Baltimore Sun

James R. Schreier

Long­time Bal­ti­more City Col­lege teacher, chess coach and for­mer union or­ga­nizer

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James R. Schreier, a for­mer long­time Bal­ti­more City Col­lege English teacher who led the school’s chess club to two state cham­pi­onships in the 1990s, died Oct. 6 from con­ges­tive heart fail­ure at his Winthrop House res­i­dence in Guilford. He was 73.

“He was just, Jim,” said Tom An­dri­one, who taught with Mr. Schreier at South­ern High School, and was a Winthrop House neigh­bor. “He was very in­tel­li­gent and a very prob­ing per­son. He wrote po­etry and we read a lot of stuff to­gether and dis­cussed lit­er­a­ture, movies, ed­u­ca­tion and pol­i­tics, and they were al­ways very lively dis­cus­sions.”

Rob McGowan had been a friend of Mr. Schreier’s since 1969, and also had been a city pub­lic schools teacher.

“Jim was a hun­gry in­tel­lec­tual, in­tel­lec­tu­ally en­light­en­ing and al­ways full of ideas,” said Mr. McGowan, who lives in Tow­son.

James Robert Schreier, son of Ernest A. Schreier, a Madi­son Gas and Elec­tric Co. worker, and his wife, Ber­nadette Ra­der­ma­cher Schreier, a home­maker and cham­pion ten-pin bowler, was born and raised in Mid­dle­ton, Wis­con­sin.

A 1965 grad­u­ate of Mid­dle­ton High School, Mr. Schreier earned a bachelor’s de­gree in 1969 from the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son, and came to Bal­ti­more to pur­sue grad­u­ate stud­ies at Mor­gan State Univer­sity.

“Jim came to Bal­ti­more in 1969 and with my brother-in-law joined Project Mis­sion, which was a train­ing pro­gram for teach­ers who did not have a mas­ter’s de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion,” re­called Mr. An­dri­one, who re­tired in 2010 from Polytech­nic In­sti­tute, where he had taught English for many years.

“We were both in Project Mis­sion where we taught for half a day and went to col­lege half a day,” said Mr. McGowan who re­tired from the Ca­reer Acad­emy in 2010. “He was known for hav­ing cre­ative lessons where he took pop­u­lar songs of the day and had the kids find sim­i­les and metaphors in them.”

Af­ter earn­ing a mas­ter’s in ed­u­ca­tion in 1970 from Mor­gan, Mr. Schreier be­gan teaching in city elementary schools and at Fran­cis Scott Key ju­nior High School be­fore join­ing the fac­ulty at South­ern High School, where he taught English from 1984 to 1989, when he moved over to City Col­lege.

While at South­ern, Mr. Schreier had coached the ju­nior var­sity base­ball team to a city­wide cham­pi­onship game.

Mr. Schreiver also earned a sec­ond mas­ter’s de­gree in po­etry writ­ing from the Johns Hopkins Univer­sity, where he stud­ied in its sto­ried writ­ing sem­i­nar.

News of Mr. Schreier’s death brought an out­pour­ing of grat­i­tude from for­mer stu­dents on Face­book: “He was a great man who took many of us un­der his wing and got us on the right path.” “He changed the tra­jec­tory of my life. He chal­lenged my think­ing and made such an im­pact.” “He was an in­spi­ra­tion to us all. ” “Sim­ply the BEST in the busi­ness.” “A phe­nom­e­nal teacher [and] a great in­flu­ence on me.”

“If I could pin­point one thing that I learned in high school that has made an im­pact on my pro­fes­sional life, it would be learn­ing from Mr. Schreier how to write and structure a pa­per,” said Afeefa Ab­du­Rah­man, a for­mer stu­dent.

“Jim was a leg­endary teacher and could re­ally re­late to the kids,” Mr. McGowan said. “He de­manded the best from them and they gave him their best.”

At City, Mr. Schreier coached the chess club team to two U.S. Chess Fed­er­a­tion

Mary­land State Cham­pi­onships, in 1991 and again in 1995. In 1994, the club scored a sec­ond place fin­ish.

