Interview Series with English Faculty

Brophy's English Department values stories and storytelling in all of its course offerings. In order to share some of the stories that define their lives, our English teachers sat down with our resident interviewer, Hemingway scholar and former public relations specialist, Wayne Catan. (Recently, Mr. Catan interviewed winners of the PEN/Hemingway Award from the last four decades.) We invite you to learn more about the lives, personal histories, and orientations towards reading, writing and teaching of our English Department faculty. We hope to complete the series in fall 2020.
 

List of 7 items.

  • > Mr. John Damaso

    English Department Interview Series

    Are you a native Phoenician? If not, what brought you to Phoenix?

    No. I was born in the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. when Jimmy Carter was President. We lived in McLean, Virginia, and I attended a local Catholic school. On July 4, 1989, my family decided to “light out for the Territory” and move to a 116-degree Phoenix, Arizona, where my grandparents lived, to attend St. Francis Xavier. I’ve learned from students and friends that many people come to the desert for reinvention, and I suppose the Damaso's did, too. I am the third and youngest child (Mike ’94, Karen XCP ’92), and my folks still live in Scottsdale.

    We know that you graduated from Brophy in 1997. Did you know, during your time as a student, that you would come back and teach English at your alma mater?

    I tell students now that I simply loved being in school, so perhaps returning to teach was inevitable, but, no, I didn’t know at the time I would teach at Brophy one day...and now for fifteen years. In fact, I still say I’m not sure I am a teacher. Something about keeping the door open to other opportunities — open to growth, right? As a student in the 90's, I knew I loved words, language, and publication. I was the editor-in-chief of the Brophy yearbook, and I thought I would become a journalist. TIME Magazine was the goal back then. The other plan was to study architecture at the University of Virginia. I had visited Charlottesville and was mesmerized by Jefferson’s architecture, especially his serpentine (technically, crinkle crankle, I just learned) garden walls.

    What was your major at Georgetown University? And who inspired you to secure a master’s degree in linguistics from Queen Mary University in London?

    I registered “undeclared” as a first-year student, but I was pretty sure I was an English major with a concentration in writing. Then I took an Introduction to Languages course in linguistics from a graduate student and got hooked. I had finally found a discipline that combined my interests in language, analysis, society, and, frankly, minutiae. I graduated with a double major in English and Linguistics. Factoid: Since my majors were in two different colleges at that time, the Georgetown registrar gave me the option to receive a B.A. (English) or a B.S .(Linguistics), so I chose the B.S. because BSLI sounded cooler!

    After teaching at Brophy for three years, I was keen on pursuing more education and wrote to a Georgetown Linguistics professor who had mentored me. I wrote that I was having a “¼ life crisis” and didn’t know what to do next. She emailed back that she was in London and that I should come do an M.A. at Queen Mary and help her with her book investigating the language of journalism (News Talk from Cambridge Press). That year was formative for me, partly because of the research I did on slang lexicography and partly for the access to London — but also because I lived in a graduate student flat with four LLM (law) students from Nigeria, Thailand, India and Greece. Can you guess who cooked with the hottest peppers?

    How did you end up back in Phoenix?

    I came back to Phoenix the summer of 2005 to write my Masters's thesis, which they call a dissertation in England, and which made me feel fancy. It is called"The New Populist Dictionary: A Computer-mediated, Ethnographic Case Study of an Online, Collaboratively-authored English Slang Dictionary."  When I completed the thesis, I found myself teaching ESL at Arizona State University and then doing marketing and communications for that program (American English and Culture Program), recruiting international students for ASU. Eighteen months later I was applying to return to Brophy, a magnetic place, where I remain to this day.

    What are some of your highlights as English Department Chair?  

    Our English faculty amazes me daily. Steve Smith’s dedication to freshmen and getting to know them and their families deeply influences their Brophy trajectories. Susan Maynard’s care for her students stems from rigor and compassion both, and she is always experimenting, creating courses like Emerging Voices and devising this year’s Summit Reflection Guide.  Chad Unrein might just be the best storyteller on campus, and Deb Kauffman is by far the best-read person I know.

