July 18, 2018
School & Youth
73° Scattered Clouds

Community Remembers Bruce Blackman

Monica Resa and Dylan Roche
Monica Resa and Dylan Roche's picture
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October 4, 2017

Over the course of his 38-year teaching career at Severna Park High School, Bruce Blackman left an indelible mark on not only countless students but also countless parents and colleagues, and never was that more evident than in the wake of the beloved educator’s passing on September 15, when generations of Severna Park community members reflected on his years of mentoring, inspiring and encouraging others.

“So many, many students talked about how he made a difference in their lives,” said Lin Blackman, Bruce’s widow. “He taught them to believe in themselves, or he gave them confidence. Others talked about how he sparked an interest in them about reading or writing.”

Memories of Bruce ranged from the personal — in which he helped students who were struggling emotionally or going through a hard time — to the academic — in which he nurtured their interest in literature or other media. So profound was his influence that Lin received sympathy cards from parents thanking her for what Bruce had done for their children.

“He loved his work, he loved his students, he loved teaching,” Lin said. “He was warm and caring and loving and funny and witty. And he was always humble.”

Heather Barnstead, a colleague of Bruce when he taught at SPHS, remembers Bruce’s friendship and sense of fun. More important was the way he inspired students. “If it weren’t for people like Mr. Blackman, students wouldn’t go and do the things that they do,” Barnstead shared with teary eyes.

This motivation not only showed up in the classroom but also was prominently reflected in AACPS’ annual Harvest for the Hungry, to which Bruce felt intensely committed. “Every student snubbed other teachers to bring to Bruce,” shared Barnstead. “It just showed the level of respect students had for him.”

Leala Smith, a student of Bruce in 2008 and a second-year English teacher at SPHS, echoed this sentiment. “He got kids to care,” shared Smith. In fact, every year Blackman would raise thousands of dollars for the campaign, while others averaged a few hundred.

Smith pursued teaching English because of Bruce. “He was my all-time favorite teacher,” she said. “And he always encouraged his students to become English teachers.” Smith will miss his mentorship, his witty humor and his stories. “One of the things he was known for around the school was his stories. He would tell a two-minute story and it would take an hour, and we all loved them because he was such a great storyteller.”

Morgan Thomas also had Bruce for English class. “When I was in the ninth grade, he recruited me, along with a panel of my peers, to advocate for the continuation of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ as a part of the ninth-grade English curriculum after parents complained that the content was ‘inappropriate.’ Even though parents were cool with the inclusion of traditional ‘white’ literature, Mr. Blackman saw the value and dire need for inclusive literature, even if a vast majority of the students did not personally identify with the content and characters,” Thomas recalled. “For Mr. Blackman, there was value in learning about and being exposed to thoughts and ways of life that the privileged people from my community would not otherwise be privy to. There was value in making sure that even if for only one unit of an entire school year, that the few minority students in his class felt seen, felt that someone at least attempted to understand, and felt like their stories mattered. Mr. Blackman was ‘woke’ before the term was ever coined.”

Bruce’s influence extended well beyond the walls of his classroom, and his most important role was always his one at home. “From my viewpoint, what a devoted father and husband and grandfather he was,” Lin said. “He loved us unconditionally and greatly. All he ever wanted to do was make me happy. I was married to him for 35 years, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Bruce’s greatest goals in life were to make Lin happy and to be a supportive and loving role model for his sons, Dan and Geoff. His granddaughter, Zoe, became a special joy for him as he enjoyed playing with her, reading to her, and taking her on adventures. His daughter-in-law, Kim, and his soon to be daughter-in-law, Pamela, were welcomed into the family by Bruce with open arms.

Thousands gathered on Sunday, September 24, at Chartwell Golf & Country Club to honor Bruce. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Maryland Food Bank (www.mdfoodback.org), a cause that was always near and dear to Bruce’s heart.


Posted 12/31/1969 07:00 PM

Bruce Blackman was the first of many great Department Chairs I've worked for in AACPS. Before my teaching career had truly begun, I took a long term sub job at SPHS. I was just coming out of a terrible, unsupportive, miserable experience of a long term sub job at a middle school I won't mention. It was so bad I needed therapy, I declined jobs, and made an appointment with my former university supervisor to talk about what I should do other than teaching. That job traumatized me. When I began working at Severna Park those last few months of the school year, my heart wasn't in it. I felt so depressed and defeated. And I hadn't even walked across the stage to get my degree yet. I can't imagine what it must have been like, for my students, or the people I was working with. I was utterly miserable. And then Bruce Blackman started coming into my classroom every day. He would watch a few minutes, and meet with me, without fail, every afternoon, to tell me something good I did. And things got better. Slowly but surely, things got better for me. I remember him fighting to get me time off so I could go to my college graduation. I remember him gently and confidently helping me to remember why I had started down this road. And I can remember on the last day I was there, him counting off some great things he had seen me do, and saying to me, "see, you are good at this. You touch lives every day, and there's nothing more important you could do." Bruce's death yesterday made the world a little bit darker - hell, a lot darker. I didn't know him well, but what I did know of him made a massive difference in my life - and a career's worth of his students' lives, too, I'm sure. Thank you, Bruce, for being a giant in this county. Thank you for recognizing what I needed, and not just ignoring me as someone not worthy of the title of "teacher." Thank you for being one of the men and women I've been privileged to know who taught me about the kind of man and the kind of teacher I want to be. Thanks for being you.

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