As he has for the past 15 years, Carson High School photography teacher Brian Reedy led his students through a presentation Wednesday on adversity and how to deal with struggles in life.
He told stories of former students and shared video clips of people overcoming challenges with grace and joy — much the same as it has always gone.
But then he did something different. He broke the news: “Today is my last day.”
Reedy, 53, began suffering with symptoms of early onset Parkinson’s disease in 2008 and was diagnosed in 2011. He had decided to make this his last year teaching, but as symptoms progressed — moving to his left side last week, which could require brain surgery in the future — he decided he needed to take a break immediately.
“The multi-tasking abilities I need to manage the classroom are pretty much all gone for now,” he said. “My hope is once I can get further from the daily stress, and the current stress of lesson planning, grading, etc., the better I will start to feel.”
He said the decision was made more apparent when his wife, Lily, the media clerk in the Carson High School library, broke down recently. It was the first time he’d seen her cry over his illness.
“I hadn’t noticed the toll it was taking on her,” he said. “I love her too much to put her through any more. That’s when I knew I had to stop now.”
Still, it wasn’t easy to walk away.
During his time at Carson High School, Reedy has completed several projects with his video production and photography students, speaking out against issues such as bullying and drunken driving.
For his Project Ignition, which promoted safe driving awareness, Reedy was recognized in 2005 as one of the nation’s most innovative educators, winning a $2,000 award to help bring his ideas to the classroom.
That same year, he won the Noon Rotary Teacher of the Year.
“I love this school, this staff, this family that we have, so very much,” he said. “It means a lot to me. As the high school is a family to me, so too is the community. They have supported my students and our crazy projects for years.”
Reedy hopes he can return to the classroom for the last month or two of the school year, but for now his focus will be on healing. And he won’t be discouraged.
“Though Parkinson’s is an incurable progressive brain disease, it does not change the spirit, not the heart of possibilities beyond this,” he said.
As he shared stories of inspiration with his students Wednesday, emphasizing that in every challenge there is also something positive to be found, he left them with one final lesson.
“I’ve never once been angry about Parkinson’s,” he said. “I’ve struggled to understand it, but I’ve never once cursed the path it’s taken me down. The important thing is I stay positive and hopeful for what’s next. That’s what I want you guys to learn.
“I love you.”
“Though Parkinson’s is an incurable progressive brain disease, it does not change the spirit, not the heart of possibilities beyond this.”