    As chair, I’ve enjoyed creating the Fr. Renna Reading Room in Brophy Hall to preserve a couple thousand books and give students a quiet place to read, study and relax. Some educational technology like Membean and No Red Ink have become integral to our foundational English classes, and other emerging technologies (CommonLit and Albert) allow for easier test prep. In the past couple of years, we’ve hosted professors from Barrett at ASU for discussions of best practices. The Poetry Out Loud program, now in its 10th year, allows students to feel and witness the power of the spoken word in a spirited classroom and school-wide contests. Sophomores in English 2 learn about literature and the world through a framework of the life of St. Ignatius, which helps align our curriculum to our Jesuit mission. I am proud of how the department has incorporated The Graide Network, an organization of undergraduate and graduate writing tutors who provide substantive writing feedback for our students, as another layer of writing instruction. In addition, the Peer Editing Network (PEN), is an online writing center run by Brophy students who provide tailored feedback to students within 24-48 hours. PEN is in its fifth year! Speaking of student-led initiatives, I admire work like Kevin Yin’s '20 Membean Word Counter that he coded from scratch to fill a need at the school. Finally, I am excited to introduce curricular changes for the 2019-20 school year that will place juniors and seniors together for the first time in exciting elective courses like Creative Writing, The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, Writers & Current Issues, and Science Fiction.


    How many years have you served as an adviser to BLAM, Brophy Literary & Arts Magazine, and what are some of your proudest moments as BLAM director?

    The 2018-19 edition of BLAM, “Serramenti,” is the 10th volume I’ve helped to advise. Scott Middlemist and Chad Unrein co-advised with me in the first years and Austin Pidgeon has done so the last few.

    I am most impressed by the way students have identified and created ways to engage the school community all year long and not just with the annual publication of the magazine. BLAM staffers have hosted a half-dozen writing and art contests per year, a reading of student prose and poetry at the Fine Arts Extravaganza, Black History Month videos and biographies, and Poetry Out Loud. We maintain an archive of student writing and art at blam.brophyprep.org. Every couple years, we take the BLAM staff to visit the printing press that produces the magazine, a visit that demystifies publishing, and students see the intricacies and challenges of making BLAM such a beautiful product. As far as back issues, I have a soft spot for BLAM: Full Connection (2010), BLAM: Remix (2013), and BLAM: Explore (2014), and BLAM: Roots (2017). Each contained an innovation that pushed the publication forward.

    Students enjoy your passion for words. When did the study of words — etymology and linguistics — begin to fascinate you?

    When I was 7 or 8, I went to speech therapy and was given a book I recall being titled "Oodles of Noodles." I struggle(d) with /s/ and sibilants generally. That’s probably when I became aware of words as words. At Brophy, I deepened my adoration for words in classes with Fr. Becker and Fr. Renna, and in college, while working one summer at Barnes & Noble in Chicago, I discovered the Oxford English Dictionary single-volume edition (that came with a magnifying glass!), and I was hooked on word origins and word futures — how slang can become mainstream with time. Tolkien, famed "Lord of the Rings" author, once said that one of his most rewarding professional experiences in his life was the time he worked on the OED.

    Congratulations on your chapter “'Mr. D, Is This, Like, a Real Word?' Stories of a Linguist in a High School English Classroom” in the new book "Teaching Language Variation in the Classroom." How did this opportunity come about?

    I’m in a Facebook group called “High School Teachers Incorporating LINGUISTICS” and have a loose affiliation with a committee aiming to create an AP Linguistics course through the College Board. The Facebook group leader forwarded my name to a couple of professors at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. They were seeking chapters by high school teachers as well as linguists. After a few email exchanges, we settled on the idea of my writing vignettes from the classroom that illustrated my attempts to discuss language variation with my students at Brophy. The chapter focuses on times when the lesson plan went haywire, when student interest in language change trumped the current classroom focus — when the tangient becomes the lesson.

    We hear you have a new addition to your family. Can you elaborate?

    Her name is Gia Celine Damaso. She’s the first Damaso in 39 years. Sophie and I are very excited to watch her grow, learn, and become herself. When she begins to acquire language, I may call in sick for two weeks, just to observe the miracle. (I once heard of a Linguistics Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown who was raising his child bilingual in English and…Klingon. At some point, the toddler told his dad he didn’t want to speak Klingon anymore — at least, that’s how I remember the story.)

