Gary Brandt

Gary Brandt

LUMMI NATION — In 1972, Gary Brandt promised himself that neither money nor the lack thereof would keep him from being a teacher.

“And, I’ve never been happier,” the Lummi Nation K-6 teacher said.

Brandt teaches STEAM subjects. For those not in the know, that means science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Brandt began his career in education in 1975. From 1989 until 2018, he taught at Northwest Indian College. Since then, he’s been at Lummi School.

Brandt first considered a career in education back in high school. A 10th grade student, Brandt “had a terrific science teacher (who) seemed to have a lot of fun teaching us.”

Although teaching “looked like something that I’d like to do,” he learned educators weren’t paid so well, and worked a lot of hours.

“I decided to become a scientist, perhaps an oceanographer,” Brandt said. 

As a helicopter pilot for the US Marine Corps, Brandt was required to spend some time as a pilot instructor.

“It was a real eye opener as I truly discovered how much fun it was teaching,” he said. “I found an immense sense of pride in my teaching skills a vast majority of my students did extremely well in their flight exams. I decided that upon the finish of my military obligations that I would pursue a teaching career.”

Lynden Tribune: When you were a child, what did you grow up wanting to become?

Gary Brandt: A good person 

Tribune: What do you like most about your job?

Brandt: I get to play and build great and strong connections with my students. 

Tribune: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

Brandt: Hanging out with my wonderful wife whether it be biking, swimming, sailing or just being together.

Tribune: Which around-the-house task is your least favorite?

Brandt: Vacuuming.

Tribune: What is your favorite food?

Brandt: Pork in any form and shape, including Spam. Growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s with my dad being a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman meant that we were not wealthy, Spam was often the food served and the flexibility of Spam as a food ingredient cemented a fondness in my taste buds. More recently, I was a part-time IT director for the Nooksack Indian Tribe and Spam was one of their staples for many meals. In fact, a late friend of mine had to keep the family’s Spam locked in a safe to keep the younger family members from eating it. 

Tribune: What music do you have in your vehicle right now?

Brandt: Rock n’ Roll songs that were recorded in the ‘50s but didn’t quite make it to be popular, Blues, and Country & Western.

Tribune: What is your favorite hobby or recreation?

Brandt: Right now is biking, and robots. It changes every once in a while. Bike riding was more seriously picked up shortly after the beginning of COVID-19 in 2020. It was, and is, an activity that my wife and I enjoy five and mostly six times a week. We ride during week around 5:30 a.m. when there little to no traffic for 10-14 miles depending upon the route. On Saturdays we do a 20- to 40-mile trip such as to Birch Bay, Lynden to Nooksack, Blaine, Lake Samish, etc. On many Fridays during the school year, several other Lummi teachers and I will ride to school in the morning and back to Bellingham after school. 

Tribune: What is your favorite sports team?

Brandt: Seattle Seahawks.

Tribune: What’s the biggest thing on your bucket list?

Brandt: Standing on a planet or moon as a space traveler. 

Tribune: Tell us something about you that very few people know.

Brandt: I am a Vietnam Era Marine Corps helicopter pilot. I spent about three months there in 1972 as a CH-46 helicopter pilot. I was stationed on the USS Okinawa, Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) of the coast of Vietnam during 1972. I had an air-conditioned shared room, three meals a day and didn’t have much to worry about in the way of shelling, being infiltrated, booby traps or any of the horrors that many of my Marine Corps friends had to endure. I saw enough to convince myself that war was/is very hard on its participants on both sides. There has to be a better way.