“I joke that my career is a senior right now, so my teaching career is graduating from Buffalo High School too.” – Brig Bergquist
Brigitta Bergquist is a teacher who needs no introduction. She is a teacher who has been teaching social studies for 18 years here at BHS, and most know her for her Economics class taught to seniors. This year she announced that she would be leaving today, accepting a job offer to work to teach other social studies teachers from across the state, “Well, it’s a very very difficult decision,” Bergquist said. “but I was given an opportunity to try and help other teachers feel stronger and more confident about teaching economics, which is what I’m very very passionate about.”
With the amount of both new and veteran teachers leaving BHS in the last few years, we interviewed Tara Rosh, another long-time social studies teacher, about what might be pushing teachers to leave. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing a trend where younger staff are harder to retain,” Rosh said. “We’re simultaneously having difficulty holding on to staff who dedicated a lifetime to education, so I think it’s definitely a time where we, as an entire profession, need to be really reflective on how we retain young staff, and how we retain older staff members when there are other opportunities for teachers, and so many teachers are making the decision to walk away from the profession.”
We asked Mrs. Bergquist a few questions about her experience teaching at BHS before she left, and about the future of her teaching career.
Do you have a favorite class to teach?
“I do love Economics, but my favorite class is World Religions. It’s my favorite class for a variety of reasons. One is because I wrote the course. It wasn’t a class that was taught here before I came up with the idea,” Bergquist said. “I wrote the course proposal and I’m one of the only teachers that has taught it. It’s a passion interest area of mine too. I love students getting the opportunity to think about different perspectives, especially ones that maybe we are a little bit more unfamiliar with and giving them the opportunity to dig deep into that.”
Why did you get into teaching social studies? What are your favorite parts about it?
“I was always kind of drawn to social studies, even when I was younger. My dad was a high school social studies teacher, so I know that had an impact on me as well, but I’ve always been interested in political science. I love politics. I like history. I like geography. I love the social sciences, psychology, sociology, they all interested me a lot and actually that’s what when I first started looking into economics,” Bergquist said. “I too had that kind of misunderstanding that it was all business, but once I realized that it really is more of a social science, making that connection with the psychology and sociology side of things made it much more interesting to me.”
At what point did you start giving out candy?
“It really did start with the concept of incentives, and I wanted students to start to identify that we’re learning things all the time, and this is specific to our content. I like the idea that we can tie anything back to decision-making, choices, what motivates us, and for them to get a better understanding of why some of those things happen around them. I’m not the only teacher that’s ever used candy but I like how we can start to identify specifically why somebody might do that and what might happen as a result, not just with the candy but with lots of other things too. I like to point out that, even when we least expect it, we’re learning.”
What are you expecting from your new job?
“You know, that’s a good question. I asked my new organization the same question. I don’t know exactly what to expect. I know I’ve participated in the Minnesota Council on Economic Education. I’ve participated in their workshops and some of their classes over the last 17 years and I know what it’s like to be there in person. I did those things in the summer, so if it’s like that, I know what to expect – it’s kind of like teaching a class, only it’s a lot of teachers. It’s role modeling and saying, ‘Hey, this is how you could run something so that it makes a teacher feel more comfortable and confident doing it.’ However, now I think it’s a lot more web-based – webinars, Zoom, and doing things online. I know they’ll have some connections with the universities across the state. I’ll be helping introduce new teachers to economics, helping them feel confident in being able to teach that content area.”
At the end of the day, staff from all different parts of BHS came to her classroom for their final goodbyes before Bergquist left the building where she had spent most of her teaching career.