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

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.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.