Bruce J. Stewart

Bruce J. Stewart is beginning his sixth year at Bishop Manogue Catholic High School (Reno, NV) as Assistant Principal of Academics.

Prior to joining the administrative staff of Bishop Manogue, Mr. Stewart taught English at Traner Middle School in Reno, NV, where he also enjoyed coaching boys basketball, girls basketball, and cross country. Mr. Stewart studied English in college, earning a B.A. Degree from the University of Washington. He completed his Teacher Certification from Sierra Nevada College (Incline Village, NV); and earned a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Phoenix (Reno, NV).

Prior to teaching English at Traner Middle School, Mr. Stewart enjoyed an 18 year career in the computer hardware and software industry. Mr. Stewart, along with a colleague, was instrumental in bringing one of the first screen-based word processing systems to the commercial market in 1979. After a ten year career in the computer hardware and word processing software distribution business, Mr. Stewart joined Oracle Corporation as a Senior Account Executive.

Mr. Stewart is available for speaking engagements and professional development seminars. Professional development seminars include Effective Classroom Management and Discipline, Making Connections, and Lesson Planning and Student Assessment. All seminars emphasize the importance of understanding the culture and dynamics of teaching students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

For English teachers, Mr. Stewart’s seminar, “$200 Dollar Babies”, engages and instructs teachers on the art of teaching voice.

Mr. Stewart may be contacted at bruce.stewart92@gmail.com.

Join Our Story, Inc in a conversation with Author Bruce Stewart……

OSI – Please tell us about yourself, your teaching career and your Book, “12 Keys For Engaging At-Risk Students”

Stewart – While I always knew that I would be a teacher, an 18 year career in the computer industry preceded my teaching career. Shortly after graduating from the University of Washington in 1976, I partnered with a childhood friend to begin a new business. We had configured one of the first screen based word processing systems and became a major supplier of word processing software and computer equipment in the early 1980’s. Being a part of the birth of the personal computer industry in the 1980’s was an incredible learning experience. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented software engineers and entrepreneurs in the country.

In 1998 I had the time and opportunity to earn my teaching certification from Sierra Nevada College. I chose to complete my student teaching at Traner Middle School and was blessed to be partnered with a truly outstanding lead teacher, Patricia Simms. After completing my student teaching at Traner Middle School, I was fortunate to be offered a teaching contract at Traner. I taught at Traner for five years and I truly loved the classroom and these experiences became the basis for my book, 12 Keys for Engaging At-Risk Students.

I wrote this book after developing a series of professional development seminars for teachers. During the seminars, the teachers explained to me how they really benefitted by learning from actual classroom experiences, and by being able to share their stories of success. My intention then was to make 12 Keys for Engaging At-Risk Students a book of practical advice and an inspirational book for teachers. While I reference some educational theory in the book, it was designed to convey the importance of making connections with all students, which is why the first chapter is titled Making Connections.

OSI – In the beginning pages of your book you mentioned your experience with a bi-racial student from a single parent home named Jason. Through a thought out plan of interactions in the following weeks you discovered that Jason, who at first appeared to be a class distraction, was quit proficient in spelling and reading. When you reflect on classrooms in America, particularly classrooms in Northern Nevada that contain students of like background and gifts as Jason, what percentage do you think fall through the cracks of low school funding, cultural misunderstandings, teacher placidity, and poor home environment?

Stewart – It is difficult to assign a specific percentage of students who fall through the cracks, but it has always been my belief that if one student is neglected, it is one student too many. Teachers must make conscious decisions to make connections with each and every student, otherwise the students who need us the most will likely fail. Your list of factors which contribute to students falling through the cracks are important to understand because we, as educators, have control over two of the factors – cultural misunderstandings and teacher placidity. Low school funding and poor home environments are certainly factors, but they become excuses. I would estimate that at least ten percent of our students are neglected.

OSI – How can the educational system better implement these twelve stages of engaging students. Do you think mandatory teacher community or cultural involvement in the communities they educate would help.

Stewart – The educational system already possesses the methods to better implement the twelve keys for engaging students. The schools that do the best job of implementing the twelve keys have strong leadership in their administration team, especially the principal. Strong principals understand the necessity of teachers and coaches making the positive connections with students; being available to students before and after school, and implementing an engaging and critical thinking curriculum. Strong principals seek to recognize these keys on a daily basis through classroom observations and to provide honest and sincere feedback to teachers. By recognizing and encouraging these keys, i.e. focusing on the positive, teachers will feel a sense of empowerment.

