Teacher for Life–Roland Park Place
Teachers don’t retire. Their pupils just change. The desires to educate, provoke thought and inspire curiosity never go away. Such has certainly been the case for Gerritt (Gary) Blauvelt, a lifelong educator and current resident of Roland Park Place, a continuing care retirement community in Baltimore City.
A native of Philadelphia, Gary graduated from Haverford College before receiving his Masters in Art and Teaching from Harvard University. After graduation, Gary followed in his father’s footsteps and became an educator. Following a brief search, he got a position as an English teacher at Friends School of Baltimore.
“When I went to the interview at Friends School, the Head of the school told me that he couldn’t give me a job because he wanted someone older and more established,” Gary recalled. “After about two months, he finally offered me a job, and I ended up being there for 41 years. I never left.”
During his four-decade tenure, Gary saw a lot of changes at Friends School, but he never wanted to leave his position. “I loved teaching, and I really loved the kids,” he said. “Over the years, I got to teach a truly great bunch of kids.”
In fact, his love of teaching kept him firmly rooted in the classroom. “I was happiest in the classroom, and although there were opportunities, I never had any desire to move up to administration,” Gary noted. Despite many promotion offers and a one-year stint filling a vacant position in administration, Gary chose to spend his entire career in the classroom, teaching Upper School English.
At age 64, Gary decided to leave the classroom because of secondary factors, including the increasing use of technology in the profession. He noted that he found himself spending more and more time returning emails and attending to administrative tasks, which detracted from his passion—teaching.
While teaching has long been his passion, Gary also has several other hobbies and interests, which he used to connect with his students. “My first love was movies,” he said. “I even had a little theater in our basement as a boy, and later I worked as an usher at a movie theater.”
Gary’s childhood love has turned into an adult obsession; his DVD collection includes more than 3,000 titles.
Gary also has nurtured a lifelong love for music. He was a disc jockey during his days at Haverford College and still enjoys music from a diverse array of artists and genres.
“As an English teacher, I was able to use a lot of music and lm to support both the literature and the writing that I was teaching,” Gary explained. “My interest in films and music also kept me in touch with what was going on with the kids. I think I was one of the few adults in Baltimore who saw the Spice Girls movie when it came out.”
After retiring from Friends School in 2004, Gary continued to live in the downtown Baltimore neighborhood he has called home for more than 40 years. Although he was already living in a low-maintenance condo, he began to consider retirement living options.
“I’ve always been happy with apartment living, but I started to realize I wasn’t getting any younger,” Gary said. “Also, not being married, I didn’t want my brother to feel like he had to come here and take care of me in the event of an illness.”
Not surprisingly, Gary’s search for a retirement community began with communities near Philadelphia, where his brother lives. However, his search quickly brought him back to where he started: his beloved Baltimore.
“I realized that my roots are really in Baltimore. I know so many people here and feel more comfortable here,” said Gary. Once he had decided to remain in Baltimore, Roland Park Place, which is located in the heart of the city, was clearly the best choice.
“I’m such a city guy. I much prefer urban life to country living, so this was the obvious spot. You just can’t beat this location,” Gary said of his new home at Roland Park Place.
Since moving, Gary, who owned a car only once in his life—for six months when he inherited his father’s car—has really enjoyed the complimentary transportation that Roland Park Place provides for all residents to doctor’s appointments. “I’m the guy who never bought a car. It’s not a political statement; I just never liked driving,” he explained. “It’s so much nicer to have built-in transportation to all my appointments and not have to worry about having a friend drive me.”
However, the single biggest perk of moving has definitely been his new students—his fellow residents at Roland Park Place. Gary now teaches poetry classes once a week for his peers. “Shortly after I moved in, the activities director asked me if I would like to teach a course, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” recalled Gary. “After the second class, someone asked how long the session was going to be, and I hadn’t thought about that, so I said, ‘As long as people keep showing up and we don’t run out of poems, we’ll keep doing it.’ That was that, and here we are, seven years later.”
Gary’s weekly poetry class at Roland Park Place recently celebrated its 300th session. His students—many of whom are parents of children he taught at Friends School—remain devoted to the engaging class. And, true to form, Gary shows no signs of running out of poetry or insights. After all, teaching isn’t a job; it’s a profession, and it lasts a lifetime.