Beloved teacher, state champion coach and now athletic director, Hardin Valley Academy’s Bryan Brown only knows how to help others win.
Adam: Where were you born?
Bryan: I was born in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin and lived there my whole life through high school. I went to Cushing Elementary, St. Croix Falls Elementary, middle and high school.
Adam: What was your mascot?
Bryan: We were the saints all the way through.
Adam: How did you end up in Knoxville?
Bryan: My wife is from Knoxville. We met in Illinois and got married. We moved to Charlotte, we lived there for 3 years. We knew the school was being built so I told her if I can get a job at Hardin Valley Academy, then we would move. Here we are!
Adam: You’re one of the original Hawks.
Adam: What college did you end up going to?
Bryan: Jamestown College, which is now Jamestown University in Jamestown, North Dakota. Football took me out there and it was perfect for me. I would go back and do it again. It was a small liberal arts college about the size of Carson Newman.
Adam: What position did you play?
Bryan: My freshman year I was a free safety, then we had a coaching change and I moved over to offense. I was a flanker kind of flex tight end type of situation.
Adam: What did you end up majoring in?
Bryan: I double majored in History and Political Science and Education. Then, I had a minor in PE with an emphasis in coaching.
Adam: How many years have you been in education?
Bryan: This is my 25th year.
Adam: Are you still teaching now?
Bryan: Technically, yes. I teach a shared class, but usually my duties with AD and freshman discipline kind of override that. I make it as often as I can to class.
Adam: What sports or clubs are you involved with?
Bryan: I’m still coaching track and cross country. I’ve coached those since we opened. It is a little bit more time consuming now with being the athletic director, more meetings and more games, but we do a pretty good job of splitting up among the admin team. Everyone is good about stepping up.
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Bryan: I had a very good experience in school. I loved school and I always knew I wanted to be a coach. I love coaching. I coached football for the first 12 years (along with track) and I thought I was going to miss that. But the interactions I have with the kids in cross country and track are great.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t coaching?
Bryan: I think it would be in some type of athletic administration or athletic promotion. I can’t think of anything else that I would do. I could possibly see myself working for a group like Visit Knoxville Sports group. They bring in tournaments and stuff to Knoxville. That kind of job didn’t really exist when I was coming up.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Bryan: Mr. Voss. He was my 10th grade Social Studies teacher. I had a lot of great teachers. I really liked school, so I liked a lot of them, but he was the influence. He was a coach and the one I modeled myself after.
Adam: Which educator at Hardin Valley Academy have you learned the most from?
Bryan: When I was doing more teaching, I think I learned a lot from a lot of people. But in my new position here, I look to the whole admin team. Everything is new to me and how to handle situations. With all the day to day things they’ve been great with helping me figure things out.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Bryan: I was Teacher of the Year once in 2010 through the PTSA which is a little different than the Knox County one. I received the Coach of the Year I think 17 times for track and cross country. 15 of those were here and a couple while we were in North Carolina. I’ve been pretty blessed with good kids and teams.
Adam: How did you learn how to coach cross country and track?
Bryan: I did track in high school. I was kind of a student of the sport. I always loved it. I just kind of applied what I learned through my football coaching and applied that to track and field and cross country. Track was an easy transition because it correlated with football. I used training techniques from football to coach the jumps, sprints and hurdles. Those were my better first events I started with. We had some really good kids that took off quickly.
Adam: What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
Bryan: Always being there for my kids. We’re a blended family and it was important to me that my older daughters did not feel like stepchildren. Our oldest went away to school and told us how thankful she was for us because so many kids have come from messed up situations. She never had to feel that. That was very rewarding for me. Everything’s been good. I’ve been blessed. I’ve lived a pretty good life up to now and just trying to keep going forward.
Adam: What do you wish every parent knew?
Bryan: I wish every parent knew that we’re here to help their children. We want them to succeed. It seems like sometimes there are people that think we’re here to catch kids doing things instead of us trying to teach them. We would prefer never to have to discipline children. We want kids to be successful!
Adam: What do you wish every student knew?
Bryan: Kind of along the same lines of that. We’re here for them. We want them to be successful, but we also need them to ask us for help when they need it because we’re not mind readers. The end game is for them to learn the material. If they are struggling with the material, ask for help. We want to help. If it’s something in their peer to peer interactions, we can help with that too. Some of us have been around long enough to know what they are going through. We can guide them to make better decisions and to become successful. We need them to speak up and ask for help though.
Adam: What’s the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher?
Bryan: I think the relationships they have with kids. There are certain people that have good relationships with kids and certain teachers that have great content knowledge. The really great teachers know how to blend those together. Then, they can make classes interesting and the kids pay attention for stuff that they might not even like. The kids do it because that person engages them, makes it personal and they know they are cared for.
Adam: Where’s the best place a dollar could be spent in education?
Bryan: It’s so different in different places though. The dollar spent here at Hardin Valley would be different than the dollar spent at even Karns four miles down the street or Roane County or Union County. I think programs that draw kids in would be good. I think re-instituting our vocational programs would be a great step. When you and I went to school, kids did a great job in those vocations, the engineer classes, the construction trades, those things and are very successful adults. But we make kids sit in classes where they are miserable and they’re not successful in school. Some of them drop out or have behavior problems because of that. Maybe if they were engaged in a small engines class or a construction trades class or something, they would love it and would be very well off in their first steps to a vocational job.
Adam: I have four words. Excellence For All Students. No one getting left out.
Adam: What’s something you could use in your new role? What do you need? What can we help you with?
Bryan: Volunteering when we need people. We have so many events and we’re probably the most used facility in Knox County right now. We had three sets of different middle schools using our fields after the high schools were done the other night. With that comes events. It’s the same seven or eight people that are being pulled everywhere and you never have enough. But just volunteering that one time might give that person a break enough that they’ll come back again or vice versa. We have tons of events here and in all ranges of things and athletics and music and the arts. They’re all looking for volunteers all the time. Step up and volunteer with whatever you’re interested in.
Adam: Who would be the point person for that?
Bryan: If they come to me and say “how can I help out”, I can steer them in the right direction. We’d love that.
Adam: What are your hobbies?
Bryan: I’m a sports guy. I love sports, but I also really enjoy grilling and smoking food. I got a Kamado grill about six years ago and try to use it as often as possible, in the summer that’s almost every day. And this time of year, it’s once or twice a week. But, I really enjoy that. I don’t have time for a lot of other stuff. Between my track schedule and my daughter’s volleyball schedule, there were 2 weeks from January to June that one of us didn’t have something every weekend. But, I love that. I love going and watching her and the team. It’s what I do.
Adam: So for all the parents and students who appreciate you, what’s a good way to spoil you?
Bryan: I don’t know. I’ve been pretty spoiled over the years. Parents have taken care of me and the good people have been there and helped out. I mean, coming and cheering for their kids and being good parents. Hearing from old students and parents is great. I love to hear what they are doing now. The first people that I coached were only three years younger than me. Those people are 42 years old and have children in middle school and high school and are successful adults now. With social media, you end up following people and seeing their lives progress, that’s some rewarding stuff for me.
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