Upper School Director Brian Edel tells good stories. One of them is that he was named best storyteller in his graduating class at New Prague High School. Edel also tells the story of how his history teacher there, Dan Puls, inspired him to become an educator.
“He was kind of like a nutty professor,” Edel recalled. “He was unconventional, but he connected the dots in a way that made world events interconnected, and that resonated with me. Every day in class he had so much energy and passion. He not only taught it, but also lived it. He could take the most mundane of historical events and connect them to your life. Myself and my peers, every day we couldn’t wait to get to Mr. Puls’ class. It was legendary.”
Then there was the time that Mr. Puls got suspended and Edel, fresh out of St. John’s University, took his mentor’s place. Puls allegedly “incited” a student walkout in protest of New Prague not recognizing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“I was 22 years old, teaching 18-year-olds,” Edel said. “The whole town was in an uproar. There were a lot of PTA and school board meetings. A lot of my old teachers who I had terrific relationships with would not talk to me because I was a scab. It was a really interesting experience. I’d go to Mr. Puls’ house at night and work to get everything right and make sure the kids had the experience they were hoping to get.”
Then there was the time Edel was student teaching in New Zealand, bridging gaps between the native Maori students and their “pakeha” (white or non-Maori) counterparts.
Then there was the time Edel ran a job search online, meant to click on California, but accidentally clicked Connecticut instead and ended up spending the next five years in the Nutmeg States as a teacher and then administrator at a therapeutic boarding school. “It was an amazing experience,” he said. “I was a stone’s throw from the beach and not far from New York City and Boston.”
Between his beloved road trips and coastal drives, Edel also earned his M.A in Interdisciplinary Special Education from Southern Connecticut State University and M.A in Advanced Educational Leadership from the University of New England. That was also the birthplace of his elder son, Liam ’25, since joined by a sister, Alena, who is a fifth grader at Visitation, and a brother, Reid, attending kindergarten in Hastings.
Edel returned to Minnesota from New England to teach and coach basketball in the Hastings School District and arrived at the Academy in 2011 as Dean of Students. He has served as basketball coach, crack drill team moderator, and founder/co-moderator of the Model United Nations team.
Edel frequently accompanies the band on its European trips and has visited China, all in support of his lifelong interests in world affairs and travel, passed down from his grandparents. “They were farmers in rural Minnesota,” he explained. “But their natural curiosity got them to about 100 countries, and they passed that on to me. I was the first person in my family to go to college.”
Between his unique experience with Mr. Puls and world views shaped by travel, Edel settled on a student-centric approach to education: “Meet students where they are, recognize the gifts and talents they each bring, and help them grow and reach their maximum potential.”
His greatest motivation and satisfaction comes from the Cadets themselves, he said. “I enjoy the boys. When I’ve had some tough phone calls or some bad news, I just walk through the buildings, and every day I find myself in awe of the way they handle themselves, manage themselves, carry themselves, and speak.”
Then there was the time at the graduation ceremony in his fourth year at the Academy. Edel realized that the Cadets “had come in with me when they were freshmen, and I realized the full scope of what we do and its impact,” he said. “They’d come in scared and not knowing anyone or anything, but then they’d worked so hard and matured, and it was like a proud parent moment for me.”
That’s Edel’s story, and he’s sticking to it.