Teacher faces significant setbacks


Ian Raybon

In his first year on campus, APUSH teacher Brian Erskine has become a favorite of many students.

Tory Heruska, Staff Reporter

Walking with a spring in his step and a smile on his face, AP U.S. History teacher Brian Erskine isn’t always able to do everything he wishes he could. It’s not a lack of desire, but the result of a neurological condition.

“I first noticed something was wrong whenever I would be in the heat, but then a little bit later I began to notice tingling in my elbows and hands,” Erskine said. “I knew something wasn’t right. So I ended up going to doctor to doctor. First they thought it was a tumor, and then it was MS, and then it was Parkinson’s. They really didn’t know.”

He visited doctor after doctor yet no one seemed to know what was wrong. But eventually, he received a diagnosis. He had Dopa Responsive Dystonia.

“At first I was relieved to be validated and informed, but that all went away fairly quickly,” Erskine said. “Because with my relief, came the realization that there was not all that much I could do. I could help the symptoms, but I couldn’t fix the problem. I would never  be 100 percent again, no matter how many different medications I was on.”

Dopa-responsive Dystonia is a rare but treatable form of genetic dystonia. It often responds very well to regular doses of Levodopa, which is a synthetic form of the brain chemical, dopamine.

“He didn’t seem like he was private about his condition or anything, he talked about it openly,” junior Courtney Frauenheim said. “He’s very charismatic and you can definitely tell that he’s enthusiastic about what he teaches. He does an incredible job of not seeming like he’s bothered or in pain if he is.”

Erskine definitely has most of his students raving. And while his illness is invisible, his passion for teaching is not.

“He quite literally brings the class to life,” junior Ben Ominara said. “I always thought history was really dead and full of boring rubbish, but the way he teaches never fails to intrigue me.”

Erskine began teaching several years ago, but his career was interrupted by the onset of his condition. He quickly found while he was away from his students that teaching was where his heart was.

“The entire time I was sick, I missed teaching.” Erskine said.“ I knew it was what I wanted to do. And I mean what other choice did I have but to keep going, to keep trying? I suppose you could give up and lay in bed all day. But that’s just not who I am. I find ways to manage it.  I’ve learned to pace myself and thrive every day to keep doing everything that my condition will allow for.”