Elementary Education Graduate Named COEHD Valedictorian

Published: April 18, 2023 | Author: Clare-Estelle Perkins | Read Time: 4 minutes

College of Education and Human Development Valedictorian Kourtney GatesKourtney Gates has been named the 2023 valedictorian for Southern Utah University’s Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education and Human Development. She is graduating with a degree in elementary education and has accepted a job at Three Peaks Elementary, in Cedar City. She’ll begin teaching the third grade starting this fall.

Gates is from Greeley, Colorado and has always had a passion for school and education.

“I really loved just being around kids,” said Gates. “Ever since I was a young teenager, I was always babysitting, it was my job and my hobby all in one. I was one of those kids that really liked school, so I guess I just kind of grew up always knowing that I wanted to be a teacher. That was my plan ever since the beginning and it never changed.”

While figuring out where to pursue her passion she toured SUU in her senior year of high school. She fell in love with SUU’s campus and surrounding nature. Already impressed by the education program, the cozy, homey feeling in Cedar City took her by surprise and moved SUU to the top of her list.

“I am really passionate about education and helping children reach their full potential,” said Gates. “I think a lot of kids need someone that believes in them and someone that tells them that they can do great things and I want to be that person for them. I feel really passionate about helping them to see the value in themselves and realize that there's a whole world of opportunities out there for them and that they can do whatever they want to do.”

Gates loves the relationship she has with her professors and was grateful to discover that they knew who she was personally. She thanks Dr. Jamie Hamblin, assistant professor of teacher education, and Torrie Rice, lecturer of elementary education, for helping her feel confident in herself and confident in future generations. They made a great impact as educators, inspiring her to learn different methods and theories in teaching, and making her into the person that she is today.

“I was fortunate enough to teach Kourtney in four classes in the elementary education program,” said Hamblin. “As impressive as Kourtney was as a student, she is even more impressive as an elementary teacher. Kourtney has taught at various elementary schools and in different grades during her time in the elementary education program. She is an effective teacher and has a calm, positive teacher presence. Kourtney makes an intentional effort to get to know her students and teach them according to their needs and interests. She worked well with peers, professors, and mentor teachers. Children love Kourtney and she will be a wonderful elementary teacher and representative of an SUU graduate.”

Additionally, she participated in courses at the institute and loves the opportunities she has had and the friends she has made throughout her involvement as well as deepening her faith and church involvement.
Gates appreciates the time spent in classrooms throughout the education program, being able to apply the things she learned in lectures and get real-world experience right away.

Because of these experiences, she felt very prepared going into her student teaching position at Three Peaks Elementary. She felt that she had already gained a lot of practical experience during her courses because SUU has so many partnerships with surrounding schools.

“I realized this is where I'm supposed to be. I'm a child at heart, so I guess I speak to children. Being in this environment with children is exciting, joyful, and a great opportunity for me to learn and grow.”

Leaving her withdrawn and shy tendencies in Colorado, Gates names college as her fresh start. One of her biggest achievements was moving here alone and choosing to be more outgoing and to be the person she wanted to be. She feels that she was able to get out of her comfort zone and make new friends while trying new things. Discovering herself and embracing the college scene helped her establish a home away from home.

“Be open to trying new and different things and be all in,” said Gates. “I think you get out of college what you put into it and so I would put 100% effort in both your classes and things that you're pursuing and trying to figure out what's your passion, but also in meeting new people and doing things that make you feel like you.”

Gates was a little caught by surprise but nonetheless honored to be named valedictorian. She knows she is a hard worker and likes to get things done the right way and complete something knowing that she put her all into it.

“The mark of a valedictorian is doing more than the bare minimum, it’s trying your very best, even if it goes beyond your grades.”

She thanks her family and her husband for their support and reliable advice and her professors for showing her they really care and making SUU a special place because of it.

Southern Utah University’s Commencement Ceremony will be held on Friday, April 28, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. in the America First Event Center. The Commencement Ceremony is open to all graduating students and their guests. Tickets are not required, but graduates and their families will be given priority seating.

Visit SUU’s graduation website for a full schedule of events.

Tags: Graduation Teacher Education College of Education and Human Development

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