Staff Spotlight: Brian Reed and Ronnie Gordon Help Students Refine Talents

Brian Reed and Ronnie Gordon not only share an educational philosophy, but a classroom as well. As Certified Industrial Arts teacher (Brian) and Teaching Assistant (Ronnie), this pair have developed a relationship based on mutual respect for each other and the students they work with.

So, what brought this dynamic duo together? After retiring from 35 years of teaching in Neshaminy, Pa., Brian was looking for his next act when he came across his position at Y.A.L.E. School NJ. “Since I have a dual certification in special education and industrial arts, I thought it would be a great way of using my special education background and STEM skills,” says Brian. “I was excited about the opportunity to give back to a different population.”

Ronnie, who has enjoyed working with his hands from a young age, dabbles in carpentry and loves using any kind of tool he can (quite literally) get his hands on. When his mom, Lois, who worked at Y.A.L.E. School in the Visual Arts department, suggested he look into joining the staff more than 20 years ago, Ronnie jumped at the chance and has been dedicated to helping children express their creativity while using his many talents ever since.

Together, Ronnie and Brian have now forged an exciting and innovative industrial arts program that takes a multi-disciplinary, project-based approach. “I have learned a lot from collaborating with other staff members, especially Ronnie,” says Brian. “Working with other people who are willing to give so much of themselves has been impressive.”

Both Brian and Ronnie are committed to helping students’ untap their true potential. “It is very fulfilling when a student gets excited about woodworking. It’s a great outlet for students who might not otherwise realize they would be good with their hands,” says Ronnie. “Sometimes the students don’t even realize how woodworking also teaches math skills, improves fine motor skills, and reduces stress.”

These dedicated partners make it their mission to craft engaging projects that not only develop foundational skills, but those that prepare students for the workplace and independent living as well.  Using state-of-the-art equipment and methods, they provide students with a chance to express their creativity while developing their abilities, interests, and strengths. As projects increase in complexity, students also practice perseverance as they meet new challenges, often while meeting a charitable objective that is important to them. With Brian and Ronnie’s guidance, students have contributed hundreds of keepsake wooden cars and trains to Toys for Tots. “It is really about creating a program where activities are problem-based and allow students to gain problem-solving, vocational, and critical thinking skills,” says Brian. “The goal is to use these skills in careers and/or everyday life.” The pair have found that this approach also helps motivate students to envision a future where they can and do make a difference.

Ronnie and Brian both agree how amazing it is when former students come back to share their successes. “It never gets old,” says Ronnie. “There’s nothing more meaningful than seeing former students and hearing about their accomplishments after they leave school.”

Hands down, being at Y.A.L.E. School has enabled Brian and Ronnie to build satisfying and fulfilling careers. They have also continued to pursue meaningful outside interests as well. Brian remains actively involved in youth soccer training in his free time. Ronnie, a former pro skateboarder, balances raising a young family with his ongoing passion for sharing his love of the sport with youth at the local camp he runs. In all they do, Ronnie and Brian show the energy, engagement, and enthusiasm for life and learning that make them such an extraordinary pair!