GONZALES — Gonzales High School Athletic Director Todd Buller announced that June 30 was his last day with the school, as he heads off to San Benito High School in Hollister to teach history and coach boys basketball.
The shift is the end of his five-year run as a teacher and coach at Gonzales, and his four years as the school’s athletic director.
“You want to go somewhere where you’ll have an impact on student lives and grow and find happiness as an educator,” Buller said about his feeling of accomplishment at GHS.
“People who get into education care about helping others and making an impact,” Buller added.
The career change, however, came as a result of growing as a teacher.
“I’m a 31-year-old educator and it was the next step for me to take,” Buller said. “Simply, I had to make a change in my life and go somewhere different.”
He explained the shift in his teaching career had nothing to do with the students at Gonzales.
Buller taught social studies at GHS, with a U.S. history class for juniors and an AP government class for seniors in his roster. He said he discovered his passion for teaching while working as a substitute teacher.
“I had the personality type and was able to hold my own,” Buller said. “Some subs get there and after a week are overwhelmed.”
Buller attributed his success in the classroom and in athletics to his drive to constantly improve.
“I see teaching as a lifelong learning experience,” Buller said. “You never want to be in a situation where you feel content with where you’re at. I never feel content even if I’m doing a good job, so I always find things to do a little bit better.”
Gonzales caught his attention because of the tight-knit community, where his students mostly knew each other from early ages.
“The kids in sports and in the classroom want to represent their community with pride and move on to bigger and better things,” Buller said. “I hope as a teacher to empower them. You can teach them skills they can take outside of class and make them better citizens.”
Buller described his first year as a great one, which is often a time period with high attrition for new teachers.
“I saw so much potential for me to become a better teacher and to work with really good kids,” he said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of kids who were disruptive, they were really respectful of me.”
Once Buller made the online announcements of his departure from GHS, he said responses flooded in, not only from current students but also from students away at college.
“It showed why I love Gonzales so much,” he said.
Of his time as an athletic leader outside the classroom, Buller said numerous instances stood out as showing the community spirit of Gonzales as well as his impact as an educator.
One instance was when the football team clinched their first league title in six years, and the next morning the cross country team won a title. Buller contrasted the undefeated football team’s celebration with the cross country team that gave it their all to win.
“Being at both of those events that day and seeing the different set of parents, wearing the orange and black and celebrating with the kids, it was all the good things people tell you about Gonzales in that day,” he said. “The love, the pride, the small town feel.”
Buller said another outstanding moment was the March Madness moment caught on video when the boys basketball team won its home playoff game.
“The kids are jumping up and down and I’m jumping up and down,” he said. “You don’t get with other groups. We worked really hard to establish that program.”
He added, “The community came out to support us. We played our best game of the year in that playoff game. We showed that with hard work and character, we can compete with anybody.”
Buller noted the importance of showing Gonzales was not to be regarded as a second-rate school for sports or academics.
“The thing I loved was getting to see those kids do those things,” he said.
Buller compared his moving toward a next phase in personal growth as being similar to students graduating and heading off to college, or a community finding leaders to continue the growth of teams and programs.
“You have these periods of your life when it’s about making the most of the opportunities you’re given,” he said. “I was given a lot of opportunities at Gonzales as a teacher and coach and A.D. I’m thankful for getting that opportunity to work in Gonzales.”