My Unsung Hero
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
To the Editor:
In June, Bedford High School was recognized by educators throughout New Hampshire as the No. 1 high school in the state, and I can understand why.
As a graduate of the Class of 2013, I have had the fortune of working with our principal, Bill Hagen, who indulged me on more initiatives and requests than he dares to admit. I was also able to work side-by-side with our vice principal, Gary Dempsey, on an effort that means much to me and many others in the community. Even more, I was able to develop a relationship with our superintendent, Tim Mayes, following an effort that threatened the academic future of myself and hundreds of other current and future BHS students – all, who have made themselves accessible to us students. However, perhaps the one person that has made the biggest impression on me as a student of Bedford High School is a volunteer named Philip Gabree.
Mr. Gabree is a retired math teacher, a New Hampshire native, whose sons enjoy successful careers at BAE and Fidelity. I think, gee, here is a man who can spend his retirement days on a golf course or fishing or learning how to fly. Instead, he chooses to drive to Bedford High School each day and volunteer his services at the BHS Academic Center, a sanctuary for those, like me, who might have a question or two on academics. This is a place where a teacher or volunteer is always available to offer assistance to a student who might be struggling to understand a concept in math or science or other subject matter. Throughout most of my years at BHS, there weren’t many days that I would not be found at the academic center asking questions and making sure that I fully understood the subject matter.
In my opinion, the availability of a school’s resources – not so much its books and computers, but rather, its people – is a major factor in determining academic success of its student body. Naturally, not every student connects with every teacher in every class that he or she enrolls, and often, it takes another person with another approach to the subject matter that fosters a pathway of understanding. Often, as was the case with me, it is the contribution of a community’s volunteers, like Philip Gabree, that makes all the difference in the success of students at schools like Bedford’s Peter Woodbury Elementary School, McKelvie Intermediate School, Lurgio Middle School and Bedford High School. How apropos that the biggest difference in my academic career has been made by one who receives nothing for the giving.
Not long ago, I asked Phil Gabree why he chooses to spend his days of retirement doing what he did for so many years as a teacher. He simply replied, “I feel the need to give back and it still gives me a thrill when I see a light go on in a student’s head when he suddenly grasps a learning concept.” Humbled by his response, I can only imagine that he must need cataract surgery after all his time spent with me over the years watching my lights go on.
As I now prepare to pack my bags this month and head off to college in Durham, N.C., other than a Duke University coffee cup, the only way I can express my gratitude to Phil Gabree and so many volunteers like him is to tell the world that his spirit of volunteerism. Like the many Bedford School District volunteers like him, Phil Gabree has made a real difference in my life.
Whether you are from Bedford or Manchester or Goffstown or Amherst or other community in our great country, if you have a talent from which an inquiring mind of an elementary or high school student might benefit, I encourage you to contact your community’s school principals and let them know that you might have a special skill to offer. Whether it is for a couple hours per month or a couple hours per day, as Phil Gabree did with me, you could very well make a big difference in the lives of others.
I am reminded of the words of the late American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, who wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How true. How true.
MICHAEL COURTNEY JR.
BHS Class of ‘13