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Name: Brian McCasline
School: South Lane School District
Position: GEAR UP Coordinator, Human Resources Director, Mathematics Director, former Principal
College Alma Mater: Brigham Young University (BS), Southern Oregon University (MA)
Describe your educational journey: As a high school student, I was often told that I “didn’t apply myself”, and that I "wasn’t prepared for college”, which in hindsight, were both probably true. While my friends took college prep and AP courses, I took the classes that I knew I could pass (there was no underwater basket weaving, but there were classes on taxidermy, sports psychology, and other interesting (and easy to pass) classes, and that is what I chose to take. In high school, nothing seemed to really grab my attention, or make that connection between grades and what I was learning in high school, and what I would want to do with my future. When I take a look at what allowed me to finally “get it”, there were two influential adults that really made a difference. The first was my sophomore Biology teacher, who didn’t accept my lack of effort. I remember one day when I was sleeping in class, he came to my desk and said “you can do this, and I won’t let you sleep”. Every time I put my head down after that moment, he would include me in class in some way, assuring that I didn’t ever sleep again in his class. I soon turned my grade from a “D” to a “C”, and eventually to a “B” by the end of the year. Through his efforts, he not only didn’t let me sleep, but through his efforts and belief in me, he didn’t let me fail. Another teacher saw my lack of motivation, and took me under his wing, and helped me become involved in the DECA (Marketing) club. I went to competitions, and even presented at community events. He took a kid who wasn’t involved in anything, and helped me to care about a lot of things. These two teachers saw my potential well before I did, and helped me to realize what I could do. They talked of their experiences in college and career, but never preached to me, or told me what I should do. With their help, along with support from a counselor who knew all the answers about college, I was able build a dream of going to college.
The impact of GEAR UP: Historically, we have always talked about college and career opportunities with students in South Lane School District, and encouraged students to continue to seek educational opportunities beyond high school. GEAR UP has helped us do several things. First, we have increased the rigor in our middle and high schools so that students are much more prepared to be successful in college. Second, we have also changed the mindset of students who didn’t see college as an option to see the possibilities that a college degree opens up to them. Third, we have changed the mindset and actions of our adults to truly see that every student has the potential to be successful in post-secondary educational opportunities. The culture of our schools has changed, and we are better preparing students to be successful in college, thanks to the support GEAR UP has provided.