Teacher Spotlight: Mr. Passavant

Sitting Down with Xavier’s Newest Beard

Teacher Spotlight: Mr. Passavant

By Liam Sheeley, Assistant Reporter


Mr. Mason Passavant graduated Xavier High School in 2012. He has joined the faculty as a full-time substitute teacher. The assistant crew coach of two years has spent much of his time so far this year helping Mr. McGrath, who is teaching virtually, run his classes. I recently had the chance to sit down with Mr. Passavant and hear more about him and his life outside of Xavier.

Q: When you were at Xavier, what sports and activities were you a part of?
A: I was involved in the musical. I only did the musical my first few years, my senior year I did the play and the musical. I also did frisbee all four years that I was here. Won state championship our junior year, I was captain of the frisbee team my senior year. We won the New England championship both my junior and my senior year, which was an amazing accomplishment… still got banners on the wall and everything. Also did peer ministry when I was here, which looked a little different than it does now. It was actually a class first semester of your senior year… I was very involved in my faith when I was here… it was something that I picked up through music here. I did the chorus here.

Q: What teachers did you have as a student that you now work with?
A: I was quite surprised, when I started here, how little turnover there has been, and I think that speaks to the culture here. You know, you’ll bump into a number of teachers here who say, very firmly, that they would never teach anywhere else. You know, obviously, Mr. Jaswal’s back this year after a few years away… There’s a lot of people who care quite a bit more about the students than you would find at your average public school or even your average private school. There [are] a couple [of] teachers I miss… I wish Mr. Mike was still here, he used to teach physics and math… But it’s definitely weird working with people that used to be my teachers. I still call all the teachers by their last names for the most part… half because it’s what’s still programmed in my head… Mr. St. George is still Mr. St. George to me because I heard stories from all my buddies: “Mr. St. George gave me a jug for this today…” It feels too informal to call these people by their first name because they were so critical to my development.

Q: If you could tell one thing to your student self at Xavier, now that you’ve had time outside of Xavier, working and teaching, what would you say?
A: One of the most important lessons I wish I had back then, that I’ve tried to convey to as many students here now as possible, is to really figure out why you wanna go to college… Growing up, whether or not I ought to go to college was never a question that popped into my head. I was going to college. And it wasn’t just parental pressure, it was every TV show, every movie you’ve ever seen shows kids that age group go to college. They go to college, experience life, have a ball of a time, whatever. And so, my impression of college, first and foremost, was it’s a party… And I don’t wanna say it’s a party in terms of just partying… also being social, making friends, having fun was my first and foremost reason for going to college because that’s what I had seen reflected in media… The only reason education was on my radar was because I wanted to be impressive. It was so important to me to be impressive and idolized for image reasons, for stupid things. Facebook had come out when I was in middle school… so everyone posted where they were going to college… everyone knew where you were going to college. So for me, it was so important to go to a university with a prestigious name, not because I wanted a good education but because I wanted people to think highly of me. Which, looking back, is obviously gonna lead you towards unhappiness. I couldn’t see that clearly… back then. So I guess the lessons I would give to my previous self would be [to] ask more questions, evaluate the things you had not even considered evaluating previously… Other people’s admiration of you or other people’s acceptance of you does not bring you any real happiness…

Q: What is your favorite aspect of Xavier overall?
A: …my favorite thing about this place, and I’ve mentioned it previously, is how much the faculty cares, and the emphasis of personal responsibility is born out of that. It’s unreal. That’s the only downside of going here, when you go to college, you feel like nobody [cares] about you. I have so much respect for so many of the people in this building. It is insane, the lengths they are willing to go to to make sure students are fitting in… I was tutoring a student outside of school who had been having some trouble at Xavier, and one of the days I was tutoring Mr. Cerreta showed up to his house right after I was done tutoring him to take him mini-golfing because he was having a hard time transitioning to Xavier… And there are so many teachers around this building who do that on a regular basis unsung… not ever like looking to get lauded for what they do… To sum up my answer to your question, the level of care that the faculty puts into their students’ wellbeing… There’s so much communication that goes on behind the scenes that you don’t even see, like trying to figure out how best to reach you, how best to help you, how best — you know they know that most of you don’t like coming to school, they really do… they understand that 90% of the time you really don’t wanna be here… No matter how much a kid gives up on them, they never give up on the kids.

