Editor’s note: This is the final story in a series on the 2022 inductees into the Brookfield Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
Mixing teenage hormones and life decisions is rarely a recipe for making good decisions, said Kristen Foster, director of teaching, learning and accountability for Brookfield schools.
However, Toby Gibson’s decision while attending the University of Toledo to “follow a cute blonde into a class he was not enrolled in changed his life’s direction,” she said.
Gibson, now the Brookfield schools superintendent, was studying physical therapy, but the class the cute blonde was attending was “introduction to education.”
“Although the girl he followed ended up being irrelevant in his life, this is where he realized he really wanted to pursue education,” Foster said, in introducing Gibson at his induction into the Brookfield Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
Foster and Gibson were hired as Brookfield teachers on the same day 24 years ago.
As superintendent, Gibson’s job is to pursue education on behalf of Brookfield students.
According to Foster, Gibson’s been instrumental in implementing science, technology, engineering and math curriculum for all grades; expanding the Maker Space; starting career and pre-apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship classes, the drone racing team and robotics and Industry 4.0 programs; creating pathways for students to earn industry-recognized credentials, mental health partnerships for free counseling for all students and a food pantry; and securing computers for all students in middle and high school.
“Toby is truly here for the youth of this community,” she said.
While Gibson would agree with the list Foster generated as accomplishments during his term as superintendent, he doesn’t want that list framed as something that he has done or that he deserves recognition for. He’s just doing his job, he said, something he learned growing up in a “mill house,” as he termed it. His father, William Toby Sr., worked for General Motors on the assembly line at its former Lordstown plant, and his mom, Linda, was a stay-at-home mom.
“Your dad worked,” Gibson explained of life in a mill house. “If you could walk and breathe, you got up and went to work. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Mom was home. She didn’t put up with you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel good. Go to school, you’ll be fine. She had the wooden spoon discipline. My mom broke more wooden spoons on me. When I got old enough and I could ride my bike to Valley View (department store) she made me go down and buy another one.”
That upbringing taught Gibson “work ethic, humility and love,” he said.
“When you’re brought up in that mentality, it’s just what you do,” Gibson said. “I do my job. To talk about me is uncomfortable. I’m in a position now where I’m trying to celebrate the victory of students and staff. I’m just on the side.”
One of his goals – and he says he talks about it to administrators and teachers a lot – is to model the behaviors he wants to see in school from the students.
“You come in, you smile, you look people in the eye, shake their hand, be respectful,” Gibson said. “If there’s something on the ground, you pick it up. Kids are watching you nonstop to see how you act and react to things, so you have to be very cognizant of what’s going on.”
And, with any luck, he’s also modeling why someone would want to live in Brookfield.
“It’s near and dear,” he said. “I chose to come back here. It’s not, ‘This is where I landed.’ I chose to come back and be a part of it, make a difference. I just want to show people how special it is. The kids here are amazing, and (I want to) give them the opportunity I may not have had growing up here.”