Empathy – a defining characteristic of a good nurse, actor or person – is what H. Russ Brown and Rene Lovett delight in cultivating in students.

Students recently voted Brown College of the Mainland teacher of the year for academic classes and Lovett teacher of the year for workforce classes.

Brown, COM theatre/artistic director, teaches acting classes at COM and stage combat to theatre majors.

“Teaching is not really being a sage on the stage. It’s more being a guide on the side. I’m a mentor who's just a little farther along the path than they are,” said Brown. “I’m constantly re-examining and challenging myself. When you stop challenging yourself, you stop being an artist. We are eternally students of the craft.”

Jalil Toussant, who hopes to act in Hollywood, is one of his students.

“He is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had in my life. He taught me not to be afraid to go outside the box. I love to create a character in yourself. I love to find that person in me I’ve never met before.”

Raised in a family of educators, Brown determined he would pursue a creative field. He credits his wife, Elizabeth, with leading him into theatre where he later merged his competitive martial arts background with acting and began doing stage combat, directing and fight-directing as well as acting.

“It dawned on me that what got me most excited was fight-directing and directing. I realized that was teaching, [explaining] helping actors discover what works in a scene and why it’s working,” said Brown.

With a Master of Fine Arts from Western Illinois University, he began teaching at COM in 2015.

“The thing I truly love about teaching is when my students succeed or when they still call me and ask questions about auditions or stage accents or jobs. I have students and former students in a multitude of Broadway productions.  I'm their teacher for a time, but a mentor for life,” said Brown.

Brown feels acting, stage combat and improvisation serves students well on the stage and in the workforce.

“We teach people how to be better humans. They have more empathy, greater confidence in front of groups of people, better speaking skills and a deeper understanding of people and how to work with them,” said Brown.

Rene Lovett, who has Master of Science in nursing from University of Texas-Medical Branch, is a nurse practitioner part-time as well as full-time instructor. She teaches Health Assessment, Child and Family Health and pediatric and obstetric clinicals.

“I still work in the profession so I'm up-to-date on current trends,” said Lovett. “I’ve chosen teaching full-time over practicing full-time because when you treat a child you’re helping one family at a time, but when you’re teaching, you’re helping hundreds of future families nursing students will treat. I feel like I'm helping more people.”

Cindy Cao, of Clear Lake, remembers learning from Lovett around 2011.

“She’s very welcoming,” said Cao. “She provides an environment that encourages learning. She individualizes her explanation and makes sure everybody understands.”

Lovett revels in her graduates.

“At one clinical at St. Joseph, on one floor there were three previous COM students. To see all three students functioning in their role was very rewarding,” said Lovett. “I had to take a picture with them.”