What do troubleshooting network computer problems, teaching the meaning of ar;chetypal literary symbols, and trying to figure out what candy bar sells best in the lunchroom vending machine have in common? If you don’t immediately see the connection, that’s OK. Most people don’t. But if you know Augustine Christian Academy faculty member Deleise Brewer — resident tech advisor, literature teacher, and snack food marketing guru — then the answer is obvious.
Mrs. Brewer currently teaches literature and yearbook at ACA, leads Griffin House, coordinates school technology, and serves as senior class sponsor. She began teaching full time in 2007, but has been associated with ACA since 2000 when her oldest son, Jared, began as a freshman in high school. Back then, Mrs. Brewer was a stay-at-home mom who also had two younger children in elementary school, and she just knew that her schedule was sure to lighten up with this new schedule change. However, when her son wanted to play basketball for ACA, and Brewer found out the sports program needed volunteers or the teams couldn’t play, things changed again.
“They told me that the students wouldn’t be able to have a team if someone didn’t help get things organized, so I decided to jump in,” Mrs. Brewer says. And jump in she did. She started arranging refs, stocking and running the concessions, coordinating gym schedules, and even coaching a team or two in a pinch. Brewer soon had her whole family (husband, brother, sister-in-law, children, nieces, and nephews included) involved, and basketball games became the Friday night activity of choice for Augustine families. As a volunteer, she ran a successful fundraising effort for new team uniforms and warm-ups, talked local businesses into posting banners in the gym, and even managed to procure an electronic scoreboard. [Note: ACA does not have a basketball program at this time because we no longer have access to the gymnasium we used to lease.] Mrs. Brewer’s energy and enthusiasm caught the attention of the administration, which was looking for someone to help promote the school, so they asked her if she’d be willing to help. “I work for people, not causes,” she explains. “So, while I’d studied public relations in college, I never could get too enthused about it before. But I knew the people at Augustine and knew what it was about, so I jumped in.”
In a short time, the same things that happened with the sports program started happening again. During Mrs. Brewer’s tenure promoting ACA, her contagious enthusiasm, ability to juggle multiple tasks, and knack for making personal connections helped the school make some major improvements. She acquired donations for remodeling the building, helped increase student enrollment by 40%, and even landed a well-known local radio personality as commencement speaker. She also wore herself out.
“I came to the place where I knew I needed to take a break or I was going to collapse, so I called it quits for a while,” she explained. For most people “calling it quits” means relaxing more, maybe taking a vacation, sleeping in perhaps, but not for Mrs. Brewer. She went back to college.
“I decided I needed to finish the degree I’d started before I got married and had kids. I thought about finishing in public relations or journalism, but I wasn’t sure.” So she went back to Northeastern State University, and earned a degree in general studies (now called liberal arts). “Honestly, it was the quickest way to get my degree,” she says with a laugh. “I worried that it wasn’t specialized enough.” Providentially, that was not a problem.
Armed with a degree that gave her broad-based knowledge of education, psychology, social studies, history, and English (which fits quite well into the philosophy of classical education), Mrs. Brewer returned to ACA and began substitute teaching some history classes. “I fell in love with the students,” she explains. “I knew teaching was what I was called to do.” After a semester of teaching “whatever was needed,” she was offered a full-time teaching position.
“I taught six different subjects to students ranging from sixth grade to senior high,” she says. “It was grueling, and I swear I met myself coming and going, but I loved it.”
Over the next couple of years, Mrs. Brewer’s yearbook class published the school’s first full-color yearbook, she developed the course Christianity in Literature (designed to help students see the recurring Christian archetypes in multiple literary genres), and she and her yearbook team managed to purchase the vending machines that reside in the school cafeteria so that they could fund yearbook accounts. Clearly, her multitasking and liberal arts mindset served her students and the school well.
And then there’s Mrs. Brewer’s role in ACA technology. “When we got the Mac lab, I volunteered to help coordinate it, but I honestly didn’t know what I was doing,” she explains. Initially she was just going to schedule classes in the lab, assist students with any problems, and serve as a contact person for the teachers. “It sort of grew from there,” she says, deadpan. Mrs. Brewer found that she was a natural on the technology front, and she quickly saw how using it benefited her students, which got her excited. (The attentive reader should be able to predict by now what happens when she gets excited.) Mrs. Brewer became more versed in how to use technology, and “jumped in” to share ideas and strategies with other teachers. Her energy and enthusiasm did what it evidently cannot help from doing and spread to other faculty and to students. Soon, demand was high enough that ACA bought a new lab full of computers, moving the initial ones to teachers’ desks. A few Macbooks, projectors, iPads, and iPad rolling carts later, Mrs. Brewer now finds herself supervising several student tech aids, helping make technology policy, training faculty and students, and still meeting herself coming and going.