2018 Blackboard Award Honoree: Brian Pew

Brian Pew

Editor’s note: To read profiles of all 2018 Blackboard Awards honorees, click HERE!

Brian Pew
Grades 9-12, faculty Advisor for the Urban
Culture Club (Black Student Union)
Stephen T. Mather Building Arts &
Craftsmanship High School

Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges you’ve experienced as
a teacher.

When I became a teacher in 2010 I thought my love of reading and writing would be the morally sustaining force that propelled my career, but I was wrong. I learned that my love of content would take a backseat to my love for my students. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced throughout my career has been the racial, cultural, and socioeconomic mismatch between my students and me. The experience of unpacking my white privilege—especially as it presents itself in a school setting—has been some of the most challenging and rewarding work I have ever done.

Please share a special project or achievement that you are particularly proud of from this year.

I am so proud of my collaboration with students and their deeply personal work that was displayed publically to the entire school community for Black History Month. The Urban Culture Club hosted an evening event called The Black History Month Colloquium. Each club member read Ellison’s Invisible Man and prepared an art project that addressed their own experience of feeling invisible in society. The overwhelming outcome of all of our Black History Month efforts was a shift in the spotlight. We listened to students tell us how they’ve felt invisible in school, how they have felt out of place, and how they’ve been trying to be noticed for their whole lives.

Brian Pew with John Hurley, the publisher of New York Family, and Anthony Klug, UFT Special Representative for Academic High Schools. Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein.

What keeps you motivated and committed to being a dedicated and hard-working educator?

Serving young people is—and will always be—my focus. As long as there are adolescents who are willing to bring their whole selves into schools I will always work to provide positive school spaces for them to shine.

What do you love about your school?

I couldn’t have ever been part of such a robust Black History Month commemoration without the thought-partnership of my principal and my colleagues. Mather High School is an ever-evolving place where new ideas propel us forward. But most of all, I love the students who make Mather the amazing place that it is.