School mourns loss of teacher
“It snowed here – big powdered flakes – while I talked about Bobby,” Jay Cerny, principal at the charter school, said later of his words about Bobby Silverman. “When I stopped talking about him, it stopped snowing. It was almost spooky.”
Bobby Silverman, an Eagle-Vail resident and middle-school social-studies teacher, died unexpectedly early Wednesday. He was 34 years old.
But for the people who knew him, some said it gave them shivers.
“I can’t believe it happened,” said Beth O’Riley, assistant principall. “I feel like someone pinched me. It’s going to be a tough year. None of us expected this.”
“A wonderful teacher’
Students, staff and parents at the school gathered for an impromptu service early in the day, giving those who knew him an opportunity to share their memories. As the day progressed, the walls of Silverman’s classroom were decorated with messages from students, past and present. More than 30 former students, who now are in high school, attended the ceremony.
“I will never forget every time I looked at you and didn’t break a smile. You were always there for me and you still are in my heart. You were a wonderful teacher but most of all a great friend. I will never forget you,” one student, “Kelly,” wrote on the wall.
Many others couldn’t find the words.
“I’ve lived in the valley since 1975, and I’ve never seen anything like (the assembly) so early in the morning,” said Muffy Brooks, a parent whose two daughters were Silverman’s students. “It was absolutely overwhelming. What a young loss.”
The school has some big shoes to fill, said Tania Landauer, a parent who helped Silverman with his kayaking electives course at the school.
“We just started to get to know each other this year,” Landauer said. “The whole school is devastated. He touched my life, too. And I was just a parent privileged to get to know him for awhile.”
A father of two, Canon, 3, and Tyler, 2, Silverman taught social studies, history and civics to seventh- and eighth-graders at the charter school. But he also started many extracurricular activities there that earned him respect and admiration from teachers, parents and students alike. For elective classes, he formed activities that included kayaking, biking and skiing.
“I admired his stance on learning,” Cerny said. “He said that sometimes his opinions were molded by the kids, that some of the things they said or their view on certain issues altered his view of reality.”
“Lived by his own rules’
About four years ago, Silverman gathered a group of his students and in an effort to introduce them to community service. The project included raking leaves and helping at the soup kitchen over the Christmas holidays, Cerny said, “which was funny because Bobby was Jewish.”
Silverman’s passion for the students allowed them to be free thinkers, too.
“He never forced his views on the students,” Cerny said. “He was never prejudicial with what he taught his students. He placed the evidence on the table and let the students debate it. He presented the facts in a very unbiased way as a teacher.”
A native of Minnesota, Silverman traveled to Colorado when he was 18 to enjoy skiing, biking and the lifestyle of the mountains. But during his stance as a mountain man, he also attended classes and eventually earned a degree in teaching. His wife, Kari, also is a former charter academy teacher.
“He did it a different way,” Cerny said. “He should be commended for it. He’s the guy who came out here for the skiing and became a teacher in the process.
“He definitely lived by his own rules,” Cerny added.
“Loved to showcase his kids’
Last fall, Silverman was trapped with a shattered hip in a tight, lightly traveled grove of trees in Vail’s Back Bowls. The accident required hip surgery and left him confined to a wheelchair for part of the school year.
At the time, Silverman said in a previous interview that in 31 years of skiing he’d never been in a patrol sled – except when he fell of a chairlift when he was 8 years old.
“He loved to showcase his kids,” Cerny added. “To him, the ultimate day was a powder day on the mountain with his kids.”
A memorial service for Bobby Silverman is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek.
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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