Bott gives lecture on the power of teaching

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After returning from a mission in Samoa, then-21-year-old Randy Bott said a prayer in which he promised to go into whatever professional field the Lord saw fit for him — as long as it wasn’t teaching.

Bott, who is now an associate professor of church history, said he realizes now that he is “the king of making stupid statements.” He continued to relate his story of becoming a teacher during the David O. McKay School of Education’s Power of Teaching lecture Thursday morning. He concluded that the power of teaching has changed his own life more than he has impacted any one of his students.

“I pray that my 40 years of teaching has impacted just one soul beside my own,” Bott said.

After returning from his mission, Bott entered the forestry program at Utah State University but soon learned this wasn’t the major for him when he received a C in his introduction to forestry class. He then went through a number of majors before finally settling on psychology. By the time he finished his bachelor’s, he had earned 246 credit hours. Because he enjoyed working with people, Bott decided he would like to become a counselor and decided to teach high school to fund his graduate education. Student teaching landed him in a seminary class filled with sophomores who promised to fail him on his evaluation; they made good on their promise. Nonetheless, church education hired Bott as a seminary teacher.

Bott soon settled into his new profession, but he continued to hope he would be promoted to an institute, preferring to teach older students. After five years of failing to find a job at the Utah State institute, his dream job, and after three years of serving as a mission president in Samoa, BYU offered Bott a position teaching Doctrine and Covenants. He took the job, and subsequently discovered his assignment changed to missionary prep with a charge of changing how missionaries were prepared for service throughout the world. Bott has now taught at BYU for 18 years.

While it didn’t make him wealthy, Bott said teaching allowed him to pursue other interests — he is the author of three books on missionary work. He encouraged anyone with an interest in teaching to consider it as a profession, despite the lack of financial incentives.

“If you think the only thing you can do is make money — I haven’t seen anyone taking any with them,” Bott said. “I would encourage those of you who have the gift to teach. There is no greater calling.”

He also encouraged students to remain flexible and allow Heavenly Father to guide them to careers best suited to their talents and to dedicate themselves in their chosen fields.

“Whatever you are, give it your best shot so that when you stand at the end of your career, you don’t look back with regrets,” Bott said.

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