A hero in the classroom

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For D’Evelyn physics teacher, every student is proof that caring equals success

By Emile Hallez


Staff Writer

Most students in D’Evelyn teacher Briant McKellips’ physics classes could recite with little hesitation the educator’s daily mantra, “Good morning. Are you ready for another day in which to excel?”

His inordinately positive aura, unique physics demonstrations and a handful of other, lesser-known McKellips-isms — such as, “Beauty is fleeting. Nerdiness is forever,” and “Physics will find you a spouse” — have helped make him a popular educator among pupils and colleagues alike.

So it wasn’t surprising that McKellips, along with North Arvada Middle School teacher Carla Sullivan and Westgate Elementary School teacher Holly Seefried, was honored Sept. 24 at the ninth annual My Teacher My Hero event at Southwest Plaza on Saturday.

“He is able to spark passion, engage minds and generate authentic enthusiasm for learning in every student who walks through his classroom door,” said D’Evelyn principal Terry Elliott, who nominated McKellips for the award. “(But) Mr. McKellips’ commitment to our students is not limited to the classroom. He can be found greeting students entering the building on school mornings, when he is not tutoring students at 6:30 a.m.”

My Teacher My Hero, which is sponsored by the Columbine Courier, the Jefferson Foundation, Southwest Plaza and others, honors one elementary school, middle school and high school teacher each year for their contributions to student learning.

McKellips, easily identified by his friendly smile, simple wire-frame eyeglasses and a close-cropped speckled beard, teaches both high school and advanced-placement physics.

Known for showcasing hands-on lessons, he demonstrates the concept of surface area every year by donning a red “Incredibles” T-shirt, lying prone on a bed of nails and instructing another faculty member to smash cinderblocks on top of him with a sledgehammer.

Aside from earning attention from some students who would otherwise zone out in physics class, McKellips’ teaching style has yielded tangible results.

Since 1997, the first year D’Evelyn students took advanced-placement physics tests, 86 percent earned passing scores. Between 2002 and 2007, his students earned 13 first, second or third places in science bowls hosted at local universities.

But perhaps a deeper testament to his instruction came from students he inspired to pursue physics in college.

“His uniquely enthusiastic teaching style transforms his class into the highlight of every day,” Elliott quoted of a college sophomore who wrote a short letter in support of McKellips. “He excels as a role model and leader. I am now confident in my ability to find true love, save my life and criticize movie students. I see far because of Coach McKellips.”

And with his early-morning enthusiasm, McKellips’ energy tends to rub off on his peers, Elliott said.

“He makes us want to work harder, because he’s the best, and we see how hard he works every day,” he said.

But like every teacher worth his or her salt, McKellips cites the young minds before him as inspiration for industriousness.

“Obviously the main reason I come to school every day is for the kids,” he said. “And I love each and every single one of them.”


Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.  For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.