EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Meet Utah teacher Leslie Edwards and hear why she left journalism for education

Nov 28, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:11 pm

Leslie Edwards made a big jump from newsrooms to classrooms....

Leslie Edwards sits in her third-grade classroom at Hawthorne Elementary School in Salt Lake City. (Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

(Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Most people think about relaxing when they retire, maybe taking a cruise. Not Leslie Edwards. After more than 20 years working for NBC News in Saudi Arabia and Salt Lake City, she retired to a third-grade classroom.

Covering the first Gulf War

Leslie Edwards was living in Saudi Arabia while her husband worked for Saudi Aramco, the Saudi oil company. She went to work for Aramco’s TV and radio news station.

Then the Gulf War started.

“We had seen the buildup that was going on in the Kingdom with all of the allies coming in to support,” she said. “We taped our windows. Our backyard was across the street from the air base, and the air base was a target. Sadam’s scuds would come flying in. The Patriot missiles would intercept them, but the kaboom was so loud. Sirens would go off. There would be giant craters in the ground where the artillery hit. We had a safe room. Our downstairs bathroom was stocked with food and games.”

When NBC News came to cover the war, Edwards went down and met the people organizing the news bureau.

“I said, ‘You need me. I know everybody’,” she said. “That’s how I got hired by NBC.”

She worked as a production assistant, then producer and bureau coordinator.

“I was often at the news bureau when the sirens went off,” she said. “We would don our gas gear because Saddam had threatened chemical warfare.”

Edwards came back to Salt Lake City shortly before the 2002 Winter Games and was assigned to work the games for NBC.

Leslie Edwards’ journey from newsroom to classroom

When Edwards was in her 50s, a time when many people started to think about retirement, she started to think about making a difference.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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 “I was asked regularly to go speak to classes to share my experiences in the Middle East and in journalism,” she said. “So, I thought I would try substitute teaching. Then, I had an epiphany one day in a classroom at Highland Park. This is where you belong.”

Her desire to be a teacher came as something of a surprise to her. “I never wanted to be a teacher,” she explained. “My father begged me to get a teaching degree. I said, ‘I will never ever teach. Ever!’ But I did it to make him happy. I thought I was never going to use it.”

Her father retired from the Navy after a 30-year career and then taught physics at what was Dixie State College (now Utah Tech University.) She followed in her father’s footsteps in retiring after a long career at NBC to teach in elementary school.

Edwards was invited to a class at Cottonwood Elementary

“I sat in the back of the classroom,” she recalled. “I saw these two naughty boys in the back of that class and thought, ‘They need a dose of Mrs. Edwards.’ I fell in love with those kids.”

Hawthorne slated for closure

Two years later, Edwards transferred to Hawthorne Elementary where she still teaches third grade. Hawthorne is one of the four schools recommended for closing by the Salt Lake School District.

“You know, you have to be fiscally responsible,” she reacted to the closing of her school. “Everybody has a sentimental attachment to their school. When Dr. Elizabeth Grant introduced her presentation with ‘My grandmother was a student at Lowell Elementary. My mother graduated from Lowell. I was the principal at Lowell when the board voted to close it. My heart was so heavy having to close it.’ I knew she had walked in our shoes. She was the perfect person to guide us through this because we have to be fiscally responsible. I pay taxes in the district, so I expect the legislature and the district to be responsible.”

Will Leslie Edwards keep teaching or take it easy?

“What does that mean — ‘take it easy’?” Edwards asked. “You can’t garden 12 months a year here. I love my garden. I love to ski, but even if I skied every single day, that’s only a few months of the year. I have a chance to make a difference. I have an opportunity to take my pretty exceptional life experience and introduce it to our students. The future of our world is in their hands. How can I help them make a difference?”

Edwards describes herself as a “lifelong learner.”

“I love being engaged in the learning process,” she said. “God gave us these brains for a reason.”

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Meet Utah teacher Leslie Edwards and hear why she left journalism for education