Memories of a Superhero Teacher

Arthur Gugick posing in Kyoto, Japan, Sept. 2017.

via Mr. Gugick's blog,

Arthur Gugick posing in Kyoto, Japan, Sept. 2017.

Arthur Gugick was able to create things beyond human imagination with his legos. He also created unimaginable confidence in students like me. His belief in us was what drove us to success and what encouraged us as we walked through the BHS doors every day.

I had the good fortune of being in Mr. Gugick’s math class for both my sophomore and senior years.

I moved to Beachwood when I was a sophomore, and like any other new student, I was overwhelmed with the mixed emotions of being at a new school.

I remember walking into room 702 and glancing at the teacher. He came across as a serious person who would most likely start writing equations on the board. To my surprise, he picked up an unsolved Rubik’s Cube and put it behind his back.

I was intrigued. Confused, but intrigued. As he moved his hands behind his back, he talked to us.

“Everything is math,” he told us.

Within seconds, he brought the Rubik’s Cube from behind his back and miraculously, it was solved. The whole class applauded.

I soon found out he was from New York. This meant a lot to me because that’s where both sides of my family are from. It was something I had in common with him. From that moment forward, even though I was in a new school, I thought to myself, “I’m going to be okay here.”

Mr. Gugick was one-of-a-kind, and his legacy lives on in his students. I will never forget the jokes he told, the memories he shared and his iconic face taped to a bobblehead that from time to time appeared on the projector.”

During my junior year, Gugick took the year off to travel the world, but he returned the next year. Mrs. Billock suggested I take Functions and Statistics for my senior math class, and when I learned that Gugick was going to be my senior math teacher, for the first time in my life I was excited about math class.

I never realized how stressful, exciting and emotional my senior year would be.

Senior year is hard for everyone; we have college applications piled up and scholarships to apply for, all on top of maintaining our grades. Gugick knew what we were going through, so he did everything in his power to teach lessons that kept our interest, and he always made sure we had time in class to do our homework.

There were days that felt as if they never ended, and by the looks on our faces, Gugick knew we needed a distraction. One of the countless moments I will never forget is when he showed my class a video titled “Billy’s Balloon by Don Hertzfeldt”.

It was a uniquely random animated video that captured Gugick’s sense of humor, and my own. A child is shown with a bright red balloon that comes to life and starts to torture the kid. The balloon beats Billy over the head, takes away his rattle and drops him from the air. Soon other kids in the neighborhood are also being abused by balloons, which just makes the video even funnier.

It was one of the most random things I have ever seen, but also one of the funniest. The classroom was filled with hysterical laughs and smiles. Once the video ended, the entire atmosphere of the room changed from what it had been. Only a handful of people are able to entertain a class filled with seniors, and this was one of Mr. Gugick’s many talents.

On another unforgettable day, we finished the lesson a bit early, and we had time to spare, so he showed us a commercial for a toy store in which he, the Lego King, was featured.

There aren’t many teachers who enjoy superhero fandom, and it was comforting to know that Mr. Gugick was one who did.”

Although it was for sure a dated video, it was a classic. It shows Mr. Gugick with children in front of toys such as train sets and stuffed animals.

At one point in the video, Gugick told us that he was annoyed by one of the child actors, a little girl. I can’t remember why, but I’m pretty sure he said something about her being unprofessional. The brief second of him arguing with a little girl was unforgettable. I wish I could replay that video over and over again on YouTube, but Gugick informed us that he owned the only copy.

A final story I’d like to share is one that meant a lot to me. I am a big superhero fan. They have always been able to put a smile on my face and get me out of any funk I’m stuck in. This past Halloween, I decided to wear a Batman shirt with an attached cape.

Halloween fell on the block day when I didn’t have math class, but that didn’t stop Mr. Gugick from noticing. As I was on my way to lunch, just about to pass Mr. Luce’s classroom, I heard him from down the hall.

“Hey! Batgirl!”

I can’t explain this, but I turned around as if he had called my name.

“Fighting crime?” he asked.

“Of course,” I answered, without hesitation.

The interaction may have been brief, but it was very significant to me. There aren’t many teachers who enjoy superhero fandom, and it was comforting to know that Mr. Gugick was one who did.

As I returned to study hall in Mrs. Morgan’s room, I found him talking with her. On his way out, he began asking me questions about the Caped Crusader. To his surprise, I knew the answer to pretty much all of them. It’s not every day I get to have conversions like this, let alone with my teacher, but it really made my day—even my week.

The most recent superhero discussion I had with Gugick was on March 19. The senior English classes had been working on research projects for nine weeks, and Tuesday was my day to present, so I thought I’d dress the part. My topic was the history of comic books, so I decided to wear a t-shirt with The Flash emblem.

As I walked into third period and sat at my desk, Gugick called out my name, reminding me it was also the day I had to make up a test I had missed.

“Come on, Flash,” I heard him say, as I picked up my backpack.  

My face flushed red with embarrassment, but also I smiled because The Flash is my favorite superhero. I left the room and took my test. As I returned, the class was finishing up the lesson, so I took my seat once more.

Mr. Gugick asked me if I watched the TV show The Flash.

“Yes,” I told him.

Soon we were having an in-depth conversation about superheroes and comic books, and it didn’t take long for other students to join in. This was one of the many conversations I’ve had with Mr. Gugick that I will never forget.

Gugick’s passing was too early, but I am grateful to have these memories of him, and so many more. His class helped me make new friends, and helped me realize that when I face an issue in school, such as math, there is no harm in asking for help.

Mr. Gugick was one-of-a-kind, and his legacy lives on in his students. I will never forget the jokes he told, the memories he shared and his iconic face taped to a bobblehead that from time to time appeared on the projector.

May he rest in peace.