Lewis Kirsch, Teacher from UFT
* IS 206, Bronx
Lewis Kirsch, a beloved Bronx social studies teacher, loved his family, his extended family and friends, his IS 206 family and his Deadhead family, the obsessive fans of The Grateful Dead band. Lew, as he was known, loved life.
He died April 15 at age 57.
Lew’s teaching career spanned more than 22 years, beginning in the Brownsville and East New York neighborhoods of his native Brooklyn. A gifted storyteller, Lew spent the last 12 years bringing social studies alive for middle school students at IS 206 in the University Heights neighborhood, where his wife, Mildred, grew up. They had just celebrated their 25th anniversary.
Millie said the key to understanding Lew’s passion for teaching is knowing he hoped to serve as a role model, especially for students with the highest needs. He gravitated to middle school, where he felt he could make the most difference. “They’re not young children anymore, they’re becoming young adults who really need strong role models,” he said.
Lew came to teaching after a career in production management. He had a master’s degree in political science and government from St. John’s University and initially planned a law career. But working at Glenmore Industries in Canarsie, Lew met Millie, and they married in 1995. He realized becoming a lawyer would diminish family time, so Lew earned a master’s in education at Hofstra University and devoted his next chapter to making a difference for public school children, notably teaching for 10 years at IS 218 in East New York. Lew also made an impact by finding ways to support individual students, including the time he gave a soccer ball to a student whose ball had been stolen. It was an unforgettable gesture.
IS 206 science teacher and Chapter Leader Mark Talty began and ended each school day with his dear friend. Arriving at 7 a.m. or earlier, they enjoyed coffee talks about politics, their school and Lew’s favorite subject: his family. “I called him Big Lew because of his big heart and warm personality,” said Talty. “He would help anybody in the school building — teachers, paras, parents and students; he was a wealth of knowledge.”
Lew had another daily ritual. Since he’d leave his Morganville, New Jersey, home before sunrise, he would text Millie love notes with emojis. “They were the first thing I saw when I arrived at work,” she said. “I will never, ever regret that he passed — that I lost so much — because I had so much.”
Lew planned to retire next year to spend more time with his sons, Daniel and Benjamin, who are both on the autism spectrum. He was so proud that Benjamin was headed to college at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
He was a member of Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, New Jersey, and a longtime Mets fan.
In addition to his wife and sons, Lew is survived by his stepson, James Oaks; his mother, Jean Kirsch Gottlieb; his sister, Marla Dymm; and his stepbrother, Ira Gottlieb.