Demanding teachers to participate in community involvement can be counter productive. “Good” teachers will voluntarily participate, while those teachers who are need of improvement will be close minded to the benefits. However, strong teachers within a school can influence their colleagues in a positive way which can open their minds to the benefits of learning the culture of the community.

OSI – Our Story, Inc believes that history is more than dates and quick descriptions of selected events. We believe the past accomplishments of individuals from various cultures, be it family traditions or contributing to community betterment, plays a huge part in the encouraging and validating of individuals like at-risk students. Do you think the local accomplishments of more relative individuals can be and/or should be implemented in the educational structure for students like Jason?

Stewart – Absolutely. I agree with your statement that history is more than dates and quick descriptions of selected events. Recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of family and community members can be the most powerful element of a school curriculum. For example, I have read some of the most interesting and well-written research papers by middle and high school students when they have done research on their family members. This type of education provides three significant benefits: First, the work becomes relevant and engaging to the student – true learning across multiple disciplines is the result. Second, through the research, students increase their “sense of self” as a person and as a student. Third, it helps create a sense of belonging for the student. I have also seen this type of research and learning, inspire students and I have seen it “awaken” apathetic students.

OSI – Would you agree that teaching is more than an occupation? Is it a calling?

Stewart – Yes, I agree — teaching is a calling. However, as with all callings, there should be a discernment period so that prospective teachers can ask themselves “Am I truly called to be a teacher? Do I have the patience, enthusiasm, and passion to be a teacher?” I am not sure if the educational system knows how to deal with this. There has always been a strong emphasis on teacher professional development through workshops and a belief and/or reliance on a philosophy that teachers can learn the techniques which will make them successful, while ignoring other more important factors such as patience, an ability to connect with students, an ability to listen to the students, and others.

OSI – Our youth are the future history makers, encouragers and ambassadors of community betterment. What percentage of teachers do you feel have the desire or the calling to go those extra steps needed to educate at risk students, and help them reach their full potential? And what part should the home and the educational system play in this.

Stewart – Based upon anecdotal evidence, I would estimate that only ten percent of the teachers have the desire or calling to teach at-risk students. I have heard many comments of surprise from teachers when I have told them I truly enjoyed teaching at Traner Middle School.

I believe the educational system, meaning educators – teachers, principals, school board members, and superintendents, have a moral and ethical responsibility to help all students, especially at-risk students, reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, at-risk students have little or no control over their home environment. We must use our best resources and talent to provide the solutions at school where we can and do make a difference.

OSI – What would be your 12 keys to county school districts for engaging teachers?

Stewart – I would narrow the list to the following seven:

1. Make connections with teachers. Visit the schools, observe classes, get to know the successes and talents of the teachers.

2. Empower the teachers to be a change-agent in their classrooms.

3. Maintain a positive attitude.

4. Seek solutions to develop a winning philosophy

5. Empower teachers to be change agents within their schools.

6. Celebrate the successes of the teachers.

7. Nurture Teacher Professional Development in all areas.

OSI – What is your favorite moment in history and how has it affected your life.

Stewart – I will answer this question by describing an important moment in my educational history and how it has affected my life.

In 1972 I entered the University of Washington as an engineering student. However, that was before I met an English professor named Professor Richard Blessing. Professor Blessing was the single best teacher I have ever had. It is said that we educate the most by what we love. Every day, Professor Blessing demonstrated small acts of kindness. Professor Blessing loved teaching. He was passionate about literature. He was passionate about life. He was a poet, a novelist, and an entertainer. I was inspired by his enthusiasm for life. Through literature, Professor Blessing taught a philosophy of life that empowers all individuals to believe in themselves. A theme of his novel was our free will and imagination will allow us to achieve whatever we can imagine if we believe in ourselves and then take positive action.

I did not become an Engineer. Because of Professor Blessing, I knew that one day I too would be a teacher. I knew that I would be an English teacher. And, like Professor Blessing, I would treat each day with the same enthusiasm.

OSI – Where can your book be purchased and how can someone learn more?

Stewart – The book may be purchased by calling 775-247-2397  People may learn more by visiting my website, www.brucejstewart.com. Visitors to the website will be able to read a chapter from the book.

OSI – What does the future hold for Bruce J. Stewart?

Stewart – I look forward to writing another book, again with an emphasis on positive solutions to teaching at-risk students. In my professional career, I have always welcomed new challenges and now with my administrative background, I would welcome the opportunity to return to an at-risk school as an administrator.