The day before the Academy Awards, Jonathan Brubaker, an English teacher at Mountain View Middle School in Beaumont Unified School District, sat in a general session at a Sacramento education conference hosted by California League of Schools and learned in Oscar fashion that he had been named the CLMS 2014 State Middle School Educator of the Year.
Brubaker’s acceptance speech revealed his unique perspective on the skills and tools teachers need to move from good to great. First, he recounted the value of hard work in a parable involving the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, who admonished his king that there was no “royal road” – or shortcut – to learning geometry.
“Teaching is one of the noblest professions, and like geometry contains no royal road either,” he said. And second, “It’s about taking our passions that make us who we are – mine are books, ancient languages and technology – and bringing them into the classroom to share with students.”
For Brubaker, his unique combination of interests finds expression through several avenues. He has channeled his love of books and technology into a unique curricular strategy that incorporates literature for meaning, technology for engagement and nonfiction text for real-world relevance. For example, a December “Christmas Carol” unit has students reading the Dickens story and using the Internet to research topics such as Victorian England and child poverty.
“You want kids to feel like their work is part of something bigger,” he explained. “There is a joy in engaging in the big ideas of life.”
Offshoots of this strategy include Brubaker becoming English department chair and serving as the unofficial tech guy and webmaster for the school. As for his love of ancient languages, Brubaker teaches an optional Latin class during weekly lunch breaks that is so popular, it is standing room only.
Brubaker was nominated by his principal and selected by the volunteer panel members of CLMS’ Region 10 from among a field of 11 educators to be the CLMS 2014 Middle School Educator of the Year for the region, which represents the counties of Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino. At the California League of Schools Annual Conference North, held at the Sacramento Convention Center from February 28-March 2, 2014, he was then selected by the CLMS trustees from among the regional winners to represent the state.
Offering a final concise version of his professional outlook, the 15-year teacher said, “Literature and life go together; there is a connection.”