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June 16, 2013

Christopher Klein

by Ross Cohen-Kristiansen, Managing Editor
Name: Christopher Klein
Department: English
First Year at Blair: 2011-2012
Classes Taught at Blair: Honors English 10, AP Language and Composition, English 10 bridge courses
Education: Undergraduate at Fordham University, Masters at Mercy College
Previous Jobs: Electrician, Calendar Clerk, Math Teacher
Hobbies: Playing Chess, Soccer and Volleyball, Reading Philosophy, Writing Novels and Poetry, DJing

Balancing a mug on top of folders in one hand and his lunch in the other, second-year teacher Christopher Klein walks toward his classroom. He needs time to straighten up the room and make final preparations for his 8th period English class.

Klein has followed a winding road to arrive at Blair. He grew up in the village of Island Park in New York. After graduating high school, he enrolled as an English major at Fordham University in New York City. There, he met his future wife, Lisa Masterson (Klein), currently a math teacher at Silver Spring International Middle School. During his time there, however, he switched his major to philosophy. His rationale: "I figure you should study what makes you fall asleep the least."

While at undergraduate school, Klein worked as an electrician. The daily sense of accomplishment combined with the physical endeavor made this job appealing to him. "I found something noble about manual labor," Klein says. Informed that it would be at least eight years before he could be admitted into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Klein decided to direct his career elsewhere.

His next job was at a medical malpractice law firm, where he worked as a calendar clerk. For a while, his tasks consisted of scheduling depositions and court appearances. He often completed his week's work in three days and then spent the last two days listening to music and managing his fantasy baseball team. "It was like the TV show 'The Office.' I was severely underemployed," Klein says. "[But] I had not yet mastered the art of looking busy." As a result, he was given much more to do. He began working as a paralegal, writing motions and doing legal research for cases that had not yet gone to trial. The partners informed him that if he were to spend five years at the firm and pass the bar exam, he would not need to attend law school. The idea of becoming a lawyer did not appeal to Klein. He was also put off by the way his colleagues casually spoke about people's trauma and pain. "No amount of money in the world could have kept me in that profession," Klein says.

Klein turned his attention to becoming a teacher. He taught math for two years in the Bronx before spending five years at Silver Spring International Middle School, the first four focused on math and the last one English. His next stop was Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, where he taught Algebra and Geometry for two years. Then, beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, Klein has taught at Blair.

Klein was a coach at Blair before he began teaching there. His first team was the girls’ junior varsity soccer. After finishing the season 11-1, he was appointed as girls’ varsity volleyball head coach. He has since added the coed volleyball team—focusing on a sport that he, himself, enjoys playing in an adult league.

A lackluster English experience at Fordham led Klein to trying to teach a more stimulating class. "I try to design lessons that are as engaging and useful as possible, but I also embed ‘commercial breaks’ into my class by allowing myself to go off-track sometimes to pursue the interesting or the humorous," Klein says. "If you’re not willing to stray a little from the path, you might as well be a prison guard." His primary goal, he says, is that students "walk away from my class loving English even more."

Klein brings his study of critical social theory, a type of philosophy focused on critiquing and changing society, into his teaching of English. "In my class," he says, "philosophy always bleeds through." He has his students read literature for style but also for the author's view on life. "I will oftentimes teach the philosophical underpinning in literature."

Rather than resting between the fall and spring coaching seasons, Klein sponsors the Women’s Advocacy Club, raising awareness about women’s issues. He also enjoys being a DJ. Although he was once offered a paid gig, he turned it down, as he prefers to DJ only at friends’ parties.

Klein has always had an ear for music. In third grade, he passed a musical aptitude screening test, making him one of the few students eligible to study an instrument in his school’s small music program. Klein cannot recall why he declined the opportunity and admits, "If there’s one regret I have, it’s turning down the violin in third grade."

Although his career path has often changed direction, Klein feels it has taken him to the right place: teaching English at Blair. "To say that I'm passionate about English is an example of an understatement," he says.



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