Member Spotlight: Coeur d’Alene’s Bruce Twitchell
“When I was seven or eight years old I asked Santa for a camera, and under my Christmas tree that year was a bright yellow 110 camera, along with a note from Santa.” So began a lifelong connection with photography for IEA member Bruce Twitchell, who is now in his 12th year of helping Coeur d’Alene High School students develop a similar appreciation for the craft.
Twitchell followed up Santa’s gift by saving money from his landscaping job to buy his first 35mm camera. After graduating from Boise’s Capital High School, he studied photography at the University of Idaho and then cut his teeth with photojournalist jobs in Texas and at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. Marriage, kids and a desire to share his love and knowledge of photography with others led him to earn a teaching degree from Lewis Clark State College in 2005. He landed a teaching job at Coeur d’Alene High School the following year, and has been a fixture at the school ever since.
“I love the fact that there is not just one right answer in photography—maybe not even a best answer,” he says. “I can’t imagine grading a bunch of math worksheets where the answer is the same over and over.” In addition to teaching photography, Twitchell took over as the school’s yearbook supervisor five years ago and has been producing stunning posters for sports teams and other school organizations.
“Yearbook takes a little different approach because the students have to learn the full spectrum of reporting duties—going to events, interviewing, interacting with others, and working on layouts with InDesign,” he notes. “The posters started when the booster club asked me to do something to commemorate the senior football players three years ago, and it has taken off from there.”
Twitchell relishes the fact that his students can express their creativity and have a release from the grind of their other classes. “It is an opportunity for them to have fun in class, even while learning, and I try to make it a safe place where they have the ability to try different things.”
The IEA and the Coeur d’Alene Education Association also play a major role in Twitchell’s professional life. He became a member in his first year of teaching, then became increasingly more active as a building representative. He has been serving as CEA Vice President, and recently became the President-elect of the local association. “I’m a bit nervous, but looking forward to it,” he says. “And I know there are a great many people who are more than willing to help.”
His wife, Jenny, made sure that he took the union path. When Bruce received membership forms in his first year, he called Jenny to see how she felt about it. “Heck yes, you are going to join,” was the response from his wife, whose father had been a longtime member of the American Association of University Professors. Bruce and Jenny have been married for 18 years, and have two daughters, Tabitha (15) and McCamy (12).
Twitchell identifies the primary goal for the CEA as making sure that the learning/teaching environment is safe and healthy. At the state level, he stresses that the IEA must continue to advocate for education funding, and address the teacher retention problem that is especially prevalent in North Idaho. “I have seen way too many good teachers establish themselves in Idaho and then take jobs in Washington, where a 20-minute drive can mean an extra $10,000 a year.”
The journey that Bruce Twitchell started on as a youngster with a gift from Santa is continuing in Coeur d’Alene, and the students in the district, along with the IEA and CEA, are the beneficiaries. The picture that he has developed as a professional educator has come into focus quite nicely.