2017 Outstanding Teacher of America
Elsie Allen High School
Santa Rosa, California
After graduating from high school, Brian took off for the college furthest from his home and still in California. He majored in Biology at Humboldt State University and was inspired by teaching only as something he would do until he figured out what he was really going to do. However, after graduating from Humboldt, he went directly into a sales position, where he worked for four years and until the company folded.
Without a job, Brian decided to go back to Cal State Hayward (now CSU, East Bay) to get his teaching credential and, after completing his credential, he immediately got a job at James Logan High School in Fremont, CA., where he stayed for only one year before being lured away to Elsie Allen High School, which was just opening in Santa Rosa, CA. At Elsie Allen Brian taught Biology and Chemistry and was the department chairman.
Brian was recruited away from Elsie Allen High School to teach at Novato High School, where the "grass might be greener." After 3 years at Novato High School Brian finally realized the students at Novato high school did not really need him as their teacher and, most likely, would do just as well in spite of him or the other teachers. Their parents were well educated and almost all of them were expected to go to college from the day they were born. It became quite clear to Brian that he could do more good and feel better about teaching if he went back to Elsie Allen. Brian realized how much her missed the challenge of working with students who really needed good teachers the most. Fortunately, he was able to return "home" to Elsie Allen in 2002 where has been and where he intends to remain until the time he retires.
Elsie Allen high school is a school where there has been a high rate of teacher turnover, which is a typical trend in schools with very low socio-economic populations. For 85% of the students, English is their second language and less than 4% of their parents have a college education. Most of his students are first generation high school students and have no expectation of going to college. Many do not have a solid foundation of reading, writing or mathematic skills and are often well behind where they should be academically. Many students do not want to come to school, are frequently absent and choose to work when they can, rather than attend school and, most often, with the permission of their parents.
Brian has accepted the massive challenges of teaching at Elsie Allen. He maintains a strong belief that his students need teachers who make every effort to teach them and convince them they are capable of learning if they were willing to put in the effort. Brian brings a great deal of hope and optimism to his classroom and is dedicated to accepting how he has to work extra hard to meet the needs of his students. Brian is also confident that if he is successful, the sense of satisfaction will be well worth the effort. Brian was not happy in sales and he was not challenged by students at Novato, but he continues to be dedicated to giving Elsie Allen students every opportunity possible to succeed.
With the past several years, Brian has studied the research of Dr.s Robert Marzono and Carol Dweck and incorporated this work into his teaching. From this research, Brian learned that there was a way to allow every student, regardless of skill level, to enjoy academic success. He began to understand that he needed to connect to the mental health side of learning and remember everyone begins their journey from a very different starting point and everyone will move forward at a very different pace. The key point being, if students move forward and grow, no matter how incremental, is positive growth. This revelation altered his perspective about learning and he found ways to assess his students early to determine the point at which they are starting and now he is able to develop the steps each student needs to take to get where he wants them to go. The success Brian has had in his classroom with these techniques and philosophy has found its way into his entire Science department and is now being used in several other academic departments in the the school. Brian is continuing to make a difference with the students who need him the most.