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#PREPpeople: Bill Britton

#PREPpeople is one in an occasional series of snapshots spotlighting the people of St. John's Prep.

Hometown: Atkinson, New Hampshire
Education: Master of Arts in English Literature
Years at St. John’s: 25 years
Subject: High School Social Studies

What brought you to St. John’s? I was in transition in terms of my career path, moving from the business world to education. My roots involve a high school education at a Xaverian Brothers high school in Lowell, MA. This was Keith Academy, an all-boys school that closed in 1970. I thought I might find a challenging opportunity for myself by revisiting those roots in the context of teaching and eventually coaching at St. John’s. It couldn’t have worked out better.

Describe a teacher who inspired you growing up: I was most inspired in high school by Brother Fabius, C.F.X. His ever positive attitude was infectious. He stimulated my interest in history and reading. He brought a sense of humor to all that he did, while also making himself forever available to all who wanted to talk or seek his counsel. He was a great listener. We remained friends long after I graduated from Keith Academy.

What's your favorite thing about teaching? Favorite thing about teaching at the Prep? My favorite thing about teaching is the connections we make with students, particularly in the classroom, but also in reviewing work and providing feedback. The poet Rod McKuen once said that “perspectives, like horizons, change.” As a veteran of the Vietnam War, it has been enormously rewarding to connect with young men, devoid of war-related experience, and expose them to the perspectives I’ve developed over time. In fact, my own horizons have been expanded in listening to and reading their refreshing points of view.

Have you always been a teacher? If you could do anything other than teach, what would you do? I’ve had three careers in my adult life. I was a Marine Officer during the war and though that lasted just over three years, it paved the way for the other things I’ve invested in, especially in my years at the Prep. I spent thirty-one years in the business world with varied experiences that were sometimes rewarding, but for the most part disappointing. It just wasn’t me, so it did not inspire me to be my best self. In short, teaching and coaching at St. John’s Prep has been the most fulfilling journey of my life. This is my life’s work!

What's one the funniest, most touching, or most memorable moments you've witnessed in the classroom? Among the most touching and memorable moments that have occurred over the past decade was when last year’s Distinguished Alumnus General Thomas Needham visited our War and Peace classroom. During his most recent visit, General Needham teared up as a student asked about the most difficult moment he ever had on the battlefield. He described identifying one of his fallen soldiers and placing his dog tags with his remains for return to his homeland. This is as genuine as it can get.

What’s a fun fact, hidden talent, or hobby you have that most people wouldn’t know about? I’ve written quite a lot of poetry over the years and shared some of it with my students as the occasion has arisen. It is my way of giving voice to my experience, a pathway for me to achieve a deeper understanding.

Extra fun fact: I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life as I’ve had for the past 25 years of my St. John’s journey.

If you could describe SJP in one word, what would it be and why? Sacred. St. John’s is a place where young men come to learn and begin to appreciate values that can enhance their life experiences and help them find the way. A Prep education can place a young man on what journalist David Brooks called, “the road to character.”