Meet Brian Clack, one of Burlingame’s unsung heroes


Will Kriner

Clack is prepared to use his extensive knowledge of literature to help kids do their very best.

Will Kriner, Senior Reporter

Over the years, substitute teacher Brian Clack has done it all: He’s worked in multiple careers, raised a big family and taught in virtually every classroom at Burlingame, where he has developed relationships with students and teachers alike.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Clack started his career as an investment banker. However, after 14 years in the industry, Clack was ready for a break, and he took on a job as a stay-at-home parent for his three kids.

Clack left investment banking thinking he would eventually return to something finance “related,” he said. Instead, in 2009, he decided to flip his career on its head, taking English classes at San Francisco State University. Later on, Clack received a master’s degree in literature at UC Santa Cruz. He then pursued an English doctorate at UC Davis, mainly because he loved being in a classroom with students.

Clack’s next destination was Mills High School, where he was a student teacher for a semester in the spring of 2022. In fall of 2022, he came to Burlingame for his second semester of student teaching with English teacher Sophie Abitbol. At Burlingame, he assisted Abitbol in teaching three senior English IV classes and a freshman English I class.

“I was in the room to observe a more experienced teacher in Ms. Abitbol, who I learned a tremendous amount from,” Clack said. “I got a chance to work on some things in terms of classroom management, lesson preparation and helping students with writing.”

But Abitbol emphasized that the relationship was symbiotic, with Clack beginning to fill holes in the classroom and anticipate her needs. 

“[Clack] was helpful before I even knew that I needed help,” Abitbol said. “[Clack] would deal with things before I knew that they even needed to be dealt with.”

As a teacher, Clack hopes to focus on classroom connections. Already, when substituting for other teachers, he makes it a priority to check in with his students about their interests in and out of the classroom.

“I definitely feel like students are interested in learning with people that they connect with, which isn’t to say that you have to be everybody’s best friend,” Clack said. “But I do my best to [connect with students]. Not just for that purpose, but because I’m genuinely interested in what you guys are up to.”

While Clack has only been at Burlingame for a few months, he has already prioritized making the school feel like home for his students. Spend a period with Clack teaching — even as a substitute — and you’ll realize that he fundamentally enjoys teaching — and he’s good at it.

​​”That moment when a student figures something out on their own, or that look on somebody’s face when they say ‘I did that,’” Clack said. “That’s the thing that I get the most charge out of and keeps me coming back every day.”

Clack’s goal for the future is to become a full-time teacher at Burlingame.

“In my relatively short time here, I have developed a strong connection with BHS, its students, the faculty, and the surrounding community,” Clack said. “It’s hard to imagine a school where I would enjoy teaching more than I do at BHS.”

When Clack isn’t teaching, he can be found spending time with his family, coaching sports and reading.

“Free time is mostly time with my family at this point,” Clack said. “I have spent a fair amount of time coaching softball, and oddly enough I used to spend a lot of time doing ceramics work, but I haven’t done it in recent years.”

Balancing work and family with three kids at home is not always an easy task, but Clack has gotten the hang of it over the years.

“You just always have to be ready for what’s next,” Clack said. “…between having three kids at home and having a group of students who I’ve come to care about, just being organized and on top of it.”