From Swim to Scripture: Mr. Collins Finds a Place Among La Salle’s Teaching Staff


Megan Snyder

The Catholic faith has been a part of Mr. Collins’ life since he was young, going on to attend Catholic school throughout his adolescence and ending up working for a few in his adulthood.

Lillian Paugh, Editor

Having taught and coached football previously at La Salle in the late ‘90s and having helped manage and coach La Salle’s swim team since 2019, Mr. Paul Collins is not an entirely new face, but he has expanded his presence in the community this year by rejoining the Religious Studies department.

While perhaps unfamiliar to the current generation of students at La Salle, Mr. Collins is no stranger to many adult members of the community with whom he worked, and even taught, in his initial time at La Salle. He remembers teaching Director of Equity and Inclusion Ms. Kiah Johnson Mounsey and coaching Athletic Director Mr. Chris George, as well as working alongside many staff members who have remained at the school over the years, such as math teacher Ms. Sue Pinto and principal Ms. Alanna O’Brien.

“I have some deep roots,” Mr. Collins said. “I feel like I’ve come home.”

However, La Salle has not been his only reference point for teaching in a Catholic school, as he previously worked at Central Catholic for 20 years and at Jesuit as a long-term substitute teacher for six weeks before landing back at La Salle in his current position. 

Prior to his return to La Salle, Mr. Collins also taught middle schoolers and ninth graders at a Catholic school in Maui, Hawaii, where he took a job teaching religion and English during the 2021-2022 school year because “there weren’t really any prospects around here,” he said, due to the impacts on the job market from the pandemic.

Despite being hundreds of miles away from home and from his family — including his wife, who he said would travel to and from Hawaii to see him — “it was a lovely year,” he said, as he was able to build long-lasting relationships with his students, whom he plans to visit for their graduation, and had a lot of fun while he was there.

“I lived one block from the beach and two blocks from school, and I didn’t own a car,” Mr. Collins said. “I bicycled and bussed everywhere and did lots of snorkeling, a little bit of surfing, lots of adventures.”

The various Catholic schools he’s taught at over the years, while differing in many ways, are ones that still feel similar to him because of their religious connection and “shared vision,” he said, which is a core reason Mr. Collins has found his experience and transition back into the La Salle community to be positive.

“Each school has its own personality, but there’s something that’s really common to all of them,” Mr. Collins said. “The sense of purpose, the sense of trying to get kids to stretch and to succeed, and also challenging them to grow. That’s why I’m in education.”

In his return to La Salle, Mr. Collins said he’s recognized changes in curricula he once knew, shifts in student learning practices, and adjustments to the departmental structure, and he’s been adjusting and adapting to them. But, one thing that he has seen remain consistent has been his love for the “Lasallian charism,” and he’s maintained his teaching of the fundamental Lasallian prayer format of “Let us remember” — at both Central Catholic and La Salle — as a part of that. 

“That has always been part of who I was as a teacher,” Mr. Collins said. 

His desire to become an educator also stemmed from his admiration for many of his teachers during his own high school career.

He noted that the compassion with which they taught, the multitude of ways they expanded his thinking, and the fun they seemed to have doing it were instrumental in inspiring his own desire to emulate those teachers in his own work.

“And [I] thought, ‘Maybe I can do that, too,’” Mr. Collins said.

In the time he’s been working for the school this year, Mr. Collins has found the school’s community to be an essential part of his experience, naming the school’s work surrounding equity, inclusion, and belonging, as well as the fun that the students bring each day, as portions that stand out.

“There’s a good energy there,” he said.

With the support of the other staff members within the religion department as well, Mr. Collins’s transition has been relatively smooth, and he said that “the other teachers have been great,” as they’ve guided him in teaching both freshman and junior theology classes.

Looking forward to the rest of this year, Mr. Collins hopes to make two major impacts on his students: “to help them enjoy learning,” he said, and — using the inspiration of his teachers that encouraged his own passion for teaching — “help them feel like their mind has been expanded.”