SALEM, Va. – An empty desk sits in the robotics lab at Salem High School. It belonged to Mr. Randy Brinkley.
The long-time technology education teacher, robotics coach and scoutmaster passed away on Saturday.
“We knew Randy had been sick for a while and had a little bit of time to prepare, but it was still heartbreaking,” said Salem High School Principal Scott Habeeb.
Habeeb said Brinkley touched many students’ lives. He started at Salem High School in the fall of 2016 and quickly won over his students and coworkers with his smile and corny jokes. He even led the robotics team to victory in 2018 and 2019.
“We want every student to feel like they belong like they have a family within our school family,” said Habeeb. “And Randy Brinkley created that for so many kids, specifically, for kids who are interested in robotics.”
Senior Tyler Seibert, who has taken every one of Brinkley’s classes and has been on the robotics team all four years of high school, said Brinkley always encouraged him.
“He was always a good coach. He was always happy to have us and joyful and he always made me want to come back to the team every year,” said Seibert.
Seibert wants to go to Virginia Tech and is considering mechanical engineering, in part, thanks to Brinkley.
“My brothers went to engineering and they had Mr. Brinkley too. So that kind of inspired me too,” said Seibert. “I think he inspired all of us.”
The Spartans, mourning the loss but remembering a life well-lived.
“One of my favorite catchphrases from him — he had a lot — was he was ‘living the dream,’” said Seibert. “And I think he really was living his dream.”