The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

The Brumwell's have enjoyed living and teaching in Big Sandy for 40 years


November 14, 2018

Larry and Chris Brumwell have been teachers in our schools since the fall of 1978. That's 40 years of teaching.

Larry was born and raised on a farm in Power, Montana. Chris was born in Iowa and lived there until she was 12. At that time, her father was 56 and had cancer and wasn't supposed to live so, when her mother was offered a job for the Ford Motor Company in Great Falls Montana it was decided to go where her mother's job would be. Her father lived till he was 92! Chris went to school at CMR, graduating salutatorian of her class. Chris meet Larry at Eastern Montana college, now MSU Billings during the first week of school. They lived in the same dorm on the same floor, because in the 70's that floor was a co-ed floor.

Chris knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in high school. She thought she wanted to get a degree in Special Education and had decided to go to Eastern because that was what Eastern was famous for, but after about one week of school she changed her mind and decided to become a math teacher.

Larry didn't know what we wanted to get a degree in. He had just gotten down to Billings when everyone was talking about what they were going to major in. His friend told him about becoming a teacher in Special Education, and he said, "What is that?" He thought it sounded like something he would be interested in, so he declared Special Education to be his major with a minor in PE. Big Sandy was the first placed they both taught and they have never left, nor have ever wanted too.

Schools were looking for Special Education teachers. There was a position for Larry at Big Sandy and because Special Ed was being mandated they really wanted Larry to come to the school so they created another math position for Chris. "When we started teachers stayed here. You have to remember when we were 40 years old we were still the youngest teachers at Big Sandy High School, so that is how long teachers used to stay," Chris said. Larry said, "We've said several times we honestly couldn't have picked a better place to raise our kids." Chris replied, "That's exactly right. After we had been here for two years I said to Larry so should I get out our resumes and fix them up so we can move back to Billings. And he said, 'No Chris. I want to stay here.' And I said 'What?', but then I always say he was absolutely right. We could not have chosen a better school for our kids. It has great

academics, music, sports, science and at the time speech for my daughter."

According to Larry the biggest change at Big Sandy High School is technology. "When we first came here there were no computers. When the school got their first computers they were an Apple 2E. Term papers were not allowed to be written on them, because they were just a passing thing and they would never last. So, they used typewriters to write their papers until in the 80's. And now it has progressed to where each student as their own Chrome Books and there is more power in each one of them then any of those old computers had."

Chris said, "when I got here my first senior class asked if me if they could use calculators and I told them they could, and they were so happy because the teacher before her wouldn't let them. They could only use a slide rule. We've gone from a slide rule, to calculators, to Graphing Calculators." Chris teaches Algebra One, Geometry, Algebra two, Math 4 and Calculus. She also has IXL Math, an on-line math program, where students can practice any level of math.

Chris also mentioned the ways kids spend their free time as changed drastically. "When we arrived here in 78 there was no cable, no dvd players, no VCR, no streaming of videos, and no satellite. So, when kids went home at night and wanted to watch some technology they watched one of the three stations we had on TV."

Larry commented, "and another thing that has obviously changed is the shrinking enrollment. When we first got here we were still a class B. The senior class had 41 kids. There was 120 enrolled in the school and we had an 11-man football team, I was helping coach. Than we went to an 8-man football, and now a 6-man football. Our enrollment is now in the 50's. All the lockers upstairs aren't even used now and some have even been taken out."

Chris mentioned her approach to teaching as changed some too. "Larry coached three different levels of basketball, and he would come home about 9:00 at night and I was still doing homework. John and Helen Hashley, long time teachers here asked all the new teachers to come over to their house once a week, and I told him, 'I can't. I can't stop doing homework at 7:00 and go over there.' He said Chris you're going." They laughed recalling the fun they had playing Tripoli. John and Helen use to live in Larry's and Chris's house. Chris mentioned that she knows her students better now than when she first started, "It's a big difference. It's partly because the class size is smaller, partly because I know my teaching material, but also because I knows it's important to know the kids rather than just teaching material."

Any thought of retiring is decided one year at a time. Chris said they have till January 15th of each year to tell the school their intentions. Larry said he is in no hurry because after 37 years of Special Education he now is just doing K-12 PE. "I love both my jobs!" Larry also works at the Co-ed Home of Big Sandy Activities. "How many people can say they love both their jobs." He wakes up excited about going to work.

Chris also mentioned that the Big Sandy High School has been very good to her. It was important to her to be able to stay home with her small children and for 10 years or so she was allowed to stay home and only teach part time when her three children where young. They gave her 2/3's of her salary plus health insurance.

"It's been a good four decades." They love the school, they love the town, and they love their church. They do feel valued as teacher, "always have". They also believe they have had a great school board in recent years and the superintendent this year is a teacher's superintendent.


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