After 17 Years at La Salle, Mr. Brian Devine Embarks on a New Professional Journey as an Aspiring Counselor


Lukas Werner

“I’ve learned that we underestimate young people a lot,” Mr. Devine said.

Lucy MacNeela, Assistant Editor

As a student sitting in his classroom at La Salle High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Vice Principal of Student Life Mr. Brian Devine never predicted his path would end up how it did. 

Although raised by two teachers, Mr. Devine never really considered becoming an educator himself. “I think initially, that’s what made me not want to go into teaching,” he said. “But then I think, sort of subtly or subconsciously, that just worked its way into my DNA and it kind of pointed me in the direction of education.” 

Following his graduation from The College of William and Mary in 1994, Mr. Devine moved to Seattle, WA in an attempt to get away from the East Coast. There, he came to a realization about his career path. “While I was in Seattle I was volunteering with a friend of mine who was leading student retreats for younger kids, like middle school kids, and I just really enjoyed working with kids and really enjoyed that experience,” Mr. Devine said, “So I thought about going into education from that point.” 

After this experience, Mr. Devine further realized the importance of teaching as a career. “Knowing that if we want our communities to improve, if we want our societies to get better, we really need to work on making sure that we have young people who are educated, who are critical thinkers, who are compassionate and kind and so I feel like you’re gonna impact your community, one really important way to do it is working with young people,” Mr. Devine said.

After spending some time in Jacksonville, Florida where he taught at Catholic middle and high schools, Mr. Devine moved to Portland. This decision was motivated by both his love for Oregon’s beautiful scenery as well as his twin brother who was already living in Portland.

He was then notified by a friend about a job opening in the English and faith departments at La Salle and flew out for an interview. “So during the interview, I told [Bill George, the principal at the time,] that I went to La Salle High School in Philadelphia, and he said, ‘I only have one question for you. Let us remember?,’” Mr. Devine said. “I immediately, without even thinking, said, ‘We’re in the Holy presence of God.’ And he was like, ‘You’re hired.’”

Not only did his Lasallian background help him in his job hunt, it also guided him in his values. “I think [Lasallian values] drew me to the school, and I felt like I could understand the charism of the school, I can understand the core values of the school,” Mr. Devine said. “And then as I got to know the community a little bit better, it just felt like the right place to be.”

Since being hired 17 years ago, Mr. Devine has filled many positions. In his first few years at La Salle, he was an English teacher and the Director of Campus Ministry, the position Mr. Gary Hortsch currently fills.  

Although Mr. Devine never saw administrative work as something that was in the cards for him, his leadership skills were recognized and he became the Vice Principal of Student Life in 2010. 

This position carries many responsibilities. One main aspect of the job is ensuring students’ health and safety. For the past few years Mr. Devine has been given the important task of creating La Salle’s response to COVID-19.

“Another part is just directing the Student Life program,” Mr. Devine said. “So working with an amazing team of colleagues, the director of faith, director of service, director of community, director of inclusion, to facilitate a really good student experience, making sure that students have a great experience whether that’s in service involvement or community involvement.” He said that he thoroughly enjoys the collaboration between him and his beloved colleagues, and this aspect is something that he will miss most about his position. 

Immediately after his promotion, Mr. Devine sought to unite the administration. “One of the first things that I was asked to do in my role as Vice Principal of Student Life was [to] come up with a model where the faith, service, community, and ultimately inclusion, now that we have a director of inclusion, could be in the same office, could be in the same space, could work together, [and] could support students getting involved in all three of those activities at the same time,” Mr. Devine said. 

In his current position, Mr. Devine has learned to value the voices of students and has worked to support those voices in any way possible. “One of the things I’ve learned from working at La Salle,  and I’ve appreciated about working at La Salle, is I think we really do a good job as a school of putting the student at the center of the circle,” Mr. Devine said. “And thinking about how all the people that are around students can support them… That means listening to students’ perspectives, hearing student voices, trusting students’ experiences, and valuing students’ stories. Those are all things that when I first came to La Salle… [were] a culture shock for me, and it took a bit to kind of get on board with that, but now that I’ve experienced that, I can’t think about doing education the other way.”

