Bryan Hughes had plans to go into law enforcement.
Then he had a change of heart.
He would spend his breaks from college helping his mom, who was a teacher. During those times, Hughes noticed there weren’t many male teachers at the elementary level. He also wanted to be a positive role model to kids but thought he’d like to interact with them as a teacher versus a police officer.
So Hughes decided instead to go into teaching. He teaches fourth grade at Lakewood Elementary in Norwalk; this is his ninth year at the school.
While making connections with all of his students is important, Hughes has found that many he’s bonded with are lacking a male figure in their lives, he says. It helps that he likes to hunt and fish and has been known to take students on fishing trips.
For years, Hughes has donated his time to a school PTO fundraiser, when a lucky student gets the chance to fish with him at a local pond.
“It’s an opportunity to connect with a student and helps raise funds for the school, and to take a kid who’s never gone fishing before,” Hughes says.
He brings that same fun approach to the classroom, teaching with a dose of humor.
“Humor helps kind of keep them on task and pay attention,” says Hughes, who throws in a lot of “brain breaks,” when they exercise or dance. “Plus, if they’re laughing, they’re having fun and learning.”
He also keeps students focused and engaged by providing a variety of learning opportunities. Students learn by working with partners, through rotating stations, as a whole class and in small groups. They also take part in fun, hands-on experiences, such as working with crayfish and planting a garden.
The best part of his job is that no two days are alike, and he gets the chance to work with young kids and see them succeed, Hughes says. And while it’s exciting to see the new crop of students come into his class each year, it is bittersweet to watch children move on.
“You get to know them so well — they’re like your own little kids,” he says.