(HOST) Manchester teacher Brian Gawlik was a media specialist who made a difference in both the classroom and the community. Commentary Mary Barrosse Schwartz has this remembrance.
(BARROSSE) A teacher can be a powerful person in a community. Evidence of that can be seen on Facebook right now. In just a few days, hundreds of members have signed on for Brian Gawlik, a local high school media teacher who recently succumbed to cancer.
The comments reflect the man who made a place in school where kids wanted to be. "You inspired me at a time when I had no real direction" is one comment. "I use your knowledge everyday at work and in my personal life" is another.
His professional background included being a producer at CNN, but he came to Burr and Burton Academy in 1998 to teach all aspects of media production. Brian’s basement domain included production studios for film, radio, and TV. It often became a refuge for students who wanted to be more than just party kids. He gave his students freedom, then he held them accountable for their work.
In his teaching, Brian helped kids learn how to think – not necessarily what to think, but how to organize thoughts and make coherent arguments. Long after graduating, students would come back to visit to update him on their lives. Many of the Facebook posts thank the man for his sense of humor, and for helping them imagine a more interesting future.
As one of Brian’s students, my daughter had fun and learned a lot making independent films. A shy teenager, she gained the confidence to lead a group and to express her own views.
Brian worked with fellow cancer survivors, especially those nearing the end of their battle. He was deeply involved in the Manchester community’s Race for the Cure as a documentarian and organizer. Together with two therapists, he also created a film that offers encouragement and understanding to those battling cancer.
Brian was instrumental in arranging for Burr and Burton to host a VPR studio. He was often the unseen and unheard technician, allowing me and others in this part of the state to connect with the rest of the broadcast community.
Brian used his mastery of both technology and people skills to empower teenagers, cancer patients, commentators and reporters to tell their stories and build community.
Typically, Brian seemed to have developed a philosophical acceptance of his own mortality, and as his family read to him from the Facebook page in his last days, he was said to be at peace.