At about the same age as the Cadets he teaches, Pat Callahan knew he would do just that.
His eighth-grade English teacher at St. Joseph’s, James Hamburge, influenced Callahan greatly, as did the school’s principal, Tom Gagliardi. So, does Callahan try to emulate them or others who taught him at St. Joseph’s or at Archbishop Brady High School?
“A little bit,” he admitted, “but I’m pretty much me. One thing I’ve learned is that you have to be yourself.”
Callahan does carry forward his mentors’ key traits of dedication and enthusiasm for teaching and the subject matter in his English 8 and Honors Lit and Composition classes. “I’m pretty dedicated,” he said. “I think I relate well to the students, and I try to adjust my teaching to the various learning styles of the students. In reading and writing students have various skills, and you have to tailor the teaching to what they can understand and then build upon that.”
Part of what allows for that flexibility is the incredible diversity of the literature Callahan teaches. Among his favorites: Greek mythology, Shakespeare, Tara Westover’s Educated, Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, plus stand-by’s such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Hobbit.
Much of the common ground those titles cover concerns characters’ personal transformation, especially while confronting racial and social issues. Callahan builds a bridge from the classics to the contemporary.
His own history includes a B.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas followed by a teaching stint at St. Joseph’s from 1980-1984, He joined Saint Thomas Academy that year, and earned his M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas in 1987. Other roles at the Academy have included coaching soccer, baseball, football, and basketball and providing the public address voice at many events.
Callahan’s hobbies include golf, reading, biking, walking, and visiting Northern Minnesota. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 30 years. Their children are Matt ’12; Katie, who graduated from Visitation in 2009; and Maria, who graduated from Visitation in 2018. Katie and her husband, Nick, started the next generation of Callahans with their daughter, Emma.
Even in Callahan’s 37th year at Saint Thomas Academy, what excites him the most “is coming to school every day,” he said. “I wake up and realize and I get to go teach! That’s even more so now, because we are back from COVID. I cherish the job even more. There was a void in my life.”
Perhaps that sense of a void comes from the immense joy Callahan takes in the everyday delights of teaching. “Sometimes it’s a little thing,” he said. “A kid who comes through on a test or turns in a great paper after he’s been in for a lot of tutoring.”
Then there are the occasional letters he receives from past students and even a standout moment Callahan shares in this memory: “I had a colleague, Dave Bassett, a science teacher for many years, who fought cancer and died. At the wake, I introduced myself to his son, Dave Bassett III, whom I had taught. He said, ‘You don’t have to introduce yourself. I know exactly who you are.’ He introduced me to his wife: ‘This is Pat Callahan. He taught me how to write.’ That was the first wake I ever left feeling sky high.”