Priory Love Tyler


Mr. Orf, Teacher

Mr. Bussen will certainly deny this (as he does most vehemently in his current op-ed in The Record), but I have it on good authority that he actually likes his colleagues, his students, and his job. As my students will attest, I am constantly asking them for specific and factual evidence in support of their arguments. So it would be hypocritical of me not to hold myself to the same standard of evidentiary support. A little over two weeks ago, on the day of my wedding, Mr. Bussen, Mr. Nickolai, Dr. Plaxco, and Mr. Niemann (the President, CTO, and CEO of the startup ScholarPath) were huddling around a firepit (brought from home) in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Church in Florissant and proudly displaying a sign that read “Priory Love Tyler” (see photographic proof above). They had arrived over two hours before the actual ceremony. And they stuck it out ‘til well after the ceremony had ended on a day when the high temperature was barely above freezing. 

In my initial plan for this piece, I saw it as humorous and hyperbolic, a look at teachers outside their natural habitat (the classroom). But as I thought more about it I came to realize two things. One, comedy is best left to Mr. Bussen. And two, this is my opportunity to speak to what, in my opinion, sets Priory apart. 

As my wife and I attempted to plan our wedding during a pandemic, we saw our guest list shrink from 250 people to 40. Venues changed. Masks were mandated to keep those we love safe. We knew it was the right thing to do. We just wished we could have shared that moment with more of our friends and family. I arrived at the church, only to find my colleagues and friends posted up in the parking lot and cheering for each and every guest floored me. Mr. Nickolai, Mr. Bussen, Mr. Niemann, and Dr. Plaxco were the talk of the wedding. My family and friends were stunned and elated that my “friends from work” had gone to all the trouble to set up a tailgate at my wedding. My wife, Emily, absolutely loved every second of it. 

Six years into my tenure at Priory, I am lucky to have attended multiple weddings, Christmas parties, and casual gatherings of friends and colleagues. In many ways, my own relationships are reflected in the relationships I see among the student body. Priory is truly a place that builds friendships. And the trust and respect between the faculty, staff, and students is the driving force for this growth. 

During years unaffected by a pandemic, our campus would have been crowded with alums over the holidays. It’s a very Field of Dreams-esque phenomenon, alumni find themselves wandering up to campus without really knowing why. They see their classmates, their teachers, and provide some advice to the students still here. We, as teachers, look forward to those conversations, those moments. Our life, and the life of the school, are weirdly and inexplicably intertwined at times. The successes of our students and our colleagues are our successes. 

I write this not as a type of propaganda (another solid sophomore history reference), but as a reminder that the community that exists here takes all of us. Trust and respect do not happen magically. They are earned, built, grown. If we refuse to do our part, to put our faith and trust in the skill of our teachers, to turn our hearts to God, to listen each and every day to our students, to one another, then we run the risk of losing what sets Priory apart. And if you find yourself reading this and thinking, “well, what about this teacher, or this student…”, I would encourage you to look inward, and, like my friends Mr. Bussen, Mr. Niemann, Dr. Plaxco, and Mr. Nickolai, to think about how you can make a difference in the lives of others, even if making a difference is a hastily scribbled and grammatically incorrect sign taped to the back of your pickup truck.