In the show and tell of education, Jody Heaps shows more than she tells.
"She would never ask anything she would not willingly do herself or ever give less than 110 percent," said a Sterling Scholar candidate in describing this most influential teacher.Heaps, debate and forensics coach at American Fork High School, was selected as the Most Influential Teacher for 1989 in the annual Deseret News/KSL program.
Heaps is a teacher who travels the proverbial second mile - and then some. And she usually has students along as she makes the trek. Before school, after hours, Saturdays and whenever there is a need, she's there, her students say.
On her classroom wall are more than 40 National Forensic League awards - fruits of her labors via her effects on students.
"She took a fragile and near-dead debate program and turned us into a top state team," one of her charges wrote. "I have never had a teacher who showed more genuine concern about me and my accomplishments."
Besides whipping the American Fork debaters into shape, she has coordinated state meets as well, serving for two years as state forensics and debate chairwoman and adding to her "spare time" burden.
She's Jody - even Jode on occasion - in the classroom and doesn't feel being on a first-name basis with students is a detriment to the mutually responsible relationships she promotes.
"I can get respect when I need it," she said. "I don't have discipline problems because I respect these kids as persons." As she speaks, about 20 students are divided into two groups brainstorming an upcoming project - taking their debate skills to local elementary schools to help the younger students prepare for and compete in debates.
When she graduated from Southern Utah State College 11 years ago and set out on a career in education, Heaps found some things better than she anticipated and some things not as good.
On the plus side, without question, are the students. "I love kids. That's it. The kids know it and they love me back."
The raw materials for actually teaching, she said, "are about what I expected," and the load she carries is beyond what should be expected, she believes. With 225 students to influence and come to know on a personal level, she's "spread too thin."
Her choice of classroom decor is a clue to Heaps's personality. Poster-sized photos from Gone with the Wind are reminders to her of Scarlet O'Hara - "a person I really like. She goes after what she wants and doesn't rely on others."
She has expressed her own independent spirit in politics, having run for American Fork's City Council. She serves as Utah County Democratic Party parliamentarian. She is involved in ecological issues, holding membership in Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Federation. Her concern for whales as a disappearing species led her to "adopt" one of the sea mammals, contributing to the effort to preserve them.
At the end of this school year, Heaps will leave Utah to go with her husband, Richard and children, Melanie, 7 and Eric, 4, to Virginia.
"I'm going to stay home and be a full-time mother for awhile," she said. Then added, "My husband gives it a month."