Beloved Pietrzak Says Goodbye

By: Greg Diette

Mr. Jeff Pietrzak, who has been a part-time member of the Modern Language Department since 2006, will not be returning to Gilman for the 2017-2018 school year. Mr. Pietrzak explained how he first landed at Gilman, saying, “In 1999, I was a recent college grad and I responded to a newspaper advertisement for a Spanish teacher. So I taught from 1999-2001 teaching Spanish and coaching.  From 2001-06, my wife and I lived in Rhode Island.  We returned to Baltimore in '06, and, since then, I have been teaching here part-time.” In addition to being an Spanish teacher in the Upper School, he also teaches piano in the after school music program.

Mr. Pietrzak described his teaching by saying, “I try to be myself in the classroom and try to meet the students where they are at.” Frank McGurkin (’19), a student of his, attested to that statement, saying, “He is such a nice guy. Mr. Pietrzak is really good at explaining concepts that kids do not understand at first and he always takes his time to make sure everyone in class fully grasps the material that he is teaching.”

After Gilman, Mr. Pietrzak explains, “I'm moving on to online instruction.  I'll be starting my own company and will begin with instruction in music theory for the piano.” Music has always been a big part of his life and he sees this opportunity as a great way to infuse his two passions of teaching and music. Mr. Pietrzak also adds, “I am really looking forward to the challenge of having to develop, market and sell the content I create.”

When talking about what he is going to miss most about Gilman, Mr. Pietrzak said, “I enjoyed the classes I taught and thought I had, for the most part, a good rapport with the students.” He also importantly added, “My wife and I are busy raising two boys.  I have been very grateful to Gilman for offering me part-time work so that I can balance work and family.”

His students were very upset to hear that he was leaving and even sang Mr. Pietrzak heartfelt songs on his last day of classes. Will Godine (’19) explains, “I love how Mr. P came in every day with a positive attitude ready to do what he loves, to makes us better students, and kids.”

Mrs. Linda Trapp, the Chair of the Modern Language Department, described Mr. Pietrzak as having, “Great language skills, unbelievable patience when working with all the students, and a lot of thoughtfulness.” She then added a touching story about her beloved colleague, “I once dropped a whole container of homemade soup on his beautiful pants right before we were having our conferences on parents night. He never got irritated...he was so gracious about it. That for me is someone you can just trust to always be kind and understanding of any problem.”

The one description that always seems to come up when talking about Mr. Pietrzak is his unwavering kindness in everything he is a part of. Gilman is truly going to miss his Spanish teaching abilities along with his genuine benevolence that inspires all members of the Gilman community to become better people.