A mother, President Packer and an LDS convert: A look at the lives, sacrifices of seminary teachers

Published: Thursday, June 5 2014 10:36 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, June 5 2014 10:36 p.m. MDT

Elder Madsen was released from the First Quorum of the Seventy and designated as an emeritus general authority in 2009.

“I shall be eternally grateful for my teacher, Dale T. Tingey,” Elder Madsen said. “Those decisions made during early-morning seminary really did set the course for the rest of my life.”

Teachers today

Today, the process to become a professional full-time seminary teacher involves taking institute classes designed to train teachers and then being evaluated as a student teacher for upwards of a year. It's a fairly rigorous process, but administrators have made adjustments in recent years to reduce the burden on individuals and their families, Howell said.

"Our feeling was we could get a pretty good look more quickly than we have in the past and not cause the working professional to have to go through such an elaborate, lengthy process," Howell said. "I think it’s making a difference."

For more information on the process and requirements to become a seminary teacher, visit seminary.lds.org.

The chances of being hired are small. In any given year, Howell estimated that 750 to 1,000 people start the process. Of those, about 120-150 become student teachers, with some dropping out and new individuals being added. Of those, about 50 percent are hired, Howell said.

"We always ask the question, 'What is in the best interest of the students?' We want the best teacher in front of the kids," Howell said. "I never feel like we are turning away our best teachers. It feels like it's working out just right for us, and I hope it continues."

The compensation for a seminary teacher is comparable to that of a nine-month school teacher, including a benefits package and retirement plan. Teachers are asked to keep their compensation confidential, Howell said.

"You are not going to strike it rich as a seminary teacher, but that's not why people want to do it," Howell said.

Turnover among seminary teachers is low, but Howell encourages teachers to occasionally evaluate their situation and ask "is this where I'm supposed to be?"

"I'm asked almost every day about teaching seminary. I say we are always looking for good teachers," Howell said. "Whether it's full-time teaching or an experience to help bless you in roles you will play later in life, if you feel an interest in pursuing this, there is a reason. It might be professional or otherwise, but follow those promptings and you will be blessed for it."

For those interested in teaching seminary, learn how to study the scriptures, Howell said.

"Increasingly, the responsibility to teach the scriptures is related to our ability to study and understand them ourselves. To be effective, you must first partake of the living water yourself," Howell said. "If you don't know how to identify principles, look for and find patterns in the scriptures, you won't be able to help others. To see hidden symbolism and to appreciate meaning at different levels, to help students analyze and then synthesize, you must know how to do it yourself. Learn how to really study and understand the scriptures. You first have to be a student to be a teacher."

Three teachers

Shaylie Huntington, Kellan Cutler and Marc Oslund were among the group recently hired as full-time seminary teachers.

All three said there were times when they considered giving up, but they stuck with it and are grateful for this new career.

Huntington was studying speech pathology at Utah State University when an institute teacher encouraged her to consider teaching seminary. After student teaching at Mountain Crest High School this past year, she was one of six women hired.

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