Corwin author and teacher leader Barry Gilmore passed away in 2019 at the age of 50, while he was working on his latest passion project, a new book. His editor and co-author powered through their grief to honor his legacy and complete the project. That book, Active Learning: 40 Teaching Methods to Engage Students in Every Class and Every Subject was released in June 2023, four years after his passing.
Barry was always learning, and that is a gift and legacy we will continue to share. We asked his editor, Lisa Luedeke, and co-author Gravity Goldberg, to share just a little bit about Barry and what it was like to work and learn with him.
What Could Barry Gilmore Do?
By Lisa Luedeke
Everything it seemed. Barry was a gifted teacher, a prolific writer, a musician. He was a single father. A mentor. A leader. A scholar who earned his PhD halfway through his career. In the last year of this life, Barry was the coauthor, with his daughters, of a musical that was performed, after he’d died, at the school his daughters attended, the same school where he was a teacher and leader for almost as long as I knew him. He spent his life devoted to teaching and learning.
I met Barry early in my editorial career, in 2001. Barry approached me at a publisher event and introduced himself.
“I want a career like Jim Burke’s,” Barry said.
I looked at the bespectacled young man in front of me. That’s confidence, I thought. Focus. Determination. It would take all those things and more to succeed as a professional book author. As we talked, his warmth, his intelligence, and his enthusiasm for teaching and students was evident.
I asked him some questions about his professional life outside the classroom, then gave him some advice. “Here’s what you need to do to be a good author candidate,” I told him. It was a verbal list; the same one I gave to many hopeful authors.
A year later, at the same party, he was back.
“I did all those things,” he said. That was different.
But it was how things went with Barry. We published our first book together, Speaking Volumes, in 2006. After that, if I thought of a topic, something that I thought English teachers wanted help with, I would go to Barry. What do you think about writing a book on [blank]? I’d ask.
“I can do that,” he’d say. “But I’ll need the summer.” Three months later, beautifully written, it would be on my desk.
Over the years we published seven books together. But something else happened, too. He decided that although he would still write, writing books would not be the focus of his work outside the classroom. He thought he could make a bigger difference in school leadership. He went back to school and earned his PhD.
Maybe some of you identify with Barry. Perhaps you also have had long careers dedicated to students and their learning. Maybe you share some of his hobbies, or his dreams. Maybe, just having read the above—or knowing him personally through a professional organization, like the Tennessee Council for Teachers of English or the National for Teachers of English —you are in awe of him. I was. I still am. How could one person do so many things so well? And how could he do them all while being one of the best people I knew?
As I got older, watching Barry, who had become a close friend, helped me refine my vision of a life well-lived. His decision to go into school leadership meant his life now touched the lives of dozens of teachers and hundreds of families in addition to all the students he’d taught in his career. And he did all this while remaining a phenomenal single father, musician, and a dear friend cherished by many in his communities. He did this while remaining kind and empathetic, and while maintaining his humility, which I define as the ability to say, “I don’t know,” and the willingness to search for answers.
In this way, he was a model for all the students he taught and all the rest of us who knew him as well. He never stopped learning.
When Barry was diagnosed with terminal cancer, six months before he died, one of his wishes was to finish the professional book he had begun. It was a book that aimed to help secondary teachers support student-teacher relationships, engage students, and develop deep learning. He saw the potential in every teacher and student he served. He also knew that many teachers, both new and experienced, were looking for additional tools to aid students in their learning.
As Barry’s illness progressed, we both knew it would be hard for him to complete the book, so we began talking about a coauthor who would work with him and would finish the book in the event that he couldn’t. He mentioned Gravity Goldberg, another wonderful teacher, friend, and writer. She shared Barry’s values and his depth of knowledge. She was someone whose work we admired and was the kind of compassionate soul you would want with you on a journey like this one.
We arranged phone calls where Barry, Gravity, and I discussed the questions teachers asked most and considered how we could create an easy-to-use book structure to help them find those answers right away. Barry continued to contribute even when he was weak. We followed his lead until he passed away.
The unfinished manuscript sat as we grieved. Covid-19 changed everything, and the book continued to languish, half done. But as schools began to recover in 2021, we realized teachers needed the tools in the book and we knew Barry’s vision for the work was more important than ever.
Published in June 2023, Active Learning: 40 Teaching Methods to Engage Students in Every Class and Every Subject, is part of Barry’s legacy.
It is an honor to be able to share Barry’s last act of teaching, co-created by Gravity Goldberg. It was an honor to be part of Barry Gilmore’s life.
The Legacy of Barry Gilmore
By Gravity Goldberg
My colleague, co-author, and friend Barry Gilmore’s legacy lives on in many ways. When I see a newcomer to a group, and I approach them to smile and say hello I am embodying exactly what Barry did for me (and countless others). When a teacher decides to open up space for conversation and truly listen, they are likely using the methods that Barry modeled in all of his interactions and books. Most importantly, when given the opportunity to be kind, give someone the benefit of the doubt, and look for places for laughter it is Barry’s energy coming through. Barry’s career as an educator was impressive but so too was his warmth and caring spirit.
Barry was a National Board-Certified teacher and past president of the Tennessee Council of Teachers of English. He was the author of many books for teachers and numerous articles on literacy. Barry received several honors for his teaching, including the NCTE’s Outstanding High School Educator Award, the U.S. Department of Education’s American Star of Teaching Award, and the Tennessee Holocaust Commission’s Educator of the Year. He was a beloved teacher and mentor to so many.
The unfinished book sat as we grieved. Finally, given the nuanced and changed landscape of teaching and learning post 2020, we realized teachers needed the tools in the book. It was time to see it done and share it with others.
Active Learning: 40 Teaching Methods to Engage Students in Every Class and Every Subject was published in June 2023. It is an honor to be able to share some of the final teachings that Barry created and to have been able to play a part in making sure one of his final wishes was honored. I am confident that teachers of all subject areas who read this book will continue to learn from Barry and that makes me smile.