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Meet the New Faculty: Dr. Kellen Plaxco

Senior Sean Dolan recently interviewed our newest Theology teacher, Dr. Kellen Plaxco, for The Record's "Faces of Priory" feature.

Kellen PlaxcoCan you tell me a little bit about your background?

I am originally from Arkansas, grew up in Texas, and was raised Baptist. I went to Baylor University. I thought that I would go into a seminary and become a Baptist minister. I ended up going to Princeton Seminary, which led me away from Baptist life. I eventually did a masters of Classics at Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in Theology at Marquette, and I began to drift towards the Catholic Church. It was a six- or seven-year period where I slowly became Catholic and finally really became Catholic in 2011. I met my wife in Chicago. We spent a year in Belgium on a Fulbright scholarship and had our first son there. I came back and finished my Ph.D. We moved back to St. Louis because her family is from St. Louis. I taught at colleges like SLU, Lindenwood, and the seminary, and I started to look into teaching Classics in secondary school because my background is in Classics. I started teaching part-time at Clayton three years ago. That led to another part-time job at Ladue, and eventually to a full-time position here. I would say that if there was a thread for me in all that that relates to Priory it would be that I see theology and Classics as deeply intertwined. I have always wanted to work at a place, whether it be a high school or in higher ed., where people would be open to me having a role that sees those things as interfacing and important.

How do you like teaching at Priory so far?

It has been really good. I don’t want to flatter my juniors too much, but the first of the essays I read from them that are serious essays are excellent. And in general, I would say that the seriousness and thoughtfulness I have encountered has been really refreshing. And I have been impressed with the culture. It has been really enjoyable. I feel like my colleagues are really supportive, open, friendly, and helpful, and I also feel the kind of freedom to be the teacher I want to be. I think it is a good balance.

You came from Ladue, so how has teaching at Priory been different and/or similar?

It has been mainly different, partly because my position at Ladue was part-time and in a different subject. I was teaching Latin at Ladue and now I’m teaching theology. The thing is at Ladue the Latin program is very, very small, and it is a very big school. ... But for me, the difference is really the intangibles and the atmosphere. If I could put that into a picture, it would just be that I don’t work in a concrete jungle anymore. I really like the environment here, the physical one. I like the fact that I can look out a window and see a natural setting and walk across that and enjoy it. I mean I think that it really does affect your mentality. I think it affects the morale of students, especially boys. In a public high school like Ladue, it can be exhausting for kids, for students, to be in a building all day, obviously. So I feel like if there is any one single thing that I would say is different, I wouldn’t say that it’s the students or my classes, I would say that it would have to do with the larger setting.

Outside of teaching, do you have any hobbies you enjoy?

Right now, I have two young boys so they take up almost all my time outside of teaching. I find myself teaching at home. I enjoy building Legos with them. I gave my five-year-old my legos this last April for his birthday. I had a white tub with hundreds. My mom saved them and we brought them back from Texas. For his birthday, I dumped them on the floor and was like, "Alright, happy birthday!" I enjoy taking pleasure in the things that John and Ben do. Other than that, I have little hobbies. I made beer for a few years. Most recently, I have tinkered around with making my own yeast starter for bread. So this fall, I maintained a sourdough yeast starter for a few months, baked a lot of bread, and kind of played around with that. I really like cooking. I really like smoking meat. I have two different ways to smoke meat, and I do that all summer. As soon as the weather gets nice in the spring, I’ll do just about every weekend if I can. I like cooking. I like playing with the boys. I like reading.

Do you have any goals for the future?

You know, I think short-term goals would be to build relationships with my new colleagues and the students. I think that if I have any overarching goal for what it means to be a good teacher, it is to win the trust of my students and that takes time. You have to take calculated risks. You have to push students, and at the same time be there when they need you. That is not something to be rushed. So that is both a short-term goal and a long-term goal. And in terms of the department and what I’m doing here, I think that at a programmatic level, I would say that I am interested in building bridges between Classics and Theology. Not that there need to be bridges, but fostering a working relationship with my colleagues in Classics is important to me. I want to begin to shape my little niche in the department and see how that shakes out.

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.”

Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” –Chapter 4, 25-26

“Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.”

Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Chapter 48, 1

“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

Chapter 49, 1

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).”

Chapter 53, 1

“Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.”

Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4


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Saint Louis Priory School

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