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Utah teacher excels in the classroom, gets invited to national conference

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FARMINGTON — Mary Jo Naylor's 6th grade class enthusiastically recites the powerful poem "Invictus."

"Out of the night that covers me," they say in unison. "Black as a pit from pole to pole."

Poetry fills an important role in Naylor's classroom.

"I use poetry like this as a way to teach vocabulary, to teach the beauty of the language, to teach ideas that they are not going to hear," Naylor said.

Teaching is in her DNA. Her grandmother, mother and father all worked in education. "I really like children," she said. "And I feel like I have a talent with children."

Mrs. Naylor's passion for teaching is evident. However, she has one big frustration: the size of her classes.

Education Nation coverage
This week, NBC's annual Education Nation summit kicked off at the New York City Public Library. Educators, business and government leaders all came together for the common goal of improving education in the U.S.

Naylor was among them. She participated in a Teacher Town hall with Brian Williams, attended the movie premiere of "Won't Back Down," and experienced New York.

One of the reasons NBC invited Mrs. Naylor is because she has worked with KSL Read Today volunteers at her school. Eagle Bay Elementary had 90 reading tutors last year and they were a big help.

KSL will follow Naylor throughout Education Nation.

During our special Education Nation report we will show you what's working in Utah. We will also discuss technology, common core standards and Community Involvement.

You'll also have the chance to nominate your favorite teacher.

Go to our Facebook page, upload a picture and you could win a cash prize for you and your teacher. The winner will be announced during the 6:30 p.m. newscast on Monday.

"If I am permitted to have a soapbox, class size is my soapbox. Last year I had 24 students and I felt like I was in heaven," she said.

This year her classroom is packed with desks for 33 students. She said that with a class that size, it becomes more difficult to focus on each child and make sure they have the attention they need.

Nevertheless, she always does, and is keenly aware of her student's needs.

"She has their confidence," said principal Julie Peters, principal of Eagle Bay Elementary. "They know they can trust her and that she cares about them."

Her students agree. "She lets me feel safe here. If I am stuck on something she makes me feel comfortable to ask," said student Keinan Fratto.

That's the highest praise you can give a teacher.

Mrs. Naylor believes strongly that kids also need to feel empowered.

"(I) make them feel ownership for their grades, for their improvement and I try to do that in my classroom," Naylor said.

One can't help but recall "Invictus" again: "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.


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Nadine Wimmer


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