Falling in love with the Yampa Valley brought this social worker, turned teacher to Craig | CraigDailyPress.com
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Falling in love with the Yampa Valley brought this social worker, turned teacher to Craig

Moffat County High School teacher Brian Powell.
Sasha Nelson/staff
Background Name:​ Brian​ ​Powell School:​ ​Moffat​ ​County​ ​High​ ​School Grade:​ 10th​ ​Grade Number​ ​of​ ​years​ ​teaching:​ Seven years, two​ in ​Moffat​ ​County. Classes​:​ 10th grade​ ​English​ ​Language​ ​Arts​ ​and​ ​Reading/Literacy.​ Student Council​ ​advisor.​ History: Powell completed student​ ​teaching​ ​at​ ​New​ ​Vista​ ​High School​ ​in​ ​Boulder, then​ ​taught​ ​writing​ ​for​ ​several​ ​years​ ​at​ ​Arapahoe​ ​Community​ ​College​ ​and​ ​Red​ ​Rocks Community​ ​College​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Front​ ​Range.

Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series that seeks to honor and understand more about educators in Moffat County.

CRAIG — He loves the Yampa Valley almost as much as he loves teaching.

Moffat County High School teacher Brian Powell is ​originally​ ​from​ ​a​ ​small​ ​town​ ​in​ ​east​ ​Texas.

​“Prior​ ​to​ ​teaching,​ ​I​ ​worked for​ ​the​ ​state​ ​of​ ​Texas​ ​in​ ​Austin​ ​as​ ​a​ ​social​ ​worker,” Powell said.

As an adult, he moved to Denver with his wife. They then discovered the Yampa Valley.​ ​​

“We​ ​are​ ​avid​ ​backpackers​ ​and​ ​fell​ ​in-love​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Yampa​ ​River​ ​and​ ​Northwest Colorado​ ​many​ ​years​ ​before​ ​we​ ​moved​ ​here,” Powell said.

As a teenager, Powell visited a great aunt and great uncle and was “​blown​ ​away​ ​by​ ​their​ ​enormous​ ​book​ ​collection. ​I’d talk​ ​books​ ​with​ ​my​ ​uncle,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​always​ ​inspired​ ​me​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​lifelong​ ​learner.​ ​​​He​ ​even​ ​told​ ​me​ ​of​ ​a great-great​ ​grandfather​, ​who​ ​was​ ​a​ ​classroom​ ​teacher​ ​(in​ ​the​ ​1890s).​”

​He continued to be inspired by teachers​ ​in​ ​high​ ​school​ ​and​ ​college,​ but it was while​ ​at​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of Colorado-Boulder that a ​professor​ instilled​ ​in​ ​him​ ​a​ ​commitment​ ​to​ ​social​ ​justice​ ​and creating​ ​a​ ​classroom​ ​dialogue​ ​around​ ​critical​ ​thinking.​ ​​ ​

“He​ ​really​ ​got​ ​me​ ​thinking​ ​about​ ​the​ ​vastly​ ​complex and​ ​intersecting​ ​dynamics​ ​within​ ​schools;​ ​what​ ​he​ ​saw​ ​as​ ​a​ ​“loaded​ ​matrix”​ ​of​ ​contrasting​ ​identities,​ ​beliefs and​ ​experience.​ ​​This​ ​led​ ​to​ ​my​ ​interest​ ​in​ ​school-wide​ ​culture,​ ​which​ ​relates​ ​to​ ​my​ ​role​ ​in​ ​student​ ​council,” Powell said.

The Craig Press caught up with Powell, who spoke about his career as a teacher.

Craig Press:
Describe​ ​how/when​ ​you​ ​learned​ ​teaching​ ​is​ ​what​ ​you​ ​were​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​do?

