Teacher Feature: HEHS’ Ryan Brown
“Students see that the things they learned here at HEHS and with me, whether it’s in the gym, through other activities, or in the classroom, have benefitted them in life. That is the whole reason that I am doing this.”
When Ryan Brown was a student at Hoffman Estates High School, little did he know he would return to walk the halls again as a teacher and coach. Although he had dreams of becoming a doctor and breaking the family mold of working in education, he realized his true passion is for writing, literature, and books.
“When I got through my senior year, Kathy Wandro [retired HEHS teacher] was my teacher, and it was at that point I realized I wanted to teach,” Brown said. “She had so much passion for the things she was doing, and I saw that every day when she came to school she was having fun, and that was one of the things that I wanted to make sure I was doing.”
After spending some time working at the middle school level, he took his experience and set a goal on teaching at HEHS. Once he landed a position teaching English, he knew District 211 was the place he wanted to be.
“I look at the people who are around me and they care so much about this school and the students that there is energy in this building that I don’t know other people have ever felt anywhere before,” Brown said. “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else, and I definitely pride myself on being a D211 teacher, but being a teacher at HEHS has fulfilled me and it’s because I work with so many wonderful people.”
Brown is heavily involved with HEHS outside of the classroom. In addition to teaching freshman and AP English, he is head coach of the boy’s gymnastics team, the same team he was on during high school, sponsor of the literary magazine: Directions, sponsor for Peers and Leaders/Helping Other People Everywhere (PALS/HOPE) and is the assistant adviser to Student Council. Brown said he loves being involved with these programs because of the diversity in students who represent HEHS, and the opportunity to give back to the school and community through volunteer work and scholarships. One commemorative scholarship through PALS is in honor of former PALS president Nirman Vasanwala who died while in college. Brown said the scholarship keeps Vasanwala’s ideas alive.
“Every time I think of my plate being too full or doing too much, I think about how hard Nirman worked, and I also think about not being able to give that scholarship away to students,” Brown said. “I know that is what I am supposed to do, and we come in contact with some great kids in PALS that are yearning to do so much more for the community and world.”
Brown uses the same teaching techniques in the classroom and gymnasium, although he said the two are very different. During gymnastics, he is able to create a bond and trust with his student-athletes that are different from the classroom. His student-athletes need to be mentally sound before they start trying new moves in the gym, and that is why Brown said the team talks a lot and maintains a high level of trust. In the classroom, he has his students “check in” before class starts by stating a number to represent how they are feeling for the day. Sometimes when the class seems to be struggling that day, it influences lessons or the teaching approach he uses.
Those approaches and connections with his students are important to Brown because each student needs to feel that bit of individual attention, even if it’s just saying hello to a student when they pass by. That’s why he said one of the aspects of teaching that makes him feel proudest is hearing from his students after they have already graduated.
“I get a lot of letters, emails, and Facebook messages from former students who, down the road, look back and tell me the impact that I had on them as a teacher,” Brown said. “They see that the things they learned here at HEHS and with me, whether it’s in the gym, through other activities, or in the classroom, have benefitted them in life. That is the whole reason that I am doing this.”