It wasn’t 20 years ago today, but it was close.
Leaving Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland where I had taught for two years right out of college for my alma mater in Colorado was a pretty easy decision. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my years teaching there. I very much did. But home called. Loudly.
I was hired at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO in the spring of 1994 and started work there that August.
I was interviewed by the English Department Chair who, in 1988 when I was a senior at Regis Jesuit, moderated the yearbook. He would later become one of my most trusted colleagues.
I was hired by an assistant principal who, in 1985 when I was a sophomore, taught me Algebra II (sorry I was such a terrible math student). He would later become my principal.
I would teach alongside the very people who inspired me to go into education in the first place and calling them by their first names was a hurdle I thought I would never, ever clear.
In 1995, The Magister, my best friend for now and forever, was hired to teach Latin. He would become godfather to my children, best man at my wedding and brother I never had.
I can hardly enumerate all the friends I made during my two decades at Regis Jesuit. Trying would be pointless.
Some of the memories carved with them, however, are easy to list: “Open Mic” nights at a rotating series of apartments and starter homes, marriages, dinners out, movies, quick vacations and work trips, The Facultones cover band, disciplinary boards, Raiderfest, moderating Student Council and laughing all the while, arguing about whether life exists on other planets following going out to see Contact (“you’d have to be the dumbest person on the planet to believe there’s no life anywhere but here!”), Raiders Roost, dealing with the deaths of parents, the new life of children, opening a new division of the school, frustrations with the work, joys in the work, prefecting dances and Homecomings and games, trips with students, liturgies, retreats, “making policy,” that trip to St. Louis, drafting documents, writing curriculum, doing investigations of students, catching kids cutting school, “are you saying, when this is all over, I will be apologizing to you for accusing you of drinking?”, committee work, Formation Team, hirings and firings, the ups and downs of teaching, pranking one another mercilessly, bitching about “the administration,” joining the administration and being bitched about, late nights and early mornings at work, a Socratic Seminar on The Scarlet Letter I will never, ever forget, teaching A Prayer for Owen Meany and, of course, the students, the thousands of students…
Always the students. What an impossible blessing it is to work with teenagers. So many students will remain with me and so many have taught me more than I could ever have taught them.
Teaching in a Jesuit school has been one of the biggest gifts of my life.
I am thankful for the love, for the opportunities, for the community, for the friendships.
I am forever changed by it.
How do I know? How can I say it? God has blessed me so abundantly in these past decades.
I would have two children during my years at Regis Jesuit and gain a bonus son through marriage.
In 2007, I would marry a brilliant and lovely ex-lawyer who dazzled her students with her knowledge and dazzled me with that and, well, everything else.
I have been teacher, Department Chair, Dean, Assistant Principal, Acting Principal, Choir Moderator, Service Director… titles and roles and responsibilities that allowed me to grow and change and learn.
I have been the luckiest of people because I have been a teacher.
And, today, it ends.
I am moving on to a role I greet with eager anticipation: I will serve as one of the Vice Presidents of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association. I am humbled to assume the position and excited to begin the work.
But, today, I look back and consider the years at RJ and am so very happy to have been a part of it. So blessed. And so ready for the next step.
John Irving wrote in A Prayer for Owen Meany “If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”
I love high school eduation. I love Jesuit education. I love this mission.
Because of this 20 year history, because I have a wonderful family and the most amazingly supportive wife a man could ever have, I look back and then, quickly, ahead with faith and courage.