“My Most Influential Teacher”: Why Teaching Is Much More than Giving a Lesson
Contributed By Elder K. Mark Frost, Area Seventy
- Teachers should focus on students, not lessons.
- Following the Savior’s example can help teachers be effective.
- Teachers who care about students can have a lasting impact on their lives.
“Teaching is much more than giving a lesson. Rather, it includes loving those you teach, teaching by the Spirit, teaching the doctrine, and inviting your learners to act.” —Elder K. Mark Frost, Area Seventy
The Savior Jesus Christ was the Master teacher, and He invites all to follow Him as we teach others (3 Nephi 27:21). The keys to teaching as the Savior taught are to live as the Savior lived and to love as the Savior loved. Do we realize the life-changing influence we can have on others as we teach in the Savior’s way?
I was blessed in my growing up years with amazing teachers and mentors but, next to my parents, perhaps none had such an influence on my life as Brother Melvin J. Palmer, my high school seminary teacher. Brother Palmer is an ordinary man with an extraordinary talent for teaching.
Brother Palmer loved those he taught
He showed a genuine interest in me when I first enrolled in high school seminary. He was prepared, in advance, for each class so that he had time to interact with me when I entered the classroom. He did this for all of his students. He was always happy, and he enjoyed talking with me. We enjoyed talking about sports, and he always asked about my latest game. Sometimes he even attended my high school games, or he played practice games with me to show his love and support. As I entered the dating years, he was not afraid to ask whom I was taking to an upcoming dance, and he made a point of encouraging me to date young women with high standards. His focus was on his learners rather than on the lessons. As he loved me and showed an interest in me, I became more interested in his message.
Brother Palmer taught by the Spirit
He consistently created a spiritual environment in his classroom. He prepared himself spiritually, through his own daily prayer and scripture study, and I could feel the Holy Ghost when I attended his class. He encouraged us to come to class with that same Spirit so that “he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:22). He made sure his classes always started and ended with prayer, included the singing of hymns, and encouraged student participation so that each of us could feel the Spirit and become more fully converted.
Brother Palmer taught the doctrine
He always emphasized the “why” in his teaching. That approach to teaching provided a strong foundation for me. He taught from the scriptures, and he encouraged us to find answers to our questions in the scriptures. He made learning fun through scripture chases and through doctrinal mastery. He taught us that Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan of happiness and that if we build our foundation upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that the devil shall have no power over us (Helaman 5:12). He also taught us the words of living prophets and reminded us that “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
Brother Palmer invited diligent learning
He frequently invited his learners to act (2 Nephi 2:14). During our course of study on the New Testament, he challenged us to memorize each of the mastery scriptures and to know the underlying doctrine. I accepted his challenge, and that experience changed my life. I was amazed how many of these mastery scriptures and associated doctrine were included throughout the missionary lessons as I began preparing to serve a full-time mission to Japan. Brother Palmer was not afraid to invite us to do hard things and to help his students become better learners.
Teaching is much more than giving a lesson. Rather, it includes loving those you teach, teaching by the Spirit, teaching the doctrine, and inviting your learners to act. As we strive to teach using these important principles, we help our learners become more converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and become more like Him. I am grateful to Brother Palmer for his love and friendship and for his Christlike teaching in my life.
Melvin J. Palmer, who worked as a high school seminary teacher and now serves in The Gila Valley Arizona Temple presidency, is pictured with his wife, Adeline Palmer. Photo courtesy of Alan J. Palmer.