December 14, 2016
“Unlike today’s societal trends, telling a chicken she looks ‘plump’ or ‘fluffy’ is a compliment of the highest order. So, if you get a moment, a quick emailed response stating this picture looks great and you’ve never seen such a well-nourished and plump hen would go a long way with her. You might get sent a dozen farm-fresh eggs…”
This is Henrietta. She is the proud chicken of PathwayConnect instructor Michael Crockett, who understands how to make online classes truly enjoyable. He lives on a farm in Idaho, but his teaching methods in his Book of Mormon course have made his class emails quite popular. In fact, some of his online students have shared the emails with other students and friends throughout the U.S., sometimes over 2,400 miles (3,862 km) away from Brother Crockett’s farm in Idaho.
Joy in Gospel Study
Brother Crockett’s teaching has particularly influenced Rachel Amidon, a PathwayConnect student in Lowell, Massachusetts.
“I just really loved his emails about all his farm animals. It just put a smile on my face every time he would talk about Henrietta (his chicken)! Plus I really appreciated this video helping translate Isaiah in Second Nephi. I always dread reading Isaiah, but he actually got me a little excited about it.”
These creative emails dispelled all of Rachel’s doubts about joining PathwayConnect, and her positive experience in religion class helped her appreciate how enjoyable and worthwhile the entire PathwayConnect experience can be.
“I really enjoyed that class, so much more than I thought possible. At the beginning, I just told myself, ‘It’s only for one year, I can do that.’ Now, I don’t want PathwayConnect to end. I enjoy going to the gatherings and have made some really good friends. The classes give you some great life tools,” Rachel said.
The far-reaching effects of Brother Crockett’s teaching come from his enthusiasm. The blessings he’s seen in his life and his students’ lives motivates Brother Crockett to put extra effort into his job as a PathwayConnect instructor. He understands that the best happiness and learning comes from the Spirit.
He said, “I love how the scriptures make me feel, and I love the Spirit they bring. All learning — even secular — is best learned through the Spirit. Having the Spirit’s influence affects so much within the learning process.”
Brother Crockett makes a conscious effort to convey optimism and enthusiasm through his courses, because he knows that although school may not be easy, God will always help students who need it.
“I try to be positive in all my interactions with students, as well as understanding,” he shared. “The future, as President Monson put it, is ‘as bright as our faith.’ But just because the Lord led students to PathwayConnect doesn’t give some sort of guarantee that things are going to be easy. It does mean they won’t be alone and that they’ll have full access to His power and grace.”
Brother Crockett’s caring teaching style has led many students to appreciate him as someone they can relate to: “They felt they knew me as a person, not just a teacher, because of things I’d include in my emails regarding life on my little farm. It’s really a little thing, but I include a weekly update about my chickens — Henrietta, in particular — and the things they do. I’ve also given them a “voice” and endowed them with human behavior, thus further animating them.”
Rededicated and Supercharged
Most importantly, Brother Crockett’s teaching helped Rachel strengthen her testimony and rededicate herself to studying the gospel.
Rachel shared, “I have never had a teacher get me excited to read the scriptures before. I always did it because I was supposed to. After reading Brother Crockett’s emails, I wanted to go dig straight into the scriptures. He would hook you with a little insight or some humor, then you had to go find the rest for yourself.”
I have never had a teacher get me excited to read the scriptures before.
Brother Crockett’s influence on students in Massachusetts soon caught the attention of service missionaries assigned to BYU-Pathway.
Elder Davis, a service missionary at the Massachusetts Lowell site, said, “Brother Crockett was so inspiring that he totally supercharged Rachel Amidon. Rachel loves how he does his lessons. He has made learning about the scriptures fun and made her see them in a whole new light. She can’t wait to open her computer to see what new thing he has to say. She was so motivated by his emails that she began sharing them with the other students who didn’t have him.”
Brother Crockett’s emails soon became popular among all the students at the Lowell, Massachusetts gathering site. “They ended up being just as excited for his emails as I was,” Rachel remarked.
It’s easy to see why his emails were so popular: “This is Henrietta showing off her physical acumen and dexterity. Possessing the reflexes of a cat, Henrietta can perch lightning fast upon anyone’s shoulder or head. At times, it is hard to believe chickens are the last in the evolutionary demise of the T-Rex. Can you imagine the chaos in a flock of T-Rexes roaming about the farm, laying eggs everywhere and trying to perch on everyone’s head? I’ll take chickens any day.”
“At times, it is hard to believe chickens are the last in the evolutionary demise of the T-Rex.”
Brother Crockett’s dedication and care in teaching has blessed many PathwayConnect students.
“PathwayConnect has really strengthened my testimony, especially my testimony of the scriptures. I have been able to dig deeper into the scriptures like I never have before,” Rachel shared.
And Brother Crockett is certain that PathwayConnect is inspired of God: “The creation of BYU-Pathway is a witness to the prophetic vision of prophets. As these PathwayConnect students enroll, the whole course itself is geared towards blessing the lives of the students and everyone around them. Truly, the feeling of searching out God’s children to save and elevate them is fused into the DNA of the PathwayConnect program.”
Brother Crockett continues to inspire PathwayConnect students as an instructor, and Rachel plans to become a high school counselor after attending BYU-Idaho Online.