    If you had to take five books with you to a deserted island for the rest of your life, what would they be?

    • "The New York Trilogy" by Paul Auster
    • "Oxford English Dictionary" single-volume compact edition (with magnifying glass for reading and starting necessary survival fires on deserted island)
    • "How to Hide Anything" by Michael Connor (purchased from Spy Headquarters in the 1990's).
    • Any "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel
    • "The Collected Works of William Shakespeare"
  • > Mrs. Ashley Doud

    English Department Interview Series

    We know that you are from California. Can you tell us which part of the state, and what was it like growing up there? 

    I am from Southern California; just north of L.A. and south of Santa Barbara. My parents still live in my childhood home. It is in the country, on an acre of land with a beautiful view overlooking a valley. On a clear day, from certain places in the valley, you can see the ocean. 

    It was incredible growing up there. Many teenage years were spent watching bands on Sunset Boulevard or taking in the rays on the shores of the Pacific. I also got into horseback riding very young. Our barn was just a mile from my parents' house. And when we retired our horses from the English jumping circuit, my parents built stables in the backyard for them. 

    Southern California is still an incredibly special place for me. My husband and I had our Moroccan-inspired wedding reception in my parents' backyard. It is where I was shaped and formed. It is why I will often drop a “dude” in conversations. And it is the reason you will often find me there during summer break. 

    Where did you attend college, and what was your major? 

    Most people do not know this, but I was obsessed with the television show "Felicity" in high school. In the show, the main character is from California and follows a boy to New York to attend NYU. So, I actually applied and got into NYU. But during a college tour of the east coast, I fell in love with a small private Christian school just north of Boston — Gordon College.  And I actually went there for a semester. But this Southern California girl could not handle the intense winters. So I completed my undergraduate degree at Azusa Pacific University back in Southern California. I majored in English with a minor in Religious Studies. 

    I also have a Master's degree in Education and will complete a second one in English from Arizona State University in August. 

    Did you know, in college, that you wanted to become a high school English teacher? 

    My love for literature started in middle school. I played the outrageous Bottom in my eighth-grade performance of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." And from there my love for Shakespeare and story began. But initially, I wanted to be a writer. When I first encountered Fitzgerald’s hypnotic diction in "The Great Gatsby," I thought it was my quest to write as well. But the more I read, the more I realized that my words could never match what these men and women were creating. But what I could do, is teach their words, share their message, and continue to encounter them. So teaching seemed to be the ideal occupation. 

    Some of my favorite moments with my students are when they share their love of a story we are reading together. If I can ignite that spark and get my students reading, we can share in this magical, illuminating, self-reflecting world together. It is in those moments that I know teaching is my calling. 

    We hear that you travel a lot. Can you tell us where you went to last summer? 

    My husband and I love to travel! We do not have children so travel has been the gift we use to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. 

    Last summer, my in-laws went with us to Ireland, Scotland, England and France. My husband’s family is Scottish, so it was a trip that allowed them to encounter their roots. We went whiskey tasting in Aberdeen, had high tea at Harrods in London, and walked through Notre Dame in Paris. 

    The highlight of the trip for me, of course, revolved around literature. We did a day trip to Oxford and had a pint in the pub where C. S. Lewis created Narnia and Tolkien invented Middle Earth. It was a magical town — I know I will be back there again soon. And visiting The Long Room (library) at Trinity College in Dublin may have made me cry. ;)

    What is your idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon? 

    A perfect Sunday afternoon would be reading a book for pleasure on the back deck of our cabin up north. My husband and dogs would be with me, and the folky melodies of the Avett Brothers would be wafting through the pine air. 

    Is it true that you adore pets? Do you have any now? 

    I absolutely adore pets! I grew up surrounded by animals from cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, reptiles and horses. I think animals are gifts from God. They are attuned to our emotions providing comfort, healing, and joy. We have two dogs currently. We have had them since our first year of marriage, so they are both twelve. One is a female long-haired Chihuahua named Stella, and the other is a Puggle named Boddington. They have traveled with us, specifically up to the cabin and to California. Boddington loves the water and Stella loves walking through the woods. 