This shift in education can also be seen in a rise of student opinion recognition in administrative decisions. “There’s definitely been a shift to really surfacing student voices and making sure students are part of the conversation when it comes to a lot of the decisions that are made on campus,” Mr. Devine said.

This commitment to a comprehensive disciplinary response has shaped the kind of educator that he is and strives to be, putting the student first and trying to get to the root of the issue at hand. 

“I really see young people as having so much potential,” Mr. Devine said. 

Part of this outside-the-box, more creative understanding of problems and solutions comes from Mr. Devine’s passion for art. “I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always taken away from my experience as an artist is not just looking at something in kind of a straightforward, rational, scientific way but thinking about it from more of a creative angle and approaching it from a lot of different ways,” Mr. Devine said. “I think that’s benefited me in lots of different ways as an educator and as an artist as well.”

Ever since he can remember, art has been an important part of his life. He recalls his dad coming home from work with massive sheets of paper, which he and his brother would cover in drawings and comic book creations. 

It’s something that has always come naturally to him. “I don’t feel like I really have the option to do [art] or not,” Mr. Devine said. “I know I’m a better person when I get a chance to create. I see it as a passion, as something I can hopefully continue to build and develop and make a career at some point, or at least a bigger part of my life than it is right now.”

Some of Mr. Devine’s most memorable moments from his extensive time at La Salle have been made on Journey retreats. “Being able to be in such a personal place with students where they’re sharing some really personal and really honest things,” Mr. Devine said. “I think it changed the way that I perceived young people.”

He has also thoroughly appreciated his relationships with his colleagues and collaborators at La Salle and will miss them when he departs this summer. “We can just laugh and enjoy our time here, and be very professional, be very productive with our work, but also have fun,” Mr. Devine said. “So when I think about not being at La Salle, that’s what I’m going to miss the most.” 

Although Mr. Devine has deeply appreciated his relationships with everyone at La Salle, the two people who have had the most profound impacts on his career have been Mr. Andrew Kuffner and Ms. Alanna O’Brien because of the leadership that they have provided him with. 

Deciding to leave La Salle and embark on a new dream was a carefully thought-through decision for Mr. Devine. He was craving a career change after being Vice Principal of Student Life for a decade. 

So, in December of 2019, he applied to the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Portland State University to get his master’s degree and eventually become a counselor for children. In order to make this possible, he had to give La Salle his official resignation. 

Following the onset of the pandemic though, that hope fizzled out and reality set it. The uncertainty of COVID-19 made him decide to ask for his position back, which Mr. Kuffner gave him. 

But that dream lingered with him. So, after two unexpected additional years at La Salle, Mr. Devine decided to follow his passion for counseling and helping people navigate their mental health struggles, especially with the repercussions of the pandemic. 

This decision has been influenced by many people in Mr. Devine’s life, including counselors at La Salle, and former Lasallian counselor Mr. Seth Altshuler, who left La Salle to pursue counseling in the private practice sphere.

“One goal is definitely to start a private practice in counseling for young people and families,” Mr. Devine said. “I hope to build a successful practice where I can support the growth and the well-being of young people, where I can especially help young people who have been impacted by the pandemic. I think some of this, we’re going to be kind of unraveling the impacts of COVID for a while, and even before COVID, there was definitely an increase in young people dealing with things like anxiety, depression, effects of social media, and mental health. So, my hope is that I can help families navigate those issues and provide some resources to people who need it in that area.”

This decision may not have come to fruition if not for his time at La Salle. “The experiences that I’ve had have definitely shaped me as a person and made me a better person,” Mr. Devine said. “I feel like I’m able to have much more difficult conversations with people than I probably could have. I’ve also learned how to remain calm, how to be patient, to approach people, assume the best about people, give people room to take accountability, and to take responsibility for choices that they’ve made.”

Mr. Devine has helped to change many of the disciplinary responses and inclusivity initiatives that are now in place at La Salle.

“I hope that La Salle as a community will continue to lean on the core values that have made this school a great place, but not rest on them,” Mr. Devine said. “I hope that La Salle will continue to push the boundaries of what it’s capable of being as a school, especially in areas of equity and inclusion, especially in areas of student learning, and really continue to innovate and continue to reinvent itself.”