Skyline’s ‘Guy in a tie’ carries love of science to the classroom

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

Jeff Bradley’s “Guy In A Tie” moniker carries this long-time Ann Arbor science teacher through his day, his week, his school year.

With his philosophy of being kind, polite and thorough in the classroom, his guy-in-a-tie approach brings structure to his classroom which helps students progress and learn in the technical fields of science and medicine.

Jeff Bradley, lead teacher in the Skyline High School Health and Medicine Magnet program.

“The tie shows that I’m ready, prepared to teach every day,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, but it means something to me.” Two of his Web pages carry the theme: where he podcasts and where he plans lessons and posts grades and other program information. A third site, introduces students and parents to his program at Skyline.

“I view my job as serious. I work hard. I call it ‘Doing the Guy In A Tie Thing.’ … ,” he said on his Web site. “That’s why I wear a tie. It’s important to me. My students are important to me. My goal is for my students to become smarter, happier, confident and realize that effort creates success. … ”

Bradley said he shocked his students on one hot, summer-like day by coming in without a tie on – “I won’t do that again,” he said, smiling.

Although serious in the classroom, Bradley has been known to cut loose while watching his favorite Detroit Red Wings team or playing his bagpipes – a practice he took up three years ago to honor his Scottish heritage.

Bradley came to Skyline High School after many years of teaching at Slauson Middle School to start the Health and Medicine Magnet, one of four magnet programs at Ann Arbor’s newest high school. He currently has 60 students and will have 30  more when a new class of sophomores arrives in the fall and a third grade is added to the school. The magnet is designed to prepare students for a career in medicine, biomedical research and science or bioengineering.

About 70 percent of his students in the program are female, something he said reflects the makeup of programs such as area medical schools which are attracting many more women. Students apply for magnet programs at Skyline and, if more apply than there are seats, there is a lottery to select students at random.

The program is enhanced by a week-long biomedical engineering summer camp at The University of Michigan. This year’s camp will look at beach pollution and ask students to put themselves in the shoes of public health officials to determine whether the beach should be closed due to bacteria, Bradley said.

The largest compliment he said he has received from students is when one says they have so much information “my head hurts” or that “the time flies by in this class.” He said he knows they’re engaged.

While Skyline has “rigor, relevance and relationships” as its focus, Bradley said he always puts relationships first. “From start to finish, the kids know it,” he said. “This school is about relationships. We really want them to succeed.”

“I’ve always been pretty positive about kids,” he added. “And I’m a cheerleader for science. It’s important a kid know they’re loved in their class. They can make mistakes, and I say ‘it’s just us here. Let’s learn from them before you have to go out into the real world where it really counts.’ These kids are the future nurses, doctors, scientists.”

Bradley said the magnet program goes a long way to encouraging students. “Even kids who don’t really like labs, they get into this magnet and build their confidence,” he said, adding that his approach encourages students to seek out answers.

Pete Pasque, instructional technologist at Skyline, has worked with Bradley since the original team was brought together to design curriculum and create the district’s newest high school. He considers Bradley a role model, often watching him manage students across three classrooms in the Health and Medicine Magnet on Skyline’s fourth floor. While he’s helping at one end of the magnet center, students at the other end are engaged and working on their own.

“That’s the sign of an excellent teacher,” Pasque said. “The thing about Jeff, is that everything he does is focused around the kids.”

And, when it comes to teamwork – which is a big focus at Skyline – Pasque said: “He’s a worker. He’ll get it done. You don’t have to worry about his part of the project. He’s reliable. He’s great with adults but he’s stellar with kids.”

Bradley embraces technology, as can be seen on his multiple Web sites. He podcasts music, encourages his students to podcast science theory and experiments and explains that “I’m pretty much a paperless class.” Bradley wrote a grant for a Wii, which he uses with students to experiment with heart rates and EKGs, eye health and other medical research.

He grew up loving science, was an Eagle Scout and is naturally curious, “a good blend for me,” he said. A number of mentors piqued his interest and got him going in the right direction, he said.

One of those mentors was teacher Marilyn Williams, now deceased, who guided him as a student teacher at Slauson Middle School. He met her daughter, Sarah, one day and said he was smitten. Bradley eventually married Sarah and went on to take Williams’ teaching post when she retired. The couple now has two daughters.

Those mentors helped him to focus his educational style. “They taught me it’s not just about regurgitating facts,” he said. “Education is a pinnacle. Each student has his own path and has to find out ‘how am I going to get there?’”

Bradley is determined to help them find out.

Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her  at or call 734-994-2090 (internal ext. 51228.)


Jeff Bradley

Occupation: Lead teacher for the Skyline High School Health and Medicine Magnet program. Has taught in Ann Arbor for 25 years, formerly at Slauson Middle School.
Residence: Ann Arbor resident and native; graduate of Pioneer High School where his parents both taught business.
Education: Undergraduate degree from The University of Michigan and graduate degrees from Eastern Michigan University and the University of Colorado. He studied Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
Age: 46
Family: Married to Sarah, who is a teacher at Abbot Elementary School. They have two daughters: Maia, 11, and Emma, 9.
Pets: A Siberian husky named Kaya.
Hobbies: Plays the bagpipes, is a die-hard Detroit Red Wings fan and podcasts at He loves to take family vacations with an Earth science theme.
Claim to fame: Was instrumental in helping to get the mastodon recognized as Michigan’s state fossil.
Community service: Is involved with Project Healthy Schools and each year he and students find families in need in the district and do an “angel tree,” bringing in gifts and gift cards for them. He has won the Michigan Science Teacher of the Year, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science, the Michigan Teacher of the Year and received the Closing the Technology Gap Award.
Favorite meal: “Collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, anything with that strong flavor.” He also loves the Scottish dish, haggis.
Favorite movies: “A River Runs Through It” and “Field of Dreams” which he said both bring a feeling of heart and soul and “the passion and journey of what’s important to us.”
Favorite books: “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean and “Outbreak” by Robin Cook.
Life philosophy: “My philosophy would follow my expectations in class: Be kind, polite and thorough. I always tell the students to cross your ‘t’s and dot your ‘i’s.”

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