Brian Parsons identifies himself as a “vagabond” of the Midwest, having bounced around cities such as St. Louis, Grand Rapids, and Cincinnati with his family of four before returning here several years ago. The constant during all of these moves – besides his wife Jillian and two children Megan and Colin – was a passion for English instruction and working with young people.
Prior to joining Crossroads’s as the 9th grade English teacher, Brian taught English at a high school in Cincinnati, worked as a writing instructor and academic advisor at Aquinas College in Michigan, and served as a youth minister at his church upon returning to St. Louis. But he couldn’t resist the pull back to teaching when he learned of an opening in Crossroads’s English department.
“I didn’t know I was missing this environment, but with the collegiality of the faculty, the engagement of the students, and the values and rigor of the program, I realized that this is what I am supposed to be doing,” he says.
This year, Brian is focused on bringing to life some of the classics during the 9th grade’s World Literature requirement. “While our texts are from 2000 BC to 100 AD, our themes are universal,” he notes. “When we’re reading Gilgamesh, we’re ultimately reading a story about friendship. His best friend dies and he goes through this catharsis. As a class, we discuss our own experiences of loss and connect our humanity to a character from 2,500 years ago.”
Brian notes that the emphasis on reading comprehension in World Lit can be a challenge. “This isn’t the Young Adult literature they may be reading in their free time,” he adds. “As a college preparatory school we want to show them they have the ability to interpret texts that are challenging and succeed.”
The senior elective Brian teaches, Based on a True Story, deepens students’ look at characterization. Students delved into “In Cold Blood” and “Columbine” in the first quarter, and are tackling the subjects of captivity and self-reliance in the second quarter, reading “Twelve Years a Slave” and “Unbroken.”
“It’s very different from the World Lit class,” he notes. “Students are empowered to lead discussions because they now have the maturity to do it and it’s going to be expected of them at the college level.”
Brian describes himself as “60 days old” by Crossroads standards, but is relishing the opportunity to further collaborate with his colleagues and advance his goals for students. “I want to help students become more active readers and better writers. Our middle school has already laid an excellent foundation and I’m excited to be part of this bridge to college-level reading and writing.”