Editor’s note: This is the next in a series of interviews with local educators — answers to essay questions, if you will — describing their personal experience as teachers in an unprecedented era.
By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
When Luiz Bravim speaks about education, he does so with a perspective broadened by four years of experience in South Korea and China before coming to Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale.
And he does so after being honored as Teacher of the Year on both sides of the world — in South Korea in 2012-13 and at Gibbons in 2017-18.
The 16-year educator is also someone you wouldn’t necessarily want to pick an argument with about it. Bravim not only started the Gibbons debate program, but he also led its 2020 team to the state championship. As well as coaching both the Speech & Debate Team and its Mock Trial Team, Bravim has taught various AP and honors courses in the social studies department for the past seven years.
He’s also written and published a Y.A. novel, 2014’s Purple Has an Afterglow, about the South Florida punk rock scene in the 1990s recounted by two teenagers. Among his other skills: “I make a mean grilled cheese sandwich.”
As a teacher, what has been your greatest challenge over the course of this school year?
COVID. The ever-evolving virus has led many of my students and families to get sick and miss school. As a result, I’ve pivoted from teaching in-person to virtual to hybrid and back to in-person multiple times. To protect student health, I wear a mask at all times while on campus. This is hard because so much of teaching involves reading facial expressions and I cannot see half my students’ faces with a mask, nor can they see mine.
What has given you your biggest sense of accomplishment?
Gibbons won the 2020 State Championship in Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Our current team captain, Roberto, was the youngest ever to win States — as a sophomore! However, I would never say that was my accomplishment. That accomplishment belongs to every debater to come through this program. I started the program, but it took many, many hands to build it up.
What makes you tick?
Candy, coffee and the kids! Without those three things, I’d have left teaching long ago.
Who or what is your personal inspiration?
Jon Wilson, my old AP History teacher from Hollywood Hills High School. He inspired me by exuding professional excellence and sharing an encyclopedic knowledge of American and European history for more than 44 years. Whatever happens with my career in education, Mr. Wilson will always be the best.
If you were in charge, what would you change about education in America?
There is a nationwide challenge recruiting and retaining outstanding K-12 educators. Most new teachers leave education within five years. This challenge has been exacerbated post-pandemic. I would borrow from proven education models like those in Finland, Canada and South Korea. Leaders there deliberately made teaching a desirable profession for the nation’s best and brightest students by paying them salaries comparable with engineers, CPAs and other professionals. The results speak for themselves. We can learn a lot from schools and school districts around the world that successfully overcame the very same issues plaguing American schools in all 50 states.
What is the word that you feel best describes today’s student, and why?
There is no one word to describe every student. I can say with confidence that it’s never been harder to be a high school student. They have more competition, more pressure and more stress than any previous generation of students.
What kind of student were you?
I was a good, but not a great, student. My focus was on competitive debate, which ironically led me to this career path.
PHOTO: Luiz Bravim (Courtesy)