    Tell us about the elective you teach — Science Fiction and Computer Consciousness. 

    This class was inspired by one of my favorite units I taught at the school I worked at before Brophy, as well the English 101/102 course I taught at Estrella Mountain Community College. The unit asks students to debate whether computers are capable of consciousness or not. The content was inspired by my mother, who is currently working on her Master of Divinity at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. She was taking a philosophy class at the time and stumbled across some incredible philosophers discussing the mind-body problem. From there, the unit emerged and has been applied for the past ten years in my upper-division courses.

    Last year, Mr. Damaso asked if we had ideas for elective courses, and with his support, I was able to shape a curriculum founded in computer consciousness and my love of Sci-Fi. It has been an absolute pleasure discussing topics like time travel, created monsters, playing god, artificial intelligence and morality in my classroom. 

    I want to thank the class of 2019 for their feedback and their addition of the Sci-Fi bracket. I cannot wait to use it in a more impactful way next year. And I have to thank Parker Hughes ‘19 for reaching out to one of the philosophers from that original unit on consciousness, David Chalmers. We were able to receive an email from him discussing his current views on computer consciousness. And I should tell you based on Chalmer’s response we need to continue to discuss the impact AI will have on this world because it is not going anywhere and its influence will continue to spread if we do not continue to question its ethical influence over our lives. 

    What is the favorite book you have taught here at Brophy? 

    How do I answer this? There are so many. I always love the conversations that come out of teaching "The Great Gatsby," "The Catcher in the Rye," "The Crucible" or "Frankenstein." But a book that has resulted in beautifully vulnerable and relevant conversation, which I have only taught at Brophy, is Mitch Albom’s "Have a Little Faith." It is a novel that follows the lives of three men from different backgrounds and how their faith has impacted their lives. This premise then trickles over into class conversations the first few weeks of class. I get to learn so much about my students, about their struggles with faith and the moments they have encountered God. It forces us to get real with one another and God right away. It reminds me why I left the public education system to work here. "Have a Little Faith" reinforces why I went into this profession from the beginning because stories add meaning to our life, we all have stories to tell, and God is found within these stories. 

    Tell us something about yourself that we would never suspect.

    Most people don’t know that my husband and I have a Harley-Davidson Street Glide cruiser and are avid riders. We have taken it to Lake Arrowhead and Northern Arizona. We want to do a Pacific Coast Highway trip up to Canada one day. 

    If you were trapped on an island for one year, which five books would you bring with you? 

    Do book series count as one book? Haha. I would bring the "Lord of the Rings" so that I could feel like I was in another world when the island life became too difficult to handle. "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" would transport me to the wintery world of Narnia. Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice" would keep me swooning. "Les Miserables" would perhaps take me the whole year to read, but it would revive my soul and remind me to persevere in the face of adversity. And I would take Philip Pullman’s "The Golden Compass" which I have yet to read, but was told I would enjoy. 
  • > Ms. Deb Kauffman

    English Department Interview Series
     
    Where were you born and raised?
     
    Grand Forks, North Dakota — a town about two hours from the Canadian border, on the Red River of the North, a rare one that flows north and divides North Dakota from its neighbor, Minnesota.
     
    Were you always an avid reader?
     
    Yes. As a young teen, I stole copies of "Two Women" by Alberto Moravia and "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence from my grandparents’ library and read them under the covers via flashlight.
     
    Did you know in college (at the University of North Dakota) that you wanted to become an English teacher?

    No, I bet on law school — after my first four years getting a bachelor’s degree.
     
    When did you make your way to Phoenix?

    In 1988, when my late husband, Richard Kauffman, Ph.D. had me join him in Phoenix — he had been working here for two years at the Arizona Corporation Commission.
     
    Where did you teach before Brophy?
     
