You don’t have to spend much time with Brittany Corpuz to sense her passion for education. The Cougar Mountain Middle School principal radiates positive energy, optimism and joy when she talks about her school.
Given her enthusiasm for the job, it would be easy to assume Corpuz was destined for her role. But it didn’t always look that way.
Long before she became a principal, back when she was just a kid enjoying the sun and sand in Southern California, Corpuz dreamed of one day becoming a television newscaster.
The idea of being in front of the camera didn’t seem like an odd goal. After all, her grandfather was a world-famous actor and athlete with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But more on that later.
From Los Angeles to Washington
Corpuz was born in Los Angeles and spent her early years in the nearby Santa Clarita Valley. Her parents divorced when she was a baby, and she and her brother shuttled back and forth between the two homes.
When she was 10, her mom took a job in Washington in the aerospace industry, so the family moved north to start a new life. They started in Kent, and eventually settled near Lake Tapps.
Corpuz loved school. She played volleyball in high school and excelled in her English and writing courses. After graduation she began taking classes at nearby Green River Community College with the goal of becoming a journalist.
By this time her mom had gotten remarried to a commercial pilot and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Corpuz eventually followed them down south to continue her education at the University of New Mexico.
It was during her time at U of NM that Corpuz first discovered her passion for education. While still pursuing her journalism dreams, Corpuz took a job running an after-school program for Albuquerque Public Schools. She ran the program at a local middle school, where she taught volleyball and helped students with their homework.
The plan was to just make a bit of extra money during college, but Corpuz quickly realized she’d found her calling in life.
“I just thought, what am I doing? Every time I go to a school, I absolutely love it,” she said. “They were challenging and I felt successful with them and felt like I could find ways to engage them and get them on track.”
She had so much fun working with her students that she decided to become a teacher. She switched her major to education and graduated with a K-8 teaching degree.
Flying the friendly skies
She started subbing for a local school district, but before long her life took another left turn. When she was 23, Corpuz decided she wanted to take a little time to travel before she settled down as a full time teacher. After speaking with her pilot stepfather, she signed up to become a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines.
For the next year and a half, she spent her days and nights jet-setting around the country, but deep down she knew she needed to get back to teaching. It was during this time that she met her future husband, Brian, who was getting his Master’s degree in teaching.
Corpuz was ready to get back to teaching, and Brian was done with school, so both accepted their first full time teaching jobs at Chief Leschi, a Native American tribal school in Puyallup.
They both spent the next nine years at Chief Leschi, and the job only solidified Corpuz’s passion for teaching.
“Being at a Native school was absolutely amazing, because you’re just so immersed in culture,” she said.
About five years into the job, Corpuz began thinking about transitioning to an administrative role. At Chief Leschi she ran an after school program, where she learned how to develop and budget programs for elementary, middle and high school students.
Report to the principal’s office
At the suggestion of her then principal, Corpuz decided to head back to school to get her Master’s degree. She absolutely adored working in classrooms, and she had to think long and hard about what it would mean to leave that behind.
“I wanted to help on a bigger scale,” she said. “I don’t see (being principal) as disconnecting from that. I believe I can better influence others on a bigger scale.”
After earning her Master’s degree, Corpuz could have started looking for principal job right away. But she wanted to experience teaching at a public school, so she accepted a job at Graham Elementary.
Corpuz says it was her time at Graham, working with Principal Amy Low, that made her fall in love with Bethel. She spent a year at Graham before moving to Cougar Mountain to be an Assistant Principal, and she immediately fell in love with the team at CMMS.
Three years into her role as AP, Corpuz was given the opportunity to become the school’s principal. She knew it wouldn’t be easy and there would be a steep learning curve, but she was ready to take on the challenge.
Now in her third year as principal, Corpuz has developed her own leadership style with students, parents and staff members.
“I will go hard, but they also know how much I care about them,” she said. “And I hold them to high expectations. It’s the idea of being a warm demander.”
When she’s not working, Corpuz spends her time with family. She and her husband have two kids — a daughter in 7th grade and a son in 4th grade — and they all love sports.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the Corpuz kids are sports fanatics. After all, they come from a line of world class athletes. Corpuz, whose maiden name is Connors, is the only granddaughter of Chuck Connors, an internationally known actor who starred in the 1950s television show “The Rifleman.”
In addition to his acting credits, Connors was also a phenomenal athlete who played in both the NBA and Major League Baseball.
When she was young, Corpuz didn’t realize her grandpa was famous, she just loved spending time with him.
“My dad has three brothers, so there were four Connors boys and I was the first girl in four generations of Connors. So I was like the little princess,” she said.
Family is incredibly important to Corpuz, and she says the community at her school — including students, parents and staff — have come together to create their own family unit.
“What I love about Cougar Mountain is that we’re like a family,” Corpuz said. “We engage with everyone as a family.”