Editor’s Note:  Terrie passed away one week ago today.  This article begins the week of tribute we would like to pay to her memory.  

Inside the mind of an amazing primary teacher

Terrie Lynn Bittner loved children. She loved the way their minds worked. She loved their personalities and uniqueness. She loved to learn from them. All of this made her an amazing primary teacher. Here are some posts of hers from Facebook that give a glimpse into what made her a great teacher.

June 8

My class spent more than a month planning and creating a simple gift for our bishop (lay pastor) David . They entirely planned everything themselves and gave me instructions to do what they couldn’t. They presented it today during class when he visited and he shared his testimony of Christ with them. Later, we were talking about the Sermon on the Mount and wishing we could have heard Jesus sharing His testimony. Someone said, “But we got to listen to the bishop’s testimony. That’s almost as special.” They said they felt important because they got to hear him give a talk that no one else got to hear.

July 5

aroni-738302_640Tomorrow’s lesson for my preschoolers is gratitude and it includes the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. I am going to give them each a picture of a Biblical era flannel board person to hold as they act out the story to help ensure they don’t go home and tell their parents Jesus healed leopards, which often happens when I tell that story.

July 13

From one of my Primary students, after a review of Jesus healing the lepers: “How can you love Jesus and just run away and make Him sad?” That’s why I teach Primary–their questions are so life-changing.

I just love my Primary class. They were upset that nine of the lepers did not thank Jesus for healing them, because it might have made Him sad. So, when we acted it out, they had the child playing the thankful leper go back and remind the others to return and give thanks–and they did. We do the story again next week and I am wondering how they will act it out then.

August 31

One of the children started a tradition of a class hug each week. This was our last one.

girls-462072_640I survived my last day with my little class. I managed to not cry until class was over and we were in opening exercises, which is pretty good, I think. I confess we had sort of a lightweight class today–it was on obeying the law and my little ones don’t have any desire to break laws and go to, as one child said, “Kid-jail.” After the short lesson (we had picture taking before the lesson), we colored, ate the cookies a child brought, played with all my puppets, and had several fascinating conversations, including that I can still be Mormon even if I’m not going to church in that building, because Mormons are everywhere–even in South Carolina, as one child said, and another said there were some Mormons in Utah, too. Yup, that one I’m very sure of.

September 27

I think I am taking Georgie (my rabbit puppet) to the class I am subbing for tomorrow. If they tell me they are too old for him, I will put him away…but I will still know he is there and will feel better.

Nov 6

girl-714212_640Best prayer I’ve heard from a child giving the opening prayer in a class: “Please help us be good for once in our lives.”

Close second for a child’s classroom prayer: “Please bless us that we won’t have any pillow fights.”

Nov 23

I worried for two weeks about today’s lesson because it was sad and required a lot of listening from my seven-year-old students. I had promised to explain Gethsemane to them during the lesson on it, only to realize there is none (I’d forgotten), so I put it into the lesson on Jesus’ death.

My class turned it into an amazing experience. They listened quietly, added their own thoughts, and asked good questions. One noted that even though it’s hard to hear all the bad things that happened to Jesus, it proves how much He loves us, and so we know we’re special. Another asked how Judas, knowing Jesus so well in person, and having spent so much time with Him, could do something so terrible to Him, especially since apostles are supposed to try to do only good things. I explained that afterwards, Judas felt terrible about what he’d done, and that caused another child to worry about whether or not he’d been able to repent. She hoped, since he came to understand that he’d done wrong, that he could be forgiven and her heart ached for him. Such sweet hearts they have.

Dec 7

I decided to try something new with the seven-year-olds I teach. They’re so smart and confident I was curious to see how it would work. I told them about the recently added new program for teenagers in which the teens are divided into groups and work together to research and plan how to teach a topic. Then they take turns teaching each other. I asked if they’d like to try it and teach the first half of the lesson to me. (I was prepared to go traditional if they didn’t.) They did. I gave each group a picture from the life of Christ and a card with some questions they needed to be able to answer in their lesson plan. I really anticipated they would read the questions aloud and then just give a short one sentence answer to each one as their presentations. But not one child brought their card up when they presented. They held up their pictures, explained them and then explained the gospel principle behind it in detail. Their lessons were not much different than what I would have done myself. Every week I go home astounded by this group. I’ve yet to find anything they can’t handle. I think their parents should write a book.

Dec 28

Today is the last day of class for children in our church. The next Sunday, they move to the next oldest class. However, I am getting moved up with my students, so I am very happy about keeping them next year. The children were also happy, so we made plans for the coming year as I told them what they will be learning. If I can’t adopt them, this is the next best thing.

To read all of Britt Kelly's articles, please click here.

To read all of Britt Kelly’s articles, please click here.

Who wouldn’t want Terrie as their child’s teacher? What child wouldn’t want to be loved and understood and offered a bunny puppet? Terrie’s beautiful heart was a wonderful example to me as a mother.

About Britt Kelly
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.

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