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First Students, Then Educators, Always Gilman

The fourth grade held its annual African American Leadership Project (AALP) alumni panel discussion on Wednesday, March 6. This event is part of the curriculum where boys learn about the history of Maryland and Black leaders, past and present, who have made a difference in our state and beyond. The last step of the AALP is when students research a Black leader from Maryland and examine their contributions to American history. Through their research, they also consider how the individuals have demonstrated the Gilman Five. 

This year, the panel consisted of Black alumni who work in education, including Gilman’s own Tim Holley ’77Donell Thompson ’91, and Joe Valentine-White ’07, as well as Dr. Edward Trusty ’91, who taught at Gilman at one time and is now head of school at St. Paul’s School for Boys.

Facilitating the discussion was fourth grade teacher Michelle Turner, who asked the group about the most impactful teachers they had as students at Gilman, what made them want to become educators, and other questions about their experiences.

Thompson pointed to another member of the panel to answer the first question, indicating that Mr. Holley was one of the adults who “looked out” for him during his four years at Gilman. He also mentioned Ray Mills, who works on the athletics staff to this day. For Holley, Mr. Redmond Finney immediately came to mind. Trusty shared that Mr. Ted Pearre, who was his advisor, teacher, and coach when he entered Gilman in eighth grade, made him feel welcome. Valentine-White named Mr. Bill Merrick as an influential teacher.

Trusty noted that being an administrator differs from being a classroom teacher because the majority of his day is spent working with adults, though he engages with students as well. His background teaching fourth grade — which he said was his passion — is what “guides my decisions and my philosophy on education now.”

When asked about his experience moving from the classroom to working in admissions, Thompson said, “I’ve tried to take teaching into the admissions process.” He aims to connect with prospective students the same way he connects with those he teaches; in this way, he can really get to know boys applying to Gilman.

Valentine-White spoke about his perspective on having been taught by esteemed educators while a student at Gilman and now being an educator here among them. He said it helps him to understand and empathize with what kids are going through. He can tell a student, “I know what it’s like.” When Valentine-White has professional successes or setbacks, he still looks for guidance and wisdom from those who were his teachers.

Holley left the boys with this advice: “One of the great things about Gilman is that there is a place for everyone. There is something for all of you to excel in,” he said. “Excellence can be found in all kinds of places. Between now and your senior year, try and do as many different things as you can.”

The event wrapped up with students having the opportunity to have a conversation with each panelist as well; through their questions, they connected the panelist’s personal history to events in Black history from 1940 through the present.

Thank you to fourth grade teachers Michelle Turner, Karen Cooper, and Kim Radle, Lower School art teacher Trevlin Alexander, Lower School librarian Melissa Da, and  Lower School assistant librarian Blair Exter, as well as the panel members for their time and insights!

  • Tim Holley ’77, Upper School English teacher, former Athletics Director
  • Donell Thompson ’91, Director of Secondary School Admissions, Upper School math teacher
  • Dr. Edward Trusty ’91, Head of School at St. Paul’s School for Boys
  • Joe Valentine-White ’07, Director of Community, Inclusion, and Equity (PK–8)

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