Teacher shows how to help change the world

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Christopher Bruhn is a heck of a teacher.

A few weeks ago, he won the $30,000 O’Donnell Texas AP Teacher Award. He somehow makes physics interesting to high-school students with a mix of personal energy and exciting antics.

He gets results too. Last year, he helped 24 students—out of a class of 24—pass the AP Physics B test. Anyone who’s ever looked at the abysmal pass rates most teachers produce can tell you he must be doing something right.

A recent feature on Bruhn in The Dallas Morning News paints a portrait of the kind of teacher every student dreams of. A former aerospace engineer, he now teaches at the School of Science and Engineering in Dallas. He uses discussion, anecdotes, and YouTube to help his students stomach the equation-heavy subject of physics.

High-schoolers aren’t the only ones who could learn from Bruhn. More than almost anything else, this country needs more and better teachers. Public schools are hurting; in many big cities like Dallas, less than half of students will graduate high school. The problem is especially pronounced among minorities.

Even those that stay in school don’t get the education they should. America ranked in the bottom 20% in both reading and math in the most recent study by the Program for International Student Assessment, which compares students from 30 industrialized countries. Not exactly the numbers you’d expect from the world’s only superpower.

A lot of people have proposed a lot of solutions to America’s education crisis. The value of many, like charter schools and vouchers, is fiercely debated. But in Bruhn’s classroom, the results speak for themselves.

We at SMU have been given a first-rate education. Many Americans aren’t so lucky. Mustangs who wonder how they can give something back to the world need look no further than Christopher Bruhn.

As great as large-scale programs like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top Fund can be, they won’t solve the problems plaguing this country’s schools. Change won’t come like a tidal wave from Washington, or even from Austin or other state capitals. It will trickle in, classroom by classroom, as teachers like Bruhn save the world one student at a time.

Nathaniel French is a junior theater major. He can be reached for comment at nfrench@smu.edu.


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