Beth Finch Hedengren
Retired Adjunct Faculty, English
“You’ll be married in a year!” That’s what all the folks in my Minnesota ward said as I left home for BYU. That’s what people expected of girls in 1968. When I wasn’t, I just kept going to school. I studied English, because I loved to read, but had no plans for a career. I went on to graduate school, because I wasn’t married yet and why not? In graduate school I discovered a love for teaching and academic research, but still when I graduated with my master’s a week before I was (at last, those Minnesota friends might say) married, I gave away all my teaching materials. What need would I have of them?
But two years later I was back at BYU, teaching again. My husband had accepted a teaching job here, and my old boss asked if I could take on one class. I had a baby, but one hour three times a week seemed do-able. I missed teaching. So I took that class, and the next semester another. I taught part-time for all the years my five children were little, usually sharing childcare with my husband, teaching early in the morning or in the evening when he could watch the children. I was so thankful to have this opportunity to learn and grow as I taught, and to participate in a world beyond diapers and crying children. I loved thinking of ways to teach my students, and seeing their eyes light up when they learned. When I came back to those children after an hour or two, I loved teaching them too, somehow more because I had been teaching others.
As the children grew, I took on more responsibility in our department. I taught more classes, served as part-time faculty liaison, developed a new course, and eventually took on a three-year full-time appointment and coordinated a section of a course. I developed leadership skills and confidence, and I saw those skills bless others both at the university and also in my home. Every afternoon I came home the same time my children arrived from school and we shared all the things we were learning.
Later on, as the children left home, I took on more opportunities. I was asked to lead a tutoring program, the Writing Fellows, and supervise about 60 wonderful undergrads from many different majors, teaching them how to help other students improve their writing in classes all across the university. I was able to improve and grow the program. As part of this position, I started developing a Writing Across the Curriculum program, training faculty from all disciplines in how to teach their students to write well in their particular fields. I led workshops for hundreds of faculty and teaching assistants, and wrote a nationally published book on the topic.
This work eventually led to a full-time position, which I was then ready to accept. As Associate Coordinator of University Writing, I was able to continue the work of Writing Across the Curriculum as well as contribute to the development of all aspects of writing instruction at BYU.
Now that I have retired I am still using the knowledge and skills developed through my education and career, enriching my home, my ward, and my life. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to learn, and I’m thankful for how that education has enriched my life, even though at the time I was studying, I had no idea how it would be such a blessing. How thankful I am that I didn’t get married when I thought I would!
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