Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Dr. Bryan Cutter (AL '22)

March 15, 2023

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Principal Dr. Bryan Cutter (AL ’22) created his school’s elementary STEM lab to get younger students excited about the benefits of STEM learning. It’s served as a model for the district and region and is “my proudest accomplishment to date.” Principal Cutter received his Milken Award at Dalraida Elementary in Montgomery on October 19, 2022.

Milken Family Foundation: How does your background as a music educator inform your work as an administrator?

Dr. Bryan Cutter (AL ’22): My background in music has helped me be a hands-on leader and coach. As a former music educator, I understand the power of teamwork and being in sync with others. I also recognize that each member plays a significant role and know that the concept of “I” does not work in the final presentation. I use the same approach as an administrator. Each teacher and student plays a part in our school’s success. It’s my role to provide them the individual support and coaching that will improve the overall achievement.

MFF: Tell us about the inspiration for Dalraida’s STEM lab. What do you hope it adds to your students’ education?

Bryan: My inspiration for the STEM lab came from my experiences as a Career Technology Director. I noticed that emphasis was placed on exposing secondary students to STEM, but because those students hadn’t gotten focused STEM instruction in earlier grades, they didn’t understand (and weren’t that interested in) how STEM would fit into their everyday lives and future careers. I was determined to break that pattern and started working on STEM opportunities for Dalraida. I hope the lab helps students develop a love for STEM and see that everyone, regardless of physical or cognitive ability, can benefit from STEM learning.

Opening the STEM lab has been my proudest accomplishment to date at Dalraida. It has served as a model for our district and surrounding counties. It’s been a catalyst for incorporating STEM programming in elementary schools and has led to collaboration among principals, teachers, and statewide STEM stakeholders.

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MFF: How did you end up in education?

Bryan: I originally wanted to be a lawyer and practice juvenile law. But then I went to college and joined the Alabama State University Choir. As I watched my choir director, I immediately decided that I wanted to be a teacher and use music to make a difference, change students’ lives, and have an impact on the world.

MFF: How did your first year of teaching go?

Bryan: It was challenging, yet rewarding. I was placed into a music classroom and charged to re-invigorate the music program. The students had a negative view of music and didn’t view it as an exciting class — I was competing against physical education.

I embraced the charge and allowed the students to have a voice and choice in the music class by building it around their interests and talents. I incorporated dance, instrumental and vocal music, musical theater, and music theory.

At the end of my first year I learned that college had given me the theory and pedagogy to be competent in my field — but the key to being a successful teacher was building relationships and incorporating students’ voices and ideas.

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MFF: What do you like about working with elementary students?

Bryan: I like being able to help lay the foundation and establish their love of learning. Elementary students are full of excitement and wonder. I love their innate passion to explore and their curiosity to understand the world around them.

MFF: Who are your role models?

Bryan: My own elementary teachers are some of my favorite teachers and role models. They helped develop my love for learning and made school a truly fun and exciting place for me to come each day. They all took interests in me as an individual. This experience is one that I aim to provide for my students every day.

My first-year principal’s approach to leadership inspired me to become a principal. Her ability to listen attentively to the needs of students, teachers and parents, while also providing support and coaching, was remarkable. She was actively present and determined to make a lasting impact on education, which motivates me daily to give my best to my students.

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MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?

Bryan: When I heard my name called aloud, I was completely shocked and speechless. I was in complete disbelief that I was being honored and recognized for the impact I have made on education, but I also felt blessed and appreciative.

MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?

Bryan: My students were elated — some were happier and more excited than I was! I think witnessing my Milken Award is an experience my students will never forget. I often tell them if you work hard and do your best you will have a rewarding life. Watching them see their principal, who has an impact on all the students’ lives, win the Milken Award was a true testament to the benefits of hard work and dedication.

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MFF: Any plans for your $25,000 Award?

Bryan: I plan to travel with my family. I’m also going to establish a nonprofit entitled H.Y.M. (pronounced “him”), which stands for Helping Young Men. The nonprofit will help upper elementary and secondary minority male students succeed academically, professionally, and personally.

MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?

Bryan: Success is an individual journey to accomplish a goal. In order to be successful, you must be able to understand the process of growth and change. During the growth stage you have to be able to take the necessary steps and prepare to be successful, while also acknowledging that change and embracing failure are necessary and pivotal to the journey. I want my students to understand that success is not the same for everyone, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I want them to recognize that their elementary learning and experiences are helping them get the preparation they need to be successful.

MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?

Bryan: I hope my students remember that I cared about them and their individual needs. It is my goal as their principal to provide a school environment that is an exciting place to learn, a place where teachers help students reach their fullest potential and each child is a part of school family that strives every day to develop their academic, social, and physical needs.

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