We can learn from the messages on the Brent Bertand memorial wall

We lost her to another profession, just as we have lost so many other exciting, enthusiastic teachers. (Others stay, but are guided by their disillusionment.) We lost many youth as well who would have been the beneficiaries of her deep caring.

When are we going to wake up to the damage we are doing to our youngsters in the name of the funding stream?

When will we start listening to our youth, as Brent Bertrand found the time to do, and have our programs incorporate their needs, desires and aspirations?

When will we create an educational atmosphere that encourages curiosity, and nurtures the process of learning, instead of racing mindlessly to the top? In that race, many children are “left behind.” Only then will I will no longer receive late night calls from youth who tell me that they can't take it anymore and want to end their life.

Here is a good start. Some of the postings on Mr. Bertrand's wall that you cite were, “You made every student feel like they were important... ,” “You moved every heart and touched every soul... ,” You were the reason I survived school,” “You inspired me....”

Think about what they are saying, then hold a student forum (call it the “Bertrand Forum”) where you encourage them to expand on their thoughts.

Next, with a panel of young people at your side, incorporate all that you have learned into your planning. You will be amazed at their insights.

I'll help because I do not ever again want to learn that one of my kids took her life, because the stress was too great.

Irv West


(Editor’s Note: Irv West has more than 40 years experience counseling at-risk youth and serving as their advocate, as well as working tirelessly for greater understanding among generations — and for change in institutions that serve youth.)

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