Calvin Simmons, 48, teacher who befriended pupils

February 16, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Calvin A. Simmons, whose love for children and ability to make them feel at ease carried him through a 24-year teaching career in Baltimore, died Wednesday of cancer at the Gilchrist Hospice in Towson. He was 48.

Mr. Simmons lived in Northeast Baltimore and taught construction trades at Joseph C. Briscoe High School, a West Baltimore facility that prepares emotionally and physically handicaped teen-agers for the world of work.

But, in addition to the trade skills Mr. Simmons taught in the classroom, he gave the students something equally important: his time.

"He was always available for them to talk things out," said Jack V. Knott, the school's principal. "He loved to talk to them about a variety of topics. Always."

Sidney Williams, a friend and former colleague, said Mr. Simmons treated each student as he would an "old adult friend."

"He just liked to sit them [students] down and talk to them one on one and look them in the eye," Mr. Williams said. "They could relate to him because he wasn't about nonsense. He talked to people, young and old, as a friend."

Mr. Simmons came to Briscoe High in the late 1980s after 15 years teaching at the old Carroll Park High School in Southwest Baltimore, which merged with Briscoe High.

At Briscoe High, Mr. Simmons -- seemingly always armed with a tool box and construction worker's tool belt -- kept the school in good physical shape as well as teaching his classes.

"He'd fix everything here that needed to be fixed -- the doors, windows, ceiling tiles," Mr. Knott said. "But he'd also take students with him and show them how to do it, too. It was like on-the-job training."

Mr. Simmons' concern for youths didn't end when he left school each day. He did home improvement and construction jobs outside the school and routinely took students with him.

For many years Mr. Simmons also counselled youths as part of the old Southeast Diversion Program to help errant children. Youths who had committed first offenses were referred to Mr. Simmons at the program by the Department of Juvenile Services.

"He liked to see kids do well, he liked to see them develop," said his wife,, the former Dianne Moore, whom he married in 1971. "He just liked to work with kids and his hands."

A native of Pollocksville, N.C., Mr. Simmons graduated from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 1971 and later received a master's degree from the university's College Park campus.

When he started teaching in 1972, several students challenged him physically until he told them that he knew karate.

"But they still challenged him until he showed them a few moves," his wife said. "After that, they gave him a lot of respect. Over the years, he never showed them again. He could relate to them without having to holler."

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Calvin Simmons; and two daughters, Kimberly Simmons and Kristal Simmons, all of Baltimore; his mother, Hattie Simmons of Newport News, Va.; his stepmother, Airlean Simmons of Pollocksville; six brothers, Robert Johnson of Washington, Stanton Simmons, Vernon Simmons and Jeffrey Simmons, all of Pollocksville; Gary Simmons of Charlotte, N.C., and Kermath Simmons of Salisbury; six sisters, Juliette Morgan of Dale City, Va., Inell Dagley, Doris Johnson, Mary Simmons, Ella White and Patricia Jones, all of Newport News, Va.

Pub Date: 2/15/97

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