Q: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
A: Georgetown, graduated class of 2016. I immediately went into law school, again, because I was seeking clout, image, whatever, I went to a prestigious school which was home to a lot of very wealthy kids… I lived in Durham on a farm so when I got to Xavier and saw some of the money a few of the kids here could throw around I was like “Oh, this is what wealth looks like. I’ve never experienced this before.” And then when I got to Georgetown, I was like “Oh, yeah no that was a puddle.” I was so out of my depth I had no idea… Everyone had some cool, fancy job after college immediately, and I felt like I had to have that cool next thing that I was doing, that image thing that would make people be impressed by me… I took the LSATs just because I could. Got a very good score, realized I could go to a lot of prestigious law schools, and said “Well, that’s the next thing” without ever really thinking about what I wanted, why I was going. Spent a year and a half doing that… I realized this is not what I’m meant to be doing… It was crazy how little I wanted to be there and how long it took me to realize that. After that I stayed in New York for another year and a half, living in Harlem, working odd jobs. You know, I worked for a copywriting firm, which is a place that, you know, does, like, spam email… walked dogs, housesat… And then eventually I just couldn’t afford New York rent anymore so I moved back home… Since I’ve been back, when I first got back I was helping [my dad] on the farm full time… and then I started doing tutoring again… Got back into it doing private tutoring when I got home. Mostly SATs and I absolutely love it. I really love it a lot more than I expected…

I was a philosophy major, and then I was a theology and government double-minor. Government is like their version of [political science]…

Q: What did you do for work after college?
A: So I went straight into law school… The last few months of college I taught an LSAT course when I was a senior in college. So most people take the LSAT a few years after college… So my students, you know, my youngest student was also a senior in college but most of my students were in their mid to late twenties, so I grew the beard out as thick as I could. So that was fun. But then I wasn’t working the summer after I graduated because I had my gall bladder removed and then I got Lyme disease that summer. Rough summer… It was just odd jobs after I dropped out of law school… And then I started doing the private tutoring… So that’s what I have been doing. And helping out with crew also because the head coach, Kyle, is my best friend from Xavier…

Q: What interested you about teaching?
A: I’ve always thought about teaching in the back of my head. My dad has been saying I should be a teacher since I was a little kid. You know I’ve always been great with kids, I feel like. I feel like I’m still quite childish in a lot of ways. I think, you know, one of the most important things about teaching is energy. You gotta be able to bring that energy, day in and day out. And it’s tricky for me to bring that energy because I’m not the one teaching the lessons, obviously. I’m just helping out here and there very slightly. So it’s more about the one-on-one interactions… that’s the stuff I really love…

What attracted me to teaching? Again I feel like my purpose is intellectual improvement, so helping others with that definitely brings me a sense of fulfillment, no doubt. The reason I came here is just because Mr. Cerreta and Mr. Donohue said they needed some help and they were thinking of me and I thought “Awesome, I love this place. It’s the least I can do to help them out, you know. They did so much for me…” I guess I’m still in the process of evaluating whether or not I would enjoy teaching, if it’s something worth pursuing. It’s a little unfair of me to give it a full evaluation during Corona because 90% of my day is spent being the mask police, which is obviously not what I would find enjoyable about teaching.

Q: Why did you clean up your hair?
A: I guess I was starting to eschew material goods as I left New York. So the hair growth started my last few months in New York because my barber in New York was charging me $55 for a haircut and I was tipping him $15 on top of that. So I was paying $70 every two or three weeks for a haircut, which is just insane… So the hair growth just continued when I got home. I didn’t bother to cut it. And then this past June it was the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s funeral and we did a little thing for her… and I was with my cousin and it was really hot out that day. I was wearing nice clothes and the hair was just bothering me, and it was all in my face all that day. It was too long and too hot. My cousin drove me home and I was like “Let’s just cut it off.” So we tried my normal beard clippers and they couldn’t get through the thick lushness of my hair. So I took a pair of horse clippers and just trimmed it. And there [are] no settings on the horse clippers… they give them a real tight cut… And that was that, the hair was gone. I definitely don’t miss it, I definitely will never grow it again, because I’m still finding hairballs in my apartment even though I vacuumed it a million times… I think [the crew guys] made a way bigger deal out of it than I ever made of it for myself. It was never, like, something I particularly enjoyed. It just was what it was and I didn’t feel like cutting it. And then when I felt like cutting it, I cut it… I don’t know how women deal with that all their lives.