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Feb. 17, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 11

Steve Gordon curated the Bapst Student Gallery exhibit on mazes.

He's Got a Mind for Mazes

LSOE grad student took a long and winding road to teaching career

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

It's not too much of a stretch to say that Lynch School of Education graduate student Steve Gordon got where he is today because of Frisbees and mazes.

His yen for the team sport Ultimate Frisbee, he explains, helped him cultivate friendships that led to business and education opportunities, brought him to Boston, and ultimately, to meet the woman he wound up marrying.

Gordon's thing for mazes, however, is something else altogether.

Since his high school days, the New York City area native has drawn and designed mazes of all shapes, sizes and dimensions, from small puzzles that can be solved with a pencil to walk-through labyrinths. His designs have been used for print ads and children's publications, reproduced on ties, T-shirts, hats, rugs and stained glass windows, and have adorned floors, walls and gardens.

One of Gordon's recent projects was to curate the current exhibition in the Bapst Library Student Gallery titled "aMAZEing! The Amazing Artwork of Mazes." Gordon supplied some of his own work, in addition to that of friends and BC students. "aMAZEing!" will be on display through March 4 and will offer a special family event on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 3-5 p.m.

Gordon touts mazes and labyrinths for their appeal to both the aesthetic and scientific sides of human personalities, as well as for their historical qualities. "Solving mazes involves using our cognitive, spatial and problem-solving skills," he said. "They have a therapeutic value, too. Neurologists, for example, find them an effective tool for helping patients improve their fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

"One of the things I did was to stylize mazes so they were distinctive enough to attract kids who aren't so interested in reading but like puzzles. If you incorporate some cool facts or other bits of information into the maze, it's another way for them to learn.

"Mazes of some kind or another have been produced by different cultures throughout the ages. So there is a universal element here that transcends our differences as human beings, something about them catches and holds our eye, and fascinates us."

In fact, Gordon might be said to have traversed his own maze to get where he is: Once a kid who "hated school," the glib, gregarious Gordon is now pursuing a master's degree in elementary education at LSOE and hopes to be a middle school earth science teacher, having already served as a student teacher at a Newton middle school.

If he wasn't exactly a model student in his youth, Gordon says, he excelled at tinkering. "I liked to see how things worked, just try them out for myself," he said. "My parents never bought me anything new. They'd give me a broken VCR, a broken stereo, broken clock and say, 'Fix it, and it's yours.'"

This do-it-yourself approach carried Gordon - who attended college but did not earn his undergraduate degree until well into his adulthood - through a variety of jobs, from database management to Web design, in the formative years of the late 20th-century technology revolution. He even designed a computer program to compile student attendance records for his local public school system ("They didn't use it while I was there, of course, since I knew how to make it work - or not.")

Even as he built his maze design business, Gordon continued to work at technology-oriented jobs, moving into such new areas as electronic commerce. But by 2000, he was a full-fledged family man, living in Newton with a wife and infant son, and he realized it was time to find his true calling.

Gordon's wife suggested he apply his successful experience in marketing to a teaching career, and Gordon - who had done some technology training in schools - found an opportunity at the Bigelow Middle School, where he assisted an eighth-grade science teacher.

"It was a big shock going into a middle school, and those first two to three months were a struggle," he recalled. "But I ran the math team, worked with special education students and helped out the teacher. The next year, I wound up taking over his classroom when he went on an overseas program. So I moved up the learning curve fast, and had a lot of support and encouragement."

His interest in teaching affirmed by his Bigelow experiences, Gordon enrolled last summer in the Lynch School and expects to receive his degree in 2008.

"I'm just someone who has to have a lot of irons in the fire," said Gordon. "For me, it's all about the journey, which is really the secret of the maze - it's the fun of 'getting lost.' The kids in middle school who I'll be teaching are on a journey, too, and I just want to get them excited about something that will sustain them on their way."

More information on the Bapst Student Gallery and on Steve Gordon is available at www.bc.edu/libraries/centers/bapst/about/studentgallery/.

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