    In North Dakota and Minnesota — from seventh/eighth grades to college freshman English (University of North Dakota); in Phoenix — at Xavier College Preparatory (1988--91), Deer Valley High School in Glendale (1991-93), Deer Valley School District Office — as a TOA (1993-95), and Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale (1995-1997). I also spent one memorable summer in 1990 at North High School teaching ninth grade English in summer school for the Phoenix Union High School District.
     
    Which grade levels have you taught, and what are some of your favorite electives that you have taught?
     
    7-8th grade Language Arts; 9th--12th grade English; AP English 4; and College Composition to College Freshmen. My favorite electives: Shakespeare on Film; Modern World Fiction.
     
    Which levels are you teaching now?

    I have taught AP English 4 for the past 10 years or so.
     
    Tell us something interesting about yourself that we would never suspect?

    That while in grad school, I once lived in a single-wide trailer and made my own yogurt and had a quilting frame.  
     
    What are some of your favorite books that you have taught throughout the years?
    • "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon
    • "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
    • "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy
    • "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" by Salman Rushdie
    • "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen
    • "Jazz" by Toni Morrison
    • "The True History of the Kelly Gang" by Peter Carey
     
    If you were deserted on an island for the rest of your life with just five books, which ones would they be?

    1. "The Sea" by John Banville
    2. "The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare" (and his sonnets)
    3. "Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey
    4. The complete list of novels by Jane Austen
    5. A whole bunch of mysteries from around the world, e.g., China, the Netherlands, Sweden, and, of course, Great Britain by the Golden Age Mystery Writers: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margaret Allingham, et al.



  • > Ms. Susan Maynard

    English Department Interview Series
     
    We know you are from Alabama. Can you explain what it was like being raised there?  

    Alabama is a beautiful state, brimming with good people and tradition.  As we all know, some of that tradition has a dark, ugly side, but I also saw immense growth and transformation growing up there.  I am the first to criticize it and the first to defend it. Being a child of the turbulent ‘60s, my coming-of-age decade, gave almost every facet of those times special significance because of where I lived.  
    • The Space Race:  My home town, Huntsville, was a pivotal player.  I went to school with the children of the German rocket scientists who settled in Huntsville.  I walked the same streets that Werner Von Braun, the very face and voice of the Space Program, walked.  My father was an electrical engineer who worked on the arms that held the Saturn V rocket on the launch pad.  The whole nation was in awe as we first went into space and then walked on the moon, in a single decade, but it was particularly present and poignant for us in Huntsville.
    • The Cold War:  Those were the hottest years of the Cold War.  Because of Huntsville’s importance to the Space Program, there was a sense that we would be an early target if the Cold War heated up, so I endured my elementary school’s  atomic bomb drills during which we hunkered under our desks with our coats over our heads. It seems so laughable now, but we were terrified.  
    • The Civil Rights Movement:  This by far had the most impact on me because of where I lived.  My parents were both activists -- my dad marching in Selma for voting rights and my mom providing the first shred of integration in the county school system when she took a job teaching in an all-black high school.  I was in high school before my school was integrated. I am so grateful to have had enlightened parents who guided my thinking and behavior. I often felt like an outsider, but I never felt wrong.  


    Is it true that on college football Saturday in Alabama there isn’t any traffic because most citizens are either at the game or watching it on television?

    Oh, yes.  It’s all true.  College football is the social event of the fall in the South.  I have a friend whose dad went to the first half of an Alabama game before driving the two hours to his son’s wedding that afternoon -- just to avoid breaking his attendance streak.  You haven’t really experienced full-out college football until you’ve been to an SEC game. Roll, Tide!
     

    Harper Lee is from Alabama. Do you have a Harper Lee story? 

    I do.  I am the proud mother of a daughter who served Harper Lee at a restaurant in Tuscaloosa while waitressing during college; she (my daughter, that is) named my first grandchild Harper.  And I have a college friend whose aunt was friends with “Nell” -- close enough? And I had a great dane named Atticus. And last summer I made a special bucket-list trip to Monroeville to walk around the very town square that inspired that iconic novel.  And I am currently making plans to go to New York this fall for the sole purpose of seeing the Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird.  

     
    How and when did you make your way to Phoenix?