“They’re pretty nor­mal kids,” Mr. Schreier told The Bal­ti­more Sun in a 1995 in­ter­view. “Black kids, white kids. Male and fe­male. Mid­dle class, work­ing class. They’re not one-di­men­sional kids, the ec­cen­tric. Bobby Fis­cher types who are ob­ses­sive. They’re reg­u­lar kids who just hap­pen to be ex­cel­lent chess play­ers.”

Mr. Schreier was suc­cess­ful in lob­by­ing City alumni to raise the nec­es­sary funds to send the team in 1995 to the na­tional chess fi­nals in Chicago.

“I’ve been as­so­ci­ated with base­ball, foot­ball and bas­ket­ball,” he ex­plained in the in­ter­view. “This is the most in­tense ath­letic com­pe­ti­tion I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. Noth­ing else is even close. And these kids rel­ish it.”

Be­cause he was com­mit­ted to work­ers’ rights, he had taken some time off ear­lier in his teaching ca­reer to or­ga­nize work­ers at the Armco Steel Co. plant in Bal­ti­more.

“We were both or­ga­niz­ers from 1973 to 1976, when we went back to teaching be­cause we had been laid off so many times and steel plants were clos­ing,” Mr. McGowan said.

In 1975, Mr. Schreier mar­ried the for­mer Jean Turner, who was also an ed­u­ca­tor, who later be­came dean of arts and science at Anne Arun­del County Com­mu­nity Col­lege, and set­tled on Rexmere Road in Ed­nor Gar­dens, where they were neigh­bors with Mr. An­dri­one and Mr. McGowan.

Both Mr. Schreier and his wife, Dr. Schreier, were be­liev­ers and sup­port­ers of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. “It’s real im­por­tant that peo­ple do not give up on the pub­lic schools,” he told The Sun in a 1981 in­ter­view.

When their 5-year-old son be­gan school at Waverly Elementary, the cou­ple be­came in­volved at the school.

“Quite frankly, the pub­lic schools need us,” Mr. Schreier said., “Get in­volved, go to the school and be crit­i­cal, watch, ob­serve and ask ques­tions. You can’t have strong pub­lic schools with­out parental in­volve­ment.”

He re­tired from City in 2007.

Mr. Schreier liked spend­ing sum­mers with his fam­ily in Colorado, where he en­joyed hik­ing and fish­ing,and in­dulging his pas­sion for na­ture and the out­doors. He also liked at­tend­ing his chil­dren’s ath­letic events, be­gin­ning with rec coun­cil pro­grams and go­ing right through their col­lege years.

An­other pas­time was writ­ing po­etry. “We went on a trip to­gether with our wives to Rus­sia and Jim wrote po­ems for all of us,” Mr. An­dri­one said.

A re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic who had cel­e­brated 32 years of so­bri­ety at his death, he was an ac­tive mem­ber of Al­co­holics Anony­mous where he chaired meet­ings and spoke with other mem­bers. In his re­tire­ment years, he vol­un­teered at Mann House and in Mercy Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s detox ward.

“Dad found great de­light in hear­ing the sto­ries of oth­ers and un­der­stand­ing the paths that brought them to where they were,” said his son, Jesse Schreier of Need­ham, Mas­sachusetts. “He often quoted Henry James, ‘ Three things in hu­man life are im­por­tant; the first is to be kind; the sec­ond is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.’”

His wife of 42 years died in 2017.

Ser­vices are pri­vate.

In ad­di­tion to his son, Mr. Schreier is sur­vived by his daugh­ter, Cory Mian of Somerville, Mas­sachusetts; a brother, TJ Schreier; a sis­ter, Susan Schreier both are of Mid­dle­ton, Wis­con­sin; and four grand­chil­dren.

 ??  ?? James R. Schreier was a teacher who in­spired gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents.
James R. Schreier was a teacher who in­spired gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents.

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