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Future Teacher, Coming Right Up

BYU undergraduate takes on sixth grade as she prepares for a career in the classroom.

Ever heard the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? While this saying doesn’t intend to limit adults’ potential, it shows how brain development can hinder learning. Because children and young adults have a much easier time absorbing new information (particularly when it comes to language learning), BYU undergraduate Heidi Hawkins (Early Childhood Education ’25) hopes to help young students start learning German by mixing traditional elementary education with second language acquisition. In March 2024, Hawkins received the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (SWCOLT) Future Language Educator Scholarship to help her dreams of teaching dual-immersion classes come to fruition.

Growing up, Hawkins attended a dual-immersion elementary school where she learned Spanish. This exposure to a new language prepared her for a lifelong appreciation for language acquisition and, eventually, a desire to teach. In middle school, Hawkins took her first German class, and, following her high school graduation, she served a mission in Berlin, Germany. Upon her return, she realized teaching in dual-immersion programs could help her combine her love for German with her desire to teach; Hawkins has hoped to be a German dual-immersion teacher ever since.

Heidi Hawkins sitting on a desk in her classroom.
Photo by Heidi Hawkins

With this goal in mind, Hawkins applied for a SWCOLT scholarship created to provide encouragement and financial support for future language teachers. Currently, the Future Language Educator Scholarship applies to both high school seniors and college students attending school in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. A handful of students from each state apply every year, but SWCOLT awards only one applicant.

To accept her award, Hawkins attended SWCOLT’s 2024 conference in Honolulu. While there, Hawkins received training from a myriad of presenters who provided research and workshops to help teachers improve language teaching in the classroom. Recently, she was given the opportunity to use these skills in a part-time job teaching sixth graders in a nearby charter school’s German-immersion program. She has since discovered that “the most important thing when working with [students] is finding ways to relate language to them and then helping them find a way to connect with the language so that it clicks.” By doing this, Hawkins helps her sixth graders find purpose in their language studies.

As she continues working with these students, Hawkins expresses her excitement for the future, saying, “I’m really excited to be in the classroom, and I can’t wait until [teaching becomes] my everyday.”