Member Spotlight: Bob Brown

Member Spotlight: Bob Brown

JANUARY 10, 2020

Bob Brown has been an advocate for children, teachers, public education, peace, and justice for his entire adult life. Why? In his words, “I grew up in a very difficult family--my father was an abusive alcoholic. That has shaped many of my passions. I care deeply about children, ALL children, and want to help find ways to make their lives better, especially those growing up in poverty. My childhood shaped me into both an extremely sensitive adult, someone who passionately wants to take pain away from people so they do not experience the pain I experienced growing up, and a tough person who can withstand any difficulty. It made me value public education--that saved me and gave me a career and passion I will never leave. My core belief is that we need to find ways to put the absolutely best, most effective teachers in front of our students, and the best way to do this is to provide them with the best working conditions possible. That is where the union comes in--it enables us to attract the best and brightest by advocating for the best working conditions.I treasure my teaching career so much--my students are the loves of my life (besides my family) and it is beyond rewarding to come across former students now succeeding as adults (and those who became history teachers because of my influence, well, they leave me speechless!).”

Bob was born in Detroit but grew up in Bristol. He taught social studies in the Southington Public Schools for 41 years, the last 30 years at Southington High School. He taught World History and three other courses that he created: Modern Russia, American Culture, and the Middle East. He received his BA from Colby College, earned a Master’s degree, and then completed a 7th year. He was inspired by his mother, a special education teacher who Bob describes as “the kindest person I ever met.”

Bob started his extensive involvement in our union very early in his teaching career. He was a negotiator and Southington Education Association (SEA) vice-president during the last teacher strike in Connecticut in 1979. After the strike, he was elected SEA President and worked very hard to restore a positive relationship between teachers, the union, the administration, and town officials. He was awarded a CEA Human Rights Award for his work. Bob continued to serve the SEA as a negotiator and president for many years.

Bob’s involvement in our union at the state level is extensive. He served as a vice-chair on the CEA Board of Directors for several years. He continues to serve as chair of the CEA Political Action Committee (CEA-PAC). Bob was the driving force to create a CEA task force to study the impact of poverty on students and to look for ways to diminish poverty. He recently organized an all-day conference at CEA on this issue. Attendees heard from Loren Fountaine, a NYSUT field rep, about “Poverty, Education, and Unionism.” Bob’s goal is to work with many stakeholders to actually end poverty. “I have a plan- a place to live, a job, and an education,” he says. He wants to create a clearinghouse of ideas and programs that work to end poverty. Bob belongs to a national group, Local Progress( a group of locally elected progressive office holders working to further a progressive agenda) and has attended conferences and presented his poverty plan to them.

Bob has attended the CEA Representative Assembly and NEA Representative Assembly for many years. He has worked to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. He has personally donated thousands of dollars to this fund which helps elect pro-education candidates throughout the country.

Bob loved teaching, and his students loved him. When he retired, he threw a party for his former students and almost 600 people showed up. He keeps in touch with many former students through social media.

Bob still wanted to be involved with improving public education after retirement. He ran for the Southington Board of Education the year that he retired, and he has been re-elected twice. He puts in much time and effort in this role- still advocating for students, teachers, and public education.

Bob created a Wall of Honor for Southington High School alumni who have made a difference in a variety of endeavors. He wants the high school students and the citizens of Southington to know about the successes of Southington graduates. Each year family, friends, and townspeople are invited to an inspiring ceremony to celebrate new inductees to the Wall of Honor. Over 50 alumni have been inducted so far.

Family is very important to Bob. He met his wife Gloria at a CEA event when they were both young local presidents. They have been married for 38 years and have two children. Their daughter Jessica is a special education teacher in the Bronx, a challenging but rewarding experience. Their son Michael is an attorney who helps mostly poor minority people with their appeals. Jessica has three young children, and Michael has two children. Bob enjoys his role as “Papa” and loves spending time with his grandchildren. As he says, “My family is the most important thing in the whole world to me, and the source of endless pride!”

As busy as he is, Bob still finds time for his personal interests: playing the piano (mostly classical music), Yankees baseball, UCONN basketball, yoga and meditation, and Broadway plays. He made a huge lifestyle change by becoming a vegan 8 years ago.

Thank you, Bob Brown, for all you have accomplished!

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