In life, when trying to teach someone something, it helps if you know about what you are teaching. And it is a different kind of knowing when you are speaking and teaching from experience, rather than reading from a textbook. Brett Buchler, a Selbyville Middle School seventh-grade geography teacher, and the school’s Teacher of the Year, knows that well.
Buchler enjoyed the typical year after college during which some students “backpack though Europe” trying to find themselves, although his turned into 15 years and included learning how to ski and surf, and eventually teaching both. He has flown across and hitchhiked across the country, taught English in Puerto Rico, surfed in Hawaii and France, sailed around Tahiti, spent time in Israel, and has taught skiing in the German, French and Swiss Alps.
And all his traveling and life experiences fit perfectly into the position he has held since 1991, teaching geography to seventh-graders.
“It actually fits rights in with the geography curriculum,” explained Buchler of his travels. “I took slides the whole time, and I actually have slides that go with the book that we have.” He added that, with the availability of the Internet now, he can easily show the students and compare the places they are learning about with the places he has been. “They like my stories. I think it is the forte of my teaching, the real life experiences.”
Buchler’s father was from Rehoboth Beach and the family, which was from Pennsylvania, used to vacation at the Delaware shore in the summers. His father was a schoolteacher, too, and Buchler said teaching was something he swore he would never do.
“Here I am, doing it,” he acknowledged with a laugh, adding that his father would be amazed at what teachers can make today, since he made about $2,000 a year at his position. “But teachers don’t do it for the money anyway,” Buchler added, laughing again.
After graduating from Juniata College in Pennsylvania and traveling all around the world for the next 15 years, Buchler finally settled down and married. He and his wife now have five children, four of whom he has taught as seventh-graders — and he teaches his youngest this year.
“It’s a great honor,” he said of being selected as Selbyville Middle’s Teacher of the Year. “A lot of other teachers could have it, as well. I appreciate the kids would even think of me like that. It was my year this year.”
He joked that the “clincher” could have been his daughter, who nominated her dad and put as the last reason on her nomination form, “because he’s my daddy.”
Buchler has never tired of his surfing and has owned his Surf Sessions business since before he started teaching. He used to do overnight camps for kids and, as a perk of being a student of his, Buchler said he always offers his students free surf lessons. Nowadays, he just teaches day camps to students of all ages, every summer.
In addition to allowing him to do the job he loves in during the school year, his surf lessons let him continue to compile stories, as the tables have now turned and these days he has clients from all over the world coming to him to learn how to surf in Fenwick Island.
“I like kids, and I like teaching,” concluded Buchler “I really enjoy my job. My life experiences worked out perfectly for what I do. When I was young, my favorite teacher was a history teacher, and I don’t remember the content as much as I remember and liked his stories. I feel that is one of my strengths – I actually have a story to tell.”