By Christian Weaner Russell Thorman, Math Bonners Ferry High School
After spending four years working at Turning Winds Residential Treatment Center, a boarding school for troubled teens in Troy, Montana, Russell Thorman saw an opening for a math teacher position at Bonners Ferry High School (BFHS) and decided to apply. "I was like 'Well, I am already trying to get kids to do what they don't want to do anyway,'" Russell joked. "Why not get them to do math when they don't want to do math."
Despite not having studied math since high school, Russell got the job, and he is now in his eighth year teaching at BFHS.
Over the past seven years, Russell has built relationships with students inside and outside of the classroom, developed multiple apps that his students use every day and grown in his appreciation for the "wholesome" BFHS community.
Born in California, Russell moved to the Spokane area at the age of 2 and spent most of his childhood years there while his father, Marvin, taught math at Upper Columbia Academy. Later, the Thorman family moved across the country when Russell was a teenager, settling in Tennessee.
Russell graduated from high school in Tennessee, met his wife, Birgitta, and studied outdoor leadership with an emphasis in counseling at Southern Adventist University before moving back to the Pacific Northwest, where both he and Birgitta grew up. While studying under his dad in high school, Russell came to appreciate his father's teaching style, and he leaned heavily on his guidance after he became a math teacher himself at BFHS.
"My first year teaching here, I was in deep waters," Russell recalled. "It had been like seven years since I had taken calculus—and now I [was] teaching it. So, I was on the phone with my dad every other day chatting about stuff — teaching techniques, materials, [etc.].”
Over time, Russell has grown in his confidence and developed "a gift to make math achievable," Superintendent Jan Bayer noted.
Russell has also aimed to develop mutual respect with his students, taking time to build relationships, whether he is teaching them math equations or playing Spikeball and disc golf during his lunch break or after school.
"Obviously it's great if I can teach kids math, but if I can teach a kid how to be a great member of society, that's what I'm going for," Russell explained. "And math is a great side effect," he quipped.