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Tim Woodcock, English Teacher or Alien? Both!

Tim WoodcockWithin one sentence of talking to Priory’s new English teacher Tim Woodcock, it’s evident you can’t ask him St. Louis’s favorite question. Don’t get us wrong…he’s happy to tell you where he went to high school. It’s just that you won’t recognize it. Tim grew up in High Wycombe, England, about 30 miles outside of London and halfway to Oxford. Yes, he went to school with headmasters and forms, and after years of immersing himself in American school systems with principals and grades, he’s now remembering his childhood with Priory’s use of British academic expressions.

Tim comes to Priory from Grand Center Arts Academy, a charter school in the city. It’s a fairly new school, still defining itself and creating traditions, versus Priory’s rich history and legacy. He has experience teaching in parochial and public schools, and feels that Priory is a better fit. “I’ve had a good experience teaching at Catholic institutions,” he said. “There’s a sense of community and belonging, and the kids have an understanding of who they are and why they’re in school, and how they fit into the bigger picture.”

Tim’s first career, though, was as a journalist. Having studied English literature and social policy at the University of Glasgow, he put his writing skills to work after college by crafting articles and features for a local newspaper in London. “I wanted to remake the world,” he said with a smile.  He also readily admits that “social policy” has far different implications in the U.S. “The American way of looking at class and social mobility is so different than the British view.” He was married by then, having met Katy at the University of Glasgow while she earned her PhD in Scottish literature. Since Katy is American, she could work in Britain only a short time. “We tried to live in London on one income, which is impossible, so we moved to the U.S. Katy is from St. Louis, so we came here and lived on one income again – this time hers – until we did all my paperwork.” This was right before September 11, 2001, so he was able to witness our country’s response to the devastating terrorist attacks. “I was getting acclimated to being here, still learning about the culture, and suddenly there was this big outpouring of patriotism: American flags everywhere, and even buses said ‘God Bless America’ on the front instead of the destination. There was this sea change of people reassessing and reasserting what they love about the U.S. While it didn’t make much practical difference for me, a white European coming here, I did see it change the debate about immigration, and how easily people can come and go. While I was applying for my green card, all the rules were changing.”

He began work at the West End Word newspaper as a general news reporter, eventually moving up to editor. He was offered the opportunity to teach a feature writing course at Saint Louis University as an adjunct professor, which gave him a taste of teaching. “For a while I had a foot in each world…I had a day job doing journalism but got my feet wet with teaching. I realized that this is what I want to be doing.” He saw that newspaper jobs were disappearing, and the new trend towards social media wasn’t appealing to him as a classically trained print journalist. Tim went back to school, earning a teaching certificate from University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Tim still keeps his fingers in journalism, writing for St. Louis Magazine during the summer. “I spend my summers finding ways to keep up writing. During the school year it’s hard to find time, so I put on my journalist hat when school is out.” He wrote a fun article for the magazine about a company called Woot, which started in St. Louis and is now a subsidiary of Amazon. He’s also profiled Lambert International Airport, including its history, recent tumultuous times, and prospects for its future.

He also likes to ride his bike in his spare time. His daughter, Freya, is now seven, and is getting to the stage where they can go out to ride together. The family lives fairly close to Forest Park, and Tim enjoys pedaling around there. They also travel in the summer, returning to England and jumping off from there to visit other parts of Europe, including a week exploring Denmark this summer.

Since he’s an English teacher, we asked him for book recommendations. “I like detective books and enjoy really well-written crime fiction,” he said. “Richard Price and Ian Rankin are good.” He points out that because he went to college in Britain, he wasn’t exposed to American literature. “I’m doing a certain amount of catching up. The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men, those are quite exotic to me. You need to know the American story to really understand it. What’s cliché to Americans is exciting to me.”

Fun facts about Tim Woodcock:

  • He once lived in a teepee for part of a summer. “We could fit about eight people in, with the fire in the middle, and of course there’s far less privacy than traditional living arrangements. You can’t retreat to your own little space.”
  • As an older teenager in Great Britain, he had a lot of freedom. “I would disappear for weeks at a time. I’d go to music festivals, camping with friends. That’s how I hooked up with the people who live in teepees.”
  • He says his “official title” is Alien Resident. “I’m an alien! I’m not an American citizen!”
  • Wife Katy, being a native St. Louisan, loves Imo’s pizza…but not Tim. “I used to politely eat it, but it tastes so objectionable to me that I just refuse now. It’s not in any shape or form good pizza.”
  • He does like other St. Louis culinary traditions: “I would endorse toasted ravioli.”
  • Daughter Freya’s name is Scandinavian, as Katy’s family is Norwegian by descent. “It’s a fairly common name in Britain, and especially in Scotland, but here no one has heard of it.”

Tim is currently teaching 8th Grade English and is moderating The Record. You can reach him at or ext. 234.

“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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