July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Mentor in the Teacher’s Lounge: Mrs. Helen Brueckheimer, z”l

About a year and a half ago I returned to the elementary school I attended, Yavneh Academy, to work as a substitute teacher. I found my days fairly enjoyable, but learned that working in an elementary school can be stressful at times. For as many great days as there were, there were also those one or two that left me frazzled.

One day I was having a particularly stressful morning, and lunch and break times were a welcome respite. One of the perks of being a substitute teacher is that you get to eat in the vaunted teacher’s lounge, which to 10-year-old me would have been “the coolest thing ever.” In reality it is a bit more mundane.

Entering the lounge with my lunch and a sigh, I found myself sitting at a table with Mrs. Helen Brueckheimer. Mrs. Brueckheimer taught middle school math, and though I never had her as a teacher, my sister did and we used that to start up a conversation. After the usual back and forth regarding how my sister was doing, she asked how I was enjoying the job. I confided in her that I was enjoying teaching, but had been struggling with finding ways to maneuver through certain days without allowing things to get overwhelming. She listened quietly to my ramblings and then said something that has stuck with me ever since.

Mrs. Brueckheimer said that there’s not a person on Earth who can always be at their best for every hour of the day. Everyone has moments of stress and worry, but the key to managing them is acknowledging that they aren’t what define us. What really matters is knowing that growth can only come during the times when we recognize that we aren’t perfect, and that imperfection is entirely okay. She said that if in a particular day you make a difference, even something small and seemingly insignificant, you’re doing a pretty good job.

She was completely right, and this lesson is something that I’ve applied to my life ever since. I learned from her that day the importance of the little moments and appreciating the small victories in life.

From that point on Mrs. Brueckheimer became a mentor and friend to me, someone whom I would always look forward to sharing a table with over lunch. Everything she told me came from a place of wisdom, and I cherished every moment that I spent listening to her sage advice. She was always so genuine and real with me, never afraid to hit me with the hard truths, and I am a better person for it. It turned out that she was a teacher’s teacher; she seemed naturally to do what she did best; teachers help people learn and grow.

When I heard the news that she passed away, I was shocked and felt a sense of loss for the people who are now going to miss out on the important lessons she taught. The world truly lost a kind, brilliant and empathetic soul.

May she rest in peace.

By Adam Samuel

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. When he isn’t busy reading the daily news, he divides his time between managing his blog, adamssoapbox.blog, and gradually learning how to play piano.

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