Fellow colleagues pay tribute to their friend as he parts with Barlow Explore the evolution of Gene on Page B2-3
Students submitted their favorite photos of Gene from the past four decades. - Page 8
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BruinBanner The voice of the students at Sam Barlow H.S.
After 34 years, Barlow says goodbye to Gene Saling Gene Saling has spent 40 years pursuing his passion: journalism. He has used his career to share this passion with his students, leaving a legacy at SBHS
By ROBIN AND KELLY COUSINEAU Classes of ‘06 & ‘10 Sam Barlow High School didn’t see this coming. Gene Saling, beloved educator and coach for 34 years, retiring? That would happen long after humans populated the moon. The man himself told students that he would one day teach from a hologram projected on his desk. “It’s been an amazingly fast 34 years.” Gene said. “Some of the best people to enter the halls of Barlow, I had the privilege of teaching and that’s what made it fun.” Gene’s journalism background began at a young age. In junior high, he created a newspaper called Gus and Geno’s Sports Review with longtime friend, Eric Gustafson. “We were kind of like rock stars, he and I,” Gene said. “We provided kids with good newspapers.” After leaving his journalism program at Reynolds High School, Gene began working as a part-time staffer at The Oregon Journal whilst attending school at Mt. Hood Community College. He transferred to Oregon State University in 1977 and worked for four years at The Daily Barometer, OSU’s student newspaper. “At some point during college I decided I didn’t want to be a sports writer, mostly because I don’t like traveling and sports writers have to travel all over the country,” he said. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Journalism, Gene spent the next two years attaining his teaching certificates in Journalism and English. “I figured, I have this journalism background, maybe I can teach journalism? And people are still saying, to this day, ‘maybe he can teach journalism? We’re not really sure...’” he joked. “I’m hoping by the end of the last week, I’ll be able to say, ‘I’ve got this thing down, finally.’” A few months after graduating from OSU, Gene was offered a position as Barlow’s Journalism and Yearbook Advisor. He decided to model the program after the journalism program of his former high school advisor, Carol McDowell. “We were allowed to go during the period to do interviews and take pictures. We weren’t locked into the room like every other class and I really liked that,” Gene said. Since its inception, Gene has run his program as if it were a traditional newspaper. While most high schools produce content in magazine or digital formats, they only release issues a few times a year. In contrast, Barlow’s journalism program produces a combined 27 issues of The Bruin Banner and The Link annually. “I just decided, whether it was a smart move or not, I wanted to do a newspaper that came out regularly that you’d get as many times as possible, which for us was about every two weeks.” The result of this was a robust program which took years and countless hours of personal time to develop and refine. Gene’s wife Linda, whom he met at Barlow in 1981, has seen his struggle first-hand: “I’m the only one who knows how hard Gene has worked for the journalism program for 34 years. He has truly committed himself to running a quality program and it has paid off,” she said. Gene was so dedicated to his program that he did not take paternity leave for the birth of his children, Bryce and Derek. Eventually, he had to start making sacrifices, giving up his position as a baseball coach to spend more time with his family, but never scaling back his journalism program. “There are certain jobs where you check in at 8 o’clock and you check out at 4 o’clock and go home and you’re done. But when you’re a teacher, you’re never done. The ones that do it the right way spend a lot of extra time,” he said. And he certainly has. Gene has advised approximately 150
A student from the current Bruin Banner class captures a rare smile from Gene while teaching. The ever-humble journalism teacher shies away from attention, especially of a photographic nature. issues of The Link and approximately 650 issues of The Bruin Banner. “Of course that’s not my accomplishment it’s the students who put out those papers,” he pointed out. “I just sat back and collected the checks.” As he looks back at the legacy he has built over 34 years, Gene’s biggest struggle has been deciding when to retire in a school that isn’t ready to see him leave. Although the future of Gene’s journalism program is unclear at this time, Principal Bruce Schmidt knows how important it is for it to continue. “I have every intention of making sure that we have a journalism program with a Bruin Banner that gets published,” Schmidt said. Schmidt, who has known Gene since he started Barlow in 1998, said of Gene, “He works very hard. He’s a dedicated staff member and he’s dedicated to his students. I think he really is a top-notch staff member.” This has been a consistent sentiment among staff members and students alike, who wrote letters of nomination for the Oregon Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, which he won in 2010. However, Gene has a habit of hiding from the limelight: “I always try to remember it’s not about me, it’s about the students. I try to push aside stuff that involves me and focus on them.” But now it is about you, Geno.
It’s fair to say that most exceptional, retiring teachers do not receive the testament from their former students that they so rightly deserve. If they’re lucky, they get a send off from their colleagues, wishing them well. Putting aside our duty to report the news without bias, these two reporters feel that the real power of Gene’s program is the interconnectedness that it created. It allowed us to seek alumni out to honor the one person who consistently shied away from commendations and praise. We felt compelled to share his story with the public, for the first and last time, to show just how much he’s done for us and what he meant to Barlow. In the following 11 pages, you will see the stories of dozens of former journalism students who volunteered to share their experiences with Gene throughout their time at Barlow. You will see Gene compared to iconic figures ranging from Atticus Finch to Lorne Michaels, and a great deal of conversation surrounding important topics such as pizza, Gene’s pastel ensembles, and his sarcastic wit. Their experiences are just a small representation of the thousands of other students who walked in and out of Gene’s doors every day and learned that they weren’t the center of the universe but could be a vital contributor to it, if they chose to be.
Journalism Advisor Gene Saling retired in 2015 after 34 years of dedication to Sam Barlow High School. In this commemorative edition of the...