He’ll be remembered for his lasting friendships with students, a positive connection with parents and the supportive community he impacted heavily over the years.
Talking about Todd Brown, 46, the longtime math teacher at South Pasadena Middle School who passed away much too young, was his son, Kristoff Tessier, who learned from his dad to “never to go out and hate someone. Never go out with a negative attitude,” he said. “Have a positive attitude and never be out to get anybody because nobody is out to get you.”
Meaningful life lessons from his father will help to carry Kristoff through some difficult times.
“As long as you stick to yourself and who you are, you’re going to succeed, and good things are going to happen,” shared the 18-year-old teen, who graduated from South Pasadena High last June.
Not only was Todd a mentor to his son with words of wisdom, but to many others, who learned much more than mathematics in his classroom. With over a 17-year career at SPMS, Brown taught sixth, seventh and eighth grades, mixed with financial literacy “because he believed in a well-rounded student,” explained Tessier, “something I love about my dad. He believed in all aspects of a person. He taught the Kobe Mentality.”
Tessier was making reference to Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ basketball great, who has inspired others through his athletic ability and words Tessier lives by daily. “You need to be the best person at all times,” Tessier recalled a meaningful message and reminder from his dad’s favorite player.
Brown didn’t disguise the fact he was a huge fan of Bryant, who brought a solid work ethic to the court, much like the SPMS teacher was determined to bring the same practices to the classroom. “Kobe was his No. 1 player, but Michael Jordan (of the Chicago Bulls) was a close second,” said Tessier.
It’s a winner’s mentality coming from Bryant that brought out the best qualities in Brown, and it trickled down to others, including his own son. “As long as people take into account in doing their best, then they are going to improve,” explained Tessier, who joined his mom, Jennifer, and sister, Noel, a senior at California School of Arts San Gabriel Valley in Duarte, during a recent noontime dedication to Brown at South Pasadena Middle School. Called a “Celebration of the Life of Brown,” students, faculty and front office staff came together to remember all the good the former teacher brought to the campus.
Emily Williams, a SPMS teacher, came up with the idea to honor Brown, put the wheels in motion and invited the family to take part in the memorable day.
“It was beautiful and so heartfelt,” Tessier said. “It’s amazing to see how much the school gave us, and knowing there’s a whole community out there that has our backs.”
Tessier joined his mother and sister making brief remarks from the staging area, calling the scene a “loving environment,” adding he’ll never forget the tribute to his father. “He touched these kids in such an amazing way. It made us feel like they were part of us, too.”
As a result of his dad’s love of sports students took part in a few games during the lunchtime event and were encouraged to wear jerseys from professional teams. Tessier wore a Houston Rockets’ Travis Scott jersey, honoring the rapper, saying it was the last one he received before the passing of his dad.
Scott, one of the biggest hit makers in rap music today, is a favorite of Tessier, who enjoyed sharing music with his dad. “We loved to listen to music together. Before he passed, I loved Travis Scott music and told him this was a jersey I really wanted to get. When the jersey came in the mail I was surprised, shocked and excited to get it.”
His mom wore a Lakers jersey while his sister donned one from the Dodgers. Many around the school knew Brown from his years of coaching flag football, basketball and volleyball.
“It was pretty cool to share what my dad’s legacy means to people, to let everyone know it’s not just me, my sister or mother, it’s the whole community who will miss him,” said Tessier.
Always around sports growing up, influenced heavily by his father, Brown grew up watching the Chargers, Dodgers and Lakers games. He grew up in a “sports loving environment,” explained his son, adding that his dad played second base and shortstop for Crespi High’s baseball team.
“It’s important to me that his legacy be carried on in the correct way,” said Tessier. “He taught me to learn from my mistakes.”
From the heart, Tessier told the assemblage of students gathered in the quad area on the day honoring his father to always be respectful of their teachers, that they are there to educate, be at their side and lend a hand.
Tessier and his sister launched a GoFundMe to help pick up medical expenses. To date more than $55,000 has been raised for the family.
“We received so much support from the community,” Tessier said. “It’s beautiful to see how many people took action on it. We received a dollar here, a dollar there…inspiring notes. It was great to see.”
A large stack of cards with messages remembering his father will forever keep the man who meant so much to so many in his thoughts.
“It’s amazing to read them,” said Tessier. “He definitely inspired a generation.”