    I have lived here since 1983, when my husband transferred from the Chicago office of his law firm (they called the new partnership with Phoenix the “acquisition”) to the Phoenix office (they called it the “merger”).  We had been in the Chicago areas for almost eight years. While I loved my time there and all the experiences that the Second City provided, I never really felt at home. I did immediately in Phoenix.
     
     
    You have a JD (a Juris Doctorate), so you can practice law.  Where and when did you earn this degree?

    I graduated from John Marshall Law School in Chicago in 1980.  What I remember about law school: My first daughter was meticulously planned to be born during Christmas break so that I wouldn’t miss class; she cooperated beautifully.  My second was born smack in the middle of the semester fifteen months later. I was three months pregnant with my first son when I graduated a little over a year after that.  


    Can you tell us when you decided to become an English teacher, and how did you wind up at Brophy Prep?

    Although I practiced law early on, I ended up staying home with my children for thirteen years.  In 2000, when my three oldest were attending out-of-state universities, it was time to return to the workforce.  I had been contemplating teaching high school English and was looking into the certification process when I fell into an opening in the Admissions Office here at Brophy.  It was serendipitous. I took the job with a full disclaimer that my sights were set on the English Department. Within two years I was in the classroom. Love my job!
     
     
    Which grade levels have you taught and what are you teaching now?

    I have taught all four grades and currently teach AP English III, AP English IV, and  English IV Emerging Voices (which will be replaced by War Stories next year).
      


     
    Which two books do you most enjoy teaching your students?

    My favorites are The Things They Carried for juniors and Let the Great World Spin for seniors.  The first I love for its overarching and confounding paradox and the second for its utter humanity.  
     
     
    Please tell us something about you ... something that no one would suspect.  

    Dare I mention my tattoo?  That I got when I was 62? It was during a time in my life when I just wanted to do something that even I wouldn’t expect myself to do.  I have a charming little shamrock that has all kinds of personal symbolism for me.
     
     
    Which five books would you bring with you if you were stuck on an island for the rest of your life? 
     
    Tough question!  Some of these might seem like (okay, they are) a cheat, but 
    they do exist:
    • The Complete Works of Shakespeare
    • The Complete Works of Mark Twain
    • Let the Great World Spin
    • The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart (poetry)
    • Not sure about the last one -- maybe another poetry anthology, maybe short stories, maybe an art book, maybe some kind of comprehensive history of the world (I love Sapiens!)?  This question is way too hard!!!!!  “She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain.” --- Louisa May Alcott 
  • > Mr. Scott Middlemist

    English Department Interview Series

    Are you a native Phoenician? If so, what was it like growing up in the valley?
     
    I was born in Minneapolis in 1968 but moved to Phoenix in 1970. I grew up near Granada Park in a Central Phoenix neighborhood full of kids, so days were spent fishing in the park, riding bikes, shooting hoops, shooting pellet guns, and swimming all summer.
     
    We know that you attended Brophy. What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your time as a bronco?
     
    I think Fr. Renna said it best, “If you feel content when you graduate from Brophy, then we failed you.” The Jesuits challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and make an impact. That lesson led me to become an Army officer, teacher and coach.
      
    Where did you attend university, and tell us about your favorite classes there?
     
    I went to Santa Clara, and I majored in English with a creative writing emphasis. Classes that I remember well are fiction and poetry writing, as well as play writing and creative nonfiction. I’m addicted to great stories, and those classes taught me how to create my own.
     
    Why do you believe our English department is comprised of three teachers from the same university?
     
    As Seamus Walsh says, Santa Clara is the “Harvard of the west.” Kidding aside, Santa Clara taught us to serve, and using our English majors to serve a Jesuit high school is a natural calling and a great fit for how we are wired.
     
    How many years have you been teaching at Brophy, and do you have a favorite grade level that you like to teach?
     
    26 years, and most with freshmen, who are not too jaded and willing to work as hard as they can to become better readers and writers. Freshmen have great energy and it keeps me on my toes.
     
    Do you have a favorite book that you like to teach?

    The Once and Future King by T. H. White remains a favorite since I first read it in 7th grade. King Arthur’s selfless desire to create a just kingdom still inspires me today. Arthur believed that “Might for Right” should guide all powerful nations and is an ideal everyone should embrace.  

