ALUM CATHOLIC SCHOOL PRINCIPAL LAUDS NOTRE DAME AND HIS MARIST EDUCATORS
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January 30, 2024
Alumnus devotes his career to Catholic education, says his high school set him up for future success. He also says Fr. Leon is an "amazing" hockey goalie.
Brian Barker ND'92 is a longtime school administrator who has been a strong advocate for high academics combined with the essential elements of the Catholic faith and tradition. Currently, he plies his trade as principal of Our Lady Star of the Sea, a Grosse Pointe Woods-based Catholic school with students in preschool through eighth grade.
He credits his Harper Woods Notre Dame High School education and its Marist Fathers' oversight with his own extensive record of overseeing the faith-based education of young students. He's also a hockey nut who fondly remembers Irish Week and especially one particular game that involved Notre Dame Prep founder Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., in, yes, full hockey goalie regalia.
"Fr. Leon was our principal when I was a student at ND," Barker said. "And I'll never forget the time when during our Irish games he put on full goalie gear and I was chosen to represent our class to try to score a goal on him," "He stopped me point-blank on all three shots. It was amazing!"
Barker, who's been at Star of the Sea since August of last year, came to the east-side parish school after five years as the assistant principal and dean of students at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Utica.
Previously, he was at De la Salle Collegiate in Warren for 10 years as a theology teacher and director of campus ministry. He also taught theology at St. Mary’s Preparatory High School in Orchard Lake, and at Dearborn Divine Child High School. He holds an MS degree in educational leadership from Madonna University, an MA in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and a bachelor of science degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin.
A career reset
Barker's in his 22nd year of Catholic school education. But after graduating from Notre Dame High School, his sights were set on a different career: professional hockey.
"Upon my graduation from NDHS, I received a full-ride college scholarship for hockey," said the Macomb Township resident. "My plans were to eventually play professionally and being an educator wasn't really on my radar. While I did play a few games in the minor leagues, I knew pretty quickly that that dream was over."
After he picked up his bachelor's in college, Barker headed back to the Detroit area to look for work. He bounced around in a number of sales and advertising jobs until he ran into one of his former high school teachers who initiated a kind of redirect for the former Fighting Irishman.
"Fr. John Kiselica was the principal at Divine Child High School at the time and was in need of a teacher due to a mid-year departure," said Barker. "He asked me if I would be interested in helping him out by filling in for the remainder of the year. He also encouraged me to go back to school for teaching credentials if I felt like it was a fit. Well, that was 22 years ago and counting!"
An academic compass
Looking back at high school, Barker says his Notre Dame-Marist experience was a positive one.
"Those years from ninth grade through 12th can be very challenging, and at times, difficult," he said. "There is so much you're trying to navigate through, and without a compass you can get lost really fast. Those Notre Dame teachers and administrators were that compass for me. They were not only excellent teachers, but they truly cared about you as a person. Their mission, of course, was to form disciples of Christ first, which in turn forms good citizens who are seeking the truth."
He's got numerous fond memories of many of those excellent ND teachers and administrators, but zeroes in on a chosen few.
"Fr. Kiselica was an excellent history and religion teacher and Mr. Borton was a great math teacher who exhibited saintly patience," Barker recalled.
"And I'll never forget my first day at NDHS. I was in a composition class with Mr. Vachon and the student sitting next to me dared to look out the window while he was lecturing. Man, that kid and the rest of us in class were in for a big surprise. But he was a great teacher — never a dull or boring class with Vachon."
Meanwhile, Barker and his wife, Jacquelyn, maintain a busy life away from school — she's in her 22nd year of teaching, currently in the Utica Community Schools District — and they spend lots of time with family and friends and travel when possible.
"I also play hockey nearly every week with a number of fellow alums," he said. "On Saturday mornings, I skate with John Blum, Mike Rataj and Dave Coulier - all from the Class of 1977."
Somebody else is in goal, though, he says, as Fr. Leon has given up playing hockey for now.
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.