He is notoriously known to his students as ‘Doctor,’ ‘Doc,’ ‘DB,’ ‘Louis,’ or ‘Dr. Braun’, ‘Jerry’ to his colleagues, and to those who don’t know him as the guy who walks around school in a brown bomber jacket, briefcase in one hand, banana in the other.
While Louis Jerry Braun may just seem like your average Schechter math teacher, there are many things that his students and maybe even his colleagues do not know about him that make him unique.
Aside from his many nicknames,. Braun has worn a long list of hats throughout his life: From shoveling snow and raking leaves at age 8, to a paper route at 12, to teaching as a student in college, to a political activist, to a lawyer, to a creator of paintball, running a mini animal shelter out of his house, and finally, to his passion: teaching.
Braun grew up in Detroit, Michigan and was a rebel leading up to his years in college: “I’m an only child, and my father had lead poisoning from working in an aircraft factory in WW2, so my mother had to work. So I was on the streets alone and we were poor. I didn’t do well in high school: flunked Spanish, got a ‘D’ in Algebra. I didn’t try — I never did homework.”
Following his high school rebellion, he attended Wayne State University and later transferred to New York University to earn his Bachelor’s degree.
Regardless of his various accomplishments, Braun’s glory years were during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s where he was a major component of change. Dr. Braun was the National Chairman of Americans for Democratic Actions Campus Division, was one of Dr. King’s local coordinators, was the “last leg [on] the Selma Montgomery March. Met with Lyndon Johnson in early 1965 when he started the bombing campaign in North Vietnam,” Braun said.
“I left political life in ’67 [because] I burnt out. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish: the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. I was basically told by the chair of the City University of New York that they wanted me to come to their PhD program, but [I] needed to choose between politics and [a PhD], and I chose to get my PhD,” said Braun. “I started working as a college instructor, became a professor in ’71. Went to Pace Law School; I outranked all of my teachers.”
Braun then left teaching when he was recruited by Weil Gotshal & Manges, a major law firm in New York.
In addition to his work in the law field, the paintball field is where many Schechter students’ admiration with Braun lies: “Bob Gurnsey, one of my friends, was one of the creators of the game. I played back in ’81, ’82, I think the third game. I saw its commercial potential, and I was the first one to really commercialize it. I started a magazine [that] lasted twenty years called ‘Paintball Sports;’ I was publisher and editor. I ran a major paintball field, and I started the paintball World Cup that grew from 15 teams to 460.”
Despite traditionally retiring from law in 2005 and selling his paintball business, Braun said: “I couldn’t really take retirement- I had enough Sudoku. I started teaching again at Pace part time. One of my students happened to have had four children at Schechter and prevailed [on] me to come and just teach a course, and I liked it so much that I stayed.”
Now a part time math teacher at Schechter, Dr. Braun is able to do what he loves- teaching. “I still have the field, I still practice a little law, but my joy is teaching all of you insane teenagers. It’s wonderful, but it’s not like college. Your minds are there and they’re just opening up- it’s really nice.”
Braun’s teaching reputation is not from his highly impressive resume, but his unique methods that draw his students into the material.
“This is the secret of my teaching: if you get a student’s attention you can teach them anything. My students came into class bummed out because they had a test, so I think I started the class with “doo doo doo doo…” [from Pitch Perfect] and then they chimed in. I got all of their attention and I could just cram stuff into them… I know the subject matter to a point of significant depth, so I can teach a subject a number of different ways depending on how the class will react to those different ways.”
Even if you aren’t in one of Dr. Braun’s math classes, try to spark some conversation; he’s typically seen roaming the halls on his off periods or in the cafeteria eating lunch with students.
“[I’m] just lucky. I’ve lived life the way I wanted to live it. I’m just shy of 73, and I’ve got no regrets.”