Teacher graduates with his students

A few heads turned at the recent seminary graduation held for Davis High School seminary students.

Sitting in the middle of his own students with a broad grin on his face was Blane van Pletzen, playing a dual role of seminary teacher and graduating student.Raised in South Africa, van Pletzen didn't join the Church until he was 17, so "I did not have the opportunity to attend seminary," he explained. When he began teaching at Davis three years ago, he set a goal to earn his own diploma.

"I wanted to get it, frame it, and put it in a prominent place," he said.

To earn the important piece of paper, van Pletzen had to do everything his students were required to do.

"I memorized scriptures, took tests, studied the standard works. And of course, I had to attend classes. But because I was teaching that wasn't as hard for me as it was for some of the students," he said laughing. "Although, I must admit, there were a few mornings. . . ."

Van Pletzen calls his conversion to the Church and the road to his present teaching position an "interesting spiritual journey."

Religion has always been important in his family, he explained.

"In 1977, my father contacted the missionaries and invited them by," he recalled. "Nine days later, our entire family was baptized – Mom, Dad, my sister, brother and I."

After serving in the South African military and then on a mission in England, van Pletzen ended up in Utah, studying English. He earned a bachelor's degree at Weber State College and a master's degree from Utah State University. During this time, he also met and married Lisa Tullis.

"I never really intended to teach seminary," van Pletzen explained. "I was teaching English at Utah State when I got a letter inviting me to teach seminary. Apparently some of my LDS students liked what I did in the classroom and had referred me to the institute up there."

Within 24 hours, van Pletzen found himself student teaching in a Logan seminary, and the next year he was a full-fledged seminary teacher at Davis.

"I love teaching," he said. "It gives me an opportunity to help these young people develop spiritual skills that they need to survive in today's world. I've enjoyed being able to draw on my background and to share my testimony with them. And of course, my testimony has grown with this experience."

With diploma in hand, van Pletzen and his family, which now includes 5-year-old daughter Esme, are headed for the BYU-Hawaii campus, where he will continue to teach and continue to grow.