The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Kristina Brown

Senior high English teacher Mr. Tom Backen has spent 33 years at BSM, teaching a variety of English classes. Backen started classes such as Film Studies and Debate as well.

Tom Backen

Knight Errant: What drew you towards BSM?

Tom Backen: I was teaching at a Catholic high school in St. Cloud that was pretty similar to BSM. There were several teachers there that were nuns, who were leaving Cathedral High School to come and teach at BSM, so [I had] that connection [with BSM]. At that school, I taught everything I could, and I felt it was time for a change. I asked a nun if there was an opening at BSM; she said she’[d] let me know, and she did. I applied, interviewed, and got the job.

KE: What kept you here?

TB: I love Catholic high school education; I love the freedom it allows to choose curriculum. I love the very healthy and rigorous learning environment, which is both good for students and teachers. I love the community feel at BSM, I love the highly qualified colleagues, people who constantly want to change and evolve and improve, not people who are content to do things the same way. I [also] love students here; the students are great, and I love the families.

KE: Which clubs and activities have you helped with?

TB: I started the debate team. The first year I coached for free because we decided in the fall there were kids interested, and I said, “Well, let’s give it a whirl.” By then the budget had been set; there was no salary, so I did it for free to see if there was enough interest and if we could sustain it.

KE: Could you share a favorite memory or two of your time here at BSM?

TB:It’s hard to pick one; I have a lot of them, mostly involving students in the classroom. There are a lot of good memories, from years ago as well as currently. One of my career highlights was probably having two national champions in debate the same year. Coaching kids to success in debate and speech has been great. There are [also] lots of classroom interactions that make me laugh.

KE: What will you do after retiring?

TB: I will relax, read, watch movies to my heart’s content, and not have to follow a schedule. I have lived by the bells since I was in Kindergarten. Most people do it through twelfth grade, but I’ve become a teacher [so I did it longer].

KE: Will you remain involved with the BSM community in any way?

TB: Probably not. [I’m] sad to say [that, but] I’m moving to Wisconsin. I have land in Wisconsin, and I’m building a house out in the woods, like Thoreau but with a few modern conveniences.

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