Ms. Sarah Curry

Sarah Curry 1

Ms. Sarah Curry is a 15-year art instructor at Charles F. Brush High School, teaching the courses of painting, advanced painting, and AP Drawing. A native of Shaker Heights, Ms. Curry studied at Kansas City Art Institute before returning to the Cleveland area. She and her friends have recently started Artful, an organization dedicated to sharing studio space on the east side.

Unlike many teachers, Ms. Curry didn’t have a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. “I wanted to do something in art, but did not intend on ever teaching.” For a long time she, didn’t particularly like kids. “I hated kids and I hated high school, which is ironic seeing as I’m a high school art teacher now.” What changed her mind? “I wanted to be the teacher I never had: in terms of both learning something and just having someone to talk to.” She states the most rewarding part of her job is the relationships formed with her students. “I still hear back from students I had my first year of teaching, which is really awesome and I think it’s a testament to the schools and the teachers.”

What is so appealing about the “Brush experience?” “The respect that the students have for each other’s differences,” insists Ms. Curry. “The school has a wide array of cultural, economic, and social diversity, which I think is great for the kids.” She was filled with words of praise for her students. “These kids are awesome. They’re talented and creative and really want to do something, if given the opportunity.” Her advice for students? Be smart without your smart phone.Sarah Curry 2

Ms. Curry is incredibly thankful for the great support of the arts throughout the school and the community. “It’s a great outreach, and the more we can do the stronger the roots will be between the community and the schools. We need to start seeing youth as a positive force as opposed to a negative component.”

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Mr. Thomas Bennett

Mr. Thomas Bennett, an English teacher at Charles F. Brush High School, has been teaching in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst City School District for 20 years. A native of Rocky River, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated from Duke University with degrees in English and Philosophy. He returned to northeast Ohio to work in his family’s plastics business, serving as a salesmen for 15 years. He is an avid sailor as well a convert to Judaism. Once presented with the opportunity, he fulfilled his longtime goal of becoming a high school English teacher.

When asked on his thoughts regarding the “Brush experience,” he noted the strength and rigor of the upper level honors and AP programs. “Those courses have been solid for years,” explained Mr. Bennett, who teaches 11th grade honors English. “I’ve really enjoyed working with my students throughout my career.” His one complaint is the increasing lack of focus among students of this new generation, which he blames mainly on technology. “It’s become a huge distraction in schools.” A class with Mr. Bennett is not complete without an oratory on the negative consequences of cell phones. He looks back on his time at Brush with fondness, with a great appreciation for his colleagues. “I was in the middle of two generations of teachers, with those who retired in the 90s and those who filled their shoes.” The most difficult part of his job would probably be discipline. “[Discipline] is always the hard part about teaching high school wherever you go.” Still, he has greatly enjoyed his time teaching and the relationships he has built with his students.

Mr. Bennett ended his interview with insightful observations and words of wisdom regarding our changing culture. “Society’s values are shifting. We’ve sadly become more materialistic, chasing after affluence.” He notes that student motivation is down due to the rise of electronics. “It’s unfortunate,” he noted. While he states that his time in the classroom  has been rewarding, he wouldn’t recommend going into the teaching field in today’s age. “Teaching was once a very prestigious profession, and it seems that the respect for it has crumbled in recent years.” He hopes to see teaching return to a “noble profession” in our society.

Mr. Bennett has been a professorial fixture within the halls of Charles F. Brush, engaging his students in philosophical discussions regarding America’s greatest literature. His “Great Gatsby Dinner Party Skit” is a favorite project among the juniors in his honors class. He is just another example of the excellence that can be found in the faculty within the SEL schools.

Megan Katz

Megan KatzMegan Katz, a resident of Lyndhurst, is a 2013 graduate of Charles F. Brush High School. During her time at Brush, she was in band, yearbook, a Spanish tutor, and a Sun Messenger sports contributor. She was a student in STEP UP, the district’s gifted education program, and has a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Since graduating from Brush, Megan has been studying Political Science with a focus in Law & Society, as well as minoring in history, at John Carroll University. At JCU, she is a correspondent at the Writing Center, a freelance sports writer with the Northeast Ohio Media Group, and a member of the honors program. After graduation she plans to enroll in a dual degree program and earn a Masters of Public Policy and a law degree, hoping to work in the policy arena.

When asked about what stands out about her Brush experience, she mentioned her dedicated teachers. “They really took the time to help their students learn, setting up meetings for extra help.” She mentioned Mr. Andy Harkey, a Social Studies teacher, who would meet with students at a local coffee shop Saturdays to discuss the material. “My teachers really helped pave the way for my future successes in both college and high school,” stated Megan. Her favorite memories revolved around band, where she played the trumpet. “Band helped give me more confidence.” She enjoyed spending Friday nights on the sidelines of the football field and remembers band camp as a highlight of the summer. “It was a close knit-community because a lot of friends and families were involved.” When discussing the things she didn’t like about Brush, she mentioned her disappointment when the district cut STEP UP. “STEP UP was my own ‘in-school family’ that helped foster critical thinking and creativity. When they cut the program, I was upset because I would no longer have time with this community of similar-abilitied people. It always seemed that [STEP UP] was the first program to go when the budget was slashed, prioritizing students that were struggling over us. I understand that its important to give attention to those who are not doing well academically, but without proper enrichment our giftedness might not flourish.” She was happy to learn that STEP UP is making a comeback in the SEL district.

Megan states with confidence that she felt very prepared for college after attending Brush. “Brush prepared me to meet and interact with different kinds of people,” a nod to the school’s diverse student body. “There were no defined cliques.” Groups over-lapped, she explained, and it wasn’t strange for a star on the soccer field to also be a star in the classroom. “Not everyone was like you, and that was the norm.” The honors and AP classes were also a big help in preparing for a collegiate atmosphere. “The workload in these classes definitely prepared me for my college classes.” One area where she felt college preparation was lacking was the guidance department. “I didn’t have a lot of help in the college search and college admissions process.” She mentions that her class had three different guidance counselors by the time they graduated. “We never really met with our guidance counselors unless it was to switch a class or to finalize an application. It seemed they were more focus on dealing with disciplinary issues, like kids skipping or failing classes, as opposed to actually ‘guiding.’” She does note that this is more of an administrative flaw.

“People give Brush a hard time and say they did well in spite of going there, but I firmly believe I did well because I went to Brush.” Megan’s final words struck a chord, proving the point that success does come out of 4875 Glenlyn Road. She mentioned that Brush students have the potential to do great things, and she is proud to have gone to a school where she received both an academic and life education.