In high school I did choir and I had the great blessing of being taught by Mrs. Turley for two of my four years in choir. In those two years she made a huge difference for me and I saw the impact she had made for so many other students. Mrs. Turley is known for giving healing hugs, she is known by her students as Mama Turley, she was like our mom at school. We would call ourselves her “kiddos.” She made the choir room a safe room for all and people were able to lower the walls they had built up against the world and feel the music and unite with the other classmates. Every year when we would try on our choir dresses she would always give us a speech on how we are all beautiful and that dress sizes don’t define us, I know that meant a lot to so many people to hear her say that.
When I interviewed her, I asked her why she had become a teacher, she told me about how her husband had become sick so she decieded that she needed to finish her education. She told me how she wanted to be a teacher so she signed up for her classes then went home. She had a very distinct impression that she needed to be a music teacher but music teachers weren’t as high in demand as other teachers and she needed to provide for her family. Eventually she gave in to the prompting and went and changed her classes, but then she panicked again and went back. She went back and forth on the decision and finally settled on being a music teacher. Since she followed that prompting, Heavenly Father was able to put her right where she needed to be to help so many people. To her it was more of a calling than a job. Heavenly Father knew what she needed and what her students needed. She said that at one point she was actually released from her church calling. Her Bishop said that the kids needed her and that was her calling at Mesa High.
I asked her about the pros and cons to being a teacher. She explained that it was nice working at the same time that her children were at school. She got to be in the same district and sometimes even the same school as her children. She knew the teachers and had those connections at their schools. It was tough however because she had 9 kids at home and it was definitely an adjustment from being a stay at home mom. She said that another con was that she couldn’t serve like she used to. She wasn’t at home nearly as much, and didn’t have the time to make dinners for people and do all the things she had been doing before, but she was able to serve in the lives of many students. Overall, it was hard to be away from family. As any teacher knows, it is not a 9-5:00 job, teachers like Mrs. Turley, are always worrying about their students and thinking about what she could do to help them grow and learn.
She said that one of the greatest challenges of teaching was wanting everything to be right. She would always want the lessons to be perfect and it was hard when she only had so much prep time and limited resources. I asked her what kept her going through the hard times, she said it was her love for the students. She would also go back to the moments when Heavenly Father made it clear to her that she was doing what He needed her to be doing. She was making a difference where she was and Heavenly Father strengthened and helped her rise to every challenge that presented itself.
If she could give advice to other teachers, she would say to love your students. She said, “We teach children, we don’t teach subjects. Our subjects are just the venue we teach through. What the students feel will make the difference.” She continued to say that it’s not about the lessons, but the things you do to change their lives.
I would love to just take a moment to say thank you to all the teachers out there who care about their students and truly try to change lives, you certainly do. Being a teacher in these times is difficult, but you can still be an influence of goodness to the lives of the youth. So let’s hear it for the teachers!