Meet Chris Brunst! Chris is the Special Education Department Chair and English Co-Teacher at Greenfield Jr. High School in Gilbert, Arizona. He is also one of our very own BYU Alumni! Christ graduated from BYU in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Special Education: Mild/Moderate with minors in TESOL K-12 and Latin American Studies. We wanted everyone to have the same privilege we have to get to know Chris Brunst and hear his thoughts on being an educator.
Since graduation, Chris has lived and worked with his wife Kelsy in Spain, San Jose, Las Vegas, and Mesa/Gilbert. They have two children, Jacob (2) and Callie (6 months). They love to play sports, watch sports, or talk about anything related to sports. He says, "we may be the biggest BYU fans in Arizona." In addition to teaching at a junior high, Chris is also working on his Masters from Arizona State University and is looking forward to graduating in May 2021.
With all of the many majors and careers that BYU has to offer, Chris decided that Special Education was best for him. He said, "I chose a career in Special Education because in high school I had the opportunity to teach adaptive swim lessons to individuals with disabilities. As I would teach those individuals and create a bond with them, I realized that I had a passion for teaching individuals who faced more individualized challenges. I grew to love growing with them and learning alongside them. This led me to seek more teaching opportunities and I eventually decided to pursue a career in special education."
Chris' favorite part of the job is being with his students are forming relationships. He says, "I [love] being able to help my students be successful and succeed at whatever challenge that is placed in front of them."
However, even Chris admits that amongst all of the amazing relationships and success moments, being a special educator is hard at times. Chris told us the following: "The most challenging part of my job is being able to help a student succeed when they have given up on themselves. Students in special education have often struggled most of their short academic careers and so finding a way to help build their confidence in themselves can be challenging but very rewarding."
So, how can you as a BYU student prepare for this challenging, yet rewarding, career? Chris has some advice for you! He says to "spend as much time in the classroom as possible, shadowing a variety of teachers, grade levels and programs." Since Special Education is a K-12 degree, you may be surprised at what age/subject interest you the most! Also, when it comes time for graduation, consider the district you are applying for. Chris says, "The school district, school culture and school administration play a huge role in how successful you will be as a teacher. Make sure you do your homework on each school you are interested in because the individuals you will work with will become your second family."
While we were talking with Chris, we made sure to
ask him some vulnerable questions that address hot topics in the field of education such as working in a female dominant field, combatting doubts of others, and salary. Here are some of his thoughts.
"Being an effective teacher who makes a difference is not easy and some may doubt choosing a career that does not guarantee prestigious job titles or wealth. However, I have had the opportunity to positively affect the lives of hundreds of young Americans and that to me is worth every challenge that comes with being a teacher."
"As I explored various careers at BYU, I wanted to ensure that whatever career I chose... that I would love my job, that I would be able to perform my job well, and that my job would be able to provide for my family. Teaching has given me the opportunity to fulfill all 3 of those categories. I am excited to go to work every day, I feel that I am able to perform my job effectively, and I have been able to provide for my wife, who is a stay at home mom, and our two kids so they can grow up in a home where they are loved and cared for."
"Being a male in a female dominant field has given me the opportunity to bring a different perspective to my field. I have been able to be a male role model for my students who may not have that at home. My advice to any other males who are considering becoming a teacher is that a career in education can provide a way for you to provide for your family... and it can provide a lifestyle for you and your family that not many other careers provide."
We hope that taking time to read about Chris Brunst about his experiences will help you in your path to becoming an educator! We know that you, like Chris, can become a wonderful BYU alumni educator who makes us proud. If you want to learn more about the Special Education program, visit our school's website here or learn more about your advisor here.