BRINGING JOY TO THE CLASSROOM EVERY DAY
More than three-and-a-half decades into a teaching career that has been thoroughly Canby-centric, this year’s Amazing Educator still brings the energy day after day.
Brian Huggins can’t help it. That’s just how he’s built.
“I kid you not; I have the best job in the world. Each day I’m so excited to come to school, to bring positive energy for my kids, and they give it back to me every day. I meet them at the door every day, and we have a little conversation. There are so many kids that mean so much more (to me) than just school. I want to make their day worthwhile.
“My personality is like that completely. I just wake up and say ‘Let’s go get it, this will be fun.”
And that’s been the goal throughout Huggin’s 37-year career in the Canby School District. He started at Eccles, moved on to Trost, and now is at Lee Elementary. And each stop along the way has proven fertile ground to learn, develop, and build into his students’ lives. He’s enjoyed the journey.
The path he’s followed germinated early on in his life.
“In high school I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Huggins said of his teaching career. “I got my degree from Southern Oregon University and ended up over at Eccles. Mike Zagyva was my first principal and talk about wanting to do my best constantly. I made so many mistakes and you just learn through those. On many occasions I called myself out in front of my kids because you learn from that. I gleaned a lot from my colleagues, who have helped me out even to this day.”
He also has a tremendous resource in his teaching kit — his wife, Annie.
She is a teacher at Baker-Prairie Middle School, and it’s not uncommon for them to talk about the day, the week ahead and what’s possible.
“It’s so great to be able to relate to each other,” Huggins said. “We know most of the kids and we always collaborate. What’s going to be best for the kids? We spend many nights sharing ideas and thoughts.”
And that collaboration has borne fruit over the last two years as the pandemic made its presence felt deeply in education. Huggins said the previous two school years have been “difficult” on multiple levels.
“I am not a tech guy, so everything with Zoom was very challenging,” he said. “It was hard to get my personality across to love up my kids through a screen. It was great having my wife doing it, too. She was downstairs, I was upstairs Zooming and could share our frustrations. We made it through, but there are a lot of gaps with the kids, unfortunately. But we are working hard to get them back.”
Huggins’ time in the classroom has been spent primarily with fourth- through sixth-graders, and the many personalities and issues that come with them have energized Huggins in the classroom.
“I love the high achievers, the kids who can’t get enough and are intrigued by everything,” he said. “Then I go down to those kids who aren’t motivated at all. Such a wide range, and that’s what makes it fun. How can I ignite a spark in this kid when so many other issues are going on in their lives?
‘I just love trying to motivate this child, get them to excel,” he added. “What are their strengths and weaknesses and just run with them.”
But even fun things come to an end eventually. And Huggins’ career in the classroom will end after the next school year — 38 years after it began.
“My wife and I are going out together,” he said. “We are going to travel the United States. We are into a lot of history, so we’ll travel and have some fun checking out places. I also have about a bazillion ties, so I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to do with that.”
When not in the classroom, Huggins finds the outdoors to be a place of revival and rejuvenation. He also coaches, having tried his hand at a multitude of sports at the middle school level, and is currently a coach for the West Linn girl’s basketball program. It has been a full and eventful career, and Huggins said he’s grateful for every minute of it.
“Every school, every classroom I’ve ever had, it’s just a blessing,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it or change anything. I honestly look back on my teaching career and wonder, “Where has the time gone?’ It has just flown by. I certainly don’t do it for the pay. It just enriches my life. It keeps me young, keeps me going.”