For Brian Gerber (’85), who has been a teacher, principal and superintendent, students always come first. “When students are not first, you shouldn’t be in education,” he stated.
Gerber served as a College of Education Visiting Executive March 25, spending a day on campus to meet with education classes and faculty members. He is the superintendent of the Western Buckeye Educational Service Center for Paulding and Van Wert counties, a position he has held since 2011.
After graduating from Findlay College in 1985, Gerber spent nine years as a teacher and coach with Lima City Schools and Leipsic Public Schools. He taught developmentally handicapped classes and coached football, basketball and track. Meanwhile, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration and received principal’s and superintendent’s certificates from the University of Dayton.
In 1994, he became the principal for Wayne Trace Payne Elementary School in Payne, Ohio. Among his most important achievements, he coordinated the curriculum mapping and curriculum alignment project for grades pre-K – 6, which eliminated redundancies in what is taught, while integrating lessons across the various subject areas. For instance, music, art and physical education could include math and language concepts, he said, thereby reinforcing learning objectives. “Students understand that everyone is on the same page,” he noted.
Under his leadership, Payne Elementary School was one of three sites nationwide chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to launch the Teacher-To-Teacher initiative. A component of the “No Child Left Behind” Act, the e-learning tool allowed teachers to receive professional development training online as a group from some of the country’s leading instructors, which helped them improve classroom curriculum mapping, he said.
When Gerber received a call from the White House in early January 2005, he first thought it was a prank. He was invited to participate in a roundtable meeting with President George W. Bush to discuss the No Child Left Behind Act and national education issues. Gerber was one of five people selected by President Bush to participate in a meeting that included Secretary of Education Rod Paige and incoming Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling. In addition, Gerber met Gen. Colin Powell and got a private tour of the White House. The meeting was completed with a photo of Gerber with President Bush in the Oval Office.
In August 2006, Gerber was named superintendent for Wayne Trace Local Schools, a 179-square-mile district headquartered in Haviland, Ohio. In his new position, Gerber coordinated and sustained the curriculum mapping process for grades Pre-K – 12 for all academic disciplines, resulting in Wayne Trace Local Schools being recognized by the United States Department of Education for high-quality professional development.
In his current position, he provides leadership in supporting the Paulding and Van Wert school districts in the areas of special education, curriculum, gifted education, occupational therapy, physical therapy, grant writing, school psychology, professional development and others. By consolidating services, the school systems are able to more efficiently allocate resources.
According to Gerber, “Accomplishments during my last 21 years as principal and superintendent in the Wayne Trace Local School District and Western Buckeye Educational Service Center are entirely based on teamwork, collaboration and unity.”
A graduate of Wynford High School in Bucyrus, Gerber was recruited to Findlay College by Coach Dean Pees to participate in the shot put and discus on the track team. Gerber went on to earn his undergraduate degree in psychology, along with a teaching certificate in special education.
He remarked that he received great support from the faculty, remembering John Wheeler, associate professor of education; Dr. Milton Peters, professor of psychology; Dr. Ed Stefan, professor of psychology; Dr. David Allen, professor of sociology; and Dr. Richard Smith, professor of philosophy, among others. He observed that students who are “connected with a caring staff is a signature of The University of Findlay.”
Gerber and his wife, Anne, who has been a teacher for 30 years, have two sons, Zachary, 23, and Jake, 18.
Gerber commented that the most satisfying part of his career has been “making sure the number one priority is to serve the students and to see them grow and become productive citizens.”