“Five Questions With…” is an ongoing series in the Gaynor Gazette. This article appeared in the Summer 2019 edition.
Brian Russ has been a Middle School Technology Specialist at Gaynor for seven years. His road to teaching, however, started in South Dakota when he accepted a two-year assignment out of college to teach at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Oglala Lakota County. In 2005, he moved to New York City—Brooklyn to be specific—where he and his wife are raising their children Bernadette, 5, and Simon, 2.
We sat down with Brian for the latest installment in our “Five Questions With…” series and found out what he’s passionate about.
1.) You are originally from the Philadelphia area, what was your journey to New York City?
I grew up in South Jersey and then when I was about 6 or 7 I moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and lived in the greater Philadelphia area until I was 18. I went to college in Philadelphia at St. Joseph’s University, majoring in Management Information Systems. I was looking for a way to volunteer and give back when I graduated which led me to a volunteer middle school computer teacher position through AmeriCorps on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. After 2 years living on the reservation, I moved to NYC in 2005. I got accepted to the New York City Teaching Fellows which led me to a teaching degree from Brooklyn College and I worked at PS 189 in Brooklyn for 5 years. Now, I’m in my seventh year at Gaynor.
2.) What are up to when you’re not at Gaynor?
I’ve played guitar since I was about 15 or 16 and I’ve been in bands since then. As a musician, I mostly play different variations of rock and roll. But once I even played in a 12-piece soul band.Right now it’s like the first lull in my life where I don’t play out as much as I used to.When I moved to New York I played in a few bands and spent a couple of years traveling and touring. Music is really the thing that I love the most. I’ve also shifted into recording bands. In my free time, I’ll record friends or people who catch word that I have the ability and equipment to do that. Lately, I’ve been getting more into mixing.
3.) What is your favorite kind of music?
My dad exposed me to jazz as a youngster and I have always had a deep appreciation for that type of music. Growing up in the 90s I was a child of the grunge age and fell in love with a lot of the rock bands associated with that generation. From there I started exploring the roots of rock, rhythm and soul and got into groups from the 50s and 60s. Now I pretty much love all genres of music from abstract noise, to hip hop, to opera. I’ve mostly always played some subgenre of rock and roll because you only need three chords to do that! But I guess truthfully my favorite genre of music is Motown. Ever since I was a little kid those songs always put me in a good mood. There is something very real, organic, and magical about their sound to me.
4.) What keeps you coming back to work every day?
The thing that I like about the field of technology is that it’s always changing. I feel like I’m always trying to stay fresh and learn new things that I can share with the students. So I enjoy having the ability to teach newer curriculums or types of technologies, expanding kids’ minds to how technology can make differences in everything from sustainable energy to transportation to architecture to design to engineering. Technology is shaping all of those fields, and I like to introduce kids to that. I think the fun for me (in addition to teaching) is also that there’s constantly new things to learn.
5.) What is one of your favorite student stories?
I love when students bring in items that might be broken and then we spend some time trying to reverse engineer them back to a place where they will work. I remember a student brought in a broken set of headphones once. We took all the pieces apart separately, laid them out and figured out that the speaker cones could still drive audio through them. So using the 3D printer we re-engineered a new set of headphones out of the parts from the old set and they actually worked. We were amazed by the process and learned a lot about electronics just by doing this.
-TinyBop, an app maker based out of Brooklyn. They combine artistically alluring graphics with playful, creative problem-solving games and tasks, making learning a fun, explorative adventure.
–Swift Playgrounds, an Apple-designed app where students can learn coding.
-AutoDesk creates a lot of great engineering and design-type products.