Brian Powell: All​ ​throughout​ ​elementary​ ​and​ ​middle​ ​school,​ ​I​ ​loved​ ​school,​ ​had​ ​strong​ ​relationships​ ​with​ ​my​ ​teachers,​ ​was a​ ​super-nerdy​ ​bookworm​ ​and​ ​began​ ​to​ ​see​ ​myself​ ​becoming​ ​a​ ​teacher​ ​while​ ​still​ ​in​ ​high​ ​school.​ ​​ ​

For​ ​me,​ ​I felt​ ​there​ ​could​ ​be​ ​no​ ​greater​ ​joy​ ​(or​ ​livelihood)​ ​than​ ​a​ ​life​ ​of​ ​sharing​ ​with​ ​others​ ​what​ ​one​ ​loves. .​.. ​​​I’ve​ ​always​ ​wanted​ ​a​ ​career​ ​that​ ​added​ ​enormous​ ​value​ ​to​ ​my everyday​ ​life,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​become​ ​a​ ​teacher.​ ​​I’ve​ ​always​ ​seen​ ​learning​ ​as​ ​a​ ​pathway​ ​to​ ​greater opportunity​ ​and​ ​an​ ​enriched​ ​life,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​aspire​ ​to​ ​help​ ​others​ ​discover​ ​this,​ ​as​ ​well.

CP: If​ ​your​ ​greatest​ ​supporter​ ​were​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room​ ​with​ ​us​ ​today,​ ​what​ ​five​ ​words​ ​would​ ​he​ ​or​ ​she​ ​use​ ​to describe​ ​you​ ​as​ ​a​ ​person,​ ​a​ ​teacher​ ​or​ ​a​ ​colleague?

​Powell: Hardworking,​ ​enthusiastic,​ ​purposeful,​ ​highly​ ​organized and ​always​ ​an​ ​optimist.

CP: In​ ​your​ ​experience,​ ​what​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​challenging​ ​part​ ​of​ ​your​ ​role​ ​as​ ​an​ ​educator,​ ​and​ ​how​ ​have​ ​you met​ ​that​ ​challenge?

Powell: Assessing​ ​student​ ​work​ ​and​ ​curriculum​ ​development​ ​are​ ​the​ ​most​ ​time​ -consuming​ ​and​ ​tedious​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​being a​ ​teacher.​ ​​This​ ​is​ ​the​ ​job​ ​on top​ ​of​ ​the​ ​full-time​ ​job​ ​of​ ​teaching​ ​and​ ​interacting​ ​with​ ​students​ ​throughout​ ​a busy​ ​day.​ ​​However,​ ​reading​ ​student​ ​writing​ ​is​ ​always​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​most​ ​rewarding​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​teaching​ ​English.​ ​​​I learn​ ​so​ ​much​ ​about​ ​the​ ​world​ ​around​ ​me​ ​through​ ​their​ ​writing​ ​and​ ​ideas.

CP: What​ ​have​ ​you​ ​read​ ​recently​ ​that​ ​led​ ​you​ ​to​ ​change ​your​ ​approach​ ​to​ ​your​ ​work?

