“Thank you for calling Paul M. Brown Secondary School…”
Has a nice ring to it.
Since Paul’s passing last December, it has been suggested to me that ‘we’ should petition the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to name its next school after Paul. While obviously biased in my opinion, I would argue that there is significant merit to the idea.
The HWDSB has asked for public input into the naming of its proposed school in Dundas. They have sent information home to the families, and posted the details on their website.
I would like to share with you the rationale that makes Paul the obvious choice for this honour.
As we approach December and are inevitably brought back to that day, a year ago, when we each first learned of Paul’s passing, the tragedy and sadness of the memory are almost immediately replaced with a smile. Anyone who thinks of Paul – family, friend, colleague, student – smiles in his memory, as he always smiled at us.
Teacher, mentor, father, brother, husband, friend, teammate, coach, umpire, leader, inspiration. Paul was an enormous influence on everyone he met. His funeral was testament to this, overflowing with students, many dating back to his supply teaching days, peers, some he hadn’t worked with in decades, friends, many of whom traveled long distances to visit with us, classmates he hadn’t seen since grade school. Paul left an impact as big as he was. He brought you into his circle, lifted you up, called you friend, and shared his love and energy; when you were with him, you were the most important person in the world. No one thinks of Paul without feeling loved.
Paul’s effect on the community was as deep as it was wide. He was always actively involved in and committed to any undertaking he could imagine. From baseball – as umpire, player, and coach, to community services – auxiliary policing, civilian police college, Down Syndrome Association of Hamilton, youth worker. From the social to the theatrical. From family – wife and five kids, to friends – he only had one, and you were it! No matter where Paul went, he took his energy with him and shared it freely. He never passed someone he knew without a fond and heartfelt conversation that usually started with a big Paul hug.
As a teacher, Mr. Brown’s success will be measured for years to come. He was ‘that teacher.’ He brought the world into the classroom and taught his students to love to learn about it. He was the one who convinced you to try harder, dream bigger, live larger. “Stay in school. Don’t let the bad people win.” There is no shortage of students who claim Mr. Brown’s encouragement as a turning point in their lives – and many of those came well after graduation. The countless stories of his compassion and commitment to his students carry an undertone of something much deeper that just a teacher who cared. He was a teacher, brought into a student’s life for a reason. He was a gift.
As a HWDSB employee, Paul was as dedicated as he was respected. Actively involved in safe schools development, OSSTF initiatives, career development, extra curriculars, staff morale, and mentoring, Paul was always available to lend a hand, get his hands dirty, or lead the way. His school day never ended, as I can personally attest to given his choice of topic when talking in his sleep! He was known and liked by support staff, peers, and administration alike. Reliable, responsible, and always accountable.
As a man, Paul lived by his life motto: Faith, Integrity, Perseverance. He trusted that his life had purpose, that he was here for a reason, and that time not spent helping others was time wasted. Every action, every decision, every word, came from a heart that insisted that the people around him were more important that he was. He held himself to an incredibly high standard of values. His ethics and morals were above reproach. He was a good person with a giving spirit. And he understood, better than most, that, of course, he would have to work hard to achieve his goals.
Paul was a role model to all. But he especially connected those who struggle, as he did. He himself struggled through school, growing up with the firm understanding that he would be lucky to be the first in his family to finish highschool and should be happy with whatever job that would land him. Paul never saw himself as he was perceived – he wanted to make a difference. He fought his way through highschool. And argued his way into university. And then pushed himself beyond his own expectations to become a teacher. And for two decades, not a day went by that he didn’t consider his profession a privilege. He never realized how big a splash he’d made in the world.
If ever there should be a name on the front of a building, a name that is spoken with respect and compassion, a name that inspires hope and determination to a community, a school, a student, Paul M. Brown is that name. A man who inspired students, uplifted his peers, and energized his community. A name that is synonymous with happiness, hope, and heart.
I would ask all of Paul’s friends, family, co-workers, students, to share this with anyone and everyone who might like to support this idea. Link over to the Board’s website, fill in the survey, talk to your HWDSB trustee, write an email. Check out the Board’s school naming policy and see if it doesn’t look like it was written just for Paul!! Whatever it takes. Let’s give Paul the school he so very much deserves.
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