SUU education students substitute for teachers in Enoch to attend funeral

Feb 7, 2023, 6:23 PM
FILE: Southern Utah University. (SUU/Facebook)...
FILE: Southern Utah University. (SUU/Facebook)

ENOCH, Utah —When a family in Enoch was killed, five of those family members were children. As the community mourned, schools had to continue.

However, when a funeral was held for the Haight family on Jan. 13, every teacher that wanted to was able to attend the services, all thanks to some college students.

Torrie Rice and Jamie Hamblin are assistant professors of elementary education at Southern Utah University and they teach senior students in their final semester before going into student teaching.

“We have a partnership specifically with Enoch Elementary, and North Elementary where our students go out and learn from those mentors and teach in their classrooms two hours per day. So we were already working very, very closely with Enoch elementary before anything happened,” Hamblin said. “We’ve been doing this for semesters, years, really.”


Jamie Hamblin and Torrie Rice speak to KSL TV over zoom about their students substituting in Enoch schools.

The date of the funeral, Jan. 13, was right at the beginning of a new semester. Education seniors at  Southern Utah University were preparing to start their new semester volunteering in Enoch elementary schools a few hours a week.

“We said to them, ‘We have this opportunity and idea to serve the teachers and of Enoch,’ and they right away were on board,” Hamblin said. “They were really supportive. We kind of went in a little bit nervous of if they were going to feel confident enough to go in the classrooms and take over on…  their day four. And so we were a little bit nervous to see if we would get much of a response but they had an amazing response.”

“Southern Utah University we have a great working relationship with them, and they reached out and said, ‘can we help you with our education students coming into your classrooms and helping out so that teachers can attend the funeral?’ And so we utilized that in those schools that were the most impacted,” Lund said.

Then Hamblin and Rice presented the plan to the students.

“There was no hesitation. They were all in the face of a tragedy, they wanted to do something and it was something that they could do,” Hamblin said.

Of the 22 students in the class, 20 were able to go volunteer as substitutes for teachers attending the funerals for the Haight Family.

“We have 22 students in our class this semester, two of the students already had obligations, and they were they were really bummed. They wanted to help. The other 20 signed up right away,” Hamblin said.

When other students on campus heard of the effort, they reached out to see what they could do.

“We had students across campus that weren’t even education students that emailed I got several emails that said, ‘I’ve heard you’re going out to help if you don’t have enough people, please let us know, we’d love to go in and help,’” Hamblin said. “So I just think it speaks to the character of the students. They were they were phenomenal.”

Enoch Elementary principal, Daniel Ekker, not only allowed teachers who were most impacted to attend the funeral in La Verkin, but also set up an area in the library for other teachers to watch the funeral on zoom.

“I think sometimes people don’t realize how the bond that grows between an elementary teacher and their students. You’re with them for over six hours every day, you don’t just care about reading and writing and math. You know who their friends are and when they’re excited that their grandparents are coming and the funny thing that their dog Cooper did the night before and  you really love your students,” Hamblin said. “I know that probably sounds cliché, but you you love them and you care about them deeply, and not just when they’re in your room but when they move on to the next grade level and the next school level. Your heart goes with them and when you see them you are you are one checking on them and wondering how they are doing.”

SUU students substituted in each of the classes to make it possible for teachers to attend the funeral in however they desired.

“So whether it was just virtually or in person all our teachers who wanted to access that were able to do so. And we couldn’t have done that without SUU and others who said we’ll substitute teach and help out in that way,” Lund said.

“We knew that every teacher there was going to feel that heartbreak of not only losing the two children that were at that school at the current time, but also the children that had gone through and that they had taught and been with,” Hamblin said. “The secretaries that work with them and the nurses that put the ice on the skinned knees, and that principal that’s there every morning welcoming the kids as they come in the building. We just knew that was going to be devastating and we just knew that was something that they needed for that closure.”

“One teacher even came out and she was so, so grateful to the [SUU] students because she was saying how much she is she had struggled with this news and she just felt peace, and seeing them one final time was what she needed,” Rice said. “So that was really kind of the ultimate goal was just to give those teachers that peace and that closure and just this very, very small part of that healing process.”

Hamblin and Rice gave all credit to the school and principal for the way they had handled a devastating situation.

“No one’s ever ready to respond to a tragedy like this. And I think Iron County was just amazing with what they did to help support their teachers,” Hamblin said.

“I just commend Enoch elementary so much they they we know we’ve they’ve been through so much but they’ve handled it just with grace. They’ve supported each other, they’ve supported the community they’ve supported the kids and so I think that that’s definitely the highlight of this story,” Rice said.

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SUU education students substitute for teachers in Enoch to attend funeral