Alumnus Receives Missy Hughes Teacher Award

Alumnus Receives Missy Hughes Teacher Award

Brennan Bariso holding his awardBariso, winner of 826CHI's teaching award, has known he wanted to teach middle school since 8th grade.

Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy alumnus Brennen Bariso (BSED20) received the Missy Hughes Teacher Award from 826CHI for nurturing his students’ love for writing.

Bariso, an English teacher at the Chicago Math and Science Academy charter school, developed his own writing voice as a youngster while taking free classes at 826 CHI, a non-profit writing, tutoring, and publishing center.

Receiving the award from the group was “a really cool, full-circle moment,” he told reporter Kayleigh Padar of Block Club. “The classes really encouraged me to be a writer and opened my eyes to the beauty of creative writing.”

Bariso, who graduated from the School of Education and Social Policy’s undergraduate TeachEd program in 2020 with a bachelor’s in secondary education, was honored for supporting the Young Author Book Project “from start to finish” and creating a safe environment in his classrooms where students can thrive.

He also partnered with 826CHI to bring teaching artists into his classroom and create a collection of poetry from sixth graders at Chicago Math & Science Academy called, “Tomorrow’s Titans: Poetry to Grow a New Future.” Bariso received his award at the annual Eat Your Words Gala at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, which drew more than 400 local educators, writers and philanthropists.

“Brennen is really demonstrating what it means to be a transformative educator,” said Rebekah Stathakis, curriculum and assessment coordinator and an instructor with the Master of Science in Education program, which oversees Teach Ed. “He builds caring relationships with his students and intentionally nurtures a classroom environment where kids can grow, learn, ask hard questions, be vulnerable, experience care, be their true selves, and have fun.”

Bariso was in eighth grade when his teacher let him lead a lesson; he immediately realized he wanted to teach middle school. At Northwestern, he studied psychology and pursued teaching at the School of Education and Social Policy because he thought SESP would give him the foundation “to create a welcoming classroom where my students feel encouraged to learn about themselves through writing.”

He tells his students to “do good work and share it with people,” a writing tip he first heard from Austin Kleon, the author of Show Your Work. “Sharing your writing with others can be terrifying,” he said. “But if you're not constantly sharing your best work and receiving feedback from others, how can you grow as a writer?”

In addition to teaching, Bariso writes when he can, and he and tries follow his own advice. “Usually, that means texting it to my friends and asking for their opinion, but hey, that's what I'm hoping my students are doing as well!" he said.

Stathakis recalled one of Bariso’s final papers, when he reflected on why he is a teacher. “He wrote that teaching is genuinely one of the greatest joys of his life, and he believes “everyone deserves the ability to access knowledge,’ she said. “It has been such an honor to learn with and from Brennen, and I am so proud to have him as a teaching colleague.”

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 10/23/23