Brian’s desire to teach was strongly informed by the problems he had to deal with in his own childhood, and the positive support and encouragement he received from educators. Born to teenage parents in a home where gun violence was a recurring theme, his father ended his own life when Brian was eleven. Protecting the rest of his family from an addicted and abusive stepfather led to a period of homelessness and depression. Through out his struggle for safety, it was teachers who helped Brian, and eventually Brian decided became a teacher in an effort to try and help others in the same way.
Brian’s central philosophy in teaching has been to identify and develop his students’ passions and unique talents, as well as to be a flexible source of support. He makes concerted and continual efforts to build relationships with students, which can be especially helpful to vulnerable pupils. In Desert Hot Springs, where Brian teaches at Painted Hills Middle School, there are high levels of crime, drug addiction, and gang violence. When the school opened, it became a microcosm of the local environment, with daily fights, theft, and chaos in classrooms– an economically disadvantaged school where 95% of pupils’ families live in poverty. As a result, it ranked among the least successful schools in California.
Brian’s response to this was to found The Regiment– a student-led musical organisation that helps pupils overcome life difficulties and acts as a safety net. Brian sees music as the key to helping students express their humanity: students learn to take chances in an educational environment built on a foundation of trust, communal respect, and support. The Regiment has brought notoriety to Desert Hot Springs and given the area a sense of pride that it previously lacked. The programme has now received over 200 honours and awards,including two California State Championships, five National Sweepstakes, and the International Festival of Gold recognition for Musical Excellence. World-class conductors and educators from universities around the US have praised the musicianship and professionalism of Brian’s students. The Regiment has also transformed performance in other academic areas: Brian’s students attained a graduation rate of 100% and a daily school attendance rate of 92%, significantly higher than students outside the music program. Brian himself has also looked to make contributions outside his school community, serving as Commissioner of Community and Cultural Affairs for the city and as an educational and community advisor to California Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, U.S. Congress Member Raul Ruiz, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Brian would use the funds to establish a foundation to expand The Regiment, forging further partnerships and hopefully funding the project indefinitely.