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Teacher Education

Meet Brandis Piper

January 08, 2013

With just over seven minutes on the clock, Lewis & Clark’s football team trailed conference rival Pacific Lutheran by five points. This wasn’t the team’s first time in the underdog position—the Pioneers had recorded just one victory in their previous 27 meetings with the Lutes.

But in the in the game’s final minutes, the Pioneers took home a 34-32 win—cementing its first seven-game winning streak since 1966.

Brandis Piper, BA ’12, played in all 36 games of his four-year undergraduate career as a wide receiver, including the game with Pacific Lutheran. Hot on the heels of a triumphant football season and of earning his degree in history, Piper signed on for a victory lap: He entered a master’s program at Lewis & Clark’s graduate school.

He wanted to become a teacher and a coach.

I’m much more engaged than I’ve ever been. Graduate school brings out all your passion and drive. Everyone in the room, including the professor, loves what they are doing.Brandis Piper

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since my sophomore year of high school,” he says. “I’m going to get my graduate degree so I can work in a classroom. That was always my plan.” Piper brings the same dedication to his graduate studies as he brought to undergraduate activities—the football team, student government, and community outreach as a tutor at local Wilson high school.

Piper’s vision of a career in teaching was cemented when he was in high school. At the age of 10, Piper’s mother left without a word to the family. It was shattering, and he began disconnecting from school. But a high school English teacher took note and, through the simple act of noticing his struggles and providing encouragement, she inspired him to consider a career in education.

“I want to be able to do the same thing for someone else—get students engaged in school and remind them it’s a positive place,” says Piper.

He is one of a growing number of students who begin their student careers at Lewis & Clark as undergraduates, but decide to continue on to earn master’s degrees preparing them for careers in education and counseling. Lewis & Clark has a strong tradition of preparing students to enter careers that serve others and engage with the world, and the education field is high on that list. In 2012, over a dozen graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences stayed to pursue graduate master’s degrees in teaching at Lewis & Clark.

Every student has a story, and all of these stories need to be respected and valued for students to succeed in the classroom.Brandis Piper

Being a young graduate student can be intimidating, says Piper. “You come in knowing all these people have gone out into the world and come back wanting to work in a school. I had some trepidation, being 22 and not having that life experience.” But he has quickly discovered a key feature of graduate school—you learn as much from your peers as from the instructor standing at the front of the room. “They have so much they can teach me,” he reflects.

When his 14-month master’s program is complete, Piper is excited to begin a career as a high school social studies teacher, and hopes to bring his passion for football to coaching. The same spirit that guided Piper and his teammates to victory on the football field animates his approach to his chosen career. “By the end of the season, everybody on the team knew we could win and trusted the guy next to him,” said Piper. Now, he believes his future students have the same prospects for success: “Everyone can win.”

Brandis Piper’s impressions of life as a graduate student:
  • On relationships
    It’s amazing how much support and interdependence you build in the relationships you form in graduate school.
  • On being a younger graduate student
    The first thing I noticed was that it’s not like being in a room full of people who are my age, who have had experiences largely similar to my own. Everyone is four or five years older. It’s a different vibe, but it allows me to take their perspectives on life and incorporate them into my own.
  • On class discussions
    Compared to undergraduate classes, courses are much more based on discussion between peers instead of lectures.
  • On focusing on the future
    As a history major, I learned about the past. But now it’s about how the education system works, how the infrastructure can make teaching harder or easier. It’s directly applicable to what I’m going to be doing in the classroom.
  • On early classes
    You don’t choose when you take classes. I saw I had an 8 am class and I was thinking “how in the world am I going to do that?” And then I thought, “That’s what you do when you teach in a school, you’ve got to be there at 7:45.” It’s not bad.
  • On being in the classroom
    I didn’t  know what to expect when I started teaching, but so far my experience has been awesome. I notice myself subconsciously implementing practices I learn in class into my classroom. Sometimes it’s as simple as working not to tower over my students. Sometimes it’s knowing what teaching strategy might work best for different students.