Growing Up With Abe Baumel—An Insider’s Perspective
By Aaron Ghitelman ’09
Growing up I was blessed to often hear my grandfather, whom I lovingly called Zayde (Yiddish for grandfather), talk about Stuyvesant. His years as principal were something he cherished and was immensely proud of. We had a running joke about my grandfather that no matter what the discussion was, he would weave it back to his experience as Stuyvesant’s principal. Whether Abraham Baumel was talking to his mechanic or getting seated at a restaurant, it was always only a matter of time before he uttered the phrase “When I was principal of Stuyvesant High School…”
My grandfather always talked about the brilliance of Stuyvesant students and how they were constantly exceeding his expectations. As one would speak of their own children, he bragged about the Westinghouse research finalists, the debate team victories, and how despite the nerdy stereotypes, Stuyvesant sports team won city championship after city championship.
As principal, he felt the job of teachers was to support the students and, more importantly, not stand in their way. Like many Stuyvesant students, my grandfather was an immigrant. He came to New York as a child and didn’t speak a word of English. When he looked at Stuyvesant students, he saw their tenacity, desire to learn and the sacrifices that their families had made to make this opportunity possible. He sought to support those hungry students in any way possible, for he knew it was the students, not the name, resources, nor faculty that made Stuyvesant the best school in the world.
When my grandfather first became principal of Stuyvesant, Bronx Science had the highest cutoff score among the specialized high schools, and held the title of best school in the city. My grandfather was determined to steal the #1 spot and worked tirelessly towards that goal. He beefed up support for Westinghouse research. He stole a young debate coach (Julie Sheinman) from Bronx Science. He fought to have as much control as possible to hire the best teachers. And he never stopped in his quest to get a new building for Stuyvesant that was deserving of his students.
The almost mythic way my grandfather talked about Stuyvesant more than influenced me when it came to that fateful day in 8th grade when I took the SHSAT. I grew up in the Bronx. Any rational Bronxite with an aptitude for tests would have opted for the school 20 minutes away. But my grandfather had painted a picture of an institution that was worth the trip downtown. And he was right. I spent four incredible (and stressful) years at Stuy, but my connection to the school was established much before I entered the school as a student. Not only do I want to make sure my alma mater remains the best in the city, I want to make my grandfather proud and continue his legacy of constantly improving Stuyvesant in every way imaginable.
To learn more about the Abe Baumel Legacy Fund, click here.
Click on the links below to read more about the impact of Principal Baumel:
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