|Dr. Julie Gast|
Dr. Julie Gast is the CEHS Teacher of the Year—and her passion shows.
She uses that enthusiasm to help her students get over the fears they will likely face in the two classes she teaches at Utah State University: Planning and Evaluation for Health Education and Sexuality Education Within the Schools.
The classes scare her students for different reasons. Dr. Gast understands the fear, but she also gives her students the tools they need to overcome it.
The planning and evaluation class requires them to implement a community health program in a small group. “I don’t see the point of reading about that instead of doing it,” Dr. Gast said. So her students get a lot of hands-on experience, working with agencies, identifying projects that the community wants to participate in and then carrying them out.
In the past, students teamed up to teach a sorority about healthy eating, meal planning and shopping; others worked with the USU cross-country team about improving performance by getting enough sleep; a third worked on bullying prevention at a charter school.
“When they’re working with real life agencies they have to do their best,” she said. “I don’t like to teach classes where it’s read the book, take the test. I like them out there doing what they’re going to be doing professionally.”
When she teaches her students how to teach sex education in the schools, it’s a different kind of scary. The subject matter is so intimidating, a lot of health education teachers avoid it unless they’ve had a class on how to teach it.
While there are limitations to what can be taught in Utah, “we can teach a lot more than people think we can,” she said. She works to dispel myths about sex education and lets her students see the truth: She loves that class. It’s the one subject her students’ future pupils are likely to pay attention to, whether they admit it or not.
The beauty of the class is that it’s relevant to the kids, she said.
In both classes, the students are expected to work. “I have high standards and I tell them that in class, but I’m going to give them the skills to meet those standards. I set the bar high and I’m always surprised how many students jump over it.”