Champion of Change: Byrd Prillerman, teacher, Brookhaven High School, Columbus, OhioKnowledgeWorks Foundation - High School Initiatives - Ohio High School Transformation Initiative - Champion of Change: Byrd Prillerman - teacher, Brookhaven High School, Columbus, Ohio -
Become a ChampionFill out a brief form to show your interest in helping to improve our public schools. Byrd Prillerman, teacher, Brookhaven High SchoolByrd Prillerman
keeps a large portfolio in his
classroom that paints a biographical picture of his
life as an educator.There are notes of thanks from students past and present, recommendations from peers and a brief description of the kind of teacher he
once envisioned himself becoming:
"I see myself as the type of teacher that all the students know," he
, teaching runs in his
blood.The great, great grandfather for whom he
was named was the first African American president of West Virginia State University
(then called the West Virginia Collegiate Institute).Born a slave in Virginia in 1859, he
was the youngest of 17 children and became a friend of educational pioneer Booker T. Washington.
That history alone didn't convince Prillerman
wanted to become an educator.A good eighth-grade history teacher did.A graduate of Columbus Public Schools himself, he became a teacher at his old high school, Walnut Ridge.
Then a colleague called to tell him about the formation of small schools at Brookhaven."She
told me that this was a place I needed to be," he
For the first couple of years after Brookhaven High was divided into small schools, Prillerman
felt that the environment and structure helped him excel as a teacher.He helped move more than one student from academic straits to honor roll by helping them develop basic skills, such as figuring out how to manage their time - perhaps finishing homework on weekday nights so they could have their weekends free.
After a severe budget shortage in the district resulted in the loss of resources and teachers, Prillerman
was discouraged."It's frustrating when you see the potential of what we could have been and where we are today," he
Still, during any given school day, you can find students perpetually orbiting around him.Prillerman
regularly eats his
lunch with students - "it helps you get to know the kids better and build a good rapport."He
generally stays away from the teacher's lounge, mainly because he
doesn't want the commiseration of fellow teachers to color the way he
views any student that may, at some point, be new in his
days are student-centered, Prillerman
said he'd like the opportunity to help train other teachers for the particular challenges of urban teaching.He's even considered writing a book with a colleague about the differences between his experience as an inner-city student and that of being an inner-city teacher.
Things today, he
said, are far worse, and many teachers aren't prepared.
"Some teachers have the best interest of the kids at heart, but don't know how to do it," he
said."Either they're scared, or they're coming at it like Mother Teresa, wanting to save everybody when we can't."
In the classroom he's
a soft-spoken but firm disciplinarian.He
lectures conversationally and has students correct each other's work.Sometimes, a gentle tap on the bottom of a student's desk chair with his
foot is all it takes to settle side conversations.Students also police each other in his
classroom.When chatter broke out during a lesson about World War II, one girl turned to her
"You want some knowledge?"she
asked them."Stop talking."Prillerman has also been involved in other student activities during his time at Brookhaven - he is currently the head coach of track and volleyball for the entire campus.When the school had more resources, he oversaw a Teen Leadership group, which began with training students in Robert's Rules of Order so they could learn to run meetings themselves.
teaches the rules to seniors through "Congress in the classroom," so that they will know how to run a successful meeting, and, in turn, understand how government and policy work.
"I tell my students that what's out there in the real world, the laws that Congress puts into effect today will affect you more than me," he
said."So you need to be aware of what's happening." He
approach to teaching is straightforward.