Substitute Dan Brutlag shares his optimism for the teenage generation

Nathan Charles

Every 25 years, a new generation is born, ushering in new ideologies and ways of life. Society changes, for better or worse. But as the world starts spinning a little faster, past generations begin to feel uncomfortable. However, for substitute Dan Brutlag, the new generation brings waves of encouragement.

“These kids amaze me. They are so much better at math than we were as kids,” Brutlag said.

Growing up in Hayward, CA in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Brutlag has lots of life experience from a different era. Still, he sees the world differently than others his age.

Substitute Dan Brutlag feels very optimistic about the teenage generation.
Substitute Dan Brutlag feels very optimistic about the teenage generation.

Brutlag feels that the news doesn’t always put teenagers in the best light which leads to many people his age having a preconceived notion of the “lazy, drug-addict teenager”. However, he feels quite the opposite.

“Kids nowadays know so much more…I feel the news has skewed the way my generation looks at teenagers,” said Brutlag.

Brutlag is currently substituting for Mrs. Kristal, a Geometry and Advanced Algebra  teacher who recently went on maternity leave, putting him at the helm of her classes.

Before landing in the substitute role he occupies today, Brutlag has taught in San Diego, Orville, and locally in the Tam District at Tamalpais and Drake. Through these 22 years, he has collected an abundance of information on the teenage brain.

“People of your age tend to think much more sporadically; they want change,” Brutlag said.

When talking to Brutlag, it’s apparent he wishes the best for his students and will help as much as possible to further their learning.

“I feel terrible giving a kid an F. I’ll do whatever possible to get their grade up to a D or a C,” Brutlag said.

Brutlag also shares insights of how teachers like to interact with their students. He feels that it is always helpful when a student can approach a teacher with questions or concerns about the class, as he believes the student-teacher bond to be so powerful. Brutlag also likes to add his own style to any class he teaches.

“I like to give them group projects, assign presentations, have different activities that help them,” Brutlag said.

For sophomore Joseph Mulcahy, Brutlag’s friendliness shines through in class. He believes Brutlag is one of his friendliest teachers.

Mulcahy explains how Brutlag’s willingness to interact with his students is extremely helpful, and how the assignments he gives them help kids stay connected with the class.

“[The class] is pretty fun…We do some cool activities, like group work,” Mulcahy said.

Unfortunately, Brutlag feels there is a lack of student-teacher communication and attributes this to students’ unwillingness to talk with their teachers.

“Teachers are willing to interact with students, but sometimes the students aren’t,” said Brutlag.

Brutlag encourages students to approach their teachers at any time with questions or concerns.

“Nobody wants to flunk a student,” Brutlag said. “Every teacher likes to teach, or else they wouldn’t have gotten into the profession.”

Though Brutlag’s time with Mrs. Kristal’s classes may be limited, his lessons and jubilant personality will surely stick with his students. He is chalk-full of wonderful snippets that can be helpful in any situation.  

“You wanna say a whole bunch of stuff? Pick a little part that tells a great story,” Brutlag said.

Surely Brutlag has told quite the story throughout his years as a math teacher.