Ed

Ed

More than once I got the question if he was my brother.   Not that I ever saw the resemblance.   Perhaps it was the blonde hair.   Could have been the pudgy physique.   Maybe it was the attitude.

He was “Ed”.  At least I called him Ed.   Never seemed to mind I addressed him in the first person familiar.  It was the 70s and there was some loosening of the rigid hierarchical structure of high school, but not that much.   Officially he was Mr. Baumgartner.   Closest I ever saw any of my cohort get to informal address was ‘Mr B’.   Not me.  To me he was Ed.

I had a bit of a problem with authority figures, a condition that has abated little over the years.   Other teachers demanded formal address, but I suspect Mr. Baumgartner knew he’d lose me by requiring such a stiff barrier between us.    So to keep the communication lines open,  he never flinched at my calling him Ed.   Never let it be about him.   Good man.

What he did with a whole school district I experienced in 1979.

It didn’t take much to understand that more than a few teachers at Palisades were generic functionaries.   The nightmare ones directed their energy towards their abhorrence of teens.  Others were perhaps once enthusiastic teachers, but years inside the system ground them down to where they longingly looked at the calendar in anticipation of retirement.   Hence ridding themselves the responsibility of supervising these out of control hormone monsters.

Then there were the young hip teachers.   The ones desperately trying to be our friends.   These were fun people but suboptimal teachers.   Even the OK ones were just OK.

But not Mr. Baumgartner.   He was a different experience.

 

My bond with Ed was sealed one frigid night in January.   At an away basketball game we had enticed two classmates to forgo the student bus heading home and instead be two of six shoe-horned into my rusty, smoky compact.    Well, one large snowbank and five hours later we finally got back to Kintnersville where more than one pissed off Mom and Dad awaited our return.    Understandably,  a few of these parents got on the phone the next day to Ed wondering what kind of fustercluck operation he was running where a rogue such as I could spirit their precious daughters out of Ed’s custodial care.

This looked bad.   I fully expected the uptight bureaucracy to bring the Shithammer of God down upon my teenage head.    Instead, I got….nothing.   Oh, a little stern talking too and even that I could not take seriously.   The gleam in Ed’s eye let me know he tacitly approved of two girls and four boys packed in a Chevrolet Vega.   It had a classy rebel taste to it all.   Blows Against The Empire.

Years later he moved out of the teaching ranks and into administration where he had a major hand in changing the culture of that school district.    A new culture that finally placed the students at the center and made their education the one and only priority.

Time passed and it was 25 years until I next talked with him…our 25th reunion.  Guess which fond memory Ed had of me?  Blows Against The Empire indeed.

In the spring of 2009 a former classmate and I took an opportunity to page through some old yearbooks.   There in my senior edition, Mr. Baumgartner penned a lengthy farewell.    His concluding sentence urged me to ‘Keep being an angry young man”.   He knew, he really knew….more than I appreciated at the time.

It was signed, ‘Ed’.

 

 

This essay originally appeared in the July 2014 edition of A Pirate's Bounty, the now-defunct online journal.  

 

30 Comments

  1. Awesome essay there Mr. Brand. I see you have not lost your skill with the written word. I too have fond memories of “Ed” (he was Mr. B to me).

    I see you are in Portland now. Always knew you’d go away from Upper Bucks. He well

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  2. great way to capture his spirit! He was the most amazing teacher and I still use what he taught us!

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  3. I’m so glad that I got to experience being his last class to move on to the high school before he fully retired. He’s truly a beautiful soul, he may have not remembered my first name but hearing “CARR” boom down the hallways in middle school can’t be forgotten.

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  4. Love Mr. B even my kids adore him

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  5. I remember in his history class I had to do a 20 page typed report on the Landing of Inchon. Hell the book was only 130 pages, LOL. 🙂

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  6. That was a really great read. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. That’s a great, feel good read, Mike. I only had Mr B() for one class, but it was enough for me to realize what a cool person he was. He was kind and funny, but not a pushover. His glasses made me think of John Denver. His teaching method made me want to grasp all that came out of him. He was a really good person, on top of a great teacher, and he really did care about the kids. I’m grateful to have had him!

