Third time is a charm for Heidi Bruning who has come to Seabury Hall to teach for the spring semester. This is the third year in a row that she has graced us with her presence and come to teach in Seabury Hall’s upper school.
Heidi Bruning has taught all levels of high school. She is an English teacher and currently teaches World Literature and American Literature. However, she has also taught cultural studies and philosophy classes.
Bruning came to Seabury because of her ties with Ms. Sarah Bakhiet, our head of school. Bruning and Bakhiet got to know each other as friends at a school they both taught at in San Diego.
“We met as fellow teachers back at a school in San Diego where she used to work, and she was the assistant head of school there. So she was a teacher and then she became the assistant head. We got to know each other there at La Jolla Country Day School,” Bruning shared.
At the time, Bruning was at a crossroads with her current school, when Ms. Bakhiet called and offered her a position she was eager to come. “I had been teaching there for 20 years, and so I decided to take a little time off. Then, Ms. Bakhiet called and said she needed some coverage and would I be interested in coming, and I thought, yeah, that would be a great opportunity to go and meet people on the island, and get to know another school. So, far it’s been a very nice opportunity, and I’m really grateful, and that’s how I heard about the openings, positions here,” Burning explained.
Bruning grew up in Illinois with two older sisters and two loving parents. She comes from a family of learners. Her dad was a teacher, and now she and her oldest sister have carried on the tradition by both being teachers.
She went to Christian Junior High in El Cajon, California for middle school and high school. Then she wanted to further her education so she attended Grossmont Junior College and from there onto the University of San Diego in San Diego.
Bruning’s high school was similar to Seabury in size. “My high school was small like Seabury. My senior year we had about 60 students, so it was small,” Bruning stated.
Like Seabury’s close student and faculty relationships, Bruning formed close bonds to faculty at her high school. “You had a lot of interaction with your faculty and they were there for you, they cared about you and they wanted you to do well and wanted you to make good choices. I find that similar to Seabury,” Bruning said.
In addition to being a dedicated student, Bruning was also a fantastic athlete in her high school and college years, playing sports such as volleyball, basketball, and baseball. “She is not only a great scholar and an intellectual but she is also a world class athlete,” Ms. Bakhiet added.
Brunning even went to college on a volleyball scholarship. Although she left the team a season later, she still treasured her time on the team.
As Bruning reflected, she reminded herself of the great times she had during her school years even though as a senior she couldn’t wait to leave: “It was small, and at the time I couldn’t wait to get out, you’re kind of a feeling which I think is natural for being a senior. Your chomping at the bit to get out, but looking back, I had some really wonderful teachers, and I have some friends that I’ve been friends with since middle school, and we’re still friends today. So those bonds that I have, and carry, I treasure.”
Although Bruning loves teaching, she would have never guessed it would be her passion. “I actually never thought I would teach. I got out of high school and I never wanted to go back to high school. I never saw myself as someone who would manage a classroom, or be able to talk to young kids. Those kinds of things,” Bruning said.
After starting a PhD in graduate school, she realized that was not something she wanted for her future: “I had gone to college and graduate school and I decided that I wasn’t really willing to just live anywhere in order to work at a college or be a researcher if that meant that I’d have to live somewhere I didn’t want to. So I decided not to finish my PhD.”
After dropping her PhD, Bruning then worked at a publishing company editing biochemistry journals, but she knew this would not be something she would like to do long-term. Then people started suggesting she start teaching.
“I was at a crossroads, so I said ok, I’ll try it. I can get my teaching credential pretty quickly and so I worked on that, stayed at the publishing company for a while and then went for it. Then I got the job teaching, and I really liked it.” she said
It was challenging for her at first, but over time she realized this is what she loved to do. “I was scared as all get out, but over time that fear subsided and I found that I work well with the students and help them with their writing and I really like talking with them about life and literature and so it ended up being an unexpected grace,” Bruning shared.
Bruning found what she loves as a dropout unexpectedly at a later time than most, and she inspires students to find their passion no matter of age or past experience. Bruning shared, “I kind of came at it with a nothing left to lose or I don’t know what I’m doing and sometimes that how life is. You make mistakes, find out this isn’t for me and try something new and it fits. I got lucky in that regard. I’ve been teaching ever since then. I’m what you call a late bloomer I guess. I always tell the kids, look at me, I’ve been a drop out, a this, a that, you’ll be OK.”
When Ms. Brunning is asked why she thinks reading is important in a student life she first replies by explaining that we read many more things than just books, whether we realize it or not. “First I would say there are many ways to read. We read everything, be it nature, be it reading a room, when you walk into a room of people, be it, we’re always reading,” Bruning shared.
She goes on to say that reading is unique to everyone; each person has their own experience with a book. “Reading books, I think it, it’s an intimate habit, an experience that you have with the text, what’s in the text.” Bruning said.
Brunning believes everyone connects differently to a book in their own special way: “There’s nothing like that feeling of reading something and saying, yes, that’s it, I totally recognize that feeling or the way something was said, it was so exquisite, I wish I could have said that. There’s that kind of intimate factor. It opens you up, breaks your heart, but not in a bad way. It opens your heart to all that is out there to know.
Reading can open your heart and mind and let you discover more things about your world and yourself “For some people, reading is escape. But I think it’s more an in-scape. You’re discovering more about yourself and yourself in the world. The connection that books provide for us is priceless. And that’s not to say that you have to read books all the time, there are many things to read. That’s the kind of pathos thing,” Bruning shared.
As well as being an experience for your heart and emotions, reading also healthy for your brain. “Complex data are proven to be good for the brain,” Bruning explained. ”Critical thinking, creating context. Creating connections between dissimilar things and so those kinds of readings of complex text are really critical for the development of young minds and as we age to keep those synapses firing. So, scientifically, but the importance is in the heart.”
Brunning is not only a dedicated teacher but she is also a knowledgeable person. “She is one of the most well-read individuals I have ever met. She is incredibly detailed and attentive to her teaching,” Bakiet supported.
The Seabury Hall community is excited to see Ms. Bruning and her smiling face at Seabury once again.