The beginning of Russell Prust’s teaching career was almost serendipitous—while visiting a college friend in northeast Brazil, he ended up working at a school for deaf children. After various teaching and research opportunities throughout the Global North and South, Prust is now the chair of and associate clinical professor in the Department of Education at NAU Yuma , where he coordinates grant programs to develop teachers in Yuma County. He talked to The NAU Review about his bucket list, his love of gardening and a recent opportunity to teach Portuguese again.
What brought you to NAU?
I was the external evaluator for teacher-training federal grant programs in Yuma since 2000. I got to know the community. When I retired from my previous position in 2010, I took a position with NAU Yuma primarily to be closer to family members in Arizona.
Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.
When I was a child, my mother gave me a little plot of land for my own vegetable garden. My love of gardening has stayed with me for my entire life.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a botanist.
What have you been most proud of this week?
Recruiting an excellent new faculty member for the NAU Yuma Education Department.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
Doing various projects at my recently purchased historical fixer-upper house. I bought one of the older properties in the rural area near Yuma. It was part of a homestead, and the house is made of adobe. I need to get help to research the place. I was told that in 1929 there was a Portuguese family living in it. The previous owners didn’t maintain it well, so I am busy making improvements. My current project is the complete replacement and upgrade of the electrical service, making it solar-ready and ready for two tankless water heaters. I am also thinking of getting a generator.
What are three things on your bucket list?
- Genealogical research
- Creating an area on my property for rescued feral cats.
- Building a greenhouse to enjoy during my retirement.
What has been the most exciting part of your career up to this point?
Running my own English language schools in Brazil. For a while, at the University of Wisconsin, I was an international relations major specializing in Brazil. There was a Peace Corp training center for Brazil in Milwaukee and a large USAID project serving Brazilian teachers. I learned Portuguese in Milwaukee before going to Brazil. I attended university courses in Rio, then went to the northeast to visit the teacher I met in Milwaukee. I ended up working at a school for deaf children for a year and was later asked to take over an English language school, part of a national franchise, which needed a director. I stayed with it for several years. All my teaching experience in Brazil influenced me to pursue a career in education when I returned to the U.S.
Did you know? NAU Yuma participates in a local event run by partner institution Arizona Western College called “I Am Going to College.” Fifth graders from local schools attend 25-minute classes given by AWC or NAU faculty. Prust taught a class on Brazilian Portuguese, which has been popular among the students. A local business donates T-shirts for the four groups of students, about 150 in total. Hear from Prust in the video below: