UVU Helps Former Sports Journalist Become Award-Winning Teacher

Terry Brown's dream job came because of his willingness to take and make something of every opportunity. But it was Utah Valley University that would offer the path to a second career.


Like many young kids, Terry Brown had a dream of becoming a professional basketball player. When he realized he wasn’t going to be taller than 5’7”, he knew the odds were against him, and he would need to find another way to be involved in professional sports. Shortly after college, Brown became a sports journalist for ESPN covering the NBA.

“At the time, all I wanted to do was sports writing. I loved the game. I loved football, baseball, basketball. I grew up playing it. That was all I wanted to do,” Brown said.

His dream job came because of his willingness to take and make something of every opportunity. He was an English major in college and then did a master’s program in journalism at USC. But it was Utah Valley University that would offer the path to a second career.

“I worked at the LA Times for a couple of years while I was going to graduate school, and then I worked for the Orange County Register for several years.”

While Brown was working for another newspaper, one of his college classmates started an online sports website, which was almost unheard of at the time.

“Everything was print, but we knew that print was going under — that industry was kind of fading away,” Brown said. “So, I took a little bit of a risk and went with him [my classmate] to start this company called sportstalk.com.”

The risk paid off.

After several years of writing for the Sports Talk website, Brown and his partner generated over one million hits per day in web traffic.

According to Brown, they just got too big for the bigger guys to ignore. “We were competing directly with them, so they just bought us. ESPN bought that website.”

Brown then made the transition from covering the NBA for Sports Talk to covering the NBA for ESPN. The job was filled with successes and star-studded experiences, but Brown felt like something was missing,

After writing for ESPN for about five years,  Brown decided to follow his dream of becoming a teacher.

“At some point, I felt like I had said everything I wanted to say through that medium, and at the back of my mind, there was always my mom’s voice who wanted me to go into teaching.”

Brown used the Alternate Route to Licensure (ARL) program provided through the state of Utah to break into teaching. Because of Utah’s desperate need for teachers, the program allowed Brown to teach while he earned his teaching certificate, which is a necessary credential for Utah teachers who don’t have degrees in teaching.

Brown was excited to get started and took an opportunity to teach special education, with the goal to transition eventually into teaching the subject he loved: English.

As he transitioned into teaching English, however, the ARL program was cancelled. Without it, Brown wasn’t able to earn his teaching certification, and if he didn’t find an alternative, he would lose his job. Brown needed a teaching certification program, and he needed it immediately.

"It was a Thursday, and I was desperate," Brown said. "By Friday, Dr. Debra Escalante, UVU's School of Education graduate director, had guided me through the process so that I was ready for classes on Monday."

In those 48 hours in between, Brown called Escalante multiple times with "one more requirement" from his school district. According to Brown, sometimes Escalante would say, "Yes, we can do that." Other times, she would say, "We'll figure it out." And she did.

Escalante said, "He had been teaching in the special education program at Timpview High School for two years, but the district wasn't willing to let him be hired for a regular English class unless he could earn his license by the end of the first school year because they had licensed applicants for the position. But the fact that the school wanted him for the position said a lot about his abilities. It seemed like it would be worthwhile to help him enroll in the graduate certificate for the secondary education program.”

"I have a career because Dr. Escalante refused to say no," Brown said. “UVU saved this part of my life, and that is not an exaggeration.”

A speedy enrollment wasn't Brown's only obstacle. Like many people, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown didn't have a typical college experience. Every one of Brown's classes was hosted online.

Brown said, "I was 51 years old when my first class started at UVU and remembered writing my last academic essay on a word processor more than 25 years earlier. This was not going to be easy."

Not only was Brown learning how to be a teacher, but also he was learning how to be a student again.

"My instructors were engaging from the first class and incredibly empowering to the very end. I was fortunate to have a full-time teaching position at the same time, so I was able to take what I was learning at UVU and apply it directly to my own classroom in real time."

Escalante also credits Brown for being an outstanding student: “He is an exceptionally talented student and teacher.”

Brown has become a role model for his students. Not only does he teach English, but also he is teaching journalism and coaching Timpview High School’s sophomore girls basketball team.

The success of Brown’s second career is earning recognition. It’s not from millions of viewers, like during his days at ESPN, but instead reflects his positive influence on individual lives.

This spring, Brown was awarded Timpview High School’s PTA Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Timpview's Assistant Principal Sean Edwards said, "Each year, our students vote for a teacher that has had an influential impact on their lives, and Terry has risen to the very top. It is not often that a new teacher receives this award, but Terry is not your typical teacher. Terry is an incredibly talented educator and an amazing advocate for students. He intentionally builds relationships with students and empowers them to maximize their potential to prepare for college, career, and life. We love Terry! We are grateful to our Parent Teacher Association for providing this award opportunity."

Escalante said she wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Brown’s teaching had been recognized in the spring.

“I’m sure he will go on to do amazing things and have a powerful, positive impact on many, many students."

A few weeks ago, Brown and his wife walked to the mailbox to find his certification in the mail.

“At this time last year, I was looking at it thinking, ‘I may not be able to teach anymore,’” Brown said. “If UVU doesn’t have this program — if they don’t take me in — in the next 48 hours, I’m done. And so, one year later, it’s like a miracle happened.”

Terry Brown