    What is the one thing that you want your son, Ryan, to take away from his time here at Brophy? (Mr. Middlemist’s son Ryan is a senior.)
     
    I hope he feels the same way I did when I graduated in that I want him to strive outside his comfort zone when possible, make an impact in his community, and fight off “contentment.”
     
    What is it like seeing your son around campus during the day?
     
    I’ve learned so much about Brophy through his experiences as a student. Particularly, traveling with him to KBI, through his immersion trip to El Salvador, as a pole vaulter on the track team, and through his amazing growth as a speaker and writer.
      
    We hear that you are a big Star Wars fan. How long have you been a fan, and do you have a favorite Star Wars movie?
     
    I saw the first episode, “A New Hope,” in 1977 when I was 7 years old at the old Cine Capri on 24th street and Camelback. It came out mid-week, and my dad, sister and I were three of maybe twenty people in the whole theater. My mind was blown, and certainly my love of King Arthur fueled my obsession with Jedi Knights, lightsabers and the epic struggle of good vs. evil. I didn’t like “The Empire Strikes Back” when it first came out, but over time it has become my favorite, particularly the mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett.

    What is your favorite genre of literature? 

    I really enjoy speculative fiction, particularly horror and sci-fi authors like Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, T.H. White, Phillip Pullman, Ted Chiang, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Peter Clines, and many others. I’m starving for stories that push the limits of my imagination that pull me in like a moth to a flame.

    If you were stuck on an island for five years, which five books would you bring with you?
     
    The Once and Future King by T.H. White, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Dark Tower saga by Stephen King, Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger, and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
  • > Mr. Chad Unrein

    English Department Interview Series

    Where were you raised? And do you believe being raised there influenced the trajectory of your life? 

    I was born in southern Arizona, but moved to Phoenix before starting high school. The move from southern Arizona copper mining towns to gigantic Phoenix caused a radical shift in my culture. I wasn’t quite ready for it and it took a little while for me to adjust as a kid, but I really value both experiences and believe they shaped who I am today.

    Did you know -- as an undergraduate at Arizona State University -- that you would eventually secure an MFA in Creative Writing?

    Not at all, but I was always drawn to reading and writing. Books kind of saved me as a kid, but I resisted that path because I didn’t consider myself (or want to be known as) a literati. I was pretty rudderless at ASU as an undergrad, but kept gravitating toward language arts and history. My first real job out of college was as a reporter and it taught me that the kind of writing I was doing was not the kind that I enjoyed. By that time in my life, I knew what type of writing I should be doing. My time in ASU’s MFA program was validation of that.
     
    How long have you been teaching at Brophy College Prep?

    11 years
     
    Where did you teach before you secured a position at Brophy?

    Arizona State University
     
    What is your favorite book to teach with your students?
     
    I’ve really enjoyed teaching T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain the past few years.
    There are no heroes in that book. It’s a book that challenges students' assumptions and forces some critical thoughts and perspectives about immigration.

    Do you have a favorite author? And why do you find him or her interesting?

    I pray at the altar of Tobias Wolff. I love his writing, especially the elegance of his sentences, but mostly how he creates stakes with everyday people and situations, but is still able to pull off simple moments of grace. 
     
    Tell us something about yourself that we would never suspect?
     
    I’m actually only 5’7 ¾” and not 5’8” as is often reported.
     
    Do you find it difficult coaching two sports – baseball and football -- and teaching five sections of English?

    Not really. To quote Hyman Roth from The Godfather, part II: “This is the business we’ve chosen!” I think every professional teacher does something to extend their teaching beyond the classroom. When I think of all the things that playing football and baseball taught me, and how essential those lessons are in my everyday life, teaching outside of the classroom becomes a really essential part of the profession for me.

    What is one thing about Brophy that you are excited to share with your son next year? (Mr. Unrein’s son, Jude, will be a freshman in 2019.)

    I’m excited for him to encounter the part of the Jesuit curriculum that is hard to describe to people beyond cliches. I don’t think it is one thing; it’s just a chipping away at many things over four years.
     
    Which five books would you bring with you if you were stuck on an island for five years?

