that are happening in the news, and just really focus on your purpose - being the teacher.

PRENTICE: Sherry Dismuke, I'm thinking of my favorite teachers and the best teachers I've known, and I think that the difference between the amazing and the great were the intangibles. Right? Do you talk to students about intangibles? There's so much that's s not a science, and is an art.

DISMUKE: It's interesting you ask that question, because at our intern orientation, when students are going into their senior year and they're about to go into the classroom, we actually do an exercise very similar to this. We ask them to recall their favorite teacher and the teacher that they disliked the most. And we go through them after they've had a chance to brainstorm and unpack those intangibles. And it's almost always those things that are very hard to teach in program, which is developing respect and rapport, caring enough about a student, to want to help them with maybe a situation in their own lives. Going the extra mile for somebody and really helping kids feel seen and heard in the classroom… or some of those things. And so, we do work on those in program. And as a matter of fact, when we go out to schools to observe our teachers in the schools, it's one of the things they actually get evaluated on. So, we talk about developing those environments of respect and rapport, creating a positive culture for learning in that classroom. And we are able, as we go to watch them teach, we're able to have some really great conversations about how they're able to do that, how we see them doing that in their lessons, and maybe even set goals in those areas. But it's so important to tend to those, what we might call intangibles, because they're also related to skills, I think that teachers can learn, and this just adds to the complexity of teaching and learning. So many people think that if I have the content knowledge, so if :I have a degree in a particular subject area like math or chemistry, I can teach it.” But teaching is much more complex than that. And it really gets to those intangibles, knowing each student, knowing what they need, knowing a little bit about their families and the culture that they bring to the table as an asset. And I think all of that are those pieces that are beyond just knowing your content.

PRENTICE: Delaney Case do you know where or what you'll be teaching.

CASE: At this moment, I do not know where I will be teaching. I would really love to teach in a middle school math class.

PRENTICE: In middle school?

CASE: That is the response that I get every single time.

PRENTICE: There's a special corner of heaven carved out in heaven for you already. And do you know where? First of all, where's home for you?

CASE: Home is actually north Idaho up in Coeur d'Alene for me.

PRENTICE: Do you where you would like to teach?

,CASE: I really would like to teach in the Boise School District, just through my experiences here in my professional year. I've just had a wonderful time and I've seen the support that I can be given if I were to work for the Boise School District. But my overall goal is just somewhere in the Treasure Valley. I have not applied back home and I don't really think I will just because I fell in love with this area down here.

PRENTICE: Leah, how about you?

CHRISTNER: I also don't know where I will be teaching after school yet. But similarly to Delaney, I would love to teach in the Boise School District. I would echo what she said about the support that I've received since I've been here from teachers that I've been teaching with in my grade level. Also, teachers in other grade levels have been so kind to me and very encouraging, which is just really sweet to have as a teacher. And then also, just the kids here are just great. I just love the kids that I get to work with in the Boise District. So, I would love to teach here after I graduate.

PRENTICE: Do you have a preference on grades?

CHRISTNER: You know, I go back and forth. Similar to Delaney, I actually love middle school, as well.

PRENTICE: Gosh.

CHRISTNER: I know. It's shocking - two of us in one meeting, but it's really, really fun. The content is just what I love, but I really do love the younger kids, just because they're so sweet and they have so many things that they're learning, so they're making huge learning jumps. So right now, I'm student teaching in a kindergarten class, and it's really cool just to see the progress that they make and they make huge strides throughout the year. So, it's just really sweet to see that. So honestly, I would be happy with a wide range of grades. I just think that there are sweet things about different grades, no matter what it is.

PRENTICE: Okay, Hayley, how about you?

DODSON: Yeah. So just about a week ago, I just accepted a position in Anchorage, Alaska,

PRENTICE: My goodness. Congratulations.

DODSON: Thank you.

PRENTICE: What grades?

DODSON: I'm going to be kindergarten or first grade at an elementary school.

PRENTICE: That's a big deal. This is so exciting.

DODSON: Thank you. I can't quite believe it. Yeah, it's pretty awesome.

PRENTICE: Oh, my goodness. So, what does that mean? You'll be up there… when?

DODSON: So I'm going to move from Idaho at the end of July and then school starts on the 18th of August.

PRENTICE: Do you know anyone in Anchorage?

DODSON: I do not. So it's kind of part of the adventure…that I've been up to Alaska and I absolutely loved it. I've grown up in Meridian, Idaho, and so just wanting to experience somewhere else. And I fell in love with the principal up there and it was just the best interview. And the school was what I wanted. I wanted to teach in a Tile One school. I'm currently a teacher at a Title One school here in Boise. And so, I really wanted to be at a Title one school up in Anchorage, and I got the best of both worlds, so I'm so incredibly excited. Yeah, I still can't quite believe it… that it's all happened.

PRENTICE: Okay, finally, I will ask each of you to finish this sentence. And Leah, I will start with you. :I would not be here today if…”

CHRISTNER: Great question. I would not.be here today without the support of my family, just as I've gone throughout my own education and just my personal life. My family has been very supportive in just guiding me through what I want to do with my life and being supportive. They will engage in conversation and say, “That makes sense. I love that you are passionate about that,” and their support, no matter what, which has been really influential in just where I'm at in my life today.

PRENTICE: Delaney.

CASE: I would not be here today if it weren't for the influence of my family and all of the support that they have given me. But going through my college experience, I honestly don't think that I would be here if it weren't for the support from other education major students. It's really a collaborative sense of a college, and I've worked with many other education, major students all throughout my education, all throughout the years. And I think that working together and piecing things apart has really influenced me and impacted my ability to move forward.

PRENTICE: Okay, Hailey.

DODSON: I would not be here without my family, continually supporting me through the ups and downs of this year. And I also would not be here if it wasn't for the kids at the Boys and Girls Club. Sophomore year, I was an intern there, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher. But I never had a real experience working with tons and tons of students. And so, working at the Boys and Girls Club, they absolutely changed my life forever. And building those connections with those students is going to be with me for the rest of my entire life. Yeah, I love those kids. So that experience was pretty life changing for me.

PRENTICE: Sherry…Saturday is going to be fairly emotional; I would imagine. All graduations are…well, all of a sudden I feel invested in these amazing women here.

DISMUKE: Yeah, the favorite day of the year for me. I have the privilege of standing down right in front of the stage,  and handing them their diplomas. And there is never a graduation…It doesn't matter how many…there's never a graduation when that does not bring tears to my eyes, but a sense, an incredible sense of pride as they walk across that stage. And I think it's because I know how much work they've done, how invested they are at going out and really influencing this profession and being advocates for this profession. And so, it's more than like a diploma to me. I just feel like they are ready to go out and do this complicated work. And they have not only the mind ,for it, but they have the heart for it.

PRENTICE: Delaney. Leah, Hailey, I am so happy that you have decided this line of work; and the world is that much better once you get this degree and get going. Thank you. And thank you so much for giving us some time this morning.

CHRISTNER: Thank you.

DODSON: Thank you.

CASE: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to speak about…really, our purpose.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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