Powell: Simon​ ​Sineck’s​ ​​“The​ ​Power​ ​of​ ​Why.​​”​ ​Sineck​ ​argues​ ​that​ ​it’s​ ​not​ ​what​ ​you​ ​do​ ​or​ ​how​ ​you​ ​do​ ​things​ ​as​ ​an organization,​ ​business ​or​ ​leader,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​is​ ​​why​​ ​you​ ​do​ ​what​ ​you​ ​do.​ ​​In​ ​the​ ​classroom,​ ​we​ ​investigate​ ​the​ “​​why” behind​ ​what​ ​we​ ​do,​ ​from​ ​taking​ ​notes​ ​to​ ​writing​ ​a​ ​research​ ​paper​ ​to​ ​the​ ​things​ ​we​ ​read.​ ​​​I’ve​ ​consistently found​ ​that​ ​the​ ​more​ ​that​ ​students​ ​can​ ​see​ ​the​ ​purpose​ ​and​ ​value​ ​of​ ​what​ ​we​ ​are​ ​expected​ ​to​ ​learn,​ ​then​ ​the more​ ​they​ ​might​ ​care​ ​about​ ​what​ ​they​ ​do​ ​in​ ​the​ ​classroom.​ ​​​During​ ​our​ ​first​ ​meeting​ ​with​ ​the​ ​student council​, ​we​ ​worked​ ​in​ ​groups​ ​to​ ​articulate​ ​the​ ​​“why”​​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​council,​ ​and​ ​this​ ​led​ ​to​ ​us​ ​collectively understanding​ ​the​ ​value​ ​of​ ​our​ ​projects,​ ​which​ ​led​ ​us​ ​to​ ​being​ ​able​ ​to​ ​articulate​ ​a​ ​clear​ ​purpose​ ​and​ ​vision​ ​as an​ ​organization.​ ​​Whenever​ ​a​ ​suggestion​ ​for​ ​a​ ​project​ ​or​ ​a​ ​problem​ ​arises,​ ​we​ ​always​ ​go​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​“why”​ ​first. One​ ​has​ ​to​ ​inspire​ ​the​ ​“why”​ ​and​ ​not​ ​the​ ​“what”​ ​and​ ​“how.”

CP: How​ ​are​ ​you​ ​involved​ ​in​ ​the​ ​community​ ​outside​ ​school?

Powell: I’ve​ ​been​ ​the​ ​advisor​ ​for​ ​student​ ​council​ ​for​ ​the​ ​past​ ​two​ ​years.​ ​​ ​Each​ ​year,​ ​I​ ​work​ ​with​ ​the​ ​council​ ​and partner​ ​with​ ​numerous​ ​community​ ​organizations​ ​in​ ​Craig​ ​to​ ​plan​ ​and​ ​stage​ ​the​ ​Homecoming​ ​bonfire​ ​and parade.​ ​​I​ ​am​ ​an​ ​active​ ​member​ ​of​ ​Moffat​ ​County​ ​Education​ ​Association,​ ​in​ ​which​ ​we​ ​work​ ​to​ ​promote​ ​“the schools​ ​our​ ​children​ ​deserve”​ ​in​ ​the​ ​community.​ ​​I​ ​also​ ​volunteer​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Moffat​ ​County​ ​Planning​ ​and​ ​Zoning Commission.

CP: If​ ​a​ ​visitor​ ​came​ ​to​ ​your​ ​classroom or office​ ​and​ ​took​ ​a​ ​photo,​ ​what​ ​would​ ​he or she​ ​see​ ​in​ ​that​ ​photo?

Powell: They​ ​would​ ​see​ ​a​ ​classroom​ ​of​ ​students​ ​working​ ​together​ ​to​ ​make​ ​meaning​ ​from​ ​a​ ​text​ ​or​ ​sharing​ ​their​ ​own writing.​ ​​They​ ​would​ ​see​ ​me​ ​working​ ​one-to-one​ ​or​ ​with​ ​small​ ​groups​ ​of​ ​students​ ​to​ ​help​ ​them​ ​grow.​ ​​In short,​ ​they​ ​would​ ​see​ ​a​ ​classroom​ ​with​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​enthusiasm​ ​and​ ​positive​ ​energy.

CP: What​ ​is​ ​one​ ​fun​ ​fact​ ​about​ ​you?

Powell: I​ ​love​ ​hiking​ ​and​ ​backpacking​ ​with​ ​my​ ​dog, ​who​ ​is​ ​a​ ​golden-husky.​ ​​ ​She​ ​made​ ​it​ ​to​ ​the​ ​top​ ​of​ ​a​ ​14er​ ​and numerous​ ​12s​ ​and​ ​13ers​ ​this​ ​summer.

CP: Is​ ​there​ ​anything​ ​else​ ​you’d​ ​like​ ​readers​ ​to​ ​know?

Powell: I’m​ ​proud​ ​to​ ​serve​ ​the​ ​community​ ​of​ ​Craig​ ​and​ ​Moffat​ ​County.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.


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