    For sure, Robinson Crusoe as a manual, but books that I could read, finish, and start again:
    • Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (family) 
    • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (love) 
    • The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (grace) 
    • The Collected Stories of Reynold’s Price (forgiveness and redemption) 
    • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (fate)     

  • > Mr. Seamus Walsh

    English Department Interview Series

    Do you think it is a coincidence that Joan Didion and you are both from Sacramento?
     
    We both are from Sacramento and studied English in the Bay Area.  After that, I humbly bend the knee.  

    Is it true that you attended a Jesuit high school?  Can you tell us about that experience? 

    I did study at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, one of only two Catholic school options for boys there.  I grew up a Catholic, the son of a Catholic school English teacher and the grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants.  The Jesuits made that cultural, familial faith tradition a more communal and action-oriented faith for me. The experience wasn’t the richness of a Brophy Jesuit experience--no Kairos there yet, no immersion programs, no Summits, etc.--but the seeds of what schools like Brophy are now were planted, and we saw the early fruits.  Hopefully, we watered them a little too.


    What did you major in at Santa Clara University, and who there inspired your career as both an English teacher and as an administrator?
     
    I majored in English and minored in Classical Studies.  I’ve always adored story and its way of revealing the world and all its characters.  I think it was Jung that said we all shared a collective unconscious, and I always felt like any character you met in a story--short, novel, non-fiction, film--resonated in some small or maybe large way with him or her from another story. I think Jung had it right there.  Inspiration was everywhere. Professor Zorn was my first English teacher there (ask Dean Pidgeon about him). Amazing. Dr. Wade and my Beowulf seminar. Fr. Rynes. Dr. Heath. There were so many. Really smart men and women who had a passion for story and teaching. That’s all I needed.


    What did you do right after graduation, and how did you end up in Phoenix? 

    I volunteered for two years in a non-profit called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  My first year I taught 6th grade in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, at Dolores Mission School.  If you read Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, that was the epicenter.  Amazing year. Difficult year. As a JV that year, I made a trip to Phoenix to visit the JV community at Thanksgiving, and met Mr. Schmidbauer.  We struck up what to this day has been a formative friendship for me. Brophy had an opening the next year to work in the Christian Service Office (now the OFJ), and I came here and never looked back.


    Did you attend graduate school? 
     
    I have a Master of Educational Leadership degree from Northern Arizona University, and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University.


    What are some of your responsibilities as the Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs?
     
    My responsibilities include interviewing and hiring when we have positions to fill, observing and offering feedback to teachers, working with department chairs on curriculum and teaching assignments, directing summer school, coordinating dual enrollment and professional development, and otherwise doing whatever is necessary to keep the school running smoothly.


     
    How many years have you been at Brophy, and what are some of the positions you have held here through the years? 
     
    I’m finishing my 24th year at Brophy.  In that time I’ve taught twelve different courses in three departments (English, Religious Studies, World Language), worked in the Christian Service Office/Office of Peace and Justice/Office of Faith and Justice, directed the Work Study program, coordinated our Accreditation process, attended or directed around 25 Kairoses, and have served as an Assistant Principal for the last 14 years.


    How many years have you been teaching English, and what is your favorite class?
     
    I’ve taught English every year since 1996: freshmen, sophomores, and seniors.  I’ve loved all my classes. Each one has its own return, you know. From a breadth-of-story perspective, though, I’d have to say the Modern Fiction class I taught seniors for many years.  So much good short fiction in the early 1900s. You could find anything there on display.
     
     
    Do you have a favorite book that you like to teach?  

    There are a few.  Cold Mountain.  The Bluest Eye.  Clockwork Orange.Disgrace.  Blindness.  So many to choose from.  Really depends on the level and course outcomes.

     
    Tell us something surprising … something that we would never suspect.  

    I think Prince was a musical genius.


     
    If you, with your wife and daughters, were to live in the Yukon for one year, which five books would you bring with you? 

    Presuming we can each bring five (if not, I’ll only take one and let them pick the rest), mine would be Cold Mountain, Siddhartha, Let the Great World Spin, The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor, and A Confederacy of Dunces.