By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Owen LeBrun, a 2016 West De Pere High School graduate, said despite having both parents in the education field, he initially didn’t want to become a teacher.
“When I was in high school, I swore I wouldn’t go into teaching,” he said. “I’d come home and see how tired my parents (Eric and Michelle) were both physically and mentally after a day of teaching. I didn’t give it much thought to become a teacher at the time.”
He initially enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago and majored in journalism.
“I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing,” LeBrun said. “I justified going into journalism because I wanted to write pieces for newspapers and educate people on things. I was lying to myself about the fact I wanted to help young adults. I’ve always been a helper who often puts others before me. Being a teenager can be a scary thing, so I’m passionate about teaching young adults about the power of the written word.”
After spending a semester at DePaul, LeBrun transferred to UW-Milwaukee (UWM) and was recently named the student teacher of the year at the school.
“I was surprised to receive this honor,” said LeBrun, who has an older brother, Jacob, who is a mechanical engineer living in a suburb of Detroit. “I had heard about the award, but I didn’t know how it worked.”
He said the English department at UWM held monthly meetings and nominated students.
From there, his cooperating teacher, supervisor and program advisor sent letters of recommendation to the English department for review.
“The fact I was nominated by my supervisors means the most to me,” LeBrun said. “They are veteran teachers and see good qualities in me. It helps me to understand I’m in the right profession.”
As the school’s winner, LeBrun is automatically in the running for the state’s student teacher of the year award.
“I can think of many other student teachers I worked with who would have been deserving of this award, too,” said LeBrun. “Student teachers had to show a strong commitment to teaching, possess strong communication skills, maintain a rapport with students and develop a professional relationship with colleagues.”
For his student teaching, LeBrun had a split placement between Milwaukee Language of Arts and Rufus King International High School in Milwaukee.
“The Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system is rather unique,” he said. “Unlike other districts in the state, MPS is underserved. We have been doing our best with digital learning, but the main thing the district is focusing on is the mental health of our students. I have students whose parents have been furloughed at work, so they are working a job to help support the family. This happens outside of Milwaukee, too, but some students get their only meals from school.”
LeBrun said it’s a unique time in history at MPS where education has to be put on the backburner.
“These kids are facing lots more than simply doing schoolwork and learning,” he said. “I’ve been giving them plenty of options to write about, but also being cognizant about looking at each situation differently.”
LeBrun said he is looking to stay in the Milwaukee area for his initial teaching job.
“I can see possibly gravitating toward northeast Wisconsin in the future, but for right now, I’m enjoying being in a bigger city and seeing what I can do down here,” he said. “It’s the right place for me to be right now.”