If professor Joe Martin had his way, all teachers would be paid on commission.
They would focus on their purpose, not their paychecks.
They would be examples to students, modeling the behavior they expect.
In essence, teachers would serve students and help them find their purpose in life — the reason they chose the profession in the first place.
"We were all put here to be used. I didn't say misused, I didn't say abused . . . I mean we were put here to serve others," said Martin, who, raised by a single, teenage mom, has become a nationally renowned motivational speaker and the youngest person ever hired, at age 24, to teach at a Florida state university. "(But) most people are not serving. They are surviving education. . . . We get so focused on the problems that we forget the purpose."
Martin's energetic, humor-laced remarks were punctuated with nods, applause and a standing ovation from about 1,000 teachers at Thursday's opening session of the Utah Education Association's annual conference.
The event, titled "The Call to Teaching: Remembering Why We Teach," concludes Friday. Public schools closed, as is tradition, for the event, which includes workshops, speeches and teaching merchandise.
Martin, founder of RealWorld University and a University of West Florida professor, was the keynote speaker; National Education Association President Bob Chase addressed an evening awards banquet.
Chase praised New York City schoolteachers who, while at school Sept. 11, calmed children as they watched the World Trade Center collapse. Some children thought the people they saw falling from the buildings were birds that had caught on fire. Some cried out for their parents who worked in the Twin Towers.
Amid the chaos, teachers led children from the school, some in their arms and others on their shoulders, to safety at another school 40 minutes away. Some took children home with them who weren't able to reach their parents in the chaos. Nobody was lost or injured in the trek.
Some folks called them heroes. Chase said they felt as if they were just doing their jobs, just being teachers.
"No doubt, America's public school teachers will shepherd students through this crisis like the teachers in P.S. 234," Chase said. "We will teach them hope and humanity are stronger than hatred."
Chase's comments came before 10 teachers received "Excellence in Teaching Awards" and $1,000 courtesy of R.C. Willey. They are:
Elementary: Michelle Evans, Valley, Weber District; Shari Iverson, Liberty, Murray; Mitzi Kawaguchi, Midland, Davis; Sean Mabey, Bluffdale, Jordan; Mary Mullen McGann, Red Rock, Grand; Marilyn Speroni, Mountain Shadows, Jordan; Lynda Tierney, Academy Park, Granite. Middle school: Kristine Carter, Dixie, Washington; Janet Loureiro, Fairfield Junior High, Davis. Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind: Carol Ruddell.
"I wish you could see yourselves as I do," Chase said. You're remarkable. The work you do is extraordinary."