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  8. Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed the post

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  9. I had Mr. B as a teacher. That year was a rough year for me, I was failing most of my classes (except for his).
    My parents had to meet with all of my teachers (round table discussion style) to discuss my grades.
    He took one look at the other teachers and said “I don’t know what YOUR problem is, she’s got A’s and B’s in my class.
    It just shows how one teacher/person can make a difference.

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  10. I had Ed as a teacher and a co-worker at PALMS. He cared about his students. I always valued him as I know he understood.

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  11. Thank you for sharing! I had him at PALMS you could always tell by his presence that not only did he enjoy his job, but could see the kiddo behind the “hormone monster”

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  12. I didn’t have the greatest experience at Palisades, but I survived due to a couple of close friends and the caring of 3 adults. Tom Free, Esther Ross and Mr B saved me

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  13. I remember him calling me “The Girl with No Name” because I lost my name tag first day of middle school. Love ya Mr. B!

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  14. Edward Baumgartner was the greatest. He was hard but fair and treated us with respect. I was always amazed that on the first day of school at PHS how he’d great as many students as he could by name! I truly have the uttermost respect for this man. Thank you Mr. B for teaching so much by the example you set for us every day!

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  15. Wow. This made me cry. Great writing, Michael Brand. “Generic functionals!” Love it. Mr. B commanded great respect. I was fortunate to have him for one tenth grade class.

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  16. As an 8th grader, being the final students to schedule classes for the following year, I was forced to fit in the only Social Studies class left, recommended for juniors and seniors. Just happened to be Mr. B’s class. He knew I was struggling to barely pass and allowed me to do some extra credit so I didn’t fail. I’m not sure he knew the impact that had on me, but that act of kindness made me a better person and a better student. Edward Baumgartner. The best teacher I ever had!

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  17. By the way, thank you for sharing the story Michael Brand

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  18. h Mr B. Some memories in his office. LOL

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  19. Thanks for sharing this. I have to repost.

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  20. Wow, that was a touching essay, Michael. Mr B to me, was my favorite teacher. I will never forget having to take a test in his class right after I had heart breaking break up. I could hardly answer one question. He noticed. He asked me to stay after the bell rang. He wanted to know what was wrong. I told him and he took my paper and said “Go home, get a good night’s sleep. Come see me during a study hall this week and retake the test then.” I couldn’t believe he was so caring. I loved him then as I do today.

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  21. I had Mr. B as a principal. He knew my grades and took an interest in me as a student. I had an issue with my eighth grade project. Typical middle school drama caused my best friends at the time to not want me in their group. I was upset cause I didn’t know what I was going to do. He saw I was upset and took me aside to figure out the problem. Within one class period my teachers told me they would make sure I was put in a group. I had incredible teachers my 8th grade year mrs.mcb, mr.rock, mr.cook, and mr.nevil were wonderful. Having the combination of all of them in my eighth grade year really helped me. Middle school is such a hard time in life but having a principal and teachers who truly cared made everything better he was the only principal I had that actually cared about his students and wanted with his whole heart to help his students succeed.

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  22. He was awesome

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  23. Mr B. Good man!

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  24. Mr B was the best!

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  25. I ran into mr. B like 2 years ago at a school function. I said hi to him and introduced myself. He asked me if he was mean to me when I was in school. I said no I never got into trouble lol. He was like oh good. I was different back then. I’ve changed 🙂

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  26. He’s certainly a man of integrity – he has 110% of my respect and appreciation

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  27. I remember having him in 9th, but I can’t remember what the class was…

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  28. Such a great story… memory… touched my heart Michael

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  29. Enjoyed reading your Essay, you two had a nice understanding and your respect shows. Fortunately I had a few that understood me and my years at PHS were very nice.

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  30. Thanks you for writing this. I was not a student, but my daughter was. We went through three years of hell during an ugly divorce. We bounced around living with friends and never having enough money for anything besides the very basics. I was working two jobs just to pay the rent so did not have much time for my girl. I was also getting sober so I also was going to a lot of meetings.

    Growing from girl to woman is a hard time and a girl needs her mother, but I was so absorbed with my own stuff I had no energy for her.

    My daughter is now an adult with a great husband and kids of her own. When we talked about the dark years, I feel guilty about not being there for her. Says there were three people who helped her get through those tough times: her best friend, her aunt (my sister) and Mr. Baumgartner.

    Made me cry to read this. Thnak you Mr Baumgartner.

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