Educator of the Week - Bret Born

Bret Born, SLC/Life Skills Teacher, Gardiner Middle School, Oregon City

Nominated by: Tori Totten (parent)

My daughter would not be where she is today if it wasn't for the guidance of this educator.  He helped to build a solid foundation and a want to go to school.  Bret made learning fun and his students want to please him.  Learning doesn't usually come easy for the students in his class room.  But he does everything he can to make it successful for these students.  Bret really takes the time to understand each and every one of his students.  He also takes the time to communicate on a daily basis with the parents or guardians of his students.  I wish every school was as lucky as we were to have such a caring teacher as Bret Born.

Congratulations Bret, from all of us at K103!

What inspired you to become an educator?

I hopped out of the backseat of my parents 1972 Buick and ran to the front doors of the YMCA as fast as my 5 year-old legs would allow. I flung open the door and quickly made my way through that unmistakable smell of chlorine; I was headed straight to the wrestling room.  After practice I made my way upstairs and peered through the steam-covered pool door to see if my mom was finished teaching swim lessons.  On the way home I asked her why grown men didn’t know how to swim yet. She explained that the men she was teaching had what was called a developmental disability. I accepted the answer as reason enough and continued to hang out around the pool.  As years went by I watched the swimmers go from floaties and kick boards to front flips off the springboard. I was impressed with the front flips, but I was even more aware of the joy that filled that room.  I asked my mom how was she able to teach these men to swim and do flips in such a short time.  She said “with patience, compassion and by affording them the dignity of high expectations.”  I immediately asked “can I afford someone the dignity of high expectations?” It was at that moment I first became inspired to teach. To no surprise I have been a special educator for 20 years, and I continue to be privileged to afford my students the dignity of high expectations.

What do you like most about teaching?

I like creating an environment where students are more concerned about being excited to learn than afraid of failing. Ironically, if they forget this concept a classmate reminds them of our class motto, “There is no quit in us.”

What has changed the most since you began your career in education?

The biggest change I have witnessed in my career is the use of technology.  I’m not talking about “instachat” or “snapgram.”  I am referring to technology that has provided a student with their first voice, or access to content that has not always been accessible.  Universal Design has changed the game in terms of special needs students accessing post-secondary instruction.  

What would you like parents to know about your job?

I would like parents to know my job couldn’t be possible without the support and advocacy they offer for their children.  I would also like parents to know that I have the best job on the planet, and I find myself saying “I’m going to school” compared to “I’m going to work.”

Share a favorite story about your years in education.

Top story from this decade: a young man who was transitioning to high school stopped by my classroom to say his good-byes.  He and I agreed to stay in touch, and while he was exiting the room he turned and said “Hey Mr. Bret, (long pause) I would fight an alligator for you!”

Each week during the school year, K103 and Concordia University will honor a local educator.  Each week, our honored educator receives:

  • $103 Gift Card for Classroom School Supplies
  • The Crystal Apple Award

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