On. Nov. 1, former teacher and UFC fighter Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman visited Bellefonte Area Middle School. Now, a motivational speaker, the Hollidaysburg native said he aims to show youth the impacts of kindness, compassion, hard work and perseverance. During his visit, he also shared a fun fact with faculty, staff and students about his connection to Bellefonte Area School District – it was the place he was first offered a teaching position at after graduating college from Lock Haven University, but instead accepted a job to teach Spanish at his home school district and alma matter in Hollidaysburg.
The district’s public relations director had the chance to speak to Brenneman before he addressed the students about why he now does what he does.
To see a video of the interview, visit this link: The Spaniard
Question: How did you go from teacher to UFC fighter to motivational speaker?
Answer: I was a wrestler my whole life and got really into Spanish when I was in middle school, because I had an exchange student stay with me and thought Spanish teacher, wrestling coach (was my future). I was there (at Hollidaysburg Area School District) for about a year, but I really missed the root of wresting and competition and getting after it and living a life like that of discipline and commitment. I oddly transitioned into professional fighting – I’m the last thing from a fighter, but I just really wanted to compete, so I learned the skill sets that make up professional fighting and from there my career was over, (and thought) 'what am I going to do?' Back home people would always ask a bunch of questions, so I thought I’d write a book just to answer the questions and thought, ‘well, guys who write books also speak, and I have a story,’ so I’ve been going from there since then.
Q: What are your messages about?
A: Especially with middle and high school kids, kindness and empathy are huge. It’s like a universal value and universal principal that’s a virtue and super important, and couple that with hard work and perseverance. I use my personal story – a lot of cool things, but all those cool things have like five heartbreaking, uncool things to go with it, so I share the ups and downs (and) positive choices. To me I (also) love reading books. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do. We’re in a school, so I drive on if you’re having these problems or thoughts and disbeliefs and fears in your mind, then books are a huge way I get through those things and so can you.
Q: What do you hope students get from your story?
A: I learn from a lot of different and successful authors, speakers and people in general. A lot of people have black and white, one-two-three takeaways, but I want to touch their hearts. I want to connect with them as human beings, so the next time they think, ‘I can’t do this,’ they hear a sound bite. If they take like 10 seconds or a concept of just keep going…that’s why I do this stuff.