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Spot The Difference: Learning More About The Men Of The 400s

One time when I was walking out of my English class in Room 407 with Mr. Dave Anderson ‘07, I thought he changed his clothes for his next set.  It was just history teacher Mr. Larry Reel ‘91 from the classroom next door. “Same difference,” I thought to myself, and I went about my day.  […]

One time when I was walking out of my English class in Room 407 with Mr. Dave Anderson ‘07, I thought he changed his clothes for his next set. 

It was just history teacher Mr. Larry Reel ‘91 from the classroom next door. “Same difference,” I thought to myself, and I went about my day. 

In my four years at Christian Brothers, I have been no stranger to the 400s hallway. But entering my final year, I started to blur the male teachers into one. Was it the fatigue of senior year that blended one teacher into another? Or was it that they all looked vaguely similar to me if I squinted? I didn’t know, but I resolved to find out what made each teacher different from his co-worker. 

Of the six educators, I have only had half of them as teachers with AP Government and AP Psychology teacher Mr. Vince Leporini as the exception, as I knew of him despite never having his class. Despite taking their classes, I realized there was only so much to learn from each man I had had as a teacher. I scheduled an interview with each person, past teacher or not, under the intention of finding out more about them. Secretly, I hoped my hyperbolic statements about them being the same person would be correct. 

Let’s start with the similarities. Each of the six men I interviewed are huge nerds. Despite their differences, each man is just a humanities teacher with a little niche hobby or interest that makes me want to put them all in the same little box. 

Lep enjoys drawing caricatures that he hopes will be put into a picture book for his children. Nerd. 

Anderson actively enjoys reading and golf. Nerd. 

AP US History teacher Mr. Michael Hood has read, like, seven books on Stalin. Nerd.

History teacher Mr. Eric “Stretch” Jones is an active Reddit user and claimed enthusiastically that he loves bicycles. Nerddddddd.

And if you think I think I’m trying to bully them for their interests, I’m not. I am glad these dorky men have hobbies. But God, who would have thought their little interests would group them together more than anything else?

I should mention, when I started this article, it was never to erase the identities of each man. It was just comical that I could count the similarities between each man and that they all happened to teach within feet of one another. It was like somehow through the thin walls of the 400s classroom they were merging into one. And I enjoyed the idea of proving myself wrong with how easily I grouped them together.

I did prove myself wrong by the way, not because I learned Hood is different because he went to Chico while Stretch went to Sac State. It was in the manners of interviews themselves. I must address that each one of these men has some power and respect that I must give them considering I am a student and they are all teachers. So while I withhold some of my judgments of each man out of respect and fear for their position, you should rest assured that these are honest impressions of these similar men.

My interview with history teacher Mr. Dave Desmond ‘94 does not give me as much new information compared to the others, but rather, it confirms what I already know about him. I learned that he considered law school and government positions such as lobbyist or archivist because, in his own words, “I love doing research”.  In truth, he found a teaching job as a placeholder before law school and never stopped. I find his path to teaching interesting, but the most important aspect of the interview confirms what I already knew about him. In Mr. Hood’s words, Mr. Desmond “very kind to every person — it’s amazing”. He remains to be amiable and easy to talk to, and he seems to possess a skill in not being able to say a mean word against anybody. 

In my interview, he speaks highly of me, my friends, a freshman who comes in to ask a question, his coworkers, his school, and his high school friends. Our interview was interrupted three times: once by fellow history teacher and 400s resident Mrs. Erin Hanshew, once by a freshman, and once by Lep and Andersonm who inquire where the three will be hanging out after work.  

I have known Mr. Hood the longest out of all of the teachers I interviewed, so the nature of the interview was very conversational. Hood’s honesty surprises me. Like the other men of the 400s, he grew up in Sacramento. “Phoebe Hearst Elementary, Sutter Middle, Sac High” he recounts. He tells me that he “really was not a great student in high school,” leading him to Sac City College before Chico State. His story surprises me — who would have thought that nerdy little Stalin-biography reading Mr. Hood would have been such a bad student? But because of his educational journey, he reflects on his choices with more candor than his peers. 

“I don’t necessarily have regrets, but I do wish I had been more intentional. I wish I was a little more conscious about where I was going to end up and what job. I didn’t realize what it actually entailed to teach and what it involves.”

He gave me advice to take my time after high school seriously, and I admire how open he is about his vocational path. I don’t see him as melancholy with his life, but his reflection on it is serious and his pensiveness comes to the forefront. Then he spills coffee on himself and curses aloud and I am once again reminded why this 400s teacher remains my favorite. 

Mr. Leporini is a well-loved teacher on campus, but despite my classmates’ opinions and my few conversations from being in the Scholar’s program, I didn’t know him very well. We should start with the fact that I was promised a churro on my Senior Scholars trip after volunteering to work at the Class of 2022 graduation, and he did not follow through. Maybe he’s different from the others because he breaks promises, I thought. 

I branded Lep down to be a sarcastic teacher whose nerdiness brought him to teaching American Government. And I was half right because while the nerdiness is true, Lep is also very deliberate and contemplative. Everything we discussed, whether it be his children or how my article should be organized, was given thorough examination, and our conversation was one of the longest of the six. 

Lep explains that teaching was always his vocation, something he narrows down to “what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, what you get paid for”. I tell him I would become bored easily teaching, but he replies that “life is pretty boring unless you make a boring task fun in some way”. With this mindset, I have found out why Lep is different from his peers. 

Having Anderson as a teacher is a stark contrast to keeping conversation with him. He is much quieter and reserved, but his responses are coherent and methodical. In his own words “I was one of those kids where there were a lot of different things that I could see myself doing,” but he fell into and enjoys the role of a teacher. He believes there isn’t a reason to stop or change careers if teaching satisfies him.

I enjoy his precision in what he chooses to say, especially when he speaks about one of his main hobbies: golf. I also find this ironic because golf is extremely boring, and yet I am interested in how Anderson presents it. “It takes a lot of patience and resilience. And it’s cliche, but I have learned patience through playing” he says. “It’s a game of strategy that you can never really master — there’s always room for improvement” The interview continues about books he has read, a temporary tattoo he has on his arm from indulging his C Set class, and by the end of our conversation, I conclude Anderson is different because of his ability to teach and converse in such different ways.

I had never spoken a word to Mr. Jones before this interview and was skeptical about approaching him. The past few months that I saw him in the hallways, I called him ‘Stretch’ and I wondered how his sense of humor would compare to mine. Luckily, he accepts the premise of my article and my nickname for him wholeheartedly. His openness makes him very alluring. This is Stretch’s first year at CB, so I struggle with pinning him down at first, only seeing him in comparison to the other teachers. 

He’s animated like Lep. He’s taller than Hood. He’s conversational like Desmond. And just like the rest of them, he’s a huge nerd. He collects wristwatches, and when I ask why, he says “I like the intricacies of them, but at the same time I like how [a watch] shows a story, the passage of time.” How philosophical. He is very fun to talk to and may have been my favorite interview. Out of my own curiosity, I ask him what his zodiac sign is. After finding out he’s an Aquarius, I ask if he believes in astrology. His answer surprises me:

“Any way of trying to interpret your world just shows that somebody is curious and somebody is looking at the world and looking beyond themselves and just trying to ask questions and that’s cool with me” 

While I worried he might shun or mock astrology, Stretch accepts it, showing once again how open he is. We continue to talk about his past education at Sac State, where he studied geography and his work as a city planner before he found teaching. At one point he tells me he loves bikes and specifies he means bicycles not motorcycles. I resist my temptation to tell him that by the look of him, that it’s obvious he means bicycles, but I don’t. I just appreciate his enthusiasm and I let him talk about bike commutes. Stretch stands out for his enthusiasm for one thing, but mostly for his nerdy little side projects. I adore it.

Mr. Reel is such a fascinating interview. For one, he is very honest like Hood. He tells me immediately that he is introverted but he comes across that way anyways. He tells me he doesn’t do as well with small talk, and I am almost grateful because we get to skip it and dive into my questions. He began work in undergrad at a job at Wells Fargo before trying teaching after his wife turned down an option for a teaching position at her alma mater Loretto and he took it instead. Now he has been teaching for 23 years.

Reel is awkward, but endearing. I enjoy hearing how he approaches teaching and how he knows to combine his “introverted-ness” with his teaching style. His comments on coaching stick out as well. “Athletics always asks you as an individual to get better whereas classrooms tend to ask you to improve in comparison to other people.” It makes sense that he enjoys the one-on-one nature as it gives him more opportunity to know his students without the confinements or structure of the classroom. From him, I confirm that I will never know someone in just 20 minutes of interviewing them, but I do enjoy the 20 minutes I spend with him. 

What’s my conclusion? I have enough to write about each teacher and I wrote each with the obvious differences to distinguish everyone from one another. But what do I know? Each man doesn’t truly care if I see them as the same because they know they aren’t. Everyone knows that despite similarities and similar circumstances, they aren’t the exact person as someone else. 

How many books have told us that we are special and unique and should just be ourselves? The same applies for the teachers in the 400s too. So they shouldn’t care what I think. As for me, I think I have to understand that deep down my need to label people does nothing. 

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