Mr. Bulkley was, hands down, one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had.  He was a teacher who knew when to smile and exactly when to get more serious – and, as I recall, he was honest in a way you don’t often see these days.

One of my favorite memories of Mr. Bulkley, as an English teacher, came after I had a short story assignment run radically out of control. 10 pages quickly turned in to 20 – 35 – 60 – 80 … I started a short story that was headed, involuntarily, into novel territory. When the story came due – I had 128 pages written with no end in sight.

I waited until after class – on a Friday –  before handing the unfinished brick over.

(This is, of course, paraphrased from memory)

BULKLEY: “Is this all of it?”

ME: “Um …”

BULKLEY: “There’s MORE?”

ME: “The story isn’t finished.”

He took a deep breath and looked at the stack of dot matrix printer paper.

BULKLEY: “Sometimes this happens – and when it does, it’s better to keep going and finish it when it’s done. Writing isn’t easy. Go ahead and see where this takes you. Don’t force the ending because you’re in a hurry to see it finished. Ok?”

ME: “Seriously?”

BULKLEY: “Of course. I’ll even let you turn in the 10 page short story on Monday.”

Me: “Wait – Whaaaa?”

BULKLEY: “I told you to write a ten page short story. This is a novel. Give me the short story and, if you finish it before the end of the year, I’ll give you extra credit for the novel – but finish the novel, I really want to read it.”

…and he smiled that giant, lopsided smile he had when – well, nearly all the time – and laughed.

See what he did there? It is one of the most important lessons I ever learned. It saw me through college and it still helps every day with work, life – everything. He was a masterful teacher. He inspired me, gave me great advice – and still made me get back to the task at hand.

The children of Pleasant Grove are poorer today – and the world a little dimmer.


Van Larry Bulkley 1946 ~ 2009

Van Larry Bulkley passed away peacefully June 21 surrounded by family and friends.Van was born in Salt Lake City, UT November 10, 1946 to Arthur and Lylas June Bulkley.

He married Judi Esplin on January 29, 1971 in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. Van served an honorable mission to the Gulf States and continued to serve faithfully in the LDS church.

Van graduated from BYU with a degree in education. He taught at Pleasant Grove High School for 31 years, where he was the voice of the Vikings along with his duties as a teacher of English, Speech, Drama, Debate and KPGR radio.

Van and Judi recently returned from a CES mission in Hartford Connecticut where Van especially enjoyed the opportunities to teach.

Van is survived by his wife, six children Mathew (Jolynn), Morgan (Jilyan), Jason (Nicole), Jana Went (Joseph), Luke (Traci), and Shane (Chelsea), 16 grandchildren, brothers Kent and Lynn and sister Jan. He was preceded in death by his parents, sisters, Verlane and Jeanene, and granddaughter Sophie.

Condolences may be sent to the family at