By Geen Thazhampallath
About an hour ago, I read of the death of my old US History and American Politics teacher Jim Bransfield. Jim died on February 24, 2018 after a battle with an illness.
Like, many of his old students might be feeling in these hours after his death, I felt the need to remember Jim and the powerful voice he was in our collective young lives and on so many of our young minds. I can only swear to you that he was such a force for truth and goodness in my life. I’m hoping he’ll forgive me for using his first name. Rule #1 of student journalism was to use last names and to spell names right.
I should share that Jim was the faculty advisor of Blue Prints, a nationally award-winning student newspaper. That may seem like something small to you but boy, that newspaper was a big deal to us and to Jim. He was our greatest advocate, defender, protector, publisher, cheerleader and counselor rolled into one.
I’m not sure how many decades he served as advisor, but Jim was the one that led that band of would be student-journalists, year after year, through late night typing sessions at the old Middletown Press building on Main Street, layout and design sessions until the early morning hours in the old MHS drafting room and to through those six delivery dates of our hard-hitting editions meant to shake the world of Middletown politics and public education. Like I said, we took it very seriously.
You should also know that my high school days and my days as Blue Prints editor are 30 pounds, 6 jobs, 3 kids, 1 spouse and 25 years behind me. But even with that passage of time and life, Jim’s life lessons and morning musings are worth remembering and applying today.
1. Be a truth seeker. That’s what good journalists do. Never give up on the truth.
2. Never surrender your own integrity. Never compromise it. Be ready to walk away from a job if someone wants you to do the wrong thing. Always do the right thing.
3. Ask good questions and you’ll be amazed what you’ll find out. And when the powerful don’t answer, keep asking. Never quit or give up because it’s a sign you are on the right track.
4. Great stories are all around us so always keep your eyes open and train your ears to listen and take a lot of notes and like I said, spell their names right! It matters.
5. People are the center of great newsworthy stories and in reporting never lose sight of the fact we are all human beings. I was a student in Jim’s class when Jim lost one of his son to childhood cancer. He taught us in those months to love, hurt, lose and still keep going. Or in other words, what it means to be a human being.
6. Push those in power to be better---better Principals, Superintendents, Mayors or whoever it may be with whatever title. Especially push government. As I mentioned at the beginning, Jim was a US history and American Politics teacher. Why do I love working for government today? because of Jim. Why am I an advocate for good government? Because of Jim. What do I think good government means? Fair, honest, open, just and not for a few but for everyone. Because of Jim. Idealistic you say. Yes, because of Jim.
I hope every kid in this country has the chance to have just one teacher like Mr. Bransfield. By the way, all these years later, I still called him Mr. Bransfield when I’d run into him somewhere. I’m also hoping I paid Jim justice in this final column. I’m hoping through it you see the impact the man had on so many of us. I hope this final column is one that would have made him proud. But knowing Jim, he was proud from day one of all things Blue Prints, all things and kids Middletown High and all things and people Middletown. And yes, all things New York Yankees.