Teachers explain the difference in teaching at public vs. private schools


Jessie Willie

Science teacher Lindsey Novak has taught at both public and private schools, and has seen the similarities and differences first hand.

Students at BSM have the advantages of a private school education; students learn discipline, respect for teachers and fellow students, smaller class size and are taught a strict curriculum in a Catholic education setting. Many teachers at BSM arrived from private schools while others transitioned over from public. 

Making the switch to a new school, whether as a student or a teacher, can be challenging. The reasons people shift from one scene to another can vary. “Back when I first started teaching, finances were a little rough in the public school sector, and so my position was eliminated. I was looking for jobs; I was not focusing on public or private, just any available job and I saw this one and applied. So it wasn’t a conscious decision to start working at a private school; it just happened to be the right place at the right time,” science teacher Lindsey Novak said. 

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Once at BSM, teachers recognize BSM’s welcoming environment for its students and administration, which allows students to get acquainted and trust teachers, forming bonds that will last throughout high school. “There’s an environment that makes me feel valued and love. I know that sounds cliche to call us a family, because everyone says that, but I have been to other schools, and I love my students and I love my coworkers and I have cried with students and my coworkers before,” English teacher Katie Belanger said. 

There are also similarities between teaching at a private and a public school. For instance, the students share common difficulties. “The kids are the same. I loved my kids at the public school, just like I love my students here. I find that students have the same problems and joys no matter where you go,” Novak said, who previously worked at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School. 

The kids are the same. I loved my kids at the public school, just like I love my students here. I find that students have the same problems and joys no matter where you go.

— Lindsey Novak

Class sizing is, however, a major difference between public schools and private. BSM tends to have smaller classes, which helps students interact in class and connect with their teachers. “I think the environment here has an opportunity to really help individual students engage in a community. It’s a much smaller environment, and I really do value that smaller environment, coming from a school that students were 40 in a class and upwards of 700-800 per grade level. It is a much more close-knit environment here at BSM than I think you get at a lot of the large metro public schools. I really think there is an opportunity there for students to get a little more individualized focus on their skill set and what they need to be the best students and people they can be,” English teacher Ryan Hogan, who previously taught at Hopkins, said.

At the end of the day, public and private schools both have pros and cons. However, students and teachers at BSM love the environment and unique qualities that a private school education has to offer.  “I really do feel like my colleagues and my administration have faith in me and they trust what I do in the classroom. That gives me so much courage to try new things,” Belanger said.