Senior Pays Tribute to Extraordinary Educator 

Senior Pays Tribute to Extraordinary Educator 

Joseph BrysiewiczSchool of Education and Social Policy senior Jack Benjamin calls his high school teacher Joseph Brysiewicz a “personal hero.”

Drawn to his lively and fast-paced European history lectures, Benjamin said “Bryz,” as he’s affectionally called by students, “has an encyclopedic knowledge of world history and current events alike.”

“He always had an answer for every question,” Benjamin said, “and his passion for history, art and culture was contagious.”

Brysiewicz, a history teacher at Highland Park High School in Illinois, was one of five high school teachers from across the country recognized with the 2020 Northwestern University Distinguished Secondary School Teacher Award (DSTA) for their professional and personal commitment to graduating Northwestern seniors. The awards carry a stipend of $5,000 for each teacher and $5,000 for each of their schools.

The awards are sponsored by the Office of the President. Eugene Lowe, assistant to Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and senior lecturer in religious studies, chaired the 2020 selection committee, which works with the School of Education and Social Policy. 

The committee, which includes undergraduate students, reviews nominations and teacher portfolios to select a group of finalists, who are then interviewed with the assistance of NUIT Academic and Research Technologies.

“We never cease to be amazed and inspired by the stories our graduating seniors share with us about their high school teachers in the nomination process,” President Morton Schapiro said. “As they prepare to graduate from Northwestern, the fact that these students remember their teachers’ words of wisdom, innovative teaching, faith and compassion is a testament to these extraordinary educators’ dedication to their students.”

Brysiewicz says developing students’ gifts and nurturing their passion for learning require a teacher to move beyond favorite theories and instructional strategies.

“I still believe that making mistakes and taking risks are the hallmark of a joyful classroom and lay the foundation of culturally responsive instruction,” he said.

For Benjamin, Brysiewicz left him academically curious along with some parting words he’d never forget.

“On the final day of my senior year, he imparted his sagest wisdom,” Benjamin recalled. 

“‘Your life doesn’t begin after high school, or after college, or after you get a job. It began as soon as you were born, and every day counts, so make the most of it.’”

Read the full story on Northwestern News. 

By HIlary Hurd Anyaso
